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Cycletourer logoAs several people have asked us we thought it would be great to have some guest bloggers contributing to our site. If you would like to be a guest blogger on this spot and write an article that is relevant to cycletouring then please get in touch. As this is a non commercial site we are looking for articles from genuine touring cyclists, therefore no commercial articles please.

Ten tips for tandem cycle touring

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Us with our kit.

By Esther

We’d fancied doing a tandem cycle tour for some time and were keen to be self-sufficient campers. With a tandem there is obviously less capacity for panniers than on two solo bikes – so we plumped for a trailer and tent set up. You will read lots about the pros and cons of trailers but it works for us. A major advantage is that your stuff is contained and easy to organise in a trailer when you are at camp. In 2017 we cycled Hadrian’s Cycleway. The following year we created our own tour around Yorkshire. We are taking this year off from cycle touring. ***In fact, now, because of Covid-19 we won’t be doing any holidaying, unless we put the tent in the garden, that is!***

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Glorious views.

For anyone who has not yet been on a cycling tour, or who is interested in doing it the hard way (i.e. camping) here are our top tips with a few tandem specific points:

1. Get advice and ideas from people who have done it before. The info and reasoning behind certain kit at www.cycletourer.co.uk/cycletouring/cyclegear is invaluable. I used this for a lot of pre-trip research. I also read ‘Life in Tandem’ by Jackie Winter and Tandem Tales by Michael Battisti. (We got given those as a wedding present by some tandem cyclists friends and they are full of humour and tips for tandem cyclists.) Ours is definitely a budget set up - you don’t need to go out and buy a load of flash gear. We have found that by looking around and being savvy you can get reasonable kit.

2. Do a weekend shakedown trip. We did a two-night tour from home and found we had everything we needed – except a penknife, which was duly added to the master kit list. It set us into a good pattern for a tour – we aim to get the bulk of the miles done in the morning when our legs are at their best, and then pitch the tent and chill in the afternoon before heading to a pub for a good dinner!

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The wrong side of a squeeze style, locked gate and kissing gate.

3. Be ruthless with your kit. Weigh everything – the advice on www.cycletourer.co.uk about weighing fleeces might seem somewhat laughable at home, by day two of your tour you will be thankful for small mercies. Do not over pack. We found ourselves wearing the same kit every day. If you have one pair of shorts that is really comfortable and another that’s not as comfy you just will not want to wear the second pair - so why carry them?

4. Eat. Eat some more. And eat some more again. Pulling the dead weight of a trailer is a lot harder work than you might expect. The big clue is that the trailer is not pedalling. It is perfectly acceptable to have a huge bowl of pasta, with a side of chips, followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. Always carry emergency flapjack.

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One end of the Hadrian's Cycleway.

5. Plan your route. Consider sticking to NCN routes - generally quieter on traffic and avoid the worst of the hills which are tougher with a tandem and trailer. We used the OS Maps subscription site and printed what we needed to go with the Official route map. (Tandem specific tip – watch out for the wear and tear on tyres from the heat if you only have rim brakes!) Be wary of the fact that even NCN trails have obstacles like locked gates and stiles that will require you to unhitch, unload and lift the whole lot over the top.

6. Pick your campsites carefully. UK Campsite is cracking for the accurate reviews – check the reviews by tent campers as these are the most relevant. Showers are non-negotiable. I still maintain that it’s worth cycling a little further to get a campsite with cracking showers. Also, remember to leave reviews to help the next people.

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The worn down tyre on our trailer.

7. Do your washing! If you are away for a while consider a two night stay in the middle at a site with a laundry – we had a flood issue one night and the following night we were lucky to be on a campsite with washer and dryer. It might have cost £8 but it was worth every penny! The clean laundry smell was heavenly.

8. Do not expect to pack the tent up dry. We had only one morning each trip where it wasn’t actively raining or still soaking from the night before. Yes, we hit on the only wet weeks of the summer of 2018, and then 2019!

9. Embrace the touring fraternity. We met awesome people – a hard-core young family cycling and camping the Hadrian’s Cycleway (littlest one in a trailer but the other two pedalling!) and some amazing Germans who had cycled to Newcastle from Germany (i.e. they had cycled across Holland first). These people are great fun to talk to at breakfast. You will feel part of a special touring community and everyone you meet is a kindred spirit. (Probably because no one else understands you!)

10. Get a cheap lightweight camera tripod for your phone. That way you can have photos with everyone in, you will have a record of the best views and, importantly, the best cakes.