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  1. #1
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    are you mentally prepaired to tour.

    a lot of first time tourers come to this forum looking for advice on all things touring.
    but you rarely see questions on the mental side of touring ,how to get yourself mentally prepaired for what could turn out to be a disaster and how to cope with it.
    i had such an experience in france last month ,to be honest i was expecting blue sky's and sun all the way a hassle free tour, but alas it was not to be.
    the first days rain was not a problem but on the second day one of the lads had a very nasty accident ,lots of injurys to his face arm's ribs neck you name it,his bike was a total rite off.
    after that seems everything just got worse ,well cycling and camping wise that is.
    no i was not mentally prepaired for the next part of the tour the heavy rain three days in a row diden't help and the taught's of my buddy lying in the middle of the road in a bad way really wrecked my head. so i called it a day and made arrangements to get back home.
    i haven't toured since i got back home but that's due mainly to weather,i hate bloody rain.
    don't get me wrong touring is proberly the best way to see a country no doubt about that ,but it's all not a bunch of rose's.
    anyway rant over hope the weather picks up soon,or there's a lot of top cycling stuff for sale.

  2. #2
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    Oh, bummer! Is the first you've written of this trip, or did I miss it?

    That really sucks about the bad accident. I hope your friend recovered. I dont' know what you could do to prepare for something like that.

    Perhaps an attitude of calm problem-solving and acceptance of changing circumstances would be a useful tool in the mental arsenal. Sometimes you just gotta make lemonade.

    As to the weather, well, yeah it DOES suck when it doesn't cooperate. All you can do is modify your plans as needed, and do the best you can before the trip to seek the weather you want and prepare for what you might worst-case encounter. I've certainly had pieces of tours when I did a LOT more hotel and hostelling than I planned, because rain-camping just isn't any fun for me. I've also taken many days off when the weather sucks.

    There's no shame in just calling it if you aren't having fun. It's YOUR life, do what you want.

    If it turns out touring isn't for you, that's fine. It certainly has its' share of tough stuff: rain, pain, accidents, illness, traffic, theft and most of all just plain physical exhuastion are just a few fairly common things that suck but can happen.

    But, it sounds like you had a run of rough luck. Don't be in a hurry to sell your touring gear. Just let it settle for a while, and when the mood strikes you again, go for it.
    ...

  3. #3
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    My recommendation is to avoid cycling in the rain if you and your bike are not properly equipped for the rain (and I mean equipment equipped and not mentally equipped). You can hide out in your tent if you have a big tent or you can camp out in a hotel 'till the weather improves.

    Parts of northern France can have summer rainstorms that make it sensible to head to the nearest village to enjoy ales and food all day long with little or no cycling that day.

  4. #4
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    It sounds like you had quite a spat of bad luck. I hope that your friend is getting better; it's rough when somebody has a bad accident while touring.

    That said, this does not sound like an issue of mental preparedness. Everybody who tours extensively by bicycle will have negative experiences at some point: headwinds, rainstorms, freezing temperatures, mechanical problems, physical problems, ripoff artists, uncooperative border guards, canceled flights, campgrounds or hotels that are fully booked after an exhausting day, getting lost, getting sick, losing stuff, not being able to find food, and belatedly realizing that touring was not such a hot idea! My guess is that you had more than your fair share of bad luck. Things can only get better next time!

    Not every trip is a good one. It is the nature of the beast. What is important is to remain flexible and change plans accordingly. Sometimes that means hopping on a train and going somewhere else, going home early, or lying low for a few days.

    I have been thoroughly miserable on some trips; but on balance, most trips have been at least pleasant and sometimes fantastic.

    Don't sell your equipment yet. Plan a weekend tour in your own neighbourhood, and be prepared to cancel if the weather threatens to be uncooperative. Bad weather is a real discouragement. By choosing a short tour with good weather, you maximize the chances of having a great time.

