The successful bike tour begins with choosing the right bike.
“It is very important that you feel comfortable on a bike and that its dimensions fit you,” says Christiane Neubauer, editor-in-chief of the German-language cycling magazine Radtouren.
She advises anyone who has only cycled 10 minutes to the shops and back to take a trip of several hours before starting a bike tour: “Anyone who does 40, 60 or 80km will painfully notice whether the bike actually fits them or not.”
A luggage rack is important, as are puncture-proof tyres. According to Thomas Geisler from the Bicycle Press Service in Germany, a touring bike costs around US$2,000 to US$2,500 (RM8,375 to RM10,470), with an extra thousand if you get one with an electric motor.
Whether you travel by muscle power alone or with the aid of a motor, the bike must be roadworthy and a thorough check before you set out, either at home or at a professional workshop, is recommended.
The rule of thumb when packing is to bring as much as necessary and as little as possible. The amount you pack depends on whether you’ll be staying in a tent or have booked accommodation.
If it’s the former, you need to pack a tent, a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag. “In addition, a small camping stove, pot, plate and cutlery, especially a knife, because you can do a lot with it,” Geisler says.
If you’re going somewhere where it will be hard to get food, you should bring light items with high energy density rather than canned foods. Neubauer advises packing “trail mix, muesli bars, hard sausage or freeze-dried meals”.
Sufficient water is also important, and a bottle that can be attached directly to the frame or handlebar stem is useful.
The right clothing always includes a rain jacket and rain pants. “If you sleep outside, you should always have a warm jacket with you,” Geisler advises.
It’s important to have a sense of what the weather is likely to be like where you’re going. “Those who cycle in Crete in August have different things in their luggage than someone who is in Denmark at the same time,” says Neubauer.
Some tools are essential. Geisler recommends bringing a wheel pump, a repair kit and a spare tyre tube.
“Also a mini-tool that fits anywhere to tighten things that come loose,” he says. “If you are on the road for many kilometres, it is also worth taking chain oil with you.”
How you pack luggage onto your bike is another important factor. For most bike tours lasting several days, pannier bags on either side of the rear luggage rack and a handlebar bag are sufficient, Neubauer says.
A handlebar bag is particularly useful, according to Neubauer: “The camera fits in there when you are taking photos on the move, plus sunscreen, sunglasses, money – you have everything you need right at hand and you don’t have to fiddle around with your luggage bag.”Packing tips
For longer trips, Geisler recommends “the so-called six-pack: two front panniers, two rear panniers, a handlebar bag and a large roller bag over the luggage rack.” It’s vital that your bags are waterproof to protect the contents from downpours.
When packing bike bags, in general heavy items go on the bottom, with things you may need suddenly, such as tools and rain gear, on top.
It’s also important to get the weight distribution on the bike right. “The main load, around 70%, should be at the rear of the luggage rack, then around 30% at the front,” Geisler advises.
Packing complete, you next have to plan your route. Many people overestimate how far they can cycle in a day. Geisler recommends that beginners first find a place to stay overnight and then plan their tours from there: “That gives you the opportunity to feel your way.” – dpa/Christina Bachmann