Our big wide world is full of variety and ready to be explored! Make sure to prepare for the weather conditions of your chosen destination as well as traversing it on a bike. Let us share what we’ve learned over the years in making the most of your active adventure. Here are 10 essentials to keep in mind when cycle touring.
1. Sun Protector Sleeves
Our Guide Heang recommends riding with sun sleeves, these sleeves protect your arms from the sun and actually have a cooling effect on your arms as they wick away sweat. This saves you from applying sunscreen multiple times a day. There is nothing worse than re-applying sunscreen mid-day to then have sweat and dust stick to your arms. Cambodia has some beautiful red, hard-pack, dirt roads. Although we all love to ride them, at certain times of the year they can get dusty.
Grasshopper: Mr Heang (Guide, Cambodia) | Favorite Tour: Cycle Angkor to the Sea
2. Chapstick (Lip Balm)
This handy essential will assure your lips remain cool and collected throughout the ride. The wax-based balm is excellent to keep away chapping in the cooler climates like on the Alaska & the Yukon Bike and Kayak Adventure. The stick versions are easy to carry and quick to apply. Our team member, Christie, adds that it also gives protection from the steady winds which can accompany even the warmest of trips. She suggests choosing a variety made of beeswax and SPF for healthier results. Her preference — Burt’s Bees! Add an extra couple of dollars and go organic to treat your lips to an array of oils and vitamins (coconut, avocado, jojoba oils, shea butters, and vitamin E for starters). Maybe avoid the tastier kinds or you’ll find yourself licking it away and risk chapping after all!
Grasshopper: Christie (Communications & Tour Host) | Favorite tour: Mekong Bike & Boat
3. Wear-Over Shorts
As cyclists we all think it is normal to wear lycra…but we may be the only ones not embarrassed! Some remote villages in Myanmar are more conservative than others. The last thing that we would want to do is shock or disrespect anyone, especially in one of the many beautiful temples and pagodas on tour. Wearing some light over-shorts also adds a few handy pockets. Alternatively, if you prefer to ride in aerodynamic, lycra only, use lightweight running shorts that can be packed down small and stored in your jersey pocket for when needed.
Grasshopper: Nay Thway (Guide Leader, Myanmar) | Favourite Tour: Inle, Bagan & The Irrawaddy
4. Riding with Clipless MTB Pedals and Shoes
Riding with clipless pedals (shoes attached) can increase your efficiency, power, control and comfort on the bike. This is great for touring, but it's very important to choose the right combination of pedal and shoe. Mountain bike specific pedals (like SPD, Crank Bros) offer durability, easy entry/exit and some movement in the pedal. This can ease stress on your knees on rougher terrain.
Road bike and some mountain bike racing shoes have very stiff soles and no tread for traction. Both of which can be dangerous when cycle touring as you are on and off the bike a lot. Make sure that your clipless compatible shoes have ample tread that provides grip and a little flex in the sole. This means that you can comfortably walk around off the bike without looking like a baby deer on ice skates. Photo stops and sightseeing become a far nicer experience! If this is your first time using clipless pedals, please practice cycling with them, clipping in and out. Doing this before the tour saves you from the embarrassing stationary falls that we have all experienced!
Grasshopper: Adam Platt Hepworth (CEO) | Favourite Tour: All of them
5. Microfibre Neck Tube
These light-weight neck tubes are incredibly versatile. This was demonstrated best in China. Our “Yunnan Bike Tour” tour starts up in the Tibetan foothills of Shangri La where temperatures can get quite chilly. Wearing one of these tubes helps keep you warm by keeping wind off of your neck and face (when pulled up over your nose). In some of the busy cities, dust can be a problem and this item made a great dust mask. In the southern lowlands, the neck tube came into use again keeping the sun from burning your neck and wicking away sweat in a cooling action. They can also be worn under the helmet to help absorb sweat.
Grasshopper: Tim (Guide, China) | Favourite Tour: Yunnan Bike Tour
6. Hydration Backpack
The importance of water can never be understated. Carrying enough of it and remembering to drink it, though, can be challenging. It’s easy to forget as time passes and you don’t always feel thirsty as dehydration gets closer. Countless riders have sworn by the convenience of having a water tube on hand via hydration backpacks. There’s no need to stop or even slow down to grab a water bottle. You’ll likely drink more water, conveniently sipping away as you enjoy the ride or stop to explore. On our Tasmania Bike, Hike and Kayak tour, you can stop off to visit the Mclachlan sculpture studio, salmon farms and more without having to remember to grab your water bottle. Reservoirs in the packs can hold up to 3 liters, though a popular size for cyclists is the 2 or 2.5 liter. Cycling-specific hydration packs have a more compact style and low profile for wind resistance and comfort.
Grasshopper: Jake Stalker (General Manager) | Favourite Tour: The Bangkok to Saigon Explorer
7. Ziplock Bags
Across all of our tours, we provide optional Ziplock bags. These simple items are just the right size to store your wallet or phone or camera (or a combination of these) and be stored in your cycle jersey pocket. In some of our tropical destinations like Taiwan, you don't want a light rain to dampen the enjoyment of spectacular views. Being re-sealable keeps the dust and dirt out as well as making them waterproof, but more importantly “sweatproof”. This stops your valuables from getting ruined while riding in hot, wet, or dusty conditions.
Grasshopper: Tot (Operations, Taiwan) | Favourite Tour: Bike Taiwan
8. Power Bank
We all love taking photos on tour and the quality of our phone cameras makes it the most used item for the job. The only issue is mobile devices have multiple jobs and short battery lives. Packing a small power bank with you on tour means that you can charge your device while away from a power source in the middle of the day, or in remote locations or during a power cut (known to happen in South East Asia). Don’t miss a fantastic shot by running out of battery!
Grasshopper: Pleng (Tour Operator, Thailand) | Favourite tour: Cruising the Coast to Samui
9. Windproof Vest (Gilet)
Laos can be hot, hilly and subject to tropical downpours. You find that 2 minutes after putting on a waterproof jacket, you are wetter inside than out due to the humidity and hard cycling. Windproof vests (like Castelli brand pictured) made of water-resistant materials are lighter, more packable and cheaper than jackets. Being sleeveless, they also breathe better! They keep the heavy rain off of your core, yet let your arms get wet and be cooled by the rain. Usually, they have a mesh back that helps you cool down. These are perfect for the mountains of Laos, providing a balance of weather protection and temperature.
Grasshopper: Touy (Guide & Operations, Laos) | Favourite Tour: Mountains Of Laos
10. Handlebar Bags
We provide handlebar bags for all of our guests on tour. Some customers choose not to use them, which is not a problem. But while cycling on our Sri Lanka by Bike tour, we see a lot of wildlife. Being “wild” the animals do not usually hang around posing for long, especially when they catch an eyeful of brightly colored lycra! So having your camera nearby is the only way of capturing those magical, fleeting moments… and prove that you really did see that Leopard!
Grasshopper: Nishan (Guide & Naturalist, Sri Lanka) | Favourite Tour: Sri Lanka by Bike
We hope you’ll take at least a few of these 10 essential tips on your next cycle touring adventure! They are sure to help keep you safe, comfortable and ready to enjoy your experience. See you on the trail!