Bicycle Touring – An Introduction

Since the bike was invented, people have been using them to tour the world. You may ask what has bicycle touring got to do with, well, touring and camping are very similar especially the equipment used.

Bicycle Touring

This short post is an introduction to a pass time enjoyed by millions around the world, but if you thought that it was just a case of stapping your tent to your bike and cycling into the sunset then think again, cycle touring requires planning and preparation. This can be done independently, by groups of cyclists or commercial holiday companies, there are many questions to consider such as;

Preparation is vital, so its a good idea to check the weather forecast. Image By Dr Marcus Gossler
Preparation is vital, so its a good idea to check the weather forecast. Image By Dr Marcus Gossler
  • Where are you going to go?
  • Are you going to explore off the beaten track, or stick to Cycle routes?
  • Who are you going to go with?
  • For how long are you going to go away for?
  • How far will you ride each day and how Fast?
  • Are you healthy enough to do this?
  • What do you need to take with you?

A Good Starting Point

So, you have decided your going away and taking your bike? However, as with any form of exercise it is advisable to see your GP who can asses your fitness, advise you on your limitations and help you make realistic goals.

There is very little point planning a cycle tour and buying equipment if your bike will take you round the world, but your legs wont take you round the corner!

Before embarking on your first adventure John Houseago of advises that it is essential to have a short trial run, so you can get an idea as to what you may experience on a longer trip.

Types of Bicycle Touring

There are different types of Cycle Tours, the three that follow is not an exhaustive list and there is a great deal of overlap but it will give you an idea.

Lightweight Touring

The rider carries the minimum of equipment they need such as clothes and essentials, accommodation and food is bought as they travel.

Self-Supported Touring

The cyclist carries everything they will need for their break, including food, cooking equipment, clothes and a tent for camping.

Supported Touring

A motor vehicle carries most of the rider’s equipment meaning greater distances can be travelled and more home comforts can be taken, and if your feeling lazy strap the bike to the van and put your feet up!

Each form of touring has its own advantages and disadvantages, and is a personal choice as to the experience you may want to undergo. It is also a point of argument as what may be lightweight or Self-Supporting. To me lifes essentials are a four poster bed, flush toilet, Sky Sports and they may not be to someone else! Although Im not sure if Therm-A-Rest have released the roll up four poster bed, maybe next year.

Stating The Obvious – A Bike Is Needed

Without stating the obvious a bike is pretty important in a cycling holiday. The type of tour you undertake may mean you need to think about the type of bike you use, if for example you were doing a Supported Tour an ordinary road bike will be fine as you will not be carrying a lot of weight on your bike, the more weight you carry the sturdier the bike needed, so on a Self-Supported Tour it is recommended to use a Touring Bike and fit it with panniers, this is something that your local cycling store should be able to help you with or log onto Why Cycle for information about bike types.

Touring Bike Source Ron Divine
Touring Bikes are sturdy and more sutied for Self-Supported Tours Source Ron Divine

Safety is vitally important when cycling, it goes without saying that you should wear a helmet and take protection against the sun as the wind will cools, but you will still burn, SPF clothing is a very good idea as it protects is stylish and versatile.

And Finally For Now

We all have different wants and needs so there can not be a one cap fits all approach, at we hope to provide you with some useful information, in this, and forthcoming posts, to make your choices easier, and take a little trepidation out of Bicycle Touring.

If you would like a bit of inspiration take a look at our interviews with adventurers Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron. Both Alastair and Leon have cycled thousands of miles across far flung countries, although staying closer to home can be just as rewarding!

In the next post, Cycle Touring: A Guide to Essential Sleeping Gear, I will examine some of the questions associated with Touring and in particular Self Supported Touring, namely, shelter, sleeping equipment, clothing and accessories.


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