Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
Embarking on a bike tour across a continent can be an exhilarating and unforgettable adventure, but it can also be overwhelming and challenging for those unprepared. From unexpected weather conditions to language barriers, navigating unknown territories can be daunting. To help you prepare for the journey ahead, we have compiled a list of the top 10 things we wish we had known before embarking on our own bike touring trip through South America and Africa.
Whether you are a seasoned adventurer or a first-time traveler, these tips and insights will help you make the most of your bike tour and ensure that you will be fully armed to tackle any challenges that come your way.
So, fasten your helmets and get ready for an epic journey through continents on the planet!
1. The Right Bike
When embarking on a long bike touring trip, choosing the right bike can indeed make all the difference. It’s not just a matter of comfort or style; it’s about ensuring that your bike can withstand the challenges and demands of the road ahead. Choosing a bike that’s appropriate for your needs, riding style, and the terrain you’ll encounter will help you avoid unnecessary strain and injury, and ensure that your trip is as enjoyable as possible.
However, on top of those things, you also need to understand your budget. Don’t push your budget too much before starting your bike tour. Start from what you have and get the comfiest saddle for YOU.
Yes, a good saddle is important. It can make or break your bike touring experience. You want a saddle that supports you while you are riding but is comfortable for riding long distances. Yet, each person has their preference, and only you that has to know which saddle is the best suit for your buttock.
2. Proper Gear
When it comes to long-distance bike touring, having the right gear can make all the difference in your comfort, safety, and overall experience. Although proper gear can be pretty expensive. But it not only ensures that you are prepared for any weather conditions but also helps to reduce the risk of injury and fatigue, allowing you to focus on enjoying the journey.
At first, we had no idea what to prioritize and just ended up going for the cheapest option for everything. Bad move.
For things like camping cookware, we find it fine to go on a budget, other things such as choosing the right clothing, shoes, helmet, and other gear can be a stressful task, but it’s important to invest in high-quality items that are designed specifically for the demands of bike touring. Look for gear that is breathable, moisture-wicking, and durable, and don’t be afraid to invest in items that will keep you comfortable and safe on the road. Check our gears here!
By taking the time to properly outfit yourself with the right gear, you’ll be able to pedal with confidence, knowing that you’re well-prepared for whatever comes your way on your long bike touring adventure.
3. Navigation Tools
Proper navigation tools are essential when embarking on a long bike touring trip. It’s not just about finding your way from point A to point B, but also about ensuring that you’re safe and have a stress-free journey. With accurate maps, GPS systems, and other navigation tools, you’ll be able to plan your route, avoid dangerous areas, and stay on track, all while taking in the breathtaking scenery around you. Having these tools will also give you the confidence to explore new and unfamiliar areas, allowing you to get the most out of your adventure. So before you hit the road, make sure you have the right navigation tools to guide you along the way.
Check here a few apps we are using to create routes during our bike touring in South America and Africa.
4. Physical Preparation
Preparing yourself physically before embarking on a long bike touring trip is essential to ensure that your body is up for the challenge. Bike touring involves spending long hours on the saddle, enduring different terrains, and facing unpredictable weather conditions. It’s crucial to have the stamina and strength to tackle these obstacles.
Nevertheless, you also can forget about the physical preparation and gain strength along the way! As much as having good fitness can make your tour more fun.., can pedaling up to the top of the mountain, a longer distance, or reach the destination faster. But, we believe that bike touring is more about the journey than the destination. The journey along the way… To learn about the culture you pass through… Also to know about yourself, which becomes mental preparation.
5. Mental Preparation
The most crucial preparation of all. Getting on a long bike touring trip is not just physically demanding, but it can also be mentally challenging. Being prepared mentally is just as important as physical preparation. Long hours on the road, unfamiliar territory, and unexpected obstacles can take a toll on your mental state.
Preparing oneself mentally means cultivating a positive and resilient mindset that can adapt to changing circumstances. It means being mentally flexible and having the ability to remain calm and focused in challenging situations. It’s important to remember that setbacks and unexpected challenges are a normal part of bike touring and should be viewed as opportunities for growth and learning.
To prepare it, it’s important to visualize the journey ahead, set realistic expectations, and focus on the journey rather than the destination. Mental preparation also involves having a plan for dealing with stress and fatigue and knowing when to take a break and rest.
By taking the time to prepare oneself mentally before embarking on a long bike touring trip, cyclists can increase their chances of having a positive and rewarding experience. A strong and resilient mindset can help cyclists overcome obstacles and challenges, and make the journey a truly unforgettable adventure.
