An Introduction to Cycle Touring

This article was published in 1996, in Newsletter 7.

Cycling is one of the best ways of seeing the surrounding countryside. Travelling at a leisurely pace, you have time to take in the scenery. It’s easy to stop and take a longer look at something interesting. As well as being an enjoyable way to travel, cycling is also a good form of exercise, which can be as gentle or as hard as you choose to make it.

Whilst motor traffic has indubitably increased in recent years, the traffic levels fall significantly once you cycle away from main roads on to quieter country roads. East Anglia has a network of quiet country roads that are ideal for cycling. It doesn’t take very long to cycle out of town into the surrounding countryside.. Cycling off-road on bridleways will get you away from traffic altogether.

A bicycle with low gears makes cycling up hill less effort. Practice also helps to go up hills – you will be surprised how quickly you will improve if you cycle regularly. Don’t forget you always have one extra gear – get off and walk! Even the most dedicated cyclists sometimes meet a hill they have to walk up.

The art of cycle touring is to carry no more weight than you need to, but there are a few items it’s always a good idea to carry. It doesn’t rain as often or for as long as you might think, especially in Summer, but taking a waterproof will keep you dry if it does rain. Carry a spare inner tube, tyre levers, a pump and a spanner to remove the wheels in case you get a puncture. With good condition tyres, punctures occur rarely. Before putting in the spare tube, check the tyre for thorns, flints or glass that may have caused the puncture. A puncture repair kit will allow you to patch the tube. It is also a good idea to carry a few tools to tighten up bolts and make adjustments on your bike.

Spare clothing will keep you warm if it gets cold during a ride. It’s best to avoid baggy clothes that flap about and increase wind resistance. Gloves cushion your hands during long rides and keep hands warm when its cold. If you may not be back home before dark, don’t forget to take lights.

Take along something to drink to avoid getting thirsty. The most convenient way is to have a bottle and cage mounted on the bike. On longer rides, carry some food in case you run out of energy. One of the enjoyable parts of cycling is stopping at a pub or cafe for lunch or a cup of tea and cake. Cycling is always a good excuse for eating! Now Summer is finally here, why not dust off your bike and cycle out into the country? You never know you may get to like it.

David Jordan