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    thank's for the reply's folk's,seems you guy's had bad days touring as well.my buddy is fine suffered no ill effects at all thank god.as a matter of fact he wants to go back to where the accident happened and start all over ,next year of course.no im going to tour here as soon as possible ,proberly diden't give myself a chance to calm down when things went belly up.but i suppose that's where experience come into it's own.but on the positive side i seen france well 500km of it,loved the people and the super smooth roads ,fantastic campsites when it wasen't raining,motorist's were only fantastic give you loads of room when passing and no aggro.maybe one day i'll return when i have loads of touring experience.

  6. #6
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    Hey I learned this thing on an adventure race:
    If things are going badly and you want to quit, before you take action towards quitting, take care of your immediate needs. Rest, sleep, eat, do what you need to make yourself feel better RIGHT NOW without regard for what happens next. If you're thinking "i have to either keep going or quit right now" remember, there is another alternative - take care of yourself first, then decide. Quitting will still be an option if you still want to do it later.

    As that applies to touring, if things are going to heck, just get a hotel room, eat a good meal, watch TV, sleep in a bed, take a hot shower, buy a new WhateverItIsThatYouNeed, wait for the storm to pass. Chill out for a while. When you have some time to get your head together, you can re-examine how you really feel about the situation and whether you need to end the tour, keep going, take some other form of transportation to remove yourself from the situation you don't like, etc.
    ...

  7. #7
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    If things are going badly and you want to quit, before you take action towards quitting, take care of your immediate needs. Rest, sleep, eat, do what you need to make yourself feel better RIGHT NOW without regard for what happens next. If you're thinking "i have to either keep going or quit right now" remember, there is another alternative - take care of yourself first, then decide. Quitting will still be an option if you still want to do it later.
    +1

    I've always thought the mental aspects of touring are at least as big as the physical ones. There will simply be days (or perhaps weeks) where things don't quite go right. Some of them you can problem solve your way through as part of the adventure. Some of them you can figure out enough to avoid or lessen in the future. Some will just happen and be part of the trip.

    So part of my preparation for a tour is being mentally prepared as well as some advance planning working through potential problems and developing contingencies/mitigation or avoidance approaches for these problems. My own personality has a mix of being laid-back and willing to take things as they come - combined with some type-a planning/goal-directed behaviors so that also helps for me and perhaps one of the reasons I've come to really enjoy touring as well...

  8. #8
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    excellent advice thanks all, i hope first time tourers come across this thread they can learn so much from it.it seem's everyone touring for the first time me included,thinks of nothing only about what bike they should have and what gear .valygrl your advice is brilliant,but would you belive the things you advise rest eat sleep are the three things i could not do,looking back it would have saved my tour if i done just that.hemm next time i'll be thinking of those very things.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Hey I learned this thing on an adventure race:
    If things are going badly and you want to quit, before you take action towards quitting, take care of your immediate needs. Rest, sleep, eat, do what you need to make yourself feel better RIGHT NOW without regard for what happens next. If you're thinking "i have to either keep going or quit right now" remember, there is another alternative - take care of yourself first, then decide. Quitting will still be an option if you still want to do it later.
    And I learned that same thing during my years of Randonneuring. On randonneuring brevets, you don't have the option of waiting out the weather ... you've got to keep riding no matter what's going on out there. That really toughened me up for touring, and I highly recommend participating in a set of brevets as a way of preparing for touring. For one thing, the process of building up your distance and fitness to do the brevets will help make you strong for the tour, and for another thing it does wonders for the mental aspect.


    But it's interesting that this topic should come up just now. I was just discussing something along these lines with someone yesterday.

    A lot of people come here wanting to tour because they've read something in a newspaper or magazine, or seen something on TV about someone doing an extended tour. And it sounds wonderful. There are photos of the cycletourists posing by a mountain or beach or something on a bright sunny day, and the story talks about all the exciting aspects of touring ... meeting people, seeing the sights, the quiet hum of the bicycle along the road, blah, blah, blah. There might be some brief mention of challenges, but anything like that is glazed over quickly. No one wants to talk about the bad stuff.

    And so they come here with this image of cycletouring in their heads, and want to buy their first bicycle since they were kids, gather a few pieces of equipment together and set off on an extended tour to experience the glory depicted in these articles, etc.

