5 tips for bicycle touring

Plan well

My lack of preparation for my first long distance ride was appalling. Apart from my unfitness, I had defied my fellow riders’ instructions of carrying nuts and snack bars for energy. So gross was my lack of preparation that I didn’t have a single penny on me, and due to the lack of ATMs in my destination town I couldn’t withdraw either. Luckily my unpreparedness was balanced by the thoughtfulness of my friends and despite rightly showering me with ridicule and scorn, they had my back. Though this may seem trivial, planning and preparation is essential in ensuring that a trip is smooth and successful. It will save you from headaches and banter from fellow riders. I have been fortunate to accompany a veteran in cycling expeditions for almost all my cycling endeavors, and that has made me realize how important planning every last detail is. Every hiccup must be anticipated and thought of. This is crucial and can be the difference between a thoroughly enjoyable expedition and a disastrous one.

Physical fitness is key

The first long distance ride I indulged in had a painstakingly long climb which was filled with self-doubt and bewilderment at my own decision of embarking on such an arduous journey. I attribute a lot of this negativity to my lack of fitness. As my mentor correctly said, one simply cannot enjoy an expedition if one is constantly thinking about how tired he/she is. You cannot enjoy the delicacies of a region, or cherish the conversations with new and exciting people to their fullest if you are struggling with the journey itself. Make sure you are physically prepared in accordance with the difficulty of the tour.

“Pick the bicycle up, it’ll be a great photo!”, exclaimed Agniv, my cycling buddy. “Just take the damn photo”, I replied, too exhausted to move a muscle.

Capture stories

Every time I go on trips I feel that it’s more important to enjoy the moment itself rather than vigorously try to capture it and forget to live in it. Although too much of the latter is also bad, a balance needs to be struck between the two. In this philosophy, I tend to regret not having at least some basic moments captured after returning from a trip. These can come in handy for documentation purposes as well as to just take a trip down memory lane as well.

It’s okay to give up sometimes

It was pitch dark by the time we had reached the final couple of kilometers of the climb to a nearby hill. This, coupled with the fact that it was a 45 degree incline made it extremely difficult to climb. To add to my woes, my calves and thighs were threatening to cramp up. But I couldn’t give up because I convinced myself the entire ride would be worthless if I don’t complete this final stretch. I cycled through the pain and caught up with my mentor. Just as I pulled up next to him, he unmounted his bicycle and started walking up. This startled me as I saw him as the man who had done unthinkable things like tour the Himalayas on his bicycle. Seeing him walk it up gave me some reassurance and made me realize that sometimes it’s okay to not finish. Soon, I too listened to my body and started walking with him. It turned out to be the decision of the day as it was freezing at the peak with strong headwinds, and if I hadn’t stopped it would’ve been a crampy night.

Fill up on water whenever you can

I have made the grave mistake of cycling long stretches without a sip of water to drink and it’s not the kind of position you’d want to put yourself in. Especially on tours where the temperatures are soaring, water becomes extremely precious. My mouth was left with an agonizing dryness and it made the task at hand ten times harder. On one of the rides, I was asked by a fellow rider as we passed a small shop whether I wanted to fill water. I glanced at my bottle, saw that it’s three quarters full, and confidently shook my head in denial. I understood why he gave me a disgruntled look then just half an hour later, when my water reserve had been depleted and I was parched.

I was hallucinating a drinking water tap – since we had depleted our water reserve

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