6. Packing and Storage Skill
For first trips, it’s easy to overcompensate and try and pack for every scenario. In our experience, we gave away half of the things we carried on the 5th day of the tour.
Proper packing and storage skills are necessary for a successful long-distance bike tour. It’s essential to know how to pack your gear efficiently, maximizing the limited space available on your bike. For instance, nowadays, we only bring not more than 3 T-shirts for each of us. One shirt to use on the bike, one shirt for sleep, and the other extra shirt for walking around when we are off of the bicycle. However, those T-shirts are suitable for all of those purposes too.
You don’t want to overload one side of your bike or carry too much weight, as it can throw off your balance and cause discomfort during the journey. You’ll also need to think carefully about how to store your equipment securely, protecting it from damage or theft. With proper packing and storage skills, you can travel confidently and comfortably, with all your essential gear safely stowed and easily accessible.
7. Hydration and Nutrition
When cycling for extended periods, your body requires more fuel to keep going, and dehydration can quickly set in. It’s important to plan and pack enough food and water for each leg of your journey, taking into account any stops or resupply points along the way. And in this case, It’s better to have it more and not need to eat it… But, keep in mind that we don’t throw food away.
In addition to carrying enough water, it’s also essential to know how to purify it if necessary, whether through filtration or chemical treatment. Understanding proper hydration and nutrition also means knowing the signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion, and how to avoid these conditions.
By taking the time to plan your nutrition and hydration needs, you’ll ensure that you have the energy and stamina to complete your journey safely and comfortably. Plus, enjoying delicious, healthy food along the way can add an extra layer of enjoyment to your adventure.
Should I share what food or snack we bring during the travel? Let me know in the comment!
8. Safety Precautions
Safety should be a top priority when starting on a long bike touring trip. It’s important to be aware of potential hazards and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe journey. This includes wearing proper safety gear such as a helmet and bright/reflective clothing, knowing the rules of the road, and being cautious of weather conditions. Additionally, it’s important to have a basic understanding of first aid and carry a well-stocked first aid kit. By taking the necessary safety precautions, you can enjoy your bike touring trip with peace of mind and minimize the risks of accidents or injuries.
9. Bike maintenance
Bike maintenance is a crucial aspect of long bike touring that cannot be overlooked. When you are on a multi-day journey, your bike is your most valuable asset, and it should be in a good condition. Knowing how to perform basic bike maintenance tasks such as changing a flat tire, adjusting brakes and gears, and cleaning and lubricating your chain can save you a lot of trouble on the road.
It’s also important to carry basic tools such as a spare tube, tire levers, a multitool, and a pump so that you can handle any minor repairs that may arise. By maintaining your bike regularly and ensuring it’s in top condition before you set off on your journey, you can prevent any unwanted breakdowns or delays, ensuring that you have a smooth and enjoyable trip.
10. Research the destination
It is essential to have a basic understanding of the local language and culture of the region you are traveling through. This can help you navigate better, interact with locals, and avoid any misunderstandings. As a guest, it is important to respect the environment and communities you are traveling through by minimizing your impact on the surroundings, supporting local businesses, and following local customs and regulations.
11. Walkie talkie
As we embarked on our journey as a couple, we quickly realized the importance of having a reliable means of communication. The vast, remote areas we cycled through often lacked internet connection, leaving us vulnerable and disconnected from each other. That’s where a pair of trusty walkie-talkies came in handy, making our life on the road so much easier. With different paces, Luís would sometimes cycle far ahead of me, but with the walkie-talkies, we could easily stay in touch and communicate important information, whether it be to stop and take a photo or in case of an emergency.
Without them, we would have been forced to yell at each other, straining our voices and risking miscommunication. The walkie-talkies were truly a game-changer, enhancing our experience and strengthening our bond as a traveling duo.
In conclusion, embarking on a long bike touring trip can be a thrilling adventure, but it’s important to prepare thoroughly beforehand to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. From choosing the right bike and gear to proper physical and mental preparation to navigation, hydration and nutrition, and safety precautions, there are many things to consider. By taking the time to research your destination, pack efficiently, and prioritize safety, you can set yourself up for success on the road. With the right mindset and preparations, you can embrace the challenges and rewards of bike touring with confidence and excitement.
Get inspired by our journey through Colombia by bicycle here!
Do I miss something essential? Let us know in the comment!