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  1. #1
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    Touring for the first time, and doing it on a cheap hybrid with little preparation

    Hello, everyone.

    Before I go ahead and do something crazy I'll regret later, I'd like to get some advice on whether to do a tour given the circumstances below.

    • About me: I'm 26 years old and fairly fit. I go to the gym 3 times a week, where I've been following a hypertrophy + core strength building program. I cycle to work every day, doing 2 miles roundtrip. However, in the past year I've done 6 "long" routes of 20-40 miles each. I know a fair bit about bike maintenance and repairs, but little about nutrition and endurance.
    • About my bike: Cheap and heavy hybrid, but well maintained.
    • About the route: I haven't worked out the details yet, but I have 8 days in mid-October. I'm intending to do it in Europe (the UK preferably), but considering the time in the year I'll probably go to Southern Europe where the weather will be better. I'm hoping to do at least 40 miles per day every day, but I don't know how realistic this is. I was also hoping to camp (also for the first time), and again I don't know how realistic this is.


    I have a tendency to not do things until time is right, so I can always find reasons not to do the tour yet. And so I fear that I'll never be happy enough to do the tour. I know it won't be a perfect ride considering the issues pointed out above, but should I even be considering whether or not to do it? Should I lower my expectations in any of the points above? Do you have any other tip, such as any literature to read?

    Thanks in advance!

    PS: I'm willing to dedicate serious time to prepare for this, including doing a few long routes in the next few weeks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Hi,

    IMO, and without knowing much of the details, I'd say this is a perfect way to get into touring. As has been posted on this forum many many times, "you can tour on just about any bike". If your bike has good tires and is well maintained, it should be OK. It will allow you to try touring without a major investment. If you think you would like to do more tours after this one, then you can upgrade as budget and opportunities allow. My first tour was on a relatively inexpensive bike with borrowed panniers.

    Depending on where you decide to tour, the worst thing that could happen is that your bike would break down and you would have to take a train or bus home. Europe's public transportation is much better than anything we have here in the U.S. I also know an 8-day tour might seem like a long time, but in reality a week is a relatively short time for a tour. We had a saying when I was in the Army, "we can stand on our heads for a year". We were saying that in tough situations we could put up with anything for a short period of time. Once you get started you will wonder how time can slip by so fast.

    Again, depending on where you decide to ride, camping is a good option in Portugal and Spain. There are many campgrounds on Spain's Mediterranean Coast. If you are thinking of wild or free camping, I don't know how it would work out. Being you are not an experienced camper, using the campgrounds might be the best approach, even though they are relatively expensive (about $25E).

    Your daily mileage will vary, depending on the terrain and wind. Forty miles per day should be within your ability. I'm basing this assumption on my belief that a "fairly fit" 26 year old should be able to do just about anything

    Don't wait "until time is right", because in my experience there are very few times when everything is "just right". I'd rather regret doing something, than regret not doing it!

    Good luck, and let us know how it turns out. It could very well turn out to be a near perfect 1st tour!

    PS. If you think you have to be super prepared to start a tour, read the preparations Tom Bruce made prior to starting his ride around the world. See page viii of the Inroduction: http://www.tombrucecycling.com/book/book-preview
    Last edited by Doug64; 09-04-13 at 08:42 PM.

  3. #3
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    You're ready, go.

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    It's an activity to Be done.. no matter what Your bike and gear is..

    Just have modest miles per day goals.. enjoy the ride ..





    oh, and have enough money with you to buy new parts if the ones on the bike break or are damaged.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-16-14 at 10:35 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    The best part about touring is getting out and doing it. The gear choices all fade away when you're out there, and things always work out, even when things don't go the way you wanted originally. Keep an open mind, be creative with supplies, and have a great ride!

    You can probably manage far more than 40 miles if you wanted. People tour at all different paces. 100 miles a day? sure, but you're riding all day. 30 miles a day? 20? No problem! Enjoy the area.

    The only thing you'll regret is not going.

  6. #6
    Senior Member old sch wheeler's Avatar
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    The first time I toured I left with half of what I needed. ...I heard that you tend to bring too much in the beginning - not the case for me. I left with no tent, no sleeping bag, no towels, and missing other essentials. Like others here say it all works out. First night I begged some space in the tent of two people I met on the road. After that a stop at the camping store set me up for the rest of my trip NY to Boston.

    Just do it, the hardest part is leaving your front door. Once you're rolling it gets a lot easier with the more time you're traveling.

