by JACQUI SNYDER
Touring on a bicycle can be the most relaxing and, at the same time invigorating activity. You can roll through beautiful farmland or along meandering rivers. There are a multitude of quaint towns and villages around the world worth visiting. There are seashores and lakefronts; hills and mountains offering spectacular vistas; hard upward climbs to challenge your lungs and legs, followed by thrilling downhill runs that get your heart beating for another reason. You can meet interesting people from different cultures and taste foods and beverages that will excite your palate.
Have you ever wanted to plan your own cycle tour but did not know where to begin? These days, it’s easier than ever, with tools like the Internet and mapped cycling routes all over the world. The following pointers are generally good for a short local trip or something longer and further afield.
1) Choose your destination. This of course, is dependent on a number of factors. How much time do you have? How much money do you want to spend? When I plan a local tour, I start with a map of the area and choose something with lots of water around it because I know that will provide some beautiful scenery.
2) Choose the type of tour you will do. You can do a tour where you carry everything you need and camp the whole way. This means carrying your tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, clothing, etc. There is also the Credit Card Tour, where you stay in hotels or motels and eat largely at restaurants. This means you don’t have to carry as much. You could also do what is known as a hub and spoke tour, where you stay at one destination and do rides out in different directions every day. This makes it easier as you don’t have to carry all the gear every day; only what you need on that day.
3) Map out the route. This again will be dependent on the time yo have, your level of fitness, the types of roads, the type of bike you have and availability of accommodations. If you are uncertain as to how far you want to go per day, err on the side of caution. Also, if you want to do some sightseeing, build in lots of time to do that. You can always add cycling mileage in the area near your accommodation, but nothing is worse than being exhausted and not being able to find a place to stay for the night or somewhere to eat. This part sometimes takes a little more work.
Do an Internet search for cycle routes in the area or visit a bookstore or MEC for books on cycling in that area. Take the time to read it and follow up with accommodations you choose to ensure they are still in business and determine whether a reservation is necessary. Carry a list of alternative accommodations in the area with you, or if you have a GPS or blackberry, that can also give you details of what is available. Find out what the roads are like. Are they paved or gravel? Can your bike handle it or do you need to take a different type of bike or plan a different route?
4) Pack. If you are carrying your gear, you want to be very careful about what you take and keep the load as light as possible. Take clothes you can layer and that will dry quickly if they get wet or if you need to wash things. Test the load. Make sure you can fit it on your bike and that you can carry the extra load for a long distance. Ensure you have the appropriate panniers (saddle bags) for your bike. If you have gear and brake cables that interfere with a front handlebar bag, don’t use the handlebar bag as it will wear out your brakes and gears in no time.
I rig up a plastic freezer bag with little clips to put my maps inside and attach them to the cables on the front of my bike so I can easily see my maps and keep them dry. Ensure all heavy bags are firmly attached to the bike. The lower they are the more stable you will be. Use bungee cords to tighten things if necessary, but ensure they are secure and are not going to come loose and tangle in your wheels or pedals. Make sure all clothing and sleeping bags are in waterproof bags. Don’t forget your safety. Wear a helmet, glasses to keep debris and sunlight out of your eyes, sunscreen and gloves. Also, ensure the shoes you cycle in are firmly attached to your feet. Avoid flip-flops and open-toed shoes.
5) The Bike. Ensure you have the appropriate bike for the trip. If you are going to be travelling on a lot of rough roads, you would be better on a bike with fatter tires and maybe front shocks. But be aware that the fatter tires add resistance and make you work harder, so you won’t be able to ride as far on a hard-surfaced road as you would with thin tires. Take your bike to a reputable bike shop for a good tune-up and tell them what you are doing. Take extra tubes and a patch kit with you and know how to use it. Take extra brake and gear cables as well. Get a pocket book on bike repairs. Also, find out where there are bike shops along your route. Also take degreaser so you can clean your bike en-route to ensure it runs smoothly.
If you are interested in a cycle touring course, the City of Toronto offers one through their CAN-BIKE program.
Visit http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/canbike/cycle_touring.htm for more details. If you have any questions about cycle touring, feel free to contact me at [email protected]TOURUS.com
ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations
Jacqui Snyder is an avid sports-person, trained Chef (George Brown College graduate; trained in Switzerland and England), foodie, people-person and traveler. She is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor and has cycled for as long as she can remember. Jacqui runs ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations, organizing skiing, cycling, and hiking vacations.