The Adventure Cycling blog covers bicycle-travel news, touring tips and gear, bicycle routes, organizational news, membership highlights, guided tours, and more. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.
Photo by Adam Coppola
After a foot of snow falls in a couple of days, getting out on the bike is tough going, even on a fat bike! With limited daylight and nasty conditions making it hard to get in the saddle, it's a good time to tackle some more time consuming maintenance projects.
During our bike tours, people have often quipped, "Great that you're doing this trip before you have kids!" -- as if children would put a definite and immediate end to our love of cycling and traveling by bicycle. When I became pregnant in May 2011, I wondered if they were right. Would a growing belly (let alone the arrival of a new human being) put a quick end to my bike touring days?
Sometimes it is the simple things that bring the greatest joy, and that's why Salsa's new Anything Cage is going down as my personal pick for 2011 Touring Product of the Year.
The night is a dark time for cyclists ... and we're not necessarily in the clear during the daytime, either. Overcast days, or roads that are heavily shaded, don't lend themselves to providing great visibility to drivers of cars approaching a rider from behind. For this reason, it's a great idea to outfit yourself with some bright clothing, gear, and/or accessories when you take off for a tour.
Once in a long while the Gods of Cycling just smile down on you and say, "We have made you suffer enough. We have made you ride to work through too many snowstorms and scheduled too many of your biking 'vacations' during record breaking heat waves. To make it up to you, we're going to give you a perfect 15-day bicycling tour through Baja, Mexico and we're going to let you try out a Tout Terrain Silkroad while you're there." For a minute it seems too good to be true, but then you just decide to smile and go with it.
I'm a big believer that you will enjoy your tour a great deal more if you get a strong night of sleep between riding days. If you plan on camping most of the nights on your tour, sleep can sometimes be hard to come by, unless you're among the few fortunate individuals who can sleep anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. Here are some tips for getting a solid night of sleep on your next tour.
Unlike other tours I've taken south of the border, this one presented some unique challenges. For starters, the route called for a mix of pavement, sand, and gravel roads. Heading into the Baja desert, we also needed to be sensitive to flat tires from thorns, in addition to hydration with temps much higher than what we're used to this time of year. Here's a rundown on the route, bike selection, equipment, and tools.
Belt drive transmissions are probably best known in the motorsports world, where you can find them on a fair number of cruiser-style motorcycles. Over the past few years, they have been slowly working their way into the cycling scene, and are currently most commonly found on urban single-speed bikes. The benefits of belt drive over a bicycle chain, which you may already know, are that they are cleaner (since they don't require any kind of lubricant), quieter, and they last longer.
Technical cycling apparel is never mandatory for touring, but it can make the miles go by a little more comfortably. As usual, this year's Interbike show was full of apparel companies showing off a wide range of styles, intended for numerous audiences. Since I prefer to put my money into my bikes and tours, any time I look at clothing I put a strong emphasis on durability. Here are some items that not only function well for touring, but will keep you covered for the long haul.
Last month, the editor of our Adventure Cyclist magazine took a look at Cateye's INOU, a GPS enabled camera and video recorder that mounts to your helmet or handlebars. I was a big fan of what he had to say about it, so I decided to borrow it for a few rides, and share some of the actual video that comes out of this little guy.
Panniers were everywhere at this year's Interbike show. There were a few new companies to be seen, a couple of veteran companies jumping into the pannier arena for the first time, and a lot of current pannier manufacturers bolstering and fine-tuning their existing supply.
If you're interested in a new touring bike for next year, there's some great news. The pool of available bikes is on the rise! Here's a sampling of four new touring bikes for 2012, aimed at four different styles of touring.
There I times that I feel as though the biggest obstacle to packing up and heading out on a bike tour is deciding on a route. The list of places to go, and cool things to see, is so long. How do you pick one route over another? The overwhelming choices can easily cause a person to drag his feet, and even spend years thinking about a tour, instead of going on one.
It isn't easy to look ahead to next year's touring season, especially when we're still in the middle of the current season, but I'm going to do it anyway. The motivation behind this is that a lot of bike companies are starting to slowly release their 2012 offerings as the industry trade-show season opens up. Since bicycle touring doesn't always chase trends and receive a ton of hype, it can be a little hard to dig out the new offerings for next season. But there are a few bikes worth mentioning as a sneak preview for things to come.
Timbuk2 — long a dominant force in the messenger-bag market — has finally entered the bicycle touring realm with their Shift Pannier Messenger bag.
After a long winter up in Montana, we're pretty excited to have some summer weather. But while I love taking advantage of the warm weather, a long day in the saddle under the hot sun can really take its toll, and I often find myself looking forward to the temperature dropping back down. Fortunately, there are a lot of little things you can do to keep your cool and enjoy the summer sun at the same time. I actually wrote a post about this a few years back, but sometimes it's good to revisit an important topic such as this.
Most touring bikes include a third set of eyelets for an extra water bottle cage, however, not everybody tours on a touring bike, especially on routes such as the Great Divide Route. While the third bottle cage might be excessive for a lot of tours, it can be nice to have that extra insurance for long stretches between water stops. While there is nothing wrong with tossing an extra bottle in a pannier or back pocket, it can be nice to keep your fluids quickly accessible and off the back.
Just because we're moving into summer doesn't mean that you're in the clear as far as rain is concerned. Getting soaked is one thing, but getting yourself and all of your gear drenched can really dampen your mood. Fortunately, staying dry doesn't require a ton of additional gear that will fill up your panniers/trailers when the sun is out. Here's a quick rundown on some solid rain gear for your body and equipment.
Any time I'm planning out a trip, regardless of location or distance, the very first thing I do is break into an Excel spreadsheet. Keeping things organized in my head has never been one of my stronger suits, so I need to get it all down on a list before something else grabs my attention. Lists also give me a little more confidence going into a tour as reassurance that the things I've planned for have been taken care of.
When looking through different types of cycling apparel, short-fingered cycling gloves for the warm season are easy to miss. For starters, the idea of wearing gloves when it is 80 degrees and sunny out doesn't seem completely intuitive. With shorter rides, you may not feel any discomfort or need for cycling gloves, so packing them up for a longer trip may not even cross your mind. Also, some people just don't find them necessary, kind of like the guy who isn't too concerned about cycling shorts, and rides across the country in cut-off jeans. Everyone has a preference that works for them. But if you're new to cycling, or just haven't given much thought to cycling gloves, be aware that they do offer benefits you may appreciate.
One of the easiest and most liberating ways to travel by bicycle is traveling without a bicycle — renting, that is. For many, renting a bike after arriving at a destination is the perfect solution. If you have ever considered traveling to a far-off land and renting a bicycle once you arrived there, the following is a short breakdown of some of the places you might find a bicycle for rent.
This marks my 100th post to the Touring Gear and Tips column, and after looking back through some previous posts, I thought I would take this opportunity to run down some of the touring gear that I have been most excited about. What follows are my personal favorites, and should not be taken as a definitive 'best of' list, since I don't necessarily believe that there is a true best of show in bicycle touring.
While most touring specific shoes have tennis shoe-like soles with plenty of traction and grip, we still see a lot of touring cyclists who prefer road shoes for various reasons. Road specific shoes often have an exposed cleat, in addition to a hard molded plastic or composite sole. This can make walking on hard floors a little difficult and noisy as well.
Your pack list is dialed in, the route is carefully plotted out on the map, and your bike is tuned up and ready to roll. This all sounds pretty good, and if you see a lot of photos that people post from their own tours, you might think that experience and a solid plan leads to pure enjoyment from start to finish.