In the first post in this series on preparing for a cycle holiday we talked about things to consider when planning your trip such as:
– your destination/s including consideration of the terrain, weather and presence or absence of bike paths
– day trips from a base vs travelling on each day
– the total distance to be travelled and daily travel distances
In general there are two kinds of cycle holidays: short-distance day trips in a specific area and long-distance cycle tour throughout a region. Both are a lot of fun, but they are nothing alike when it comes to planning for them. For starters, each option requires a different bicycle. Short trips can be done on regular bikes or race bikes, depending on what kind of cyclist you are. For family and leisurely holidays, a regular normal bike is the way to go. If you’re into sports or speed or want to climb a mountain for example, you will absolutely need a proper race bike. Long-distance cycle holidays require a very different type of bicycle. These so-called touring bikes are stronger than other bikes and are equipped with panniers. They are made to carry lots of gear and can usually be used on various types of soil as well.
Make sure you have the right bike for what you want to do. Go to a bike shop, talk to a bike mechanic, even consider having a bike custom-made for you if necessary. Custom-made bikes fit your body perfectly; they are like an extension of your body and, especially after long distances, will feel way more comfortable than any other (cheap) bicycle. Also make sure that your bicycle has gears. Fourteen is a minimum. Even though you will probably not use some of them, it is still good to have them just in case you hit an unexpected steep hill or something similar. If you are not used to using gears, go for short trips in your neighborhood and try them out. Make sure you get comfortable on your bike and know how to use it. Try out the brakes on the handlebar and check which one is the front and which one operates the rear brake. You don’t want to accidentally use your front brake when going downhill and fly over the handles! It happens, believe me.
Having some knowledge about basic bicycle maintenance and repair is essential as well. Not knowing how to repair a flat tire, fix a chain that has fallen off, or adjust the brakes can totally ruin your cycle holiday. All these things are quite easy when you know how to do them. You can buy books about bicycle maintenance, take a course or browse the internet for tips and lessons. It is good to know what is what on your bicycle. Before going on your trip, practice taking off a tire and putting it back on again. Play around and get yourself acquainted with your bicycle. It is a machine after all.
Don’t forget to bring some basic replacement parts, spare tires and tools on your trip. They will be able to help you with that at your local bike shop. Concerning clothing, it is up to you to decide what kind of clothes you want to wear when cycling. People with race bikes invariably wear cycling clothes, while families tend to wear comfortable clothes. Always make sure to bring a proper rain jacket though, preferably one that breathes.