Tips and tricks

I know many people who want to go on bike touring trips but lack the confidence.

Their primary concern is that they would not be able to fix their bike if something went wrong.  Basic bike maintenance, however, is not very difficult.  A great way to learn is to simply fix your bike instead of taking it to the shop.  

Most of my friends are unwilling to fix their own bikes, preferring to shell out $15 to a mechanic instead of changing a tire.  Although this might be a good example of comparative advantage, it means that they’ll never learn basic bike maintenance.

If you know how to change a flat tire, adjust brakes, and fix a chain, you will be able to address most of the issues that arise on a bike touring trip.

My two most valuable tools on a trip (in addition to tire levers) are a multitool that I bought at MEC and my Leatherman.  The multitool is particularly great, in addition to all the Allen keys and screwdrivers, it includes spoke wrenches and a chain tool.

Flying with bikes

One of the biggest pain points doing a bike trip is actually getting to the start with your bike.  I’ve flown quite a few times on both budget and traditional airlines.  To date, I have not experienced much difference in service as long as you follow their rules.  

Before you book your ticket, make sure to read the airline’s policy regarding bikes.  I have friends who were surprised with additional charges when they arrived at the airport. 

When I fly with my bike, I almost always use a CTC Plastic Bike Bag.  I have  been very happy with this product and highly recommend it.  The plastic bags are tough but lightweight.  On past trips, I simply dump them in the bottom of my panier to be used when I fly home.  

Packing a bike at the airport is easy: take off the pedals (you’ll need the correct size of wrench), deflate the tires, and turn the handle bars sideways.  Remember you will also need a bunch of tape to seal up the bag

I also wrap the fragile parts of my bike in cardboard for extra protection. I’ve never had anything broken on my bike using these bags (part of me thinks that since the handlers can actually see it’s a bike, they treat it better).

Other friends, who also travel frequently with more expensive bikes, swear by plastic bike boxes.  These will keep your bike safe but they are also expensive and cumbersome.  When planning a bike tour, you'll need to figure out where to store it!

 

Previous trips

Oxford to Paris

A 670 km week long trip that passes by many interesting  sights (e.g., Mont St Michel, the D-Day Landing sites, Giverny, Versailles)

Paris to Nantes

A week long trip to Nantes (one-way)  down the Loire Valley, just shy of 500 km, plenty of good food and wine

Devon (Torquay to Ilfracombe)

A quick 3-day trip through Devon, just over 200 km

Munich to Budapest (and back)

A very long bike trip (28 days) from Munich to Budapest and back.  The route covered about 2000 km and crossed four countries