    But here's the reality ... touring is hard work.

    If you're used to waking up in the morning in your warm, dry house, hopping into your hot shower, plugging in your coffee maker, and getting into your warm comfortable car to head to your office job where you will sit at a desk all day in a climate controlled environment and have coffee and food available to you all day, at any time of the day, and then returning to your warm dry house in your warm comfortable car to make supper from a plethora of choices obtained from your fridge or freezer, and to go to bed in your nice comfortable bed ……… touring will be a shock. Like a culture shock. And a whole lot of work.

    On a tour, you wake up in a cold tent (unless you’re touring Queensland, in which case by 6 am, the tent will already be boiling hot), and lift yourself off the hard ground, trying to stretch out the cramps and get your hips working again. You may or may not have a shower available to you. And even if you do, you might not want to use it for a variety of reasons. I found it very difficult to convince myself to shower when the temps were about 0C outside, and also in the shower block. You have to wait while your camp stove heats up your coffee, and then pack everything up to start your day.

    Rather than a nice drive to your climate controlled office, your day consists of about 8 hours of physical labour … cycling. Cycling into the wind, cycling up hills, cycling in the rain and cold or blazing sun and heat. And not just cycling, but also cycling with a heavy load on the bicycle to make things just that much more difficult.

    You’ll have to find your own food and water along the way, and sometimes you’ll make mistakes and you’ll go hungry because you thought that town would have a shop, but it didn’t. Nothing like that feeling in the morning when you ate an orange for supper because it was the only thing you had with you, and you realize it is at least a 20 km ride to the next town where you might find food for breakfast.

    And then there’s that business of setting up camp, sometimes after dark because it took you longer than you thought it would to cover the distance, sometime in the rain or cold … and laying down in your cold, damp tent on a hard mattress to try to get some sleep before doing it all again the next day.


    This is why I strongly recommend that all new cycletourists should do short tours … shakedown tours … more than just one, and in a variety of weather conditions, not just on a nice sunny weekend … to help sort out what you need to survive in all sorts of conditions … and if touring is really for you.

    This is also why I strongly recommend getting outside … spend as much time as possible prior to the tour in the great outdoors. Cycle lots, in all sorts of weather … this helps with getting ready for the tour. Go for long walks, again, in all sorts of weather. Participate in other outdoor sports and activities.


    Now, of course touring isn’t all bad. I personally have a lot of trouble with the time from when I wake up to about 2-3 hours into the day. I have a very hard time getting going. But if the day is nice, and I’m fairly well stocked with food, and the pace is comfortable, and the distance I’m travelling is comfortable, and I have time to stop and take photos, to chat with people, and to see and enjoy the sights, touring is great!! And if I’ve planned my schedule so that if it rains heavily one day I can take the day off and either curl up with a good book or catch a bus into the nearest town to see the indoor sights or something, touring is great!!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by antokelly View Post
    excellent advice thanks all, i hope first time tourers come across this thread they can learn so much from it.it seem's everyone touring for the first time me included,thinks of nothing only about what bike they should have and what gear .valygrl your advice is brilliant,but would you belive the things you advise rest eat sleep are the three things i could not do,looking back it would have saved my tour if i done just that.hemm next time i'll be thinking of those very things.
    Thanks antokelly -- I did learn it the hard way - I DNF'd my adventure race, and then the next day, regretted it. Oh well, live and learn.
    ...

  11. #11
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    machka your a total genius that is a brilliant post,you guys are great honest.i know what you say is mostly common sense,but it takes finding out the hard way to find these things out does that make sense,anyway it's late over here so im hitting the hay .night night.

  12. #12
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    This is why I strongly recommend that all new cycletourists should do short tours … shakedown tours … more than just one, and in a variety of weather conditions, not just on a nice sunny weekend … to help sort out what you need to survive in all sorts of conditions … and if touring is really for you.

