How to Make Your Bike Tour a Success!

Bike Touring – it’s cheap, healthy and always an adventure. So, how do you prepare?

By Erik Neumann

Bike touring is hands-down, one of the greatest ways to travel. On a bicycle you can cover large distances in a single day, but travel slowly enough to take in the breathtaking scenery around you. It’s cheap, healthy and always an adventure. So, how do you prepare?

1. Planning & Prep

Consult guidebooks and map publishers to help you find a destination. Check out the Adventure Cycling Association and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for cycling maps and routes in the United States. For a DIY tour, you need look only as far as city and forest service maps for adventurous wayfinding. Regardless of what resources you use, be sure to check their publication date. Old websites or books can be frustratingly out-of-date, and can mean arriving at non-existent campgrounds or re-routed roads.

2. Soak in the Sunshine

Aim for warm weather. This may seem obvious, but here’s why: Riding within the optimal 60-80 degree Fahrenheit range (15-27 degrees Celsius) means you’ll be carrying less clothing to combat cold weather and less water than you’d need in very hot temperatures or during the height of summer. This temperature window varies between regions, so look up seasonal averages for the areas where you’ll be riding. Traveling in the summertime means more hours of daylight, an important point in order to avoid watching the sun go down at 4 p.m. on a brisk October day when you still have 20 miles (32 kilometers) left to get to camp.

3. Shake it Down

A shake-down ride is great if you don’t have much time to train. A good shake-down ride should be comparable in distance to your

first day on the road, with your full complement of gear, supplies and bike set up. Not only will you have a gauge for how many miles you can expect to ride at the beginning while fully loaded, you can also test your gear to make sure everything works well and is compatible. Getting your bike fixed pre-trip is easier than when you’re on the road or in a foreign place.

4. Pack on the Layers

Dressing in layers (rather than one all-

purpose garment) means having numerous clothing combinations. A set of general riding clothes, a rain shell and long-underwear provide many combinations and can stand up to different weather conditions.

5. Ship Excess Home

No matter how well you plan, there will come

a point when you’ll realize you have gear you wish you didn’t bring. Thankfully, post offices can be found in even the smallest towns. So when you can no longer stand trying to repack your coffee cone/ 800-page hardcover novel/ ukulele thingamajig, do yourself a favor and ship it home.

6. Plan in Some Buffer Days

On any bike tour you should assume that you’ll discover some incredible places that require more exploring. You’ll likely stumble upon cool secluded towns, meet people to do a side trip with or just need some time out of the saddle. Creating a buffer of a few extra days will make a trip much more enjoyable and relaxed. Mechanical breakdowns and inclement weather can also be huge impediments to a too-closely timed schedule. Extra time is without a doubt one of the most important ingredients for a good tour.

7. Welcome Home

Lastly, planning your riding direction is a fun element of any bike tour. Consider making where you live the final destination of your trip. Riding home creates a motivating goal and eliminates transportation logistics, such as bike boxes, trains, buses and airplanes. Plus, there’s a special triumph that comes with rolling up to your house on your trusty steed after miles on the road.

What to Bring:


+ Sturdy steel bicycle frame with comfortable posture

+ Minimum 16-gear drivetrain

+ Long-distance touring saddle

+ Sturdy, comfortable riding shoes

+ Riding gloves

+ Small bag to carry personal items when off your bike

+ Thick-tired wheels – 32-milimeter tire width is capable of handling most touring surfaces

+ Padded riding shorts – can mean the difference between being able to comfortably ride all day and having to quit early

+ Headlight or flashlight (in addition to bicycle lights)

+ Bandana(s)

+ Bungee cord or parachute cord (25-feet-long)

+ Guidebook or maps

Luxury Items

+ Handlebar bag

+ Bicycle computer

+ Stuff sacks to organize gear inside panniers

+ Flip-flop sandals

+ Insulated mug for hot drinks

What to Know:


+ Warm showers: Web-based lodging for cycle tourists,

+ Adventure Cycling Association: Maps and info galore,

+ Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: Rail trail routes throughout America,

+ Mountaineers Books: North America and international bicycling destinations,

+ Bed, Breakfast and Biking: North American guide to bed and breakfasts along many established bike routes,

Inspiring Blogs and Books

+ Travelling Two: Helpful bike touring advice from a Canadian couple who rode around the world,

+ Crazy Guy on a Bike: Entries from many cyclists on destinations, gear lists and bicycle types,

+ Bike 49: Cycling the 49 continental United States,

+ Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

+ Miles from Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure by Barbara Savage


  • Chris Keam

    I use a ten litre dry bag to carry my rolled-up thermarest. It fits perfectly and in the event of an absolute downpour I can sacrifice the thermarest to the elements and put any electronics, ID etc in the dry bag for safekeeping. Also, a frisbee can double as a great dinner plate/campsite new acquaintance attractor.

  • listener mark

    A few thoughts:

    Have a plan for storing food and anything with an odor (i.e. deodorant, toothpaste.). The racoons killed me on my last adventure. A small bear bag is not a bad idea.

    Don’t depend on your phone for anything. I was without service for the entire length of my last run.

    Have a plan but be prepared to embrace the inevitable twist in the road.

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