Top Tips For Solo Cycling Long Distances
After solo cycling across eight countries including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cambodia and Vietnam, I was searching for a bigger endurance challenge and where better than Australia. I have learnt copious lessons from my past tours and I have had time to tailor which equipment I use whilst also keeping it affordable. Here are my top tips when it comes to bike touring in different countries around the world.
My biggest tip for all bike tourers is to go into the trip with a positive mindset. Bike touring can throw it all at you. Solo bike touring is the epitome of resistance and resilience. Things going wrong, entertaining yourself for hours on end, providing for yourself, carrying all your belongings, choosing which road to go on, accepting risk, and taking responsibility for your actions are all things that you will experience. Mindset is a vital factor whilst on the road. A positive mindset is hard to maintain when things start going wrong, which they definitely will go wrong! It is how you adapt to these situations. When the headwind is relentless, when you have the second flat tyre of the day or the road closure ahead is sending you on a
huge detour, a positive mindset can save you. I try to wake up every day, imagining the day going smoothly, knowing I will get to my destination safely. You have to be confident within yourself and also trust people along the way!
Staying Safe As A Solo Female
Learning how to feel safe is a big factor as a female alone. Because of the remoteness of certain areas on my Australia trip, I have taken certain steps to ensure people know where I am. I have invested in a tracking device, a satellite phone and a detailed spreadsheet for my family with my dates and locations. I believe I am at a point to know what signs of danger to look out for and what my limits are. Not cycling in the dark, and finishing the day with plenty of time to find a different place to sleep if the first option is a no-go, are both factors I follow every day. I use a Zoleo satellite phone to check in with family and friends when there is little-to-no signal. This allows me to feel safe and to know there is an SOS emergency feature is very comforting. If you are crossing remote areas, it is a reliable item to take with you. Carrying a few portable chargers will be your life saviour too. Lastly, I use a GME radio to speak to the truck drivers and caravans. I have found this really helpful as truck drivers have been able to give me a heads-up before passing me by. This means I can get off the road safely and everyone is happy and safe!
Preparation 1: Finding The Right Bike For You
I have experimented with several different bicycles and have realised that while a bicycle can get you anywhere, whether it is comfortable or not is a different question. The money you invest in does make a difference and I have tried bicycles of varying quality. From being a broke student and using a £300 bicycle from the Facebook marketplace to cycle 3,000km across Costa Rica and Nicaragua to investing in my dream Surly Ogre after saving up months of hard work. My advice is to focus on the terrain you are going on and how far you need to go. My biggest tip for long-distance touring is a solid steel frame that will hold under pressure. I also upgraded my Surly to have wide handlebars so I can move my hands away as I am prone to get pins and needles. These are things you'll learn from the road.
Preparation 2: Long-Lasting Equipment
Investing in good-quality equipment helps improve your comfort on long-distance tours. One of my favourite and most long-lasting cycling items are my Ortlieb Panniers. These are highly regarded in the bike touring world. My passport is in my panniers and I have been in typhoons in Asia and flooding in Costa Rica and I haven't had a drop of water inside my panniers. I cannot recommend purchasing Ortlieb bags any more.
Sleeping equipment. As a young twenty-year-old I never invested in sleeping equipment and I have lived to regret this. I am now a happy owner of a Mountains Design Travelite 320 sleeping bag which will keep me warm during the cooler nights in Central Australia. After a long day on the road, a comfortable and safe bed is all your care about. These items are lightweight and fit my packing well. Investing in high-quality equipment is important when you are using it every day: pay for quality and it won't let you down.
Preparation 3: Routes
Everyone is unique when it comes to bicycle touring. I like to set goals and I use dates to know I am going to reach a destination. Lots of bicycle tourers would hate this way of thinking and love to be spontaneous. Again this is up to you. I would advise having at least a rough itinerary for motivation. I use Komoot to design my routes so I can understand the terrain I will be riding on. For 600km of my Australia ride, I was on old rail trails. This took a lot of preparation to understand which sections were open. It also meant I could meet local people along the way as I told them I was coming. It was great to meet people from the country towns and they also helped me navigate the tough terrain.
Preparation 4: Easy Food Options
Food is an important part of your bike touring preparation. I have opted to use dehydrated meals from Backcountry Cuisine. Not only are these easy to make, and light to carry, they taste really good after a long day in the saddle. I carry a Jetboil and it takes minutes to boil up water to then pour into my Backcountry Cuisine pouches. Dinner can be ready in 10 minutes. I highly recommend packing a few of these if you are hitting the road.
Go For it
Most importantly go and have fun. Enjoy the adventure, the ups and downs. You'll never regret going on a long-distance adventure. By preparing well you are steering yourself in the right direction for a good ride, otherwise if not, you'll have fun working it all out on the road yourself!
Ultimately it is all about having a go and enjoying the sights of this beautiful country. (Images courtesy of Claire Wyatt)
All images supplied by Claire Wyatt