A hardcover book was a bad idea. Two? Absurd.
Last October, the night before my first overnight bike ride, I examined all of the items spread out on the floor in front of me and checked my list of nearly 100 items, including clothing, camping gear, emergency supplies, and groceries, for five days . I looked at the bright red bags in which everything was supposed to be carried. I thought of the hardcore cyclists digging holes in their toothbrushes to ease their load, and for the umpteenth time remembered that every ounce counts. Then I took a look at the second book and sadly put it on the reject pile.
For years I have wanted to cover long distances by bike. In 2018 I bought an ultra-light tent that had stood in my hallway for so long that I ended up hiding it to save myself the guilt of not planning a trip yet. But last fall, I got him out of the depths of my closet, armed with a magazine assignment to write about cycling the 184.5-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath.
For months after contracting my agreement to do something I had no idea how to do, I spent months asking for guidance from friends and strangers, preparing, exercising, organizing, and practicing with heavy bags in tow. That – plus a lot of luck – brought a trip without falls, without apartments, without rain and with a solid packing list. I can’t wait to do it again.
With bike sales soaring over the past year and travel still limited, many cyclists are considering taking trips on their bikes.
“I became an evangelist when I realized how easy it was,” said Marley Blonsky, who lives in Seattle and blogs about bike travel.
Ben Folsom, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia and goes on a multi-day bike tour every year, compared cycling to jazz. “It can mean whatever you want,” he said. “You can stay in hotels or B & Bs, glamp or camp, drive 100 miles or 10 miles a day, drive across the Great Divide or from city to city.”
Speaking to long-distance drivers, I heard countless stories about the generosity of strangers who offered a meal or accommodation. the joy of experiencing our country in an intimate way; the serenity of empty spaces and quiet cities; and the memorable conversations with those with very different beliefs.
“You can be reached on a bike in a way that you never get anywhere else,” said Ed McNulty, who I met while cycling on the towpath. “I’ve never seen so much friendliness as on a bike. Not to mention that you can ride a bike all day. “
If you’ve ever thought about riding two wheels, this is your year. Read the tips below and start pedaling!
• • Let go. Have an idea of what bike travel is like. Some beginners think that bike rides should be that “great epic across the country or around the world,” said Dan Meyer, associate editor of Adventure Cyclist magazine, “which is not the case. You can drive from your house to the next town and stay with a friend or at a B&B, and this can be a great way to go on tour. “You can even use public transport to position yourself five or ten miles from a campsite or inn, spend the night, and come back. You also need to let go of strict schedules and expect the unexpected.
• • Decide how you want to roll. Do you want to kick alone With a copilot? A small group of friends? When riding with others, set expectations for pace and schedule in advance. If you are still uncomfortable, take a tour such as that organized by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) or REI and check with your bike shop about local events. Sign up for an extravaganza like Ragbrai, an annual seven-day July drive through Iowa, or a fundraiser like the August drive from New York City to Philly Greenway. No matter how you ride, a bike tour will charge your batteries like no other travel mode.
• • Gear up. Do you have a bike You made a good start. In general, cyclists who ride bicycle tours hang luggage, so-called panniers, on metal frames above the front and / or rear wheel. Those who “pack their bikes” tend to ride on dirt, perhaps in the mountains. Therefore, smaller bags are attached directly to the frame of the bike, making it more agile. A waterproof hack: line your bag with garbage bags. Make sure you have easily accessible storage for your snacks, cards, phone, and wallet. Gloves with padding are helpful, especially when you are riding on bumpy surfaces.
• • Pack the items you hope you will never need. As one of my cycling friends quipped, no trip is complete without at least one mechanical problem. Sure enough, my bike rack broke and I was grateful that I had zip ties and a rubber band in my emergency warehouse. I also brought two extra hoses, a pump, a multitool to tighten the screws, a patch kit, tape, and rubber bands. The just-in-case items for your body are more personal. I brought paracetamol because I know I get headaches when I’m hungry and ibuprofen for muscle tension. I packed a lot of things that I never unpacked: a knife, a pipe, toe and hand warmers for freezing nights, and a small first aid kit with blister pads and a reflective blanket.
• • Reduce your weight. Whether one night or five months, you want to bring as little as possible with you, said Alex Retana, a Tampa physical therapy assistant who drove 5,200 miles from Vancouver, Washington to Portland, Maine last summer. When the weather changes, it’s hard to hit that sweet spot of packing enough to keep it warm, but not so hard that you tip over. Bring items that serve dual purposes. While traveling easier if you don’t pack your own bed, you will miss the great feeling of being self-sufficient on two wheels. In 2013, DC high school science teacher Dani Moore bicycled from Arizona to DC for 68 days, camping most nights. She preferred camping sites (or hotels in bad weather) but occasionally knocked on doors to ask if she could pitch her tent on a property. But also budget hotels, hostels and hot showers, a free exchange of hospitality for cyclists.
• • Look at chow. If your route takes you through small towns with interesting restaurants and aromatic bakeries, take this opportunity to do less packing and sample local dishes. You can also stock up on pre-made items or cooking utensils in grocery stores and convenience stores. This is not a time to save calories. Refill water (at least two bottles) and food whenever you can. You will be surprised how quickly you burn energy and how suddenly cravings can take over your body.
• • Remember apres bike. For this time, pack something super comfortable when you blissfully get off the saddle, including flip flops or plastic shoes like Crocs or Birkenstocks. Other cyclists say a lightweight camping chair is a must. As I crawled into my sleeping bag every night, I was grateful that I had brought the hardback book – a historical novel about the C&O channel – and a small book light.
• • Ruminate on your route. Before setting off, Folsom searches for routes on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s TrailLink, then zooms in on the Google Maps satellite view. ACA has maps (and an app) of 28 routes spanning 50,000 miles nationwide.
• • Think about your back. Hygiene and comfort are key, and sores in the saddle are no joke – and can end an otherwise enjoyable ride. Good bike shorts and a comfortable saddle are worth the investment. Meyer said new cyclists often think that extra seat padding means extra comfort, but it’s more about the shape of the saddle. Ask your local bike shop if they have a demo program that you can use to test out different seats.
• • Get Real About Risks. All the openness and accessibility we celebrate on a bike also makes us vulnerable. Use common sense with your belongings and be careful not to throw any flashy things around. If you can, ride on bike paths. If you have to share the road with cars, use bike lights during the day too.
• • See your bike. Before you set off, treat your bike to a tuning and watch out for unusual noises that could indicate a malfunction. After my frame broke, checking and tightening the screws every night made me smarter.
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