Cycling Tips For Long Rides

Long-distance bike riding is a fun experience, but what do you take with you? Read on to find out just what you'll need to survive the great outdoors on your bike.

Before taking that long-distance voyage, either for a marathon or for the sheer thrill of accepting the challenge, there are a few key points to take note of. While being mentally and physically prepared is practically a given, what equipment should you bring? What other preparations are necessary to enhance the overall experience, safely and enjoyably?

Riding long-distance is one of the most pleasurable activities many people undertake. Although there can be difficult times, like hot days and necessary repairs, overall the trip will have wonderful memories that stay with you a lifetime. Imagine sleeping peacefully under a canopy of beautiful stars, or inside your tent, finally escaping that ringing phone and the ever-annoying alarm clock. Instead of being awoken by an electronic screech, you can lazily accept the new day with the sweet symphony of a multitude of birds, a warm sun on your face and a gentle breeze. When life finally slows down, the stress melts away - and that alone is well worth the small amount of effort for most of us!

Before getting into the gear you'll want to bring, remember to spend some quality time with your bike first. Is it in good repair? Are the tires and chains well maintained? If the answer is yes, check again. You can never be too sure! A detailed twice-over is always a wise idea, just in case, in the excitement, you miss something. I would advise checking the bike yourself, rather than relying on a friend's judgment (unless that friend happens to be a professional mechanic or gifted enthusiast).

Now that you're ready to get the packing out of the way, what should you take? Several viable checklists can be found on the Internet, but I'll give you a good list to consider right here.

1.Sleeping Gear: a sleeping bag/roll and a camping pillow are must-haves for longer journeys. For rougher regions, a sleeping pad is an excellent investment that can reduce tossing and turning and send you to dreamland in a hurry. A small backpacking tent is another excellent purchase, especially with the great deals available almost everywhere.

2.Clothing: four pairs of synthetic socks (or more, clean socks can make you feel like a new person), three nylon (lycra does well also) short-sleeved tops, a water-proof parka or waterproof coat-shell that is comfortable to wear, a pair of waterproof gloves, a pair of biking gloves (good quality is a good investment here), a pair of nylon pants that zip-off into shorts, two pairs of shorts (nylon or lycra), some synthetic long-johns (one pair should be fine) and, of course, a rain-suit. All of these items can be rolled/folded very tightly, so take up very little space and are all light-weight.

3.Tools: you'll want to take all the tools you would need to fix your bike quickly in the middle of nowhere. An Allen wrench, pocket knife, multi-tool (Leatherman or similar), spare rubber (for patching tires), a screwdriver and a spare headlamp if you have the room left over.

4.Food and water items: I personally love CamelBacks, as they strap comfortably to your back and allow you to take a sip of water without too much fussing. Carrying two gallons of water at a time is not unwise, strapped to your bike (or your body) in various bottles and containers. You'll also probably want a camping stove, frying pan, collapsible fishing pole (maybe), a backpacking pot that can serve several functions, and travel food.

5.Food that travels well: apples, oranges, dried soup packets, chocolate, double-wrapped cheese, mixed nuts, oatmeal, bagels, peppers, onions, carrots, rice, dried beans, pasta, cans of tomato sauce and potatoes. Tuna fish tends to do well, too. Skittles and such are great for quick energy boosts.

6.Other must-haves: sunglasses, sunscreen, a basic first-aid kit, a weather radio, pencil and paper, money (only a maybe - keep it on your body at all times), tarp (for your tent in certain areas), bug spray (use 100% DEET for the best protection), toothpaste, toothbrush, toiletries, camp soap, dish soap, Zip-lock bags... anything you really need to have. Just don't dare forget a flashlight!

7.Nice-to-haves: a camera, a book or magazine (or more than one, but watch the weight), laptop computer (big maybe there, don't take a delicate model).

Packing these items into two panniers (containers at the front and rear of your bike) is not at all impossible, provided you pack carefully and snuggly. Make sure your panniers are waterproof, of course. A hiking back-pack can round out your storage needs nicely, the adjustable variety are especially nice to have as your comfort requirements can change during the trip.

Be certain that you know how to get help if you need it. Don't leave without telling some friends where you are heading - be as specific as you can. Finally, be friendly and courteous to other travelers you will encounter, but also be very careful. Biking is a very rewarding experience, but traveling alone can always be dangerous! If possible, bike with some friends or loved ones. It can be a great bonding experience.

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