RacksSounds simple, but often overlooked. A good rack will allow you to carry all the kit you’d ever need without any fuss. Often commuting racks can be small and lightweight, perfect for carrying a laptop and a couple of files to work, but perhaps not ideal for a full-blown tour with camping kit. Try looking for a rack with the capacity to take tents or bags strapped to the top, giving you more versatility whilst out riding. Front racks are an option for those going on longer trips or perhaps looking to spread the weight around. We’d recommend using smaller pannier bags on the front so as not to affect the handling and to avoid any toe overlap. Again, front racks can be found with a top-loading shelf to optimise space.
BagsThat old and tatty canvas pannier bag that you’re lugging to work every day is probably not going to cut it for longer adventures. Investing in a good set of waterproof pannier bags will be a sure-fire way of keeping all your kit dry, no matter what the British summer throws at you. Bike touring is all about reliability, the last thing you want is for your pannier bag to rip halfway through the ride. The other thing to consider is the bike packing vs touring argument. Bike packing is a lightweight option, strapping bags to any bike without the need for any rack mounts. This is a great option for faster traveling or allowing you to use any bike you fancy. No mount points needed! You might have to give up a few creature comforts, often dropping the tent in favor for a lightweight bivvy bag.
ComfortMake sure you are super comfy on the bike. That quick 20-minute ride to work might not give you the full experience of riding day in day out. We’d recommend heading out for a couple of day rides, just to make sure you can hold that position all day. Play around with it, it’s all about preference. What works for some won’t work for others. Perhaps looking at raising the bars or swapping the bars/saddle for something more relaxed will allow you more comfort over a longer period. Often we see customers fitting bar ends onto their bikes for longer trips. This is an easy and cost-effective way of adding an extra hand position. That way you can keep moving and not feel stuck in one position all day.
TyresLinked to comfort, tyres can have a huge effect on how the tour goes. Really thin road bike tyres can be nice and zippy, but not provide much comfort to puncture resistance. Fitting slightly wider tyres can improve the comfort and rolling speed of your bike, especially when you factor in a heavy-laden touring bike. Skinny road bike tyres may be uneasy under that sort of strain. The other thing to consider is puncture resistance. Some people love super puncture-resistant tyres that are unlikely to cause any issues and offer ultimate reliability. Others much prefer a tyre with a softer sidewall, allowing for a comfier and faster ride with the trade-off on puncture resistance. It comes down to what you prefer and what the terrain is going to be like. Smooth roads mean you can relax a bit on resistance and enjoy the softer, more supple tyres. Mixed road conditions and gravel tracks may mean you want to look more closely at durability.
Don’t stressThe best thing to do is just relax, and this is coming from a constant worrier. You will enjoy yourself much more if you just ease into it. It’s meant to an adventure, so if you are slightly apprehensive or you get the odd issue here and there, then it’s not the end of the world. Roll with the punches and think of the great stories you’re getting out of it. The best thing to do is just make sure you are happy with the bike before you go. Perhaps get a full service, take a few spares and make sure it’s running as smoothly as it ever has. If you do this, chances are you are going to be fine. Check out our touring model as a great benchmark for a sensible bike to work towards. You don’t need the fancy dynamo lighting or butterfly bars, these are great and are worth investing in, but if its your first try, then chances are the bike you’ve already got will work just fine. Let us know what you think. Are you taking a trip this year? We’d love to see how you get on.