On the road

05.02.2024


I enjoy packing my bike and setting off into the sunset to spend a few days or even a couple of weeks ambling down the road ahead. Together with friends, or even alone, I enjoy exploring the nature and countryside along the road and the villages and towns I stumble upon. Over the past 7 or 8 years I have taken many trips short and longer and somehow the anticipation of what’s around the next corner and the pleasure of relaxing with a beer or a cup of coffee at some roadside inn never seems to diminish.

Going the distance

Bicycle touring is for me a door into a world of people and experiences, a slower world with a different rhythm. I often get asked a myriad of questions about how far I ride in a day and where I stay and what I pack and truth be told none of the answers are impressive or categorical. Distance is one of the first thoughts and although I do have days where I get close to or even surpass the 100 km mark, most days seem to dwindle around 70 to 90 on the flats and 60 to 80 in the more mountainous regions. Last summer I rode over 1.200 kilometres meandering from Copenhagen to Vienna and the first 5 days averaged between 50 and 60 km/day. After these first days I got closer to the 70 – 90km that carried me through most of the rest of the trip. Now this may not seem like a lot, but actually, it is plenty to fill a day with several hours in the saddle and combined with a stop or three for breakfast, lunch and a beer or two and we are well on our way to an eventful day.

I need to build up my efforts slowly, first of all living in Denmark does not give me much training on hills but even more importantly I suffer from sensitive knees that get inflamed and painful if I overload them. Starting slowly with a few low-key days to bring them up to speed seems to work well. I also treat them preemptively with a transdermal preparation like Voltaren and that usually does the job of keeping inflammation at bay. Some people seem to think my 1.000km trips are ambitious but actually, I take it nice and easy and I am quite sure a more aggressive rider could easily do them in a third of the time. I feel like it is important to focus on the experience. It’s better to keep the expectations for daily performance low and enjoy the ride than to overload myself and end up needing to hop a train home.

Distance is also a function of terrain. I like to spend as much time on paths and small quiet rural roads as possible. I find it quite stressful to be on bigger roads with narrow shoulders and the swoosh of big lorries at my side. On the other hand, I do enjoy rolling along in my thoughts and I do not have a great need for offroad technical riding – I am a touring cyclist, not a gymnast. When I look at the map I am rarely looking for the shortest distance but often for bike roads or paths to get me where I want to go.

Finding my way

Many of my trips have been together with a girlfriend or friends and they often have an interest in navigating with an old-fashioned paper map. I always have a map along but the truth is that I prefer to look at it in the mornings and the evenings or at a lunch stop but I navigate using my phone or my Wahoo computer both of which do a good job and work well together. I enjoy a paper map but I have no need or desire to stop at every fourth corner and pull out my glasses to reorient myself and electronic navigation seems to work. I often use Google, but if that isn’t working or I am inclined to do more serious route planning, I use Komoot.

Another question I often get is if I stay at campgrounds or Inns. I always have camping gear, stove, tent and sleeping bag with me but the truth is that I predominantly stay at Inns along the road and sometimes I wonder why I bother carrying along the extra 15 kg of “camping stuff”. I enjoy camping but finding a campground, setting up the tent, cooking, cleaning and then packing it all down always seems to dominate my day and I am often too lazy and vouch for indulging myself at an Inn.

I have spent much of my life around boats and quite a bit of time at sea and somehow that seems to have put its mark on me. I am usually quite focused on spares and tools. I have a broad set of tools and mini tools, tyre levers and a patch kit. I have also become a fan of CO2 cartridges because they make it MUCH easier to seat a conventional inner tube style tyre on a modern tubeless-ready rim! I usually carry a couple of spare innertubes, a foldable tyre, brake pads, a good assortment of extra screws and some electrical tape, a few electrical strips, extra chainlinks, chainring bolts and a quick link, a bit of brake cable and housing, and of course some lube and cleaner. With a speciality bike like our folding Siggi or a cargo bike, I would recommend looking at the bike itself and evaluating what sort of gear might make sense and if it would be available.

Compacked

Another hot topic of debate also seems to be how to pack your bike. I always tend towards rear panniers on a rear-mounted rack with a handlebar-mounted Klickfix bag up front. This seems to afford me plenty of room for up to a month’s travels with much more space than I need while mounting firmly to the bike in a manner that provides for a stable bike. I have not ridden a great deal with “bike packing” style gear and although I can see that it would be an advantage in extreme terrain I have never had an issue riding through woods and brambles with my pannier set up and being a creature of habit I feel quite comfortable to use the same setup on my next trip. I am also very appreciative of my handlebar bag, it does a good job of providing me with a convenient place to stow snacks and gear that I want on hand, Recently it has become home to my camera and I can dismount it in a manner of seconds and take it with me when exploring a town or a restaurant without worrying if it is safe from thieves chained to some light post at the town square.

This final point raises an issue. I have always been quite fortunate to not be the victim of thieves or vandalism. I have heard many horror stories but I have always been well treated and thankfully I have never had property stolen or vandalised while touring. I always lock my bike to a railing or a lamppost, I prefer to lock two bikes together and run the lock cable through the handles of my panniers. I am also quite aware of parking my bike in a visible manner where someone would feel exposed if they started tampering with it.

In conclusion, for me the adventure lies in the journey itself and not in how many kilometres I have ridden or how fast. I cherish the memories of good laughs, small trials and chance encounters. There is no right or wrong way to start bicycle touring but there is no doubt that it is something that is best learned by doing. I am sure that anyone who has ever taken a longer trip has had moments where they wish they had brought along that special something or wondered why they have unnecessarily carried something the entire way without needing it. Whether you’re camping in the wilds every night or entrusting your accommodations to your credit card cycle touring is a great way to explore the world near and far.

Siggi | Folding e-bike

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