Riding a bicycle can be anything from convenient transportation to a grueling endurance challenge. At its best, cycling is fun and fulfilling. This article will take a look at preparations needed for a long day in the saddle.
The first step is to be educated about how far you will be riding and what the conditions will be like. For example, if you will be riding through populated areas with shops along the route, you won’t have to worry as much about packing food, unless you want to. If the ride is “supported” (a charity event, for example) tools won’t be such a big concern.
The second thing you will want to do is to make sure that you have a bicycle suited to the environment. If the ride is on rough terrain, you’ll need a mountain bike, or a hybrid designed for rougher rides. If the ride is on the roads, you’ll want a road bike, comfort bike, or hybrid designed for distance rides. One of the worst cycling experiences you can have is taking a mountain bike on a distance trip over paved roads.
Next you will want to give consideration to keeping yourself properly hydrated and fueled up for the ride. There is an addage in cycling that says you should drink before you are thirsty; and keeping enough fluids in your system, especially water, is very important. If you have a camel pack (a backpack that holds water with an over-the-shoulder tube for drinking as you ride, prepare it for the ride. Absent that, learning to drink from a bottle cage without stopping the ride will also prove helpful. But if neither of those solutions works for you, plan to stop often for water, especially if the weather is hot and/or excessively humid.
It is helpful on long rides to have a trunk bag or some other type of saddle bag, handlebar bag, or backpack/jersey that will allow you to pack some extra water bottles and/or snacks. This is especially important if you are riding unsupported over large stretches of isolated highway or trails.
In terms of snacks and/or meals, consider high protein and high carb items. Fruit and granola (the kind that won’t melt in the heat) make excellent choices.
Next, you will want to bring along some basic tools, an extra tube, patch kit, a pump, etc. Most of this can be attached to the bicycle or carried in a trunk bag or other container, like where your food and water is carried. Even if you are not a competent mechanic yourself, having the tools available will make it much easier for someone to help you along the way if you need it.
Of course the greatest device ever invented for bicycling, from a standpoint of safety and convenience, may be the cell phone. Bring yours along, fully charged. You might also consider a GPS device. If you have a Smartphone with maps and GPS, all the better.
Lastly, bring along your sense of adventure. Distance cycling can be a very fun and rewarding experience, and will definitely leave you with a sense of accomplishment.