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Photo by Adam Coppola
Whenever I'm putting together a pack list for a tour, before I even start thinking about what I might need, I always grab the pack list from my previous tour to use as an outline. Since all tours are different, there are things that need to be tweaked here and there. For instance, fenders and warm clothes can stay at home on a tour through Baja, Mexico, while they will be a necessity for touring in Alaska.
Bicycle touring is a good time, but it also takes up a good amount of time. While we often fill in the time between tours by heading out on day rides, or weekend overnights, there are a lot of other fun things to do on a bike. Here are some of the activities I've enjoyed over the years to fill in the spaces and stay in shape from one tour to another.
Looking at the faces of bicycle tourists, it seems like it's about a 50/50 split between those who shave and those who don't. For myself, beard growing season happens as soon as the daytime mercury drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which means I'm shaving on long summer tours. Over the years, I more or less had to make due with soap and water when it came to shaving, since I wasn't about to deal with heavy gel aerosol cans. It was never super comfortable, and I nicked myself a lot, but it was better than itchy stubble.
We get a lot of questions about what kind of training is needed for a bicycle tour, which is a super broad question. How you train for a tour depends on the difficulty and length of the tour, your experience as a rider, your body type, and health conditions to name just a few factors. Regardless, here's some general advice that can be applied to almost any training regiment.
The Escape Bivvy from Adventure Medical Kits is new for 2012, and it is looking to be a beefed up version of their popular Emergency Bivvy. Intended to provide additional warmth when the unexpected occurs, this bivvy reflects body heat back inwards, but also manages to breath out moisture to cut down on condensation buildup.
It never fails, no matter how iron clad your pack list is, there will always be something you realize you missed, in addition to lot of things you realize you don't really need. For the extra items, you can always ship those back home when you reach a post office, and with the items you forgot, you can usually pick them along they way. One fun thing about touring is that when I say pick thing up along the way, I really mean along the way. Over the years, I've found a lot of odd items laying on or next to the road while riding that I have found useful.
We've had a calm winter overall here in Montana, but this past week acted as a good reminder of what it's like to ride in harsh conditions, specifically heavy winds. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you battle the winds with finesse!
For my last few tours, I have only used rear panniers and a handlebar bag for gear storage, so I've had light duty, or randonneur style bikes on the mind. Just a quick note, when I talk about light touring, or randonneur bikes, the characteristics I'm referring to place us somewhere between road bike geometry and pure touring bike geometry. They would have shorter chainstays than a touring bike, a tall headtube, wide tire clearance, and often only rear rack mounts. Here are a few of the bikes I have really been keying in on as of late.
Bicycle touring and photography seem to go hand and hand, and it makes sense. You get to travel to incredible places at a relatively slow pace, there is plenty of time to kill, and after the tour is over you want to be able to share your experiences with others. Just thinking about our own staff here at Adventure Cycling, there have been some incredible photographers within our own walls over the years including Aaron Teasdale, Tom Robertson, John Sieber, and our co-founder, Greg Siple.
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.