Cycle touring is our love. You know it. For most of the people this way of travelling may sound unimaginable.
In the past weeks we got quite a few questions about practicalities of cycle touring. What we’ve got in our panniers. How we plan the route… So we’ve decided to prepare a series of blog posts talking about different aspects of cycle touring to help you with your beginnings.
Why should you try cycle touring?
Cycle touring is a unique way of travelling. It gives you the ability to travel fast enough to see a lot and slow enough to be able to enjoy those places. Thanks to the cycle touring you will see places where you’d never think to stop your car. You will have conversations with locals. Maybe they’ll invite you home. When you see amazing photo opportunity, in most cases you’ll be able to stop and take that picture. With a car something unimaginable… If you need more persuasion, look at our instagram :).
Who is the cycle touring for?
We think for everybody. It really depends how much you take on. There are routes suitable for retirees and there are mountain passes. By sitting on the bicycle your joints are less strained than by walking or running.
How much do I have to train in advance to be able to do long distance cycle touring?
You don’t. Really. Cycle touring isn’t about breaking the records. If you have limited time and you’re behind the schedule, either cut down the length of the trip or use public transport for some parts. It’s OK. You’re not Peter Sagan and this is your holiday, however unbelievabel it may sounds in relation to hauling heavy loads on a bicycle.
How many kilometres per day is a reasonable average?
This depends on the load you’re carrying, on the terrain, how often you stop and explore the surroundings, of course the fitness and in general your riding style. We are somewhere between 60 and 100 kms per day. Before you set off on a longer journey, take few test rides. First day trips and then overnighters. You’ll see how you’re doing, what time of day your energy levels peak, what surface, terrain and pace suits you. Or throw yourself into that without testing and you’ll take alternative transport if needed ;).
Is cycle touring expensive?
It really depends on your style. You will push the budget down by choosing the right country (Europe, USA and Canada are the expensive ones), but mainly (our beginnings were in Europe with student budget and we managed) by camping, preferably wild camping and cooking your own meals. The other side of the spectrum is “credit card cycle touring” when you can cycle ultralight with few pieces of clothing and snacks for the day. And rest in the hotel spa in the evening after you’ve easily done 150 – 200 kilometres that day. Let’s talk about numbers. We are budgeting for 30$/person/day (the dogs don’t have their own budgets and we’d like to cover the boat transport between Panama and Colombia as well as transport back to Europe from this budget). So far we’ve been financially ok, we were able to fit into the budget even in Canada and the US. If we struggle with money in future, we will try to find a job on the way.
Do I need an extra insurance?
In the European Union we didn’t have any extras. We relied on a blue EU health insurance ID, thanks to which we would get acute treatment if needed. Before this trip the main difficulty was to find an insurance company that would insure us without the return trip date to the home country – that is impossible to say in our case. And we found it! We’ll come back to this in a separate post, where we’ll give you advice how to find insurance for cycle touring.
What do I need for long distance cycle touring?
It would be good to have a bicycle and some bags/panniers where you can pack your stuff. We’ll tell you about necessary and unnecessary things later.
And now some intimate questions 🙂
What about a shower?
We don’t have any problem to admit we don’t shower every day on the road. We prefer wild camping and there you can hardly find any bathrooms with showers. If it’s not hot and humid during the day, we don’t really feel the need for it either. You don’t sweat so much when cycle touring as one would assume. It’s a steady relatively low intensity activity when you can chat with your partner without losing your breath. So for example autumn and winter in the USA and Mexico were perfect. During the day nicely warm for a T-shirt or thin long sleeve layer and during the night almost freezing. If you don’t have a shower every day, it’s a good idea to get a thin sleeping bag liner that will protect your mattress and sleeping bag. You can wash it frequently and easily and in the tropical climate you’ll use it instead of a sleeping bag. So what are the options to wash yourself? Stream, river or a lake are the obvious ones, your cycling bottle makes a good stream, or you can stop during the day at the petrol station, in a cafe or ask at the campground about using their showers for a small fee. Restaurants by the highways for the truck drivers usually have showers too.
And the toilet?
Ok, let’s talk about what to do in nature when you have to go for number 2. Especially when you wild camp, please don’t act like jerks, don’t let your used toilet paper fly around and don’t leave you s..t to greet the next travellers. Dig a hole and do the business. Then throw in the toilet paper and cover it with soil to achieve the state you found it in. This helps to decompose your biological gift to nature quicker and it won’t look like the inside of the pit toilet. Please take care not to do it next to the water sources. For hole digging you can buy a special shovel (like in the “Wild” movie with Reese Witherspoon) but bigger knife and stick or flat stone will suffice. If you are interested in instructional video, please let us know in comments :D.
What kind of posts will apper here in the near future?
How to plan a route, what to pack and what to leave at home, where to sleep, how to choose your insurance, food suitable for long distance cycle touring and some tips and hacks that will make your first steps (or kilometres) easier. If you have some questions you want us to answer, please comment below.