    One time several years after I broke down miles from nowhere in the boonies of Nova Scotia. I had to fix the chain/gearing myself. The derailleur came off completely and was not salvageable - broken completely off. I rigged the chain to drive in a middle gear with wooden sticks and some wire - going over long tough hills in just one gear most of the day. Who'd have thought that was possible. 40 miles later a woman let me use her husbands tools in their garage (it was raining) to fix the bike with a cheap generic derailleur, bought from a local hardware store for $10. The next day I rode 60 miles further on the crappy derailleur before I found a real bike shop and a good quality derailleur.

    My point is it all works out somehow, and people are amazingly helpful if you show up on a bicycle in need of help.

    One time I got ill and could only ride 35 miles that day, and no miles for the next two. I recovered a little and found a bus that got me back to a major city. From there I packed up my bike in a cardboard box and traveled down the cost for another day, then reassembled my bike and found a campground to rest yet another day. I met two cyclists there and we continued for the rest of the week, until I got to my destination. People along the way are always nice and usually willing to help. You just have to trust your instincts.

    Enjoy your touring ride, the bike will be fine once you get going. After a few days you grow into it; it becomes your rolling home. While touring weight is an issue but not a big one, you'll adjust. So have fun, and get going.
    Old School Wheeler
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  7. #7
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    You'll be fine if your mental attitude is right. I toured on a Walmart bike 2,000 miles. The wonderful thing about touring is you can always tweak your equipment on the way. 40 miles a day is roughly 4 hours a day pedaling and 20 hours a day not pedaling, a lot of time to visit things and do things.

  8. #8
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    Sounds like a good start. Your mileage goal seems reasonable, If you have experience camping and backpacking then you have the basic idea. You might look at this link, as well as other blogs about cycle touring to get to know what you need/want to take with you. You'll learn as you go along, and improve with the next trip. I'd suggest taking a couple weekend overnights with the same mileage just to get the feel of it.

    Marc
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  9. #9
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    Guys, thank you so much for your advice! I'm definitely doing it!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Gravity Aided's Avatar
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    Do this while you're young, and your inbox is not full of other commitments. You can always do this tour again later, but doing it now, while you are in great shape, helps you over a lot of hills.
    midlifecyclistblog.wordpress.com www.facebook.com/bill.midlifecyclistblogger

  11. #11
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    Definitely do it. No point in performing heroics - if you've doubts about your equipment or skills, you could as well plan a shorter tour so that you feel more confident that you can pull it off. Then, if you see you're actually doing pretty good and above your expectations, you could also extend the trip to reflect that. What's important is to go for it and have fun while you're at it.

  12. #12
    Garlic
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    Many of us have stories of being woefully unprepared for our first tour, long before the internet existed to help us out, and we had adventures that can never be replaced. Just take off and see what happens, and good luck to you.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Solare's Avatar
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    As stated before you can do a short weekend trip to try things out like packing your equipment on the bike, camping (or try this tonight in your, friends, or parents yard or the local park/camping ground) and get a feel for the mileage. When I travel (mostly on the motorcycle) I have a camelback for my water. When I stop for lunch or dinner I get a glass of water with my meal just to see if it tastes good, if it does then I ask for a picture of water. I usually get an odd look then I tell them that I need to fill my bladder (I do this with a straight face). I really get odd looks then but when they bring the picture I take it outside to fill my camelback.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Solare's Avatar
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    Here is another idea. Camp in your backyard use your house as a bathroom only then pack up all of your stuff in the morning and ride to work or where ever and ride back home then set up camp again. If you are looking to cook on the road this is a great time to practice cooking. This can give you the opportunity to figure out what you will need and what you don't.

  15. #15
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    Gustavoang, You have a window of time, a bike and desire...you're set to go. Don't angst over preparation. There is lots of good advice on this forum and use what applies to you. Experience is your best teacher.

    Brad

  16. #16
    Thrubiker GITride's Avatar
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    Hi Gustavoang,

    I will always regret that when I lived in your neck of the woods I was on a Mad Kaw(asaki) and not a bicycle.



    After I returned to Chicago area from London, I got on the bicycle, and did the Grand Illinois Trail Ride.

    The most important thing you will need to carry is raingear. I use motorcycle raingear that cost around 50-60gbp. Velcro around the neck and along the zipper. It is superior to anything I have used outdoors and packs down small. Mine actually folds down into its own bag. -pretty neat.

    If you are going to sleep on the ground you'll need a mattress. An ultralight thermarest will probably knock you back 90gbp or so, but it's important to have a barrier between you and the ground, it will sap the heat right out of you otherwise.

    Good luck.

