A FEW TIPS
- Relax as you ride, and take a break and stretch every couple of hours
- Eat and drink frequently, in small amounts
- Drink 4 – 5 quarts of water daily
- Avoid injuring your knees; “spin” at a cadence of 90 to 110 rpm
- Avoid sore hands (and road rash in the case of a fall) by wearing cycling gloves. Change hand positions frequently
- If you’re not already wearing cycling shorts with a synthetic chamois, get some! And, remember, padded cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear
- To avoid or treat chafing/saddle sores, apply chamois cream (sold at bike shops) or other lubricant to the irritated area or the chamois in your cycling shorts
- Bathe frequently
- Launder your cycling clothes frequently. It’s best to rotate your cycling shorts so that you wear a clean pair each day.
Wally says: I carry two pair of shorts. At the end of each day, I wash the pair I wore that day, and hang it to dry. If it isn’t dry by the next morning, I’ll strap it on top of my panniers as I ride the next day. Exposing the liner to the sun disinfects it and also marks you as a true student of the road.
To become familiar with riding a loaded bike, pack and ride as you would for your tour. Practice riding until you can look back without veering to either side.
Although not required, Adventure Cycling recommends the use of a rearview mirror. A rearview mirror attached to your helmet or handlebars can make checking behind you easier.
Don’t make abrupt steering movements, especially on downhills or on slippery surfaces, or your tires may lose traction.
Avoid pedaling when you’re leaning into a turn; your pedal or toe clip could catch on the pavement and cause you to fall. Hold the inside pedal at the top of the revolution.
Pay attention and ride defensively at all times.
- Pacelines and drafting cause the majority of crashes in large groups or even between two or three friends who decide to race or to push the pace. Pacelines are dangerous, and are not permitted on any Adventure Cycling tour.
- Riding too closely also makes it difficult for the riders in back to spot and avoid road hazards, potholes, etc.
- Excessive speed (especially going downhill) is the single biggest factor in serious accidents and injuries for cyclists, and is particularly dangerous in a group ride.
- Obey the rules of the road as if you were cycling alone.
- Ride single-file (even on rural back roads) when you are approaching or have just passed a curve or the crest of a hill. Traffic laws in many states also require cyclists to ride as far to the right side of the road as possible.
CADENCE AND GEARING
The system of gears on multi-speed bicycles lets you choose different pedaling rates, or cadences. Spinning in a gear that is too low is tiring and makes for a choppy ride; pushing a gear that is too high (a common error) is a primary cause of knee problems and the major reason people must stop cycling on a tour. Any time you feel the slightest twinge of pain in your knees, stop riding. Check saddle height and position to see if an improper adjustment is causing strain on your knees. When you resume riding, check your cadence. Skillful cyclists use a brisk, steady cadence, using the various gears to maintain a constant cadence over varying terrain.
BRAKING AND EMERGENCIES
A cardinal rule of bicycling is to brake before you must, especially on curves and downhills. Brake just before going into a curve; then, if you need to slow down more, brake gently while in the curve. Always apply brakes gradually, starting with rear brake, and then the front brake.
Use special caution on downhills. A loaded bicycle can accelerate rapidly, and loose gravel, rocks, vehicles and cattle guards can appear quickly when you’re moving fast.
Move off the road at least 10 feet if you get a flat, need to rest, or need to make adjustments, so that you do not cause an obstruction for oncoming cars or cyclists. If necessary, push your bike to where there is enough room to get you, your bike, and your gear completely off the road – even if it’s a remote road.
Ride visibly at all times while you’re on the road – especially in rainy or foggy weather. Use your safety triangles at all times; wear bright clothing; use bright rain covers on your panniers; use large reflectors (front and rear) if you have to ride in the dark. These practices will give motorists enough time to see you and to avoid you. Participants on Adventure Cycling tours must use a reflective safety triangle at all times when on the road.
Motor traffic presents the greatest danger to the cyclist. When a vehicle overtakes you, assume that there is a line of traffic following it, and that the second driver has not seen you. Towing units and RVs are often equipped with mirror extenders that can clip an unsuspecting cyclist. Be attentive and ready to leave the road if necessary.
Watch for oil, wet leaves, opening car doors, loose gravel, railroad crossings, and cyclists stopped in the roadway.
Be aware that when you are heading directly into the sun, motorists behind you are doing the same and may have difficulty seeing you. Try to avoid night riding, but if caught out after dark, use lights and wear reflective clothing. Fog can be just as dangerous; it distorts depth perception and drivers generally have less experience navigating through it.
Master some of the basic bike maintenance and repair skills, and carry at least a multi-tool device and some critical spare parts (spokes that are the proper length for your wheels, tubes, a tire, some “Master Link” chain replacement links or a chain, chain lube, etc.) that you won’t find when you have a problem in the middle of nowhere.
At a minimum, you should know how to fix a flat, and how to do the ABC-Quick Check, which will help identify problems before they turn into breakdowns.
Also make sure you are carrying any uncommon tools that your bike may need – an S&S coupler wrench, a T25 driver if you have disc brakes, etc.
Wally says: The great part about touring with a group is that somebody will know how to fix your bike if you don’t. If you bike starts making a new noise, or something doesn’t feel right, check it out right away, and if you can’t figure it out, ask somebody. The last thing you want is for your bike to break in the middle of the day – it is much better to work on it at night in camp.
Be prepared to carry lots of water. Parts of any tour can be very remote and dry. Your bike should have at least two water bottle cages, and you should consider bringing another couple of water bottles in your panniers and/or a good-sized hydration backpack (Camelback, etc.). Drink constantly because your sweat evaporates quickly and you may not feel the rapid loss of moisture.
Along with drinking more or less constantly, you should also be eating early and often. Taking in as many calories as you expend is important, and you need to get ahead of the “demand curve” so that you have some energy left for that last hill of the day.
FINDING YOUR WAY
Our friends at America ByCycle have created a nifty video that describes how to read Adventure Cycling bicycle maps. Take a look at the video: