DriveThru Tours




On Your Bike!

I've often been asked a few questions about bicycle touring. As one who is not an expert in these matters, I do my best to answer them as accurately I can, based on my own experiences. No doubt, others will have totally different opinions to me, but, that's life.

The first point people ask me about is regarding fitness and training before they go.
The main reason for going bicycle touring is to enjoy yourself and enjoy visiting the places you pass through. You are not in a race (except, maybe against time!). Generally speaking, it doesn't matter how far you travel in a day as you can always continue on the next day. If you only ride, say, ten miles, then so what? As long as you've enjoyed the ride it doesn't matter. No doubt on a ride of such short duration you'll have stopped to visit various places, enjoyed lovely meals in restaurants along the way and generally enjoyed the view from your bicycle saddle. Nothing wrong with that.

I'd also like to mention that there is usually no need at all to do any pre-training. As your tour continues, your fitness and strength will also improve. Before my last tour, it had been 16 years since I'd ridden a bicycle. I did a 21-mile ride on an unloaded bicycle to start with, primarily just to check out the bicycle before I took it touring and that was it.

The second point people ask me about is whether or not they need to buy a special bicycle. The answer to this is an initial 'No'. However, I'd like to expand on this a little. I suggest that if you're an inexperienced bicycle tourer, you're not likely to be heading out on the trip around the world or on a tour through the Gobi Desert. If you're riding an easy route such as EuroVelo 15 from Switzerland to the Hook of Holland, then almost any bicycle will be more than adequate. Just make sure it 'fits' comfortably and you have sufficient storage for at least two water bottles as well as your luggage. Also, make sure it is safe and mechanically sound - and that everything works properly – gears, lights, brakes etc. My last touring bicycle cost me £150 – new, and did the job just fine. Sad to say, it was stolen in Germany on the way so I bought a replacement, second-hand, for €150 from the bicycle shop near where I was staying.
Expensive bicycles may be more reliable for long trips under harsh conditions, but it will be a target for thieves and a big loss to you should it get stolen.

I also suggest that if your bicycle hasn't been used for a long time, you should consider buying new tyres and inner tubes for it. Buy the most puncture proof tyres you can get as they will be a great asset. Even new bicycles aren't always fitted with good tyres, from a longevity and puncture-proof point of view, so you should consider that factor too. If your bicycle is going to be carrying a lot of weight (including you), then make sure the wheels are up to it too. During a tour in the Philippines, I rode a cheap mountain bicycle with a sidecar. The wheel of the side-car collapsed in the middle of nowhere along a rocky road. Not ideal!

The third point people sometimes ask me about is just how hard is it to go touring on a bicycle. There are two ways to answer this, one being the 'physical' aspects of route and the other being one's 'mental' state. For me, I first endeavour to choose a route that I know I can cope with in my somewhat advanced years. Do your research first. That deals with the 'physical' problems, although there may be a few surprises énroute. For me, the hardest part is the 'mental' aspect. Actually, committing myself to start the tour in the first place and then maintaining the mental strength throughout the tour. A certain degree of 'toughness' is required to cope with problems as they arise – such as sickness, having your bicycle stolen (as has happened to me!) and the constant demands of finding places to stay and obtaining food and drink along the way – some of which can be eliminated during planning. Just don't give-up and return home before completing your tour.

Recording your travels. For me, I find that recording as much as I can about my bicycle tour is very important. It's lovely to look back in future years and remember my adventures. For this I always take a good quality, robust camera and just one lens - a wide-angle zoom lens - to reduce weight – and plenty of storage cards, all of which squeeze into my handlebar bag for quick and easy access. In order to reduce weight further, I record my journal in a spiral bound notebook where I write a diary and make sure I record the names of people I meet as well as place names – easily forgotten. I record the place names / peoples' names for every photograph taken too. I also record the names and addresses of people I photograph and send them prints after the tour has been completed. Not everyone has a computer / smartphone and an e-mail address. If weight isn't a problem, I'll take a laptop computer with me as well as an external hard-drive (always keep back-ups of everything).

If travelling with a laptop computer, I like to write a blog as I go. Most campsites and other types of accommodation have an internet connection and folks back home can follow your progress. This does take a bit of time, particularly processing and editing your photographs, but is well worth the effort. The text can also be downloaded and added to a 'photo-book' of your travels as a wonderful souvenir of your adventure once you've completed your trip.

I'd like to add that touring on a bicycle is by far the best way to see a place. You can see everything in more detail and stop easily wherever you wish. Of course, it's slow, but that's all to the good and far better then whizzing through the country in a car viewing what you can through the windows. On a bicycle, you're actually there, instead of a being like a viewer watching a movie on a screen. I hope this will give you a little guidance and I wish you well on your adventure.

The one good thing about adventure is that it’s a unique experience for YOU. Whilst everyone else has been there, seen it, done it, and worn the T-Shirt, it’s no less an adventure when YOU go there, see it, do it ....... and come home wearing the T-Shirt. Even when you’ve read all the books and seen all the videos, it’s still YOUR adventure when YOU DO IT. Every adventure is different. It’s about putting the books and videos on the shelf and getting out into the world to do it for yourself. The hard part of any adventure is not the adventure itself - it’s getting round to doing it yourself - committing yourself to act.

It’s when the talking stops and the action starts.

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