Preparing for your first bike tour requires a bit of organisation. Here’s our beginner’s guide.
So, you’ve decided you’re ready to get out there, but aren’t exactly sure what to focus on? No worries. It just takes a bit of organisation so you remember everything. We have a few tips to help you with that.
Cycle touring is all about anticipating. Knowing how you want to travel defines many things. Thinking through your tour will help you identify what equipment to bring, how much to carry on your bike and how much money to budget for the trip.
1. Choose the right bike
This is the most important part of your trip. You need a bike that fits you and a saddle that’s comfortable. For an itinerary like La Vélodyssée, we suggest a bike with wide tyres or a hybrid bike. Above all, make sure it’s in good shape and give it a tune-up before you set out. If you’d rather hire a bike, check out our list of loueurs présents le long de La Vélodyssée as well as Oneway hire locations.
2. Decide when to travel and how long to tour
Obviously, organising a week-long tour is different than organising a trip lasting a month. You’ll need less equipment for a short tour than a world tour. To start, decide how long you’ll travel and during which time of year. The weather will impact how you travel and you’ll clearly need different equipment for high temps and for the rainy season.
3. Set your route
Nothing’s more frustrating than spending time searching the map for the best route. Save time by setting your itinerary in advance so you can enjoy your time to the fullest. For your first cycling tour, opt for signed cycle routes. A well-marked path will help you avoid getting lost. On La Vélodyssée, 75% of the route is for bikes only, so you’ll have the trail all to yourself with no cars in sight. However, remember that you’ll need to be flexible once you’re on the way.
4. Be flexible
While organisation is the guiding principle, it’s also important to leave some room for flexibility because things happen. You may end up taking a wrong turn, having a technical issue with your bike or deciding to take a detour to enjoy a particular destination. Even if your trip route is set, you need to be ready to change the itinerary if the route is impractical or you want to spend more time on a certain stage. At the end of the tour, what you’ll remember most are the things you didn’t plan for, so take things lightly. Anything is possible on a cycling tour, so let yourself explore the unexpected. You’ll have some great stories to tell afterwards.
5. Choose your lodging style
Before you leave, think about where you want to stay. If this is your first cycling tour, you’ll feel more relaxed knowing in advance where you’ll be sleeping. Do you want to stay with a local? At a hotel? At a campsite? Or bivouac every night? The time of year will certainly influence your decision. Defining your comfort requirements will give you a clearer picture of your tour and how much it will cost. You’ll be able to make reservations in advance, which is especially important in summer. If you don’t reserve ahead, you may not be able to find accommodation, especially in certain spots on La Vélodyssée, like the coast. We suggest booking with places that are Accueil Vélo certified where you’ll enjoy an attentive welcome less than 5 kilometres from a signed cycle route. But remember to be flexible because you may arrive late at a certain stage or decide to take another route.
6. Equip your bike
There are many items you’ll want to bring, like helmet, waterproof panniers and maybe a tent. Once you’ve decided when and for how long you’ll be touring, you’ll know what to bring. For your first trip, it’s best to opt for waterproof panniers rather than a trailer you’ll have to pull while pedalling.
7. Bring only what’s necessary
Most importantly, don’t weigh yourself down with unnecessary items. If you ride more than 25 kilometres in a day, you won’t want any extras. But don’t leave out your windbreaker vest, shoes or sunglasses. Opt for clothes that are comfortable rather than elegant and don’t bring your entire wardrobe. Be sure to bring along things to repair your bike because we’re not immune to breakdowns. For even better preparation, check out our survival kit article.
8. Be gentle on yourself
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to say. Cycling is a sport and it’s tiring. Your muscles will let you know they’re working, so don’t be surprised if you have aches and pains, especially the first few days. It’s OK to take breaks and remember that this isn’t a competition. And since pain usually comes along with poor posture, be sure to make adjustments to your bike to find what works best. Read more about avoiding cycling pain here. Remember to stay hydrated and carry a snack in case you need an energy boost. And finally, enjoy yourself and make the most of your tour.
Now that you’re well-prepared, you’re ready to get out on the La Vélodyssée trail. All that’s left is to savour your first bike tour. Have fun (even when things are chaotic), go easy on yourself and enjoy the experience to the max. And if you want more details, get advice from La Vélodyssée in this webinar::