Rob’s cycle touring tips

🕔Mar 27, 2008

Always carry some food—especially when distances between towns are long. Whether it’s cookies, a Powerbar, bread and cheese…whatever—you don’t want to “bonk”(suddenly run out of energy). When it’s time to divvy up any communal items, offer to take the food!
Never pass up a chance to refill your water. I carry just 1.5 liters in my Camelbak, but I always add to it. If you have a Camelbak with pockets, resist the temptation to stuff them with items. Water on your back is top-heavy enough: put lighter items in there.
Take two proper cycling shorts, and shirts that are quick-drying (e.g. not cotton). Remember that wool insulates when it’s wet.
Spin circles, not squares. Imagine that your scraping dog poo off the sole of your shoe at the bottom of every pedal stroke. Use your gears to always be pedaling 70-80 revolutions per minute, yet also applying force to the pedals.
Even if you run two panniers on the back and none on the front—something that makes you less stable than four bags—you still have the option of a handlebar bag, or of duct-taping things to your forks. I once taped a cased Leatherman to one fork and a bear-spray holster filled with cleaning spray, tools, lube etc to the other. If you have a suspension fork, stiffen it as much as possible. Bring a couple of different lengths of those little, colourful bungee cords to tie items to your rear rack: you can really pile things up there.
Bring the smallest version of everything. For instance, bring half a tube of toothpaste if you can’t get a travel-size tube. If you want to bring something to read, bring a pocket book. Write a journal in a notepad. Bring a spoon and a foldable pocket knife.
You’re crazy if you don’t carry an extra innertube and a pump. The twins and I had 3 flats on our trip. During my solo Vancouver Island tour I wore out two tires, one of which loudly and dramatically exploded in a campground. Be prepared to maintain and even have work done to your bike along the way.
If you’re going to bring only one pair of cycling gloves, make it long-finger.
A thin vest, even fleece, is a really versatile piece of clothing. A bandana can be used as a sweatband or an ear-warmer.
Pay attention to the “ Passing Lane 2 kms Ahead” signs. Not only will you learn to gauge distance if you don’t have an odometer/speedometer, but they’ll also alert you to an upcoming hill.
Stop at least five to six times a day, and eat each time. Don’t stop for long. Stretch often. Relax your shoulders and neck as much as possible. They’ll really seize up over four hours of cycling. Roll your neck. Keep a light grip on the handlebar. If you don’t have bar ends, get them. (Also known as “steering horns,” bar ends fit perpendicularly on the end of mountain-bike handlebars providing welcome hand-position relief.)
Bike touring and any form of ice cream were made for one another.
Personal kitchen kit: one pot, plastic bowl, plastic travel mug strapped to the outside of one of the panniers.
Medium-dark shades for eye protection and most light conditions are best.
A few Ibuprofen should be in your toiletries.
Wear bright colours. One of your team should have a headlight and at least one should have a blinking red rear light.
When Devyn and Daryn and I rolled our Okanagan Tour, we were practically sponsored by Tim Hortons. You can afford to indulge while touring.
Streams aren’t necessarily good to drink from, but dipping your head in one may be a saving moment on a hot day.
On the eve of your journey, spread everything that you’re taking on a table or a tarp outside. Look at it. Remove at least one item.