I think it’s safe to say that where the bicycle is concerned, it was love at first sight! Some of my happiest childhood memories are of exploring the quiet country lanes of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk with my bike. As an adult, not much has changed except the bike is a bit bigger and I tend to explore a little bit further.
I think there’s huge value in getting somewhere under your own steam - even the smallest of journeys can teach you to appreciate things in a way that using motorised transport just can’t!
With a few cycle trips now under my belt, ranging from solo cycling 6000km along the North Sea-facing coasts of 8 countries, from Scotland to Norway, to overnight trips to Rotterdam and Paris with friends, I’ve learned a few things about packing up your bike for an adventure - big or small. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you prepare for your own adventure on 2 wheels! Warning: self-propelled adventures can be addictive!
- Pack light
It can be tempting to bring any number of “just in case” items but when you hit your first big hill, or you get a visit from Helga the 20mph Headwind, you’ll really regret bringing anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Pack clothes that are multi-purpose and don’t be afraid to wear things for a few days in a row - fabrics like bamboo are brilliant for being anti-bacterial and odour resistant. I have one set of clothes for on the bike (bike shorts, bike jersey) and one set of clothes for off the bike (bamboo leggings and a bamboo t-shirt - I can sleep in both of these, wear them if I head out to the pub and the leggings add extra warmth whilst still being breathable enough to wear on the bike if I need to). If I’m camping then I have a down jacket and an extra-long sleeved baselayer - again, the baselayer doubles up as something I can wear under my jersey if the weather turns. A lightweight waterproof (like the Cefira superlight wind jacket) that you can pack down small is great and will also act as a windbreaker if needs be. Your legs will thank you for packing light!
- Fuel Your Engine
As well as making sure to eat hearty main meals, snacking little and makes a happy cyclist. I always have a trail mix in a ziplock bag and a couple of snack bars handy. Whatever you bring, make sure it’s accessible and convenient to eat as you ride. It’s also really important to stay hydrated. I travel with 2 x 1 litre water bottles - usually putting electrolytes in one and just water in the other. Unless you’re going somewhere really remote, you can nearly always top up along the way and this saves you having to carry extra water (see point 1!)
If you are using a ferry or a train for part of your adventure, make sure to reserve space for your bike early. Each company is different but some may have limited space for bikes so it’s always good to check this out in advance!
- Get Your Legs Ready
The more you get your legs used to cycling, the more you’ll enjoy your adventure and the less time you’ll spend in your pain cave. That’s not to say you have to be doing hundreds of miles each week, but it is a good idea to build up your mileage in the run up to the trip - bear in mind that you’ll have a bit of extra weight on the bike, too. Going from zero to hero is mostly a recipe for very grumpy legs! I also carry a lacrosse ball with me for longer trips so I can self-massage and target any muscle niggles as I go.
- Get Your Bike Ready / Learn Some Basic Maintenance
Making sure your bike is in good condition before you set off will save you a lot of trouble later on! If your bike has been neglected for a while or has been out tackling the winter elements, the chain could have rusted. Even if it hasn’t, it could almost definitely do with a good clean and a relubrication! I always get my bike serviced before a big trip to make sure it’s ready to go! Visit your local Liv retailer to get booked in. It’s also a good idea to make sure you know how to fix a few basics. If you’re off adventuring, chances are you’ll be on unfamiliar roads - some of which sadly might have a pretty rough surface with a few potholes! This combined with extra weight on the bike might mean you’re more susceptible to punctures but if you’re prepared then it doesn’t need to be anything more than a minor inconvenience. I tend to bring a spare inner tube and (and also a spare folding tyre in case something has gone REALLY wrong) rather than relying on a puncture repair kit as it’s a bit quicker but this is just preference! I would also thoroughly recommend getting a proper bike fit done. This is invaluable for maximising comfort, increasing efficiency and preventing injuries. Those little niggles soon add up over a few miles!
- Appreciate it!
Take time to appreciate the journey, not just the destination. I always try to leave a bit of extra time in my schedule so I can take photos, etc. without stressing. Memories fade quicker than you might think and I love having something to look back on. Some views are worth stopping for...