Anyone that knows me, knows that I love cycling!!! In all its forms, on the road, mountain biking, cycle touring, and bike packing. For me, being on my bike gives me a great sense of freedom and achievement. I am able to go wherever I want, under my own steam, with the added bonus of it being a very healthy and eco-friendly way to travel.
Having just come back from a big trip cycling the length of New Zealand, completing the Tour Aotearoa, my enthusiasm has been fueled even more. What’s more amazing, and makes me very happy, is that I am getting asked by other people if I think that they could ever do anything like that too. My answer of course is YES. You do not have to be superhuman to go on a cycle trip. During my bike travels, I have met so many different people of all ages, experience, and abilities, all on their own cycling adventures. On this most recent trip, one member of our group had never really spent any time on a bike before, in fact, the first bike he has ever owned was the bike he bought for the trip. He showed some amazing determination and, although he found it challenging at the start, his fitness improved tenfold and he achieved something he never thought possible. With all of this in mind, I can confidently say that completing a cycle trip, no matter how short or long, is 100% achievable with the right planning and attitude. So, if taking a cycling trip is something you have considered but have been too afraid, or you have never even let the thought enter into the realms of possibility, I will answer some of the key questions that you may have about what it takes.
The main question most people have, is how fit do I have to be?
You don’t have to be super fit to do a trip on a bike, you just plan according to your needs. If you know that you have a good level of fitness and are very confident with your cycling, then go for gold and plan to ride longer distances between destinations. On the other hand, if you know you are not at your physical peak, then that’s totally fine, just start with small distances. Plan for short rides over terrain that you know will be achievable. By that, I mean make sure the short distance you might travel isn’t straight up and over a giant hill or mountain. You might prefer some nice purpose-built cycle paths alongside rivers or canals.
How much training do I need to do before a trip?
I would say that just getting out on your bike and building your confidence in your riding will help you to prepare for a trip. Getting these miles under your belt means that your body will receive less of a shock when you go out on your first cycle trip. Just remember, that when you are on your trip, go at your own pace. If you are riding in a group, don’t try to keep up with the fastest rider, this will only leave you feeling exhausted and take the fun out of the trip. Find your own comfortable pace and enjoy the ride.
What sort of prep will I need to do?
I like to know what my days will look like. I spend time researching whether the route is on the road, off road, is it hilly, mountainous or flat? Are there any tourist attractions to stop and enjoy? Are there any shops/cafes/places to refill my water along the way? A lot of the time on the bike on longer cycle trips is spent thinking, not just about the lovely scenery or what is going on around you, but what you will be having for lunch or dinner. So, food supplies are important when preparing your route and stops.
What will I need to bring?
Ok, so I’m going to focus on just the very top essentials here;
Water! I would always recommend being able to carry enough water with you, whether that is in a camelbak or water bottle holders on your bike, I would always prefer to carry more than not enough.
Wet weather gear; raincoats, waterproof socks, and waterproof bag/bag covers so any gear you’re carrying stays dry.
A toolkit with all the essentials; puncture repair kits (spare inner tubes if needed), pump, a bike multi tool with allen keys, spare chain links, a chain tool, and zip ties are always a very handy addition.
Snacks, make sure to take some good energy foods to keep you going throughout the day.
My other recommendation when it comes to deciding what to bring is to really just find out what works for you. Some people will recommend you must ride with clip-in shoes, or with certain handlebars. However, in my experience, you just need to find out what works best for you, find out what you are comfortable and confident with. Getting out and spending more time on your bike will help you figure this out.
Now, I could keep writing about cycling all day, but I would ultimately like my key message to be that cycling can be for everyone, of all levels and abilities. I would encourage anyone to go and have their own cycle adventure and experience the sense of satisfaction in cycling to your destination, noticing things you wouldn’t even see if you were zooming by in a car and, all the while, creating some wonderful memories to last a lifetime.