I am not sure if this is the “right” way to cycle tour, and in fact, I might very well be doing this the “wrong” way, but by George, I have been having fun!
I thought I would share my top tips for ensuring you have an exciting cycling (mis)adventure (because pretty much every adventure needs a little ‘mis’, or where would the best stories come from!?).
1: Cycle touring fashion (I’m so fabulous)
The years of weighing all items on a kitchen scale, courtesy of my sister, has trained me to rigorously minimize the amount of clothes I pack on a trip. Most of the time, I rock my bib shorts (with an added layer for the chilly season). And since I fully agree with the folks that say you should not wear undies in your bike shorts, the added bonus of this avant-Garde fashion choice is that you can significantly reduce the number of undies you bring on your trip! (Although, it might mean you are not fit to interact with human people after a few days on the road).
I brought around one passable outfit for times that I was a regular human in the world (which creates an endearing level of repetition in the style for all travel photos – black jeans, slip on shoes, grey sweater, lululemon top). It’s really all about pushing the fashion boundaries at all times. 😛
2: Your digital witness
Since it probably didn’t happen if you can’t Instagram it, I definitely recommend bringing some tech tools on your travels! Cycle touring pros may question my tech decisions. I decided to leave behind my fancy schmancy Garmin watch, decided not to do any sort of live-tracking of my route so I could save the iPhone battery for emergency lost situation (which, as you will see below, is most of the time). I thus don’t get accurate estimates of the distance I cover each day, my route, or speed stats (but I also am not keeping an embarrassing record of my navigational struggles), but I do have NUMEROUS cycling selfies, which is really the important thing. I do make room for my hefty dSLR and lug around my laptop, so I can do photo editing and snippits of PhD work throughout the trip.
For added bliss, I do often try to acquire just enough sand in my panniers so that everything I wear and eat is a bit gritty.
3: ALL THE SNACKS
Snacks. So many snacks. In my most recent trip, honed an exacting regime of cycling nutrition, using this cheese-calorie equilibrium equation, where x is the quantity of cheese required:
For every calorie I burned, I tried to ensure I consumed at least the squared value of that in gouda. I hypothesize that this equation could be adapted to other regional delicacies, but I have not tested it so cannot guarantee results.
Because man cannot live by cheese alone (although I did make a good effort), I carried an extensive snack line. My new favourite was a dense brick of dehydrated bananas. I mauled the first brick like a savage, then I realized that you can peel an individual banana off, which looks a lot like a poo-cigar (in order to ensure maximal classiness).
4: Feel good lost
I have come to realize that I have been blessed with a terrible sense of directions AND an innate belief that I have a wonderful set of directions. This combination always results in marvelous things happening – like confidently setting off in the wrong direction moments after consulting the map and taking many miles to realize it. This happens at a very regular frequency, so I have developed a level of comfort with feeling a little bit lost at all times. This feels less good at 9pm in the dark, but most other times, it will result in taking many diversions that often reveal the most delightful gems on the journey.
5: Naked in the woods
I have read lots of discussion on the anthropometric characteristics of various types of cyclists. I think one of the areas of discussion that is oft-overlooked is bladder size and behaviour. I have been blessed with a cycle-touring classic, limited-capacity bladder that, despite a chronically high level of dehydration, that will demand immediate evacuation at the least convenient moments [mostly group of impossibly attractive group of men]. Because of this, I have spent many hours as I cycled trying to envision a system that would allow a lady to pee in the woods without having to get fully naked! I have not yet tested the various Freshette/She-wee/Whiz Freedom devices that boast a “respectable extension tube” but I am not more curious than ever if it would be possible to use said devices without taking your bib shorts off. Has anyone tried this? Please give me your thoughts!
6: The art of bicycle repair
Most reasonable people would know that you should have a rudimentary level of knowledge of bicycle repair so you are able to change a flat in a pinch. [For the record, I can make pretty quick work of a flat, and in fact, I once successfully and swiftly changed a flat on a first date, impressing/intimidating my blind date].
However, the trick is to ensure that you don’t master all aspects of bicycle repair so you can always have adequate excuses to stop by a bicycle shop/cafe to chat with the cute boy who adjusts your brakes and makes you the most delicious cup of coffee at the same time. This is obviously the dream life. Can’t wait to set off on my next (mis)adventure!
Check out my other posts about cycle touring under Bike Love, including my post about my “Pedalling for Mental Health” challenge, where I am hoping to raise money for mental health research. If you are able to support this great charity, please donate here!