This blog was written by Ben Reeve over at the UK’s Cycling Tips HQ. (Check out the original blog here!) While many of these practical tips are for self-supported cycling tours, there are lots of words of wisdom for supported tours, as well.
Thanks for sharing, Ben! Visit his site to read more about cycling, gear reviews, interviews with world travelers, and more. For more tips on what to pack for a bike tour and other helpful tips, be sure to check our planning pages as well.
I was originally planning a bike tour down through Southern France and ending in Barcelona. Due to logistics, I have had to call this off, and am instead flying straight into Barcelona and completing some rides around there. Being the organized man I am, however, I took extensive notes when planning this trip, including a big note to myself of all the best tips I saw from across the web.
So what better way to put that to use than to share my best bike tour tips here?
1) Take every opportunity to fill up your water bottle. You never know when you’ll get the chance again.
2) Pack cable ties. Perfect for so many running repairs.
3) Never rely on electronics alone if you are on a bike tour into the unknown. Have a backup of cash and maps if you’re not sure if you’ll have access to electricity.
4) A little trip bag is perfect to sit on the top tube and give you easy access to anything you don’t want in your rear pockets. I’m a big fan of the Topeak Tri-Bag.
5) Make sure to bring your own roll of toilet paper! You can thank me later!
6) If you’re caught in the rain, put your foot in a plastic bag before putting on your pants. Makes it so much easier to avoid snags as you put your pants on.
7) Ship your bike in a free cardboard bike box from your local bike shop. Clad with bubble wrap/pipe insulator and save yourself hundreds of £. You can then dispose of it at the other end.
8) Plastic gloves from petrol stations are great to slip over your normal gloves in the rain.
9) Pack your kit in lots of small bags and write on them what’s inside. Makes packing/unpacking a lot quicker and also provides some protection against rain.
10) Take a map. Technology fails; a map won’t!
11) It’s behind you! Some of the best views might not be straight ahead. Stop and have a look around every once in a while.
12) If you wear underwear on the bike, consider swimming trunks instead. They are easier to clean, dry quicker and you can wear normal underwear in the evening off the bike while the trunks dry.
13) If you use a sleeping pad, why not try a person-sized strip of bubble wrap instead? It can last for as much as 50 nights, and double up as a waterproof liner for panniers or bags.
14) At night, if your feet and head are warm, the rest of your body will be warm.
15) For longer tours, try and build in a luxury day or two. A nice hotel and warm shower can give you something to look forward to and help you recuperate.
16) Don’t try to take a rucksack. They become really uncomfortable after a while and can also destabilize you. You should be able to fit everything into front and back panniers. If you can’t, reevaluate how much you are packing. (Hint: it’s too much!)
17) Keep a small wedge and push it in the front brake handle to stop the bike moving when you are packing the panniers each day.
18) If in doubt as to whether to pack something that you don’t think it essential, consider whether or not you’ll be able to buy it on the route. If you can, then leave it behind.
19) Wrap a load of duct tape around your seat post. You won’t even notice it’s there and will find so many uses for it.
20) If you don’t want to carry spares, leave your cables long at the end and wind them into a loop. If your cable breaks then you can at least tie it to get you to the next bike shop.
21) Try a quick tour a few weeks before you head off. Take everything you’re planning to carry with you away for a one night stay to iron out any obvious issues.
22) Buy a lightweight wind-up torch and never be left in the dark by an empty battery.
23) A metal water bottle filled up with really hot water and wrapped in a sock makes a great hot water bottle alternative for cold nights.
24) A lid from a yogurt pot can make a good plug alternative if the sinks at the campsite don’t have one.
25) Down sleeping bags tend to be the best for cyclists. Aim for a weight around 1kg which should do you well down to about -8 C (fully clothed!).
26) If a restaurant is busy, then eat there. If it’s full of locals then it’s probably good.
27) Paint your tent pegs a bright color before you leave so they are easy to see when you pack up each day.
28) If you are going on a really long tour, consider a steel bike. You are more likely to find a welder in remote parts of the world than someone who can deal with cracked carbon.
29) Try to plan your tour so it is not all about the distance. There will be things you just want to stop and see. The idea of traveling is to experience things, meet people, and reflect.
30) In non-English-speaking countries, try speaking to the youngsters, they are more likely to know some English.
31) Make a checklist of the things you absolutely cannot do without and double check it every day before you leave (wallet, phone, passport, camera, etc)
32) Have at least one day when you haven’t planned anything at all. Just amble along until you get somewhere interesting, then stay there.
33) Double tape your handlebars for better grip and less numbness.
34) Make your tea or coffee the night before and leave it in your flask. Should still be warm in the morning and saves waiting for the stove to be fired up.
35) Buy decent quality water bottles so your water doesn’t taste of plastic and stays cool. I suggest the Camelback Podium Chill.
36) If you plan on shaving, take oil, not foam. The bottles weigh only 20g, and is better than just using soap.
37) Swiss army knives were designed for this kind of adventure. Bottle opener, small knife, screwdriver, scissors. No better practical multi-tool.
38) Cheap earplugs hardly add any weight, but are great for getting sleep at a busy campsite.
39) VISA debit cards are accepted in more cash machines around the world than any other.
40) Buffs are brilliant. They can keep your head warm, double as a scarf off the bike and work as an eye mask on a bright campsite. Check them out here.
41) Double check your camping spot before you leave. The worst miles are heading back to pick up something you’ve forgotten!