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First Time Touring Tips

First Time Touring Tips

First Time Touring Tips

We’re big fans of bike touring here at Brixton Cycles, with our very own Terry having been up and down the country aboard his rather tasty Surly Bridge Club (check it out here!). In our opinion, touring on two wheels is the best way to get around – it’s not too slow, or too fast, giving you the opportunity to take in your surroundings without it just being a blur in the window. If you’re thinking about giving touring a try, just go for it – you won’t regret it! To help you along the way, we’ve assembled a few of our top tips to get you out of the door and exploring in no time!

 

 

Why UK Touring?

You might be surprised to hear it, but here in the UK we’ve got some of the best touring roads in the world. From the Peak District to the Welsh mountains, the UK is packed full of varied terrain, beautiful scenery, with plenty of tried-and-tested bike routes and paths. 

 

 

Cycling is in our heritage, with a long list of engineering innovations and endurance feats to our name. This is why there is a network of more than 12,000 miles of signed cycling routes throughout the UK, taking in quiet roads and dedicated cycling paths to make your time on two wheels as stress-free as possible. It ticks all the boxes: low barrier to entry, routes easily tailored to your experience/ability, easy access to reliable food from supermarkets and shops, and always within reach of civilisation should you need it. The Sustrans cycling network includes tonnes of pre-planned and mapped cycle routes that are scenic and light on motor traffic. The Coast & Castles is an excellent ride! If gravel is your thing then check Cycling UK for some exciting off-road routes. Paper maps are always a great back up.

 

Public Transport

Planning out your routes doesn’t need to be complicated – you can make it as rudimentary or as planned out as you like. Making use of the trains is a great way to get started with bike touring with minimal fuss, as there are plenty of links to almost anywhere in the country. Jumping on a direct train to somewhere new and navigating your way home on the bike is simple and fun, giving you that sense of adventure without spending too much time planning or heading halfway across the world. 

 

 

It’s worth noting that travel restrictions may apply when taking your bike on the train, often during peak hours or in busy areas – so make sure you check the respective rail network’s rules to save disappointment!

 

Places To Stay

The rise in popularity of ultra-endurance events/races in recent years has been fantastic, with riders from all over the world coming to the UK to complete some seriously gruelling rides in remarkably short amounts of time. However, if these events make the idea of bike touring slightly daunting, fear not! 

 

 

Touring by bike doesn’t mean you have to camp in a hedge, in fact you can make it as comfortable or as wild as you like. Whilst we marvel at the feats of endurance that some riders are capable of, we like to take things a bit more relaxed. Why not take things steady, perhaps riding 50-60 miles a day, staying at some nice local pubs or B&Bs in the comfort and warmth of a proper bed with a decent meal to set you up for the next day? Sounds pretty dreamy to us! 

If you’re planning on staying at a few places along the way, it’s always a good idea to double-check whether they have the facilities to keep your bike safe, whether that’s in the room or somewhere secure. Resources like Cyclists Welcome are a great way to check this ahead of time, listing all of the ‘bike friendly’ establishments in the UK for you to use on your trip.

 

Little Blue Signs

GPS head units and mobile phones are amazing bits of technology, but sometimes it’s nice to disconnect from the world and gain a true sense of adventure. Luckily, signage for the national cycle network are frequent and easy to follow with their little blue signs (though everyone is prone to a few wrong turns here and there!) and should set you off in the right direction.

 

  

Of course, should you get lost, having a head unit or mobile phone is very useful to get you out of a pinch, so don’t completely disregard them! We’d also recommend keeping a battery pack tucked away in a bag, as access to a plug socket isn’t always guaranteed.

 

Staying Fuelled

Riding for several hours day after day means you’re going to burn some serious calories, so don’t neglect the fuel stores! Staying on top of your eating will make your adventures significantly more enjoyable, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

 

 

Whilst dedicated sports nutrition is great for fast-paced rides and one-day excursions, gels and energy bars can leave the taste buds longing for more. However, bike touring is all about the long game – there’s no need to skip the café and replace it with a gel. A good bit of solid food will do your stomach and morale some good and give you a chance to rest the legs for a little while at the pointy end of a ride.

Supermarkets and petrol stations are great for small bits and bobs that you can rely on and will cater to any dietary needs, but there are also plenty of local gems for you to sink your teeth into – from pubs to patisseries, you won’t be going hungry!

 

Drink, Drink, Drink!

Staying hydrated is important in day-to-day life, and especially on big bike adventures! However, it’s easy to forget to stay on top of drinking on long, steady rides – little and often is the key, there’s no need to chug a litre at once. If you’re riding with a friend or two, reminding each other is an easy way to manage things, but if you’re alone some head units allow you to set timed reminders that’ll tell you when to drink. 

 

 

It’s worth being tactical with your water supplies. There are many public water sources and taps dotted around, but if you can’t find any and you know you’re going to be riding into the night, topping up before the shops shut should tide you over till you stop. You’ll find that most local cafés will happily refill bottles for you – resources like Refill are an easy way to find establishments that’ll provide you with a top-up.

 

Useful Bits Of Kit

In addition to your usual tools, tubes and trinkets that you take out riding, there are plenty of bits and bobs out there to enhance your bike touring experience. Here's are a few of our pro tips!

 

 

Café Lock

Give yourself some peace of mind when popping in the shop or stopping for lunch. You won't want to be carrying a heavy-duty lock, but it's better to be safe than sorry!

 

Bags

Bar bags, toptube bags, frame bags are a great place to keep extra food and spares within reach. Seat packs and panniers are better suited to bigger bits that you won't need to access all that often!



 

Battery Packs

Keep your bike lights and mobile phone charge topped up – you never know when you might need them.

 

Zip Ties & Duct Tape

After a few more hours than usual in the saddle, it's not unheard of for something to shake loose. Zip ties weigh so little, and yet can fix so much! Sturdy duct tape can be a total hero, rescuing a torn tyre sidewall – wrap it around a bottle or your pump handle, and you won't even know you're carrying it. 

 

A Multi-Tool With More

While you'll undoubtedly be carrying a multi-tool by habit, it's worth considering the need for a few extra functions. After all, you'll likely be a little further than usual from your favourite bike shop! A chainbreaker, for instance, could save you a long walk should you break a link. Carrying a spare Powerlink is also a foolproof way to reconnect the chain once the broken link is removed. 



Gel Gloves

For shorter rides, many of us prefer to leave the gloves at home (temperature permitting). After several hours ride though, the road vibrations can really come into their own and play havoc with the nerves in your hands and wrists. Gel padding works wonders for long ride comfort.



The Right Rack

Make sure the pannier rack you select for your tour is robust enough to handle some proper luggage weight, over extended periods of time. We stock a range of options but personally we put our trust in Bontrager and Surly. Tried and tested!



 

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