By Jerry Pearce, RAINBOW JERSEY BICYCLE SHOP, Milwaukee, WI
My first attempt at a bike tour was poorly planned and executed like a novice – had to start somewhere. I’ve learned a lot about touring and myself since then.
I started cycling as a racer and had little interest in recreational riding until I started a bike shop with my father – who had been my motivater to start bike racing. I spoke with people day in and day out about trips they had done or were planning. It was more of a curiosity than anything else, I suppose I absorbed some knowledge but I was still not a “”tourist””. I needed to get rid of the “”racer”” in me that said touring was for old people. After retiring from racing and collecting a critical mass of touring stories I was ready to try it myself.
My first tour was a 300-mile round trip ride up the shore of Lake Michigan to Door County and back. Even with improper equipment and no planning I had a ball. And I was hooked on bicycle touring.
I hope you will be able to do the research and if you’re extremely fortunate to have people who you can ask questions regarding the details of your first bike tour. If not maybe some of these tips that follow will help instead.
I think we all must assess our strengths and weaknesses (physical and emotional) when we plan a trip. If You don’t like cold weather don’t take a trip where it will be cold. I have a hard time traveling in a place where I don’t understand the language so I pick places that accommodate my linguistic skill. If your longest ride on a bike has been 10 miles don’t try to go 50 in a day. I think you catch my drift.
Wherever you choose to go make sure that you understand the climate for the region for the period you will be traveling. Today, with all the info on the Internet this chore has been reduced to a minimal amount of effort and time. Do find a store with a good selection of maps. Unfortunately for a bike tour I’ve found that the scale need to be quite small (1cm = 1 or 2 km – most of my touring has been outside the US so I have quite a collection of Michelin maps) and this will require a small library of maps. Do spend time analyzing the terrain to identify the hilly or mountainous areas and plan your daily distances accordingly. At the same time use this info to calculate where you will stay. I’ve never reserved a hotel room for the 10 trips I’ve been on and on only one occasion did I fear that I would be sleeping in a field (I’m a lousy camper so this was a major horror for me). I had never ridden up a hill that took more than a minute and my second bike trip took place in the French Alps. I survived and so can you if you pay attention to your body and make accommodations for bad days and “”learning experiences””.
I think the bike equipment choices would make this too lengthy and possibly could be explored at another time, but suffice to say take a bike that you like to ride. Choose bags that require you to make serious choices as to what you will carry along with you on your trip. Bigger is not better because you will fill them and your bike will weigh more than a small car. People always ask what tools to bring and my reply is “”only ones that you know how to use””. If you travel with other people try to share the load with tools – it’s generally the heaviest stuff. At one point I changed nearly all the bolts on my bike so that I could remove them with one tool. Try to incorporate dual purposes for clothing. The new style walking/cycling shoes are a marvelous economy in this regard. Your cycling raincoat is your walking to the restaurant raincoat. Etceteras.
I think now that you’ve found this web site you are on your way to a great adventure.
Bon courage, bonne route