Tips for Cycling Adventures
Not sure where to start or how to plan an epic cycling trip? I've done a wrap up of my talk at Giant Camden and as brand ambassador for Liv Cycling . I bring you my top tips to help you plan and get the best out of your your next cycling adventure. I cover the following key components:
- How to plan for the trip
- Plotting a route
- Kit list
- Clothing List
- Prepping the week before
- Tips for during the adventure
- My shared routes of cycling adventures I've been on
Planning the Trip
To create a successful, well prepared route minimising the amount of challenges you may face, you will be spending much of your time at the planning stage. Remember the old saying "FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL". Okay - that's a bit dramatic but preparing properly will help you have the most enjoyable trip, suited to your needs.
- Location - are you going abroad or stay in the UK? In the UK we have access to some beautiful places to cycle, so make the most of being a 'weekend warrior' and go on micro weekend adventures. If you want to go further afield and out of the UK consider the next points:
- Days available - How many days do you have available for the cycling trip? Work out the overall distance from A to B first, work out roughly how much distance you want to cover each day.
- Transport - We live on an island so it's more than likely that your trip might include a ferry or train journey. The key is to work back from the departure time:
- You'll want to arrive at least 1 or 2 hours before departure.
- To work out roughly how long the cycle to transport will take, work out your average speed (check out the last few long rides you've done) then distance of the ride. Consider elevation of cycling, if there are a few hills to tackle this will add on more time. Account for 1 or 2 more hours for stopping time - planned or unplanned (punctures, coffee stops, toilet stops).
- Remember: You don't want to be stressing about arrival time for the ferry or train so always account for much more time that you think.
- Resources: Check out www.fco.gov.uk for travel advice on safety, VISAs required, local laws and more. Also check out Cycling UK Forum for more advice!
- Remember: allow more time for VISAs
- Weather conditions - Weather can really affect your trip. If it's super hot you will require more water than normal. If rain is forecast, don't get caught out like a group of us during the London to Paris in 24 hours, in November, basically cycling through a monsoon all the way to Paris.
- Travel with your bike or rent? Most countries will offer rental, I cycled across 6 islands in Japan and hired a Giant bike which I could pick up and drop off at different stores. Nick from the Giant store offers bike box hire. I've personally travelled with my bike in a box and it's super easy.
- Vaccinations - Research on whether you need vaccinations if you are going further afield (Thanks Nick @ Giant Camden for this one!)
- Local Hospitality - Depending on your length of stay try to be flexible about your itinerary. Locals may offer hospitality. You never know what fun experiences are around the corner.
Plotting the Route
I personally use Strava or RideWithGPS as route builders. I plot the route meticulously, zooming in to look at the quality of road surface, terrain, heavy traffic, size of road. Once you've plotted the route, download the map as a GPX file to your computer. Plug the navigation device into your computer, add the GPX to your device folders. Every device is different; just google 'how to add GPX file to 'X' device'. You'll normally find a good Youtube video which will help.
- These route builders allow you to type in A and B locations, then will automatically plan a route this way. Be careful by doing it as you may find yourself on a bridlepath or rocky canal path, or even a no through road. Use the 'little man' at the bottom right hand corner of the map to pull him into the map to view Google images of the road.
- Spend a lot of time plotting the route, since cycling along these roads is the main part of your trip.
- Research for particular points of interest along your route, historic building, scenic points of view, coffee shops, restaurants.
- Research cycle shops along the way and take note of their address and numbers in case you need them for an emergency, so you are safe in the knowledge that you know where the next bike shop is.
- Consider the total distance and how long the cycle will take per day.
- Be Realistic - of the distance you can cover each day, look at amount of elevation you'll be doing. Obviously the more elevation, the longer it will take.
- Plan for stops along the way. Research all of the towns along the way to points of interest. Are there some scenic points of interest such as at the top of a hill with a gorgeous view point. A really cool cafe or restaurant, somewhere in town. Are there lakes you can swim in on the way?
- Luggage - Bags for the bike. There are many bags you can take saddle bags, top tube bags, frame bags, bags that strap under your handlebars, the list is endless! Do your research on what would work best for you. Check our your nearest Giant stores as they may stock some bags that you can test out on your bike.
Top Tip: Don't cycle with a backpack, even if it's super light, this can affect your back
- Navigation Device - Again, do your research here. There are many devices to help guide you along your plotted route that tells you which direction to go in, speed, cadence, distance cycled and more! Chat to friends, try out the devices in store to see if you like the user face and will find it useful. Giant have just released their Neostrack device. Or you can go old school and plot your route on an actual map
- Spares - Always carry levers to take the tyre off, a pump or CO2 canister and more than one spare inner tube!
Front & Rear Lights (the higher the lumens the brighter which is key for unlit roads)
Battery pack charger (great for changing things on the go, especially for lights at night if you get cut short)
Clothes - Layers and water resistant jacket
Passport (if going abroad!)
Dynamo hub wheel - a wheel that produces power from the energy you generate when riding you bike; especially useful for longer tours!
Bike Insurance & travel (check insurance covers bike)
Chargers for lights, navigation & phones
You want to cycle as light as possible so be prepared for having to wear your kit over more than one day! Check the weather in the location of your ride so you can prepare properly (waterproofs if it's going to be cold, arm warmers etc. or less if it's going to be super hot)
Cycling shorts with padding
Gloves with padding!
Cycling caps - shade from rain and sun!
Clip in shoes
Clothes to sleep in
Preparation - The week before!
Get your bike serviced - Start the cycle knowing that your bike is healthy and ready to ride with any niggles sorted by the bike mechanics.
Tell someone where you will be cycling on the route (if you go alone, perhaps send them the GPX)
Lay your kit out a week before to check if you need to buy anything else
Pack your kit - does it fit in the bags you have? Do you need to get another bag? Always a good way to gauge whether you can fit everything in.
Kit rehearsal - pack all your kit and clothes into your bags, and trial cycling with your bags on the bike to get a feel of the change of weight and weight distribution.
Tips for during the adventure
Keep an eye on time during stops. They always take longer in groups
Get local advice on the way. Locals might have recommendations that you didn't pre plan for!
Be flexible with the route.
Be prepared to face and overcome challenges. They will arise, but it's all part of the adventure and also 'character building'. Things may not go to plan such as road blocks, sheep on the road, dead ends, a road may turn into a gravel pathway!
Check that there are refuel points on the route, and always carry enough emergency food in case
Eat food that your body knows. Don't experiment with things you have not eaten before. You could get caught out!
Eat more than you think you need, especially if there is a chance that you might have trouble finding your next food stop.
Examples of what I fuel for rides: PB and J sandwiches, energy bars, bananas, nuts and seeds, energy gels (for back up energy boost!!)
Also lots of water capacity, and possibly hydration tabs. Losing a lot of sweat reduces electrolysis etc
Consider water filter if you are going remote?
So these are all my top tips. You can prepare to a certain point, but the key is to enjoy the cycle adventure. The best things are often not planned or you didn't expect such as the people you meet along the way and the experiences. I've listed all the basics that I think are needed to get you on your cycle trip. Challenges will arise but that's all the fun part of it!
If you want to check out my routes, here are my Strava maps. If you can't download these as a GPX, get in touch and I can download and send them to you!
- Thanks to Nick at Giant Camden for hosting.
- Thanks to all my cycling friends for adding in their tips.
- Thanks to Liv Cycling for supporting and PRing the event.
- Check out what adventures Giant Camden Team Liv you can join in with.