    This is also why I strongly recommend getting outside … spend as much time as possible prior to the tour in the great outdoors. Cycle lots, in all sorts of weather … this helps with getting ready for the tour. Go for long walks, again, in all sorts of weather. Participate in other outdoor sports and activities.
    This is basically what I was going to write had I replied earlier. The main thing you get in terms of 'mental preparation' from a short tour prior to the main event is confidence. Confidence that you are capable of handling the distances, confidence that your equipment is up to the task (or that you've replaced things that weren't), confidence that you can erect your tent easily at the end of the day, confidence that you can handle a fully loaded bike and that you know how to distribute the weight. Confidence that the rain really isn't so bad once you're out in it.

    This doesn't mean that nothing will go wrong of course, there is always the possibility that something will come up that didn't come up on your short tour, or something else will go wrong. But the mental anguish experienced over these incidents will be a lot less if you have confidence in your ability to handle the basics.
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  13. #13
    Neil_B
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    Machka and Valygrl's advice is spot-on. Thanks, ladies, for posting it.

  14. #14
    Neil_B
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    One aspect of the mental side of touring, for me at least, is being 'out of my element' for an extended period of time. My last tour was two weeks. I spent a week of it riding solo in areas I'd never been to, and while I enjoyed it, I found the sensation of not knowing anyone, not knowing the landmarks, the roads, the towns, etc, a little disconcerting. Either I shouldn't travel or I should get out more.

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    historian obviously you coped well enough when you were in strange places ,but how did you go about it.might seem a strange kind of a question i know,but what if your head is cabbaged and it does happen,have you a method of calming yourself down.machka is a great source of information on this forum ,i would love to hear more on how she copes with stress .i hope im not dragging this out ,but **** happen's does it not and knowing how to deal with it in a calm way ,could save the day.

  16. #16
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Rest, sleep, eat, do what you need to make yourself feel better RIGHT NOW without regard for what happens next. If you're thinking "i have to either keep going or quit right now" remember, there is another alternative - take care of yourself first, then decide.
    I might have to get that tattooed on my forearm so i remember it. ok, kidding about the tattoo, but it's a great piece of advice i wish i would have thought of/thought about in the past.
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  17. #17
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    When things are going bad on a tour, I just think to myself, this will make a great story some day.

  18. #18
    Senior Member foamy's Avatar
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    Mentally, the biggest challenge for me is not murdering a motorist. There were a few occasions where I could have wrung someone's neck with my bare hands. A few roads where I was expecting to be hit at any second. Tough on the nerves. Otherwise—I can generally put up with a lot.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by antokelly View Post
    ...might seem a strange kind of a question i know,but what if your head is cabbaged and it does happen,have you a method of calming yourself down.machka is a great source of information on this forum ,i would love to hear more on how she copes with stress .i hope im not dragging this out ,but **** happen's does it not and knowing how to deal with it in a calm way ,could save the day.
    I'm an expert at this kind of situation... the "dealing with the unexpected" thing that you find yourself faced with on occasion. Being able to deal with adverse situations in a calm and stable way comes from several factors... some that you can control and some that you can't. The first big factor is personality type... Are you the kind of person who reacts immediately and with great agitation to every little setback? My wife is the kind of person who runs around like her hair's on fire... while I calmly figure out what (if anything) I can do to make things better. I don't panic easily... but pay attention if I do. Our 22 years of marriage has taught my wife to read my body language for signs of stress or fear... because she knows that if I'm afraid or nervous, it's usually because there's damn good reason to be afraid.

    As far as things that you can prepare for:
    • Know your limits. Most people don't because they've never pushed themselves far enough to see where they collapse. I've found that most folks think that the least little bit of discomfort will cause them to fall apart. Know what your limits really are... you'll be surprised at what you're capable of.
    • Know how to fix things. Be able to repair your equipment... that will calm you down more than anything when you're out on the road. But if you haven't the foggiest idea of how to fix a spoke or shorten a chain to bypass a busted rear derailleur, then of course you'll panic.
    • Be physically prepared. Don't go out for a tour to cover 100 miles a day if your longest ride has been 15 miles.
    • Be mentally prepared. Be willing to operate outside of your comfort zone. I live in Georgia, so I know that 100F heat will not kill you. Well... with some precautions and common sense it won't.
    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.-Aristotle

