By Freddie Curtis
Embarking on a long cycling tour is the ultimate way to spend some time off. Here on Cycling Europe we have done some long journeys across the continent, such as the 96-day tour from Tarifa, Spain to Nordkapp, Norway. A bike tour that takes multiple days or weeks to complete comes with many different challenges, not least ensuring that the bike stays in good shape and is well maintained throughout the trip.
In this article we look at some tips on keeping your bike maintained during a long tour, and once you’ve finished.
It always pays to be prepared for the worst and if you are going on a long tour across rural areas, the chances that something will go wrong in the middle of nowhere is pretty high. It also pays to keep in mind how much you want to be carrying, as too many tools could weight you down. Bike Radar recommends carrying a pocket size multi-tool, and explains how most multi-tools come with everything a rider will need if their bike breaks. A good multi-tool must include a screwdriver, a chain tool, spoke wrenches, a tyre lever, and (of course) a bottle opener.
Having the right equipment is not much use if you don’t know how to maintain and fix your bike. If you are new to touring it pays to learn about how your bike works and what to do when something goes wrong. There is lots of content online, such as maintenance videos from Evans Cycles on how to adjust front gears. Getting up to speed will save you a lot of time and effort if you do get a puncture or the chain comes off, rather than figuring it out as you go along.
On a long cycle tour you are going to have to ensure that at night your bike is protected from the elements. There is a good chance that the place you choose to stay won’t have a dedicated bike storage area or even a place under cover. In this regard it is essential to pack a portable bike cover. Pick a cover that can be easily folded and packed into your bag. There are some durable covers that can be picked up for under £20, and will protect your bike from the rain if there is no alternative shelter available.
The best way to ensure that your bike doesn’t sustain any unnecessary damage on a long trip is to make sure that it is in top condition before you start. Most riders will put their bike away for the colder months ready to be taken out when the weather is warmer – this year winter seemed to be over by February. Bike maintenance starts at home, and when you are not using your bike it is important that it is properly protected. Women’s Cycling listed some top tips on how to properly store a bike during the winter, including points that many riders may not know about, such as not storing the bike in direct UV sunlight as this can split the tyres. The bike storage sheds on Screwfix demonstrate how most designs completely cover the bicycles, protecting them from the rain, cold, and direct sunlight. A good bike shed will also have enough room to keep all the equipment you’re going to need for a bike tour in one place. Our article ‘The Equipment Needed For (My) Cycle Tour’ shows the amount of items that an average tour will require. It’s best to keep it all in one place.
Whether it is your first tour or you are a veteran rider, maintaining your bike is of the upmost importance. After all it is your primary mode of transport. Read any book or article on long distance cycling and there will be a part on how the author needed to do some emergency repairs out in the sticks. Hopefully these tips will help in the planning of your next trip and ensure you don’t get stuck waiting for a ride to the nearest town.