Tips for Bikepacking and Bike Touring Beginners
Experienced bikepackers and bike tourers understand one of the joys of cycling is the simplistic pleasure it brings and in this post we will explore a few tips for bikepacking and bike touring beginners. You can go where you want, when you want, without using fuel, and without having to rely on anyone.
Free as a bird, newcomers to bikepacking however are often bewildered and need a bit of convincing. So, let’s set their doubts straight and ensure them that working up a sweat is well-worth the invigorating sense of freedom and control that comes with it.
Who Uses a Bike as Their Means of Travel?
Many different groups of people or individuals use bikes as their method of transport. Cycling appeals not just those who can’t afford their own car, nor to just those that don’t have a drivers license; in short, you will be amazed at the amount of people that share your passion when you get involved with cycling.
Cycling can be a lone sport for those who love tranquility, or it can become competitive or even commercial. An immense diversity of backgrounds is found amongst cyclists, and a percentage of these will own not just one, but sometimes two or more motorized vehicles as well as their cycle.
If you look at the statistics, you will find young children and pensioners have both cycled across the whole of America. So, what’s the attraction? Well, it’s a way to explore new landscapes and cultures while getting fit, being kind to the environment, and breathing in fresh air. You will meet new people from all walks of life, something that you wouldn’t if you always drove your car everywhere you go.
Am I Fit Enough to Try Cycling?
You may be worried that you aren’t in good enough shape to take up cycling. But the good news is that you don’t need to be an athlete to take up cycling, especially if you stick to flat roads to start with.
You will however need to get yourself up to a certain level of fitness through training before you decide to take you and your trusty bike on its first road trip. If you aren’t in great shape, set yourself some realistic goals, upping your game gradually as you find yourself struggling less and less with each mile you progress.
Building up your strength and stamina by adding a little more to your distance each day is the perfect way to get fit and into shape. You might also like to start tackling some hills once you are confident that you can cycle longer distances on the level without getting out of breath all the time.
A great way to judge if you are ready to really take to the road is if you are capable of doing two days of cycling back-to-back, covering the distance of your planned trip, and still with the energy to get up and ride again on the 3rd day.
One of the great pleasures of taking up cycling is that you will feel yourself gradually getting into shape and you will really be able to note your own progress, giving yourself a great sense of achievement with each new goal met.
How Far Should I Try and Cycle Each Day?
There really isn’t one straight forward answer to this question. It all depends on the goals you have set, the terrain, the style of your touring, and of course your overall fitness. But, it is possible to plan how far to try cycling each day by following these tips:
Let’s talk averages. The average male who is already physically fit should be able to travel around 65 miles each day, providing he takes things steady and stops for breaks, is using paved roads, and is carrying no more than 20 pounds of additional gear with him.
Once the amount of gear your carry with you, should us camping supplies, water, food, and clothes, goes up to between 20 and 45 pounds, the realistic limit for a days’ cycling will go down to 55 miles.
The type of terrain will also alter the maximum amount of miles you can comfortably cycling in one day; if you cycle only on flat roads, you should be able to cycle much more miles than if you are constantly going up and down hills.
You will be able to go more than 65 miles, if you have little gear with you and all the roads you are traveling on are flat and well paved. If you are cycling over rugged terrain, you may only manage 30 miles each day. It all depends on the journey you have planned.
As a general rule of thumb, the more experience you have cycling, the further you will be able to ride each day. If you push yourself beyond realistic limits, you will find the cycling less enjoying and more and more like a physical workout in the gym.
We recommend that you take your time; cycling is about enjoying the wildlife and scenery and your focus should not be on how much your shins ache due to the excessive miles you put in the day before. When you start bike touring, you will need rest days, as well days where you do fewer miles than others.
We suggest that you have a rest day at least once in each ten days of touring to recharge your batteries fully. We also suggest that you keep your kit down to a minimum, 45 pounds being the absolute maximum that you should be loading onto your bicycle with you.
When planning your trip, always plan for the unexpected; you may need more than one day off, or you may be met by torrential rain or high winds one day that will stop you from progressing as fast as you would have hoped to.
What Type of Bike Should I Use?
This bikepacking and bike touring tips for beginners post would never be complete without talking about the bike itself. For bikepacking, there are plenty of different types of bikes to choose from; some that are designed specifically for touring and others that can be customized for more rough terrain.
We recommended you avoid using a bike that is designed for road racing, as these bikes are not comfortable or durable over long distances. They are lightweight, but they are designed for racing and not for touring, so don’t think that the lighter the bicycle the better; this simply isn’t true.
The most important characteristics when choose a bike for touring are comfort and durability. You should also make sure that the touring bike of your choice has low gears that will be perfect for climbing hills. Wide tires, fenders, and the ability to mount racks are other plus points that you should take into consideration when making your final choice of touring bike.
If you speak to a veteran cycler, he or she will have her preferences; but there is not one single style of bike that you should choose for bike touring. It’s all about comfort, durability, and personal preference. The bike you choose will also depend on the type of touring you are hoping to do; you would choose a different type of bike for dirt roads and trails than for normal paved roads.
Where Should I Go Touring?
Touring should be enjoyable, and this means taking in the best scenery and learning about different cultures on your travels; all the enjoyment will be taken out of your bike touring however if you decide to use busy roads.
Check out the traffic routes that are not major roads and ones where you won’t encounter heavy goods vehicles. The best place to go touring with your bike is in the National Parks and forests. Here you will encounter other vehicles, but they will also be going slowly and taking in the scenery as their go.
Plan what you would like to see, and the area you wish to visit, and then go on to find the best routes to use that don’t include major roads.
As a mountain biker, you will be looking for roads that aren’t wide enough for normal traffic or ones where motorized traffic is completely prohibited. Once again, the National Parks are perfect for this.
Where to Stay Over Night?
When you are touring, you have two main option open to you when deciding where you will stay; hostels/hotels, and campsites. If you are on a budget and are looking to stay right close up to nature we suggest you use campsites. However, if you are trying to cut down on the amount of gear you take with you, hostels will allow you to carry less as you won’t need a tent or sleeping bags in your kit.
To find out more information on suitable accommodation in the area you are hoping to tour in, you can look online. Chambers of commerce, tourism agencies, and visitors associations all have websites that will provide you with information on lodgings, camping grounds, hostels, and hotels in the area. You will also be able to look at and download touring guides, bicycle route maps, and much more information asides.
How Much Money will I Need?
If you are on a tight budget, you can go touring very cheaply by using campsites and cooking your own meals. As long as you have all the gear you need with you and won’t need to buy anything along the way aside from food and drinks, camping fees, a budget of somewhere between $35 and $50 should suffice.
You may also like to keep some money set aside for emergencies such as for spare parts for your bike. If you are prepared to rough it and go dirtbagging, you may be able to cut your costs down to $10 each day.
If you wish to combine your touring with great meals and hotel stays, you could easily triple the budget, or even more! The beauty of going touring is that you don’t really need to have a lot of money with you to enjoy your time.
I hope you learned a bit from this post on bikepacking and bike touring for beginners and remember, it’s all about the adventure!