Cycle touring can be done alone or with friends, there are definite advantages to both. When alone, you get to decide where you’re going, the speed you get there and when to stop and take a picture, smell the roses or take a pee! Yet, if you can find someone who is a similar level of fitness and who you get along with very well, then there are some clear advantages to having a cycle partner.
From sharing the weight of a tent or other gear such as stoves, pans and tools to having someone to look after your bike and bags if you need to go shopping, there are definite benefits to having someone else around.
Having done cycle tours alone, with one other and in a larger group, I’d say that finding one person who is a decent match can be quite tricky, finding a group of equally matched riders is almost impossible! In a group, there will always be someone who wants to go faster/slower, always an excuse to stop and always a difference in fitness levels making it difficult to keep everyone happy. Saying that, it’s possible to split up into smaller groups and meet up later, so it can work, it’s just more of a challenge.
What should you take with you?
What you decide to take on a cycle tour depends to a point on the length of your journey, but there are some items that will always be needed. The ability to fix a puncture (you will get a puncture!) is imperative. Having spare inner tubes, tyre levers (to remove the tyre), a pump and patches to repair the tube are essential.
The first long cycle trip I did (from London to the Mediterranean coast of Spain) all I took was one bag worn on my back. There were two of us on that trip so we could split the one tent we took between us. There are distinct advantages to this as well as some clear negatives!
The plus sides are that you tend to keep the bag’s weight very low if you are wearing it on your back, taking only the definite essentials and you can keep your belongings with you at all times.
The down side is that wearing all you take on your back will become uncomfortable no matter how light you think you’ve made the bag. I distinctly remember being half-way up a mountain and going through our bags throwing anything we considered superfluous away; Camera? Too heavy! Chuck it… Pages that we had already travelled on the map? Rip them out and throw them! Spare pair of socks? Gone!
The second trip I had panniers and a bag but the most comfortable solution is to have nothing on your back and all the weight distributed evenly on the bike. Panniers that are easy to remove and carry are the way forward. Still, keeping the weight down is essential or you will be throwing good stuff away or at least posting it back home!
My list of essentials looked something like this:
- Tent (light as possible)
- Sleeping bag
- Tools for fixing the bike (Multitool with chain breaker, spare spokes, puncture repair kit, pump, chain lube, brake pads, spare chain link)
- Stove, pan & utensils for cooking and eating
- Map (Never wanted to rely on the phone in case the battery ran out leaving me stranded)
- Phone and charger ( which could double as a camera/video recorder)
- One change of cycle clothes (so two shorts, two tops)
- One set of regular clothes (including lightweight shoes)
- Waterproof jacket
- Toilet Paper (you don’t want to be caught without this one in the middle of nowhere!)
Using Workaway while cycle touring
While staying in a tent is the easiest way to be able to just cycle until you feel like stopping for the day, after a while the comfort of a regular bed and the possibility of a proper bath becomes extremely enticing! Having some Workaway hosts lined up along the route of your journey can really help break it up into more manageable chunks allowing you to recharge your batteries as well as enabling you to help others along the way.
Another site that could be very useful when cycle touring is warmshowers.org which has been around in various guises since 1993. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink.
Thinking of buying an expensive travel stove? Think again!
This stove runs on alcohol and is made from a regular drink can. I’ve seen one of these before, but never a decent explanation of how to make one. It’s ingenious and easy, my favourite combination!