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a friend wrote me an email this a.m. because we've been talking about touring, and he's getting ready for his first year. i thought my response would make a good post, so here it is!
Well, I've got a 3 & a 5 day tour under my belt. Here's some tips from our experiences...
1. Touring is always better when you have someone with you, preferably a good friend, but it's also a chance to spend A LOT of time with someone, so it's good if you already get along with your riding partner... :) -Cole tried his first time alone & it sucked. It also helps push you when you're tired/hungry too, and vice versa.
2 & 3. Food & Camping.
Generally, these are separate, but both need to be tied together, unless you're going backwoods style. But when touring the highways and bi-ways of this great country, we also have its conveniences..
We generally don't bring much food if any with us on the first day. Maybe some pita bread & pb&j, & a few small snacks. You're going to burn more calories than you ever have in your life, so you need to stay well hydrated & have something to keep you going.
We do have a tiny, camping fuel stove for cooking. We usually try to stop somewhere close to where we're going to camp for food, because it's not light to carry- especially after pedaling for hours.
As far as camping, so far we've pretty much exclusively camped at state campgrounds, and here's why. Last year we went in the off-season, and we only had to pay for camping one night. If the campground is full, they will ALWAYS find cyclists a spot! There are bathrooms, not to mention showers, and you can usually score quite a bit of wood from other campsites that people have left behind in the pits. One we went to had a pool too!
If I was going to be gone more than 5 days, it would be nice to have a little extra money to stay at a hotel for a night & REALLY freshen up! Sleep in a REAL bed, etc.
But back to eating...
On my second tour I was hoping it would be a "first tour" experience, but no. This happens every single time. I find it a little hard to eat A LOT the first night, but this is EXTREMELY important!
Why you ask?
Well, you're going to wake up that second day feeling a little like crap no matter what. Food might sound good, but it's hard to get it down even though you know you HAVE to or you're not going to make the day. Period. Try to eat what you can in the AM & snack a lot along the way. That night will be a little better, but still not the best.
Waking up day 3 though, you should be back on track. I felt like we were just getting started when we got back! 5 days is nice, but 3 is good to let yourself know what you're getting into!
I should also point out before I forget that we always tried to camp close to a McDonald's. Best spot for breakfast there is!!! To us it was worth it.
3. What to bring...
This is interesting... the 1st time you'll bring more than you need. Guarantee it! It's just something you figure out. Half the stuff you think you might need you will never use. Less clothes for sure! You will not want to do this (in my opinion) without proper shorts/bibs. They make these for a reason (though I always wear something over them because I can't stand looking at them!).
That, and some type of riding cream, like Deez Nuts or the like! VERY IMPORTANT!
But yeah- I brought completely different stuff the 2nd time than I did the 1st, & I'll bring less next time.
4. This is something (I think) I taught Cole: Stop & rest for 5 minutes once an hour or something like that, just to give your body a break and a chance to refuel. Cemeteries are great- usually nobody there, full of shade, & quiet. It's important NOT to over do it. Especially on the 1st day. If you think you can't go much more, start thinking about camping. Tell who your with. Grab a energy gel (best ever) or bar (2nd best) & you'll feel like a new person. Unless you really monitor your health & diet (I don't), you really don't know what you're doing to your body, other than what it tells you, so listen to it! It won't lie to you... you can try to lie to it, but it'll smack you upside the head for doing so!
5. You can't always trust internet maps. so photocopies of maps of where you're headed (unless you want to bring a big bulky map or are doing an Adventure Cycling tour and are using one of theirs) are a plus. An even bigger plus is a GPS, but it still cannot be completely relied on. They've screwed us a few times. "It looks like the trail should go right through here..." and then you come to eight HIGH graded rail lines that you've gotta pick your steel bike & 30-50 lbs.of gear over. UGH. But a GPS does rule. Wish I could afford the new Garmin cycling model...
6. TOOLS! Everything that you'd need to fix a flat & a few other things... you never know what will happen on the road, and like a boy scout, be prepared! Not a Craftsman 48pc. set prepared, but you know what I mean... You partner will have some goods too, so depending who you ride with you might wanna compare gear...
7. I forgot what I was going to write because I started thinking about camping again for a minute...a sleeping pad under your bag can be your best friend!
8. Have a rad time, because that's what it's all about!
9. If you can't put your bags in your tent & they have food, bring some rope to hang it from raccoons & small bears.
So that's my little touring primer... I'm sure I have stuff to add & will as I think of it!