BIKE THROUGH EUROPE
foot, and if you use a running shoe it should not have too wide (flared) a sole. Clipless pedals are another option, but be sure to get the type where the “clip” is recessed into the shoe so you can walk around in them. The last mandatory item is raingear, and Gore-tex is the best choice here. It does cost more, but it’s well worth it. Top and pants are best, but at the very least buy a parka or cycling jacket. There are Gore-tex suits designed specifically for cycling, but these are usually only obtainable through mail order. You may also want to consider some sort of cycling booties to keep your feet dry and warm; if you don’t have these, bring a pair or two of wool socks. You will want casual clothes for the evenings, but don’t even be tempted to bring blue jeans they are far heavier and more bulky than other choices. [Fendersshould also be considered essential equipment for European touring-Sheldon Brown] Your handlebar bag should be ‘tour control central’ and contain all your valuables, including air ticket home. I have never used any sort of money belt, but perhaps I’ve just been lucky. However, I am always aware of my surroundings and don’t stop in places where I don’t feel comfortable. Whenever you leave your bike, put the shoulder strap on the handlebar bag and bring it with you. You may or may not lock your bike depending on the situation. The nature of your trip will be radically changed if you lose your bike, gear and clothing, but not nearly so much as it will if you lose your wallet, keys, passport, camera and airline ticket. The Whitehills mention that it’s particularly important to be vigilant in train stations; don’t leave your valuables - or even your panniers for that matter - out of sight for even a second. Line the pack with a heavy duty garbage bag to keep the contents dry in case of rain. Bring a couple extra on tour, since they will inevitably tear with use and you’ll need to replace them. There are waterproof nylon covers that go over the pannier, and these can be an alternate solution. Don’t bring the empty garbage bags but not pack your gear in them, thinking that you’ll use them if you have to - I speak from sad experience. The best solution for packing is to get about three small stuff sacks for each pannier. You can put like items in these, and their drawstrings will help you compress the load for space and stability. You can also buy different colors so you know what’s in each, and they’re generally easier to deal with than sorting through lots of loosely packed gear. These are available at camping/mountaineering shops. Put the heaviest items on the bottom of the panniers, where it will impact the bike’s handling the least. Put those items you want fast access to in the pannier that goes on the left side of the bike, which is where you should be when you get off the bike.
28 Quest June 2013
Life on the Road Bicycle Touring is like no other way of traveling. You will find that your day is a neverending sequence of ups and downs, highs and lows, as you encounter lovely winding country roads, steep hills, friendly native people, obnoxious truck drivers, driving rain or headwinds and exhiliarating downhills. As I said in the FootNotes article, I would be hardpressed to go on any future vacation without a bicycle. Although, I will admit that there are some kinds of trips and destinations where it is not the best solution. For example, if you planned to spend a vacation hiking in some of the national parks in the southwest, it makes much more sense to rent a car. But when your French Pyrenees
adjustments and repairs. If you’re not familiar with working on a bicycle, there is help available. Check with local adult-education centers and bicycle shops to find out about local classes. When you go on a supported tour for multiple hundred dollars per day any required bike work will be done for you, but when you’re touring on your own you should be self-sufficient. The best place to keep your tools is in a small bag hanging from the back of your seat; you should also keep a rag and small packages of hand cleaner in there. Many of these items can be found in prepackaged tool kits, and these are generally a good place to start. The quality of the tools in these kits is not always the same as if you purchased the components separately, but they will do the job. You will have to add to what comes in the kit, but it’s generally much less expensive than purchasing everything separately. It’s essential that you know how to repair a flat tire, but you should carry extra tubes for when you get a flat in the rain or possibly after dark, or any other occasion when you don’t want to find and patch the puncture. It’s good to give your bike a going-over every morning before riding to make sure everything works OK. It’s especially important to check for loose fittings, such as those holding your racks, fenders and toeclips. If they work their way loose and come off completely, you could have a major problem on your hands; far better to tighten them up when needed. Your chain will probably need lubrication at least once per week, more frequently if it rains.
Training and Preparing for the Trip
goal is to explore diverse regions of a foreign country, I prefer to cycle. Unlike driving in a car or riding in a train, the very act of getting from place to place becomes a major part of your travel experience. Of course you can see the landscape from a car or a train, but on a bicycle you are part of the landscape, and as anyone who has ever cycled knows, there is a world of difference between the two.
Tools and Maintenance Every touring cyclist should have an adequate tool kit and know how to make essential
Especially if you aren’t used to cycling, it is essential that you get used to your new bike and riding with a touring load before you go to Europe. Going on a group ride can be helpful in getting advice on riding posture, style and tips of the road. If this will be your first tour, I recommend taking a two or three day mini-tour as a shakedown before you go to Europe. As mentioned earlier, you should have your daily route highlighted on a copy of the detailed map. This can be folded and put in your handlebar bag for ready reference on the road. Most of the time the highlighted copy will be all you need to navigate, but it will never be as clear as the original and you may need to check the source map from time to time. You may or may not want to keep a journal, or at least track the number of miles you ride each day. As your trip date draws near, check to insure that everything is in order: passport, airline tickets, hostel pass, travelers checks, etc. Make a checklist of everything you want to bring and go over it several times.