  20. #20
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by antokelly View Post
    historian obviously you coped well enough when you were in strange places ,but how did you go about it.might seem a strange kind of a question i know,but what if your head is cabbaged and it does happen,have you a method of calming yourself down.machka is a great source of information on this forum ,i would love to hear more on how she copes with stress .i hope im not dragging this out ,but **** happen's does it not and knowing how to deal with it in a calm way ,could save the day.
    I'm not sure I was ever "cabbaged", whatever that means, but I did find myself longing for the familiar. Spending the night in a different place every night isn't something I'm used to doing. I found a text message or phone call to friends helped me a great deal.

    Also, when I visit a town on tour, I want to 'drink it in', so to speak. I guess I'm fortunate that I'm a slow rider; passing through a dozen towns on a 70 or 80 mile ride I would find an overload.

  21. #21
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Touring is the exact opposite of what this site is all about. When you're touring it's all about "the now". This site is mostly about the future and also about the past.

    People who are NOT prepared to live "in the now" are at a great disadvantage. The adventure of touring is all about unknowns that are happening or not happening at the moment. For example, the weather "now" is more relevant than the weather report. The fact that a perfect campsite is five miles away is not relevant if you can't make it there because of injury, weather, exhaustion, or road conditions. Being comfortable in the now is only way to deal with these unknowns.

  22. #22
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    Valley Girl and Aura have some of my thoughts on this issue. Touring is all about now. If now is hard and not enjoyable, then do something to make it better. antokelly's experience just confirms my thoughts on touring in the rain. I ride day after day until it is forcast to rain. Then I take a rest day on the rainy day. If it is going to rain hard for several days, I likely would stay and enjoy my rest. It is one thing to crash your bike on slick roads, but mostly I don't like riding in the rain because cars can't see you well enough. Each mile is added pressure as the odds rack up. If I am riding and during the day and it happens to rain, then of course I finish the day in some fashion, but as a matter of practice I don't ride in the rain. But then, I usually have all of the time I want when I am touring and am not pressured by deadlines. That helps as well in reducing the stress whenever something unforseen happens.

    My last tour it took me about three days to get into my touring mindset where I no longer think of tomorrow, only the countryside that is unfolding in front of me. Where is my next turn, my next meal, where am I going to sleep tonight. All else is just a bother for me. When I get a flat tire, I look for a shady place that I can sit, relax, change the tire and enjoy the scenery.

    Good post antokelly.
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  23. #23
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by lighthorse View Post
    When I get a flat tire, I look for a shady place that I can sit, relax, change the tire and enjoy the scenery.

  24. #24
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    thank's lighthorse ,living in ireland we know about rain as i speak or type it's lashing rain at the moment.It's funny in a way, im cycling all my life and i came across nearly every situation from bad angry drivers to bad weather even accident's ,remember i broke my colar bone last year and i was cycling by myself that time ,but when your in a foreign country where spoken english is not to plentyful ,well the situation changes .a new chapter open's up how to deal with this one.But listen folk's there's some great advice here,yes it's true everybody has a story to tell but i would rather tell a good story than a horror one
    edit..
    great photo historian you certainly found a shady spot
    oh and the sun has just come out, tomarrow im off to the cooley mountains 100mile round trip so i still love to cycle everyone.
    Last edited by antokelly; 07-24-09 at 10:55 AM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    On a tour, you wake up in a cold tent (unless you’re touring Queensland, in which case by 6 am, the tent will already be boiling hot), and lift yourself off the hard ground, trying to stretch out the cramps and get your hips working again.
    As usual, Machka's comments are right on. However, Machka, I accuse you of making me angrily jealous of the weather in Australia! Surely it's not all paradise in the South Pacific! What about the giant spiders the size of dinner plates? What about the sharks that attack humans ON LAND!

    As far as the hard ground is concerned I broke down and bought an ultraluxurious over-the-top Thermarest NEOAir air mattress and Thermarest actual pillow. I have never liked that hard ground thing.

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