Heading out on your first bike tour and need some bike touring tips? Here are 40 random yet helpful pieces of advice to get you started!
1) Training your body for long days in the saddle is essential for a pleasant tour. Try to cycle 3 or 4 times a week, including one whole day of cycling over varied terrain.
2) Do a practice run a couple of weeks before you head off. Load your panniers up as you would for your big tour and do a one-night test ride. If you discover any issues, you’ll be able to fix them ahead of time.
3) Take time to find the perfect saddle for your bike and ensure it’s broken in before a big tour. It needs to be comfortable as you’ll be sitting on it for hours a day!
4) If you are going on a long tour in a remote part of the world, consider using a steel-frame bike. You’re more likely to find a welder than someone who can repair cracked carbon.
5) Bike touring is all about minimalism and simplicity. The mantra of “it’s better to have it and not need it” is not the way to go. You need to be selective with what you bring as you’re the one who must grind the weight of your luggage up those hills!
6) Despite my previous point, don’t listen to the “pack less” crowd. You should bring what you need for your tour. If something would provide genuine value, joy or added comfort to your tour, then bring it, even if it’s heavy or takes up a lot of space.
7) The gear you need for a three-week bike tour is the same as you would need for a three-day tour.
8) If you’re unsure if you’ll need something or not, ask yourself whether you’ll be able to buy it on the road. If you can’t, bring it with you.
9) It’s really worth investing in a good quality sleeping mat.
10) Paint your tent pegs a bright colour so you can spot them easily when you pack up each day.
11) Allow yourself some luxuries, such as your kindle or your coffee maker. Whatever you feel would make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable for you.
12) Don’t rely on electronics alone when touring – especially off the beaten track. Always have paper maps too!
13) Chamois cream is brilliant for saddles sores and other friction burns.
14) Swiss army knives are perfect in these situations. Bottle opener, small knife, screwdriver, scissors. Always useful.
15) Make sure you think about weight distribution and ensure your panniers are evenly spread.
16) Ladies, a she wee is your best friend. I’ve even used it to aim into an empty bottle in my tent in the middle of the night when it’s raining too hard to go outside. Judge me all you want!
17) Bring a bungee cord with you – it’s always useful for tying things onto your bike racks or making a makeshift clothesline to dry your clothes.
18) The most important item of clothing is your cycling shorts/pants. You’ll be wearing them day after day in the saddle and so it’s essential that they are comfortable and fit properly. Bring at least two pairs so you can wash them between uses – stepping into a clean pair each day will minimise irritation.
19) Buffs are a fantastic piece of clothing. They can keep your head warm, they can be soaked to keep your head cool in hot weather, and they can be used as an eye mask on a bright campsite.
20) When it comes to clothing, layers are the best way to go.
21) Don’t forget to bring flip flops/sandals – taking off your shoes at the end of a long day of cycling is a wonderful feeling.
22) Always wear cycling gloves. They’ll save your hands from getting scraped up in the case of a fall and the padding also helps to prevent damage to your wrists from vibrations.
On the road
23) Take every opportunity to refill your water bottles.
24) Drink before you are thirsty and eat before you are hungry.
25) Carrying your own toilet roll is essential. Trust me.
26) I personally wouldn’t pass up suitable accommodation after about 5 pm. Too many times I’ve thought there will be another suitable place within the next hour and it hasn’t been the case.
27) Double-check your camping spot before you head off for the day. Cycling back for something you’ve forgotten is the worst!
28) Especially for longer tours, build in a luxury day every so often. A nice hotel room and a warm bath are so welcome after weeks of camping.
29) Be sure to take rest days and make time for sightseeing.
30) Be conservative with the mileage at first; no amount of training can adequately train you for hours in the saddle day after day.
31) Find the little roads. They’re usually much nicer to cycle on than the more direct but busier roads.
32) Stock cubes can add flavour to almost anything and are great to mix into a perhaps otherwise flavourless camp meal.
33) Be prepared to get dirty! Sweat + sunscreen + cycling is an unpleasant combination. Tiny insects and layers of dust/dirt will stick to your skin.
34) Learn the mistakes drivers make, and assume everyone is going to make them every time.
35) When cycling along a road of parked cars, try to stay in the middle of the road. If someone opens their car door without looking, you won’t be knocked off!
36) Numbness in any part of your body should be treated as a warning sign that something needs to change in your seat height, seat setback, handlebar height, or stem length. Numbness can lead to serious problems.
37) Have a variety of hand positions available to prevent pain or numbing of the hands. Flat bars without bar ends are probably not the best option.
38) It’s not a race. Who cares if you only cycle 10km a day? As long as you’re enjoying yourself, that’s all that matters. As Jimmy Buffett said, “go fast enough to get there but slow enough to see.”
39) A lot of the challenges are mental. The going can get tough at times, but the pros of touring have always outweighed the cons for me.
40) The most important bike touring tip of all: have fun!
Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.
Hotels – Booking.com
Hostels – Hostelworld
Cheap flights – Skyscanner
Travel insurance – World Nomads
Outdoor gear – Decathlon / GO Outdoors
Cycling gear – Chain Reaction Cycles
Alternatively, you could buy me a coffee to say thanks!