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Preparing for a Bicycle Tour

We barely made it to shelter for this quick downpour

We barely made it to shelter for this quick downpour

 

Whether you’re going 50 kilometers or 5,000, there are some things you just need to bring with you. It’s impossible to plan for every possible mechanical and weather related events you might encounter but considering the following will go a long way.

 

A rainy day in Québec

A rainy day in Québec

 

Daily Commutes: I rarely leave my house without the following items stuffed in my pannier:

  • 2 Tire levers
  • 1 Spare tube
  • 1 Dry patch kit
  • A small hand pump
  • Allen key set

I started carrying those items as a minimum after one spring morning cycling 26k to York University only to smash into a deep pot hole. Even though my tires were properly inflated, both tires instantly went flat. At the time I carried one tube, thinking that there was almost no way I would get a double flat. WRONG! The nearest bike shop was a 50 minute walk away and there were no bike racks on the buses along that route. I learnt my lesson. The reason I highlight a dry patch kit is that I have gone to use a patch kit with glue before, only to find that the glue has completely vanished from the tube in the kit!

It was hard to see more than 10m ahead all day, which made every hill a surprise

It was hard to see more than 10m ahead all day, which made every hill a surprise

 

1 to 3 Day Bicycle Tour: In addition to the daily items I also bring:

  • 1 Spare rolled tire
  • 2 Additional tubes
  • Spoke wrench
  • Snap-in chain link
  • Chain break tool
Not every day is as clear as this one

Not every day is as clear as this one

 

4 + Day Bicycle Tour: On my first bike trip I had purchased my bike a few months before and had only one ride under my belt while fully loaded with panniers. On the 3rd day of the trip a spoke snapped on the rear wheel 20k south of Cache Creek, BC. Another broke during a snow storm 15k north of Banff, Alberta on day 6. If you are departing on a long bike trip you need to have used your bike extensively. The wheels that came with my bike weren’t up to the task and I am very happy we carried the tools needed to replace a spoke. I have learnt that an untested bike is much more likely to present headaches. To add to the above I bring:

  • Chainwhip
  • Cassette lockring remover
  • Extra spokes (may need more than one size)
  • Additional patch kit
  • Additional tube

If your route often passes through large towns you don’t need to be nearly as self-sufficient as one from Kenora, ON to Sault Ste. Marie, ON. If you’re on a lonely stretch but too lazy to patch your punctured tube, keep it just in case. You never know if you’ll need it later.

My friend Kris getting started on replacing my broken spoke

My friend Kris getting started on replacing my broken spoke

 

Wind and Temperature Your single greatest challenge will be the weather. The same route can take twice as much effort on one day than another. A constant head wind is more demoralizing than the longest of climbs. One of my longest days was a short ride from Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg, MB. Two days before I had easily done 150km by early afternoon but on this day it was a struggle to hit 15kph. I saw another bike tourer walking on the same road as me for an hour before I caught him. That’s how slow it was with a 50km/h head wind. I have also biked through surprise snow storms in mountain passes. It’s really important to know where you are going. Check the climate graphs and don’t underestimate the potential for extreme dips towards the record high and record low for an area.

This vicious storm literally rolled towards us over Lake Superior

This vicious storm literally rolled towards us over Lake Superior

 

Rain and Snow Precipitation radar maps are a very handy tool to help plan your day, but don’t forget to use your eyes. I often check the radar in the morning to see where the rain will be and how long the rain will last. Once I’m on my bike it’s just my eyes scanning the horizon. On my way biking into Montreal I spotted a small cloud of rain gaining on me from my 4 o’clock. If I stopped for a break it would still cross my path so I knew the race was on until the next town 5k away. My friend and I made it to the town and under the awning of a convenience store less than a minute ahead of the short downpour! On any day with a chance of rain it’s good to have all your valuables in a dry place and your rain gear easily accessible.

A break between two snow storms in Banff, AB

A break between two snow storms in Banff, AB

 

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'4 Responses to “Preparing for a Bicycle Tour”'
  1. andres says:

    nice snow booties, buddy

  2. Anna says:

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for this post. I found the tips on the tools incredibly helpful, especially for the touring part. Thanks to you, I know know what a chain whip is, and why it’s important to have on a tour!

    As for inner tubes, etc. I always carry those, but I was also told tire liners work really well against punctures. My friend that does 170km races said he hasn’t had a flat in 10 years thanks to those liners. Mec tire liners:http://www.mec.ca/AST/ShopMEC/Cycling/TiresTubesWheels/Tubes/PRD~4001-640/mr.-tuffy-bicycle-tire-liners-26-x-1.95-2.5.jsp

    Anna

  3. Jonathan says:

    To be honest, I still haven’t used a tire liner. I don’t get flats very often and usually when I have, it was a giant screw or something sticking into my tire. I suppose it would help here and there though. Switching your tires between front and back (back wears out more quickly) helps until I replace them. Having a worn out tire increases the number of flats I get by a lot. Look for a flat middle on your tires where it used to be round. Having said that, I may give a tire liner a try one day.
    As for the booties – That was the last day I used an LCBO bag for booties : (
    A normal grocery store bag isn’t up to the job of clipping in and will soon wrap around your pedals and cause a big headache for you. I got something like these not long after which have served me well:
    Velcro Shoe Covers
    Jonathan recently posted…Preparing for a Bicycle TourMy Profile

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