July 1, 2013
My friend Lara and I, preparing for her first tour
So you want to take your first tour. You have the bike, the gear, and the enthusiasm. Then your nerves start getting the best of you. 'What if I can't do it? What if the hills are too steep? What if I become horribly lost?' You wonder as you pore over your maps or reread your tour itinerary. Don't worry, new cyclo tourist, I've been right where you are. To help with nerves, and assure you that you can do it (because you can!) here are three easy pre-trip tips that have helped me stay confident as I strike out on tours of my own.
Training for your tour now will make things go much more smoothly than trying to 'ride into shape' at the start of your tour. Ease into your training with a mileage you're comfortable with, even if it's just 5 miles. Be on your bike and riding this amount as often as possible; try for 3-4 times a day. Gradually increase your mileage over several weeks, until you can comfortably ride about 10 miles longer than the longest day of your tour. The more time in the saddle, the more comfortable you'll be on tour, and the more fun you'll have!
Becoming familiar with your equipment will help you feel more confident and prepared when you get on the road. Try setting up your tent in the backyard, both during the day and at night. Cook on your stove. Make sure you're comfortable reading your maps. Load up your panniers or trailer as you will for your tour, and go on an overnight — finding out whether you have too much, too little, or not the right equipment close to home is far easier than finding out on the road.
Talk to other tourists to find out what they did and didn't like about the route. What did they see? What shouldn't be missed? Reading blogs or visiting our forums are great ways to get yourself excited about the adventure you're about to embark on. And you should be excited! This is gonna be great!
Those are my three big tips; they may seem like common sense, but they will help you have an awesome tour experience.
Still feeling nervous? A great option for a first tour is to go with a group! Group tours let you to get a feel for touring while all the logistics are taken care of, and you meet some fabulous people. We have some great tours still available this fall which are perfect for first timers or experienced cyclists looking to take it easy. I'd recommend our Wine and Harvest or Great Lakes Relaxed fully supported tours
And finally, let me share the best piece of advice I've ever received about touring, given to me on my first tour as I tried to race into camp. "Remember, there's no rush," my friend Max reminded me as we stopped at a pullout to take more photos, "all we have to do today is set up a tent."
Photos by Madeline McKiddy
ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team — Paul, Madeline, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, covering all things related to Adventure Cycling's tours Department. Check out our 2013 Tours!