It’s been a while but we’re back with an all new ‘Have a go’ guide. These guides are all about discovering the many fantastic, different ways to enjoy the great outdoors. So if you’ve always wanted to ‘have a go’ at a particular activity, or just want try something a bit different, they will provide you with lots of ideas, help you decide if it’s for you and if so, how to get started.
This week, Friedel and Andrew from the fantastic bike touring site, www.travellingtwo.com, tell us how to start exploring the world on two wheels…
Bicycle touring gives you incredible freedom. You aren’t dependent on public transport, so you can go anywhere you want. With two wheels to carry you, you can go fast enough to cover a good distance (60-80km a day is usually easily achievable, even for people who are only moderately fit), and yet slow enough that you appreciate the details along the way – things you always miss when you speed by in a car.
Bicycle touring also gives you an incredible contact with people. Because you are travelling in a different way from the more common backpacker or caravaner, people stop to talk to you. These conversations often lead to an invitation to spend the night or take a tour of the local area.
Perhaps most of all, bicycle touring makes us feel alive. That sensation of being on the bike, in the fresh air, with your legs propelling you forward through beautiful landscapes – it’s the most invigorating thing we have ever done.
How can I get started without buying lots of specialist gear?
Like any other sport, you can spend a lot of money if you want to, but it’s definitely not necessary. Any bike that’s comfortable for you to ride can be used as a touring bicycle. We once bought bikes for about 60 pounds from our local secondhand shop and rode them for nearly 5,000km. They were a bit clunky but they got us where we wanted to go, including a 2-week tour around Denmark.
For the rest of the gear, you can borrow camping equipment from a friend, or buy it secondhand. You might even stay in hostels or hotels for your first few trips, before deciding if you really want to invest in camping gear. Bike bags (called panniers) can also be found secondhand, or you could make your own from plastic buckets, if you feel creative. With enough bungee cords, you could probably even strap a small backpack on the back bicycle rack. It’s not something you’d want to do long term, but for the first few trips you’ll be fine.
I’m used to just taking a rucksack on day rides, is it hard to get used to carrying all those extra panniers?
Of course there’s an adjustment period as you learn to use muscles that are normally less active. Take it easy at first. Stop for plenty of breaks, eat well and don’t try to climb Everest on your first day. That said, we actually find carrying panniers easier than backpacking because the bike takes the bulk of the weight. There’s no direct pressure on your body from the luggage.
If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself with a problem you can’t fix, just ask for help. Passing motorists can often give you and your bike a lift, and this becomes part of the adventure! You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble though by being prepared for the most common problems, like flat tyres. Always to carry a pump and patch kit – and make sure you know how to use it! Your local bike shop should be able to show you how, or there are many online tutorials.
Where’s your favourite place to go touring in Britain?
We haven’t had many chances to go touring in Britain, but Yorkshire, Scotland and the Shetland Islands are high on our list of places to see. Anywhere away from the big cities and with lots of quiet country roads would make a beautiful place for a bike tour.
Find out more about Friedel and Andrew’s adventures at www.travellingtwo.com, and if you’re planning a tour then get your hands on their ebook, The Bike Touring Survival Guide for every tip you’ll ever need.
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