Check you have the right travel insurance!
Check very carefully what is covered on your travel insurance policy. We have found that most standard holiday travel insurance policies will cover your personal repatriation, but not the repatriation of your bikes. We nearly got caught out by this when I hurt my back in Norway and it looked like we might have to cut short our tour, Frank phoned the insurance company and they said they would repatriate us but not our bikes! Fortunately after 4 days my back improved enough that I could continue the trip. Sadly we have heard of others who were put in that predicament and were left with the problem of getting two bikes and luggage back from France.
The only insurance company we have found so far that says it will repatriate the bikes as well as ourselves (although we haven't had to put it to the test) is the CTC travel insurance and then only if you take out their cycle insurance cover as well.
Remember it's a Holiday!
It is so easy to get caught up in doing miles for miles sake. If you are not careful you can cycle too far in a day or try and fit too much into the time you have available. If you are not careful it will become a slog and an endurance race and you will end up staring at the tarmac for most of the day and not enjoying yourself! It doesn't matter if you do 10 miles or 100 miles. Mind you there are times when Frank says to me "You will tell me when I'm enjoying myself wont you!"
Don't forget to stop and look behind you!
Some of our best views and photos
have been the view in the opposite direction to the
way we were travelling. It could be a rainbow or wonderful
sky, so remember to stop occasionally and look behind!
Take plenty of memory cards or film!
You can never have enough memory card space or film, fortunately with digital cameras the price of memory cards has fallen quite dramatically so they are relatively cheap.
Carry a Chopstick
Got this tip from a Swiss guy we met touring in Norway, who in fact got it from a Dutch guy.
Carry a chopstick with you, very useful to get your chain back on without getting your hands covered in oil!
Used it a couple of times and it works a treat.
We have also found it useful for cleaning the mud out of your cleats and moving a washing up greeny around in the bottom of a flask to remove the accumulated grolly snot.
I'm sure there are other uses that you could dream up!
Make your gears do the work!
To ease your journey make sure that you use your gears properly, as it puts less strain on your leg muscles and joints. If you have a good range then move up and down them don't just stick in the same gear.
Anticipate changes of gradient and change down at junctions so that you are not struggling in too high a gear.
Try and avoid coming out of the saddle and standing up on the pedals, change down instead. If you are in your lowest gear and you find yourself needing to stand up to get up the hills, look at your gearing range it maybe too high for touring with a loaded bike.
Pump up them tyres!
Keep your tyres pumped up hard, the less rubber you put on the road the easier it will be on the legs. Don't think of the tyres as shock absorbers, if you want to absorb any bumps consider a suspension seat post or a sprung saddle.
Some thoughts on Inner tubes
Unfortunately inner tubes don't last as long as people think they should and like all rubber products gradually degrade with time. We have had inner tubes split and burst where there has been no puncture of the tyre itself but the inner tube has burst due to the rubber failing through age. Therefore it is worth it to replaced them on a regular basis if you wish to have trouble free cycling.
If you change the size of the width your tyres and there is a large difference in the widths then change the size of your inner tube accordingly. This is particularly important when moving from a large width to a small width tyre as the inner tube will be stretched and is thus liable to be pinched or nipped when squeezing it into the smaller width tyre.
Getting fit for touring
As we have said before you don't have to be mega fit to go cycletouring but the fitter you are the easier you will find it and therefore the more enjoyable it will be when you are out on tour. So if you want to tone up those muscles, lungs and derriere for touring then think about the following:
- Try and do some sort of regular low impact aerobic exercise, perhaps by joining a sports or keep fit evening class.
- Try and get in some evening and weekend rides in your local area. Like any fitness training many short rides on a regular basis are better that the occasional long ride to build up fitness.
- If you don't live too far away from your place of work , then think about commuting to work. If you give yourself enough time to do the distance comfortably and you can find a traffic free route then it can be quite a relaxing way to start the day and a good way to unwind from a hard working day. Not only will be it good for your general well being but it will also be good for the environment.
- Take every opportunity to sneak in some exercise even if you have a busy work life e.g. Take the stairs rather than the lift or elevator. Take your bike with you on the train and cycle from the station to your meeting instead of getting a taxis or the bus. If you regularly take the bus or tube to work, think about getting off a stop or two before your usual stop and walking the rest of the way.
Secure those nuts and bolts
One thing you don't want to happen on tour is for things such as racks and mudguards to become loose. Where possible change traditional nuts for 'Nyloc' self locking nuts. If your racks or mudguards are held on by machine screws in threaded holes in the dropouts and there's room, replace the machine screws with longer ones that will give room for a 'Nyloc' nut to be fitted on the other side. If there isn't enough clearance on the other side for a nut such as on the chain cassette side of the rear dropouts, try using a little 'Loctite' on the machine threads before screwing it in.
One problem you can have with aluminium framed bikes if you are continually taking the rear racks on and off when disassembling the bikes to fit in flight bags is that the threads on any threaded holes can become worn and if you are not careful the threads can be easily stripped when assembling. To prevent this problem occurring on the rack lugs at the top of the seat stays on our bikes we very gently drilled right through the two holes to remove the threads and put one long bolt through with a 'Nyloc' nut on the end.
Do a daily 'Ride check'
Try and get into the habit of doing a quick daily 'Ride check' of your bike to check that everything is working OK and nothing looks loose or out of place, this could be in the morning before you set off or preferably in the evening after your ride if you are not to tired or too late as it will give you time to fix any problems. The check will only take 5 or 10mins but it could save you a lot of hassle and time in the future.
Things to check:
- Check the tyres for correct inflation, sharp stones you may have picked up in the treads or any cuts or deterioration in the tread surface or tyre walls.
- Check spokes, a quick play of the wheel spokes like you are playing a harp listening for any spokes that don't ring the same can indicate a loose spoke.
- Check all the rack and mudguard mounting points for loose nuts or bolts.
- Check the brake blocks for alignment and wear.
Most other problems such as with the chain and gears will usually show up when you ride.
Make sure you carry a small first aid kit with you on tour as you just don't know when you might need it. We carry the following :
Not only should you carry a first aid kit but also it is a good idea to know how to do 'First Aid'. If you haven't been on a first aid course we urge you to do so, you could just save a life!
A useful things to have with on tour is the new St John Ambulance First Aid for Cylists app for your phone. You can download it here.