We’ve recently finished our third bike trip in Europe, and though this doesn’t turn us into experts, we’ve learned some interesting stuff about preparing a trip.
In a nutshell, the things you need to understand is that the key is to balance between the weight you want to carry and the preparedness you want to attain.
All in all, you need to think about: the route, the rhythm, the gear and the clothing.
The route you choose can bore you or challenge you. Too hard and you’ll get tired. Too long and you might get bored. When selecting your route you need to account for elevation, surface, distance and pace.
In our case we want to enjoy the ride. We are not cyclists, we are bike travellers. Therefore we try to choose routes next to Rivers or canals, which are usually flat and well paved.
Even without training your legs will hold right ok. It’s rather your butt that will get tired and sore. Concerning distance, we usually cycle no more than 70km per day. We usually cycle that distance in 5-6 hours.
A poorly paved or unpaved surface will slow you down, so think about that when planning your route, as it will mean more time on the saddle. We usually plan routes using bikemap.net and/or the bikeline German books.
- In summer, try waking up early and cycle before it gets too hot
- Try doing a weekedn-long trip to know how far can you go. If not possible, rent a bike for a day and do a day trip around your city.
- Don’t hesitate to buy cyclist shorts (padded) to get an extra layer of comfort. If you don’t like how they look on you, you can always hide them under large comfy street clothes.
- Use photo or lunch pauses to get away of the saddle.
As I said before, we are not interested in the “top-it” game. Not interested in going farther or faster, but only in “going”. We usually try to make a mix of bike/train/visit days to get the most of our trips.
What has worked the best is 3-4 days of cycling followed by a day of pause. That day of pause can either be spending a couple of nights in a city to visit or cycling a short distance and then taking the train somewhere.
Usually butt soreness hits around the second or third day, that’s why a pause is always welcome.
In all three week-long trips we’ve used city bikes and they worked quite well. The only special thing we do is take them to our local bike repair shop for a general check before the trip: breaks, gears, tires and crank.
Concerning the gear we bring:
- Three air chambers, although just two is usually more than enough
- Everything to change a tire: tire levers, air pump
- An XLC TO-M06 multi-tool
- A couple of screwdrivers
- A Leatherman OHT with knife and pliers.
- Work gloves (most useful thing ever)
- A small can of WD-40
Your trip will take two parts: on the bike and off the bike.
While cycling, feel free to wear what ever keeps you comfortable. I usually don’t wear any padded shorts, but simple sports short pants, t-shirt and linen short on top to avoid sunburn.
We never wear helmets when cycling outside the cities. We always take them with us, but only put them back when entering what seems as a dangerous city.
For longer trips we try to bring clothes for 5-6 days. After that we look for laundromats where we can wash and dry clothes. Even better if you find a hotel with a laundry to wash and dry clothes.
When needed, don’t hesitate to turn a hotel room into a drying room.
I recently started using a pair of hiking sandals to cycle, as they keep my feet cooler and healthier at the end of the day. As I said, we don’t use special bikes or pedals, so hiking sandals are just fine to pedal.