Taking in the sights by bike

Bike with panniers overlooking a beachNothing beats the satisfaction of looking at your map at the end of the day and knowing you got from there to here under your own steam.

Cycle touring is a very special way to get around. You see more of the landscape, you’re on intimate terms with the geography, and you get to know the locals better. Pull up outside any general store or bakery and someone will stop and ask where you’ve come from and check out your gear.

If you’ve never been touring, the prospect of heading off on your own can be a little daunting. But there are a couple of ways to tackle it.

“Credit card touring” lets you pack a toothbrush and change of clothes in a couple of panniers and travel relatively light. Stay in B&Bs and pubs and sample the local culinary fare as you go. Add a tent, sleeping bag, food, cooking gear and water and you’re completely independent.

No matter which way you go, packing light is the key. You have to haul all that gear every kilometre and up every hill. If you’re going the full camping mode, you’ll probably have about 20 kg of gear strapped to your bike or packed in a trailer. Ask a bushwalking friend for advice. They know exactly what and how to pack.

While you’re aiming to pack light, don’t skimp on safety. You need a good tent, a warm sleeping bag and wet weather gear. Getting wet, cold and sick on the road will definitely spoil your trip.

Light is a relative term of course. If you’re used to zipping around town on your bike, 20 kg is a lot extra to carry. You need to get some practice lugging loads around. Ride to the supermarket and cart the shopping home. Ride to work with a couple of laden panniers.

When you’re planning your holiday though, don’t be too ambitious with your daily distances. If you’re doing the Great Vic Bike ride, someone is waiting at the other end with a hot meal. If you’re on your own, you have to prepare something to eat as well as your camp site. And you will have a hearty cyclist’s appetite to satisfy.

Plan to travel between 50 and 70 km most days. You’ll have time to sightsee along the way. And you’ll have enough energy to look after yourself properly at the end of the day’s ride.

See you on the road soon, God willing.

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