    Really a Mad Kaw heh... rain gear pictured.

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  17. #17
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    You're ready, go.
    +1 It's half mental the rest is in your head. You're good to go.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    I'd say just get on the bike and go, but be prepared to deal with some mistakes. Most importantly, don't let ANYTHING keep you from regrouping after your first tour and going out again.
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  19. #19
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    Hi everybody.

    I forgot to post back: Your advice gave me the confidence to do a 8-day cycle route in the south of Portugal in October, and it all went well!

    I aimed to do around 40 miles per day, and roughly stuck to it. One day I was lazy and did 20 miles, on another day I did over 60 (my record so far!). The bike was OK except for a couple of minor incidents with the chain and I managed to cope with the route physically and mentally!

    I loved the country, the people and the food. I went from Faro to Evora (via Castro Verde, Beja and other towns), and the roads in particular were absolutely outstanding -- The very wide hard shoulders gave me peace of mind. The campsites were very good as well. And I managed to eat so much that after all the miles I did, I kept exactly the same weight at the end of the trip!

    I would definitely recommend Portugal to other cycle tourists, with a piece of advice: Triple-check all the logistics around transporting your bike on the bus and/or trains if you'll use them. There's a lot of conflicting info about this, even among employees of these companies. I wasted a lot of time and money because of this.

    Thanks everybody!
    Last edited by Gustavoang; 04-15-14 at 05:27 PM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustavoang View Post
    Hi everybody.

    I forgot to post back: Your advice gave me the confidence to do a 8-day cycle route in the south of Portugal in October, and it all went well!

    I aimed to do around 40 miles per day, and roughly stuck to it. One day I was lazy and did 20 miles, on another day I did over 60 (my record so far!). The bike was OK except for a couple of minor incidents with the chain and I managed to cope with the route physically and mentally!

    I loved the country, the people and the food. I went from Faro to Evora (via Castro Verde, Beja and other towns), and the roads in particular were absolutely outstanding -- The very wide hard shoulders gave me peace of mind. The campsites were very good as well. And I managed to eat so much that after all the miles I did, I kept exactly the same weight at the end of the trip!

    I would definitely recommend Portugal to other cycle tourists, with a piece of advice: Triple-check all the logistics around transporting your bike on the bus and/or trains if you'll use them. There's a lot of conflicting info about this, even among employees of these companies. I wasted a lot of time and money because of this.

    Thanks everybody!
    Congratulations for a good trip. Any photos?

    Brad

  21. #21
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    I did a ten day tour of Southern Portugal in May 2013 and like Gustav I started and finished in Faro. I took a different route, up the Spanish border across just South of Evora and down the West coast. It was a complete cycling loop so didn't have to rely on public transport. Took one rest day and averaged about 65km/day. I used Warmshowers once on the first night and B&B (average cost about €40/night for single)for the rest of the tour.

    Here's a link to some photos. http://1drv.ms/1eIdivQ
    Last edited by Caretaker; 04-16-14 at 05:51 AM.
    History is the future

  22. #22
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    I did a ten day tour of Southern Portugal in May 2013 and like Gustav I started and finished in Faro. I took a different route, up the Spanish border across just South of Evora and down the West coast. It was a complete cycling loop so didn't have to rely on public transport. Took one rest day and averaged about 65km/day. I used Warmshowers once on the first night and B&B (average cost about €40/night for single)for the rest of the tour.

    Here's a link to some photos. http://1drv.ms/1eIdivQ
    Thanks for the photos, I enjoyed the cranes nesting on the utility poles the best.

    Brad

  23. #23
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    Nice pictures Caretaker! I reconigzed some of the places I passed by, like Alvito.

    Here's some of my pictures: https://plus.google.com/photos/10882...21079504079585

    Cheers

  24. #24
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustavoang View Post
    Nice pictures Caretaker! I reconigzed some of the places I passed by, like Alvito.

    Here's some of my pictures: https://plus.google.com/photos/10882...21079504079585

    Cheers
    Thanks.

    That's some tent for one person. I have a Vango Banshee 200 for when I'm on a camping trip like this one from Bordeaux to Lyon in July 2010.

    http://1drv.ms/1laAi4O

    So have you caught the cycle touring bug? Where to next?
    History is the future

  25. #25
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustavoang View Post
    Nice pictures Caretaker! I reconigzed some of the places I passed by, like Alvito.

    Here's some of my pictures: https://plus.google.com/photos/10882...21079504079585

    Cheers
    Thanks for the photos, the meal in the sixth pic looks excellent!

    Brad

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