Are there any rules in bicycle touring?
Some time ago we came across this interesting discussion on the Facebook group Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking, where many members expressed what, according to them, might be the rules of bicycle touring. I will say that most of it are more the kind of helpful advice on how to enjoy a bicycle trip, avoid troubles, and don’t be an asshole.
With the permission of the group admins, we transcribed the best of that post into this article, dividing the rules by categories. Some are funny, some are serious, all are useful. We added some comments of ours in italic.
Don’t forget to check out this amazing and very active Facebook group, and join it if you like. If you have something to add please post it in the comment section below. Thanks to all the contributors!
The 30 rules of bicycle touring
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Respect and mindfulness
1. Leave no trace. Always bring your garbage with you.
2. Be aware of the place you’re in, respect the culture, and be nice to the people.
3. Bargain reasonably. Try to get to know the local price and bargain to that, pay a bit more if you can’t reach that, but don’t let other people trick you.
4. When you’re hosted by a poor family, always leave something to them. Usually giving it to the woman works better, women are usually the ones taking care of the finances.
5. Ask for permission when camping on somebody’s property. Gear up for wild camp, check out the essential gear for bike camping.
6. Never pass by a great campsite. Just because you won’t be tired for another couple hours doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay if the location is particularly good for camping.
It’ll end up giving you those very important good vibes that aren’t as easily obtainable on some uneven patch of bushy ground that you’ll finally found well past bedtime because I decided to continue for a few more pointless kilometers.
7. Never say NO to somebody offering you something! Had many great meeting with that. Being open to something you didn’t plan (change the route for some waterfall or stop your day because you met somebody).
Don’t plan too much, always go with the mood and the spirit of the place. I guess this guy never been to the Former Soviet Union, if we had to take all the vodka we were offered we would have cirrhosis right now… however, we had a lot, just not in the morning
8. If your visa is too short to ride it all without missing all the beauty, get a lift or take a train.
We meet a couple on the ferry from China to South Korea, they wanted to ride the whole of China from Kazakhstan and so they did: an average of 130km a day without breaks for 60 days, mostly on highways crossing flat deserts. They were so exhausted they told us they never want to go bike-touring anymore in their lives…
9. Wash bike from top to bottom at least once a week, reapply lube, and make sure to do an M-check ensuring no bits are loose or brakes need replacing etc. We are absolutely bad at it, especially the cleaning part.
10. If your bike is making a noise that it didn’t make when you started the tour, find out what the noise is before it becomes a big problem. Here’s a list of essential tools for a long-haul bicycle expedition.
11. Clean/lube the drive train at least every other day.
12. Dress up like a Christmas tree and still assume that no driver will see you. Footpaths are legal when riding uphill fully loaded.
13. Lock your bike whenever you don’t want it stolen. Except, if you decide it is low enough chance of theft, at least booby trap with helmet through rear spokes and brakes locked (We never thought of that before).
Keyring with lock key always goes back on in the handlebar bag or wherever it is your favorite place. Check out our review of TiGr Bow Lock.
14. Always trust your guts. Sometimes you can trust your life to a stranger, sometimes you need to get away from him/her. Your guts will tell you the difference. Look people in their eyes, you’ll see mostly when they are up to something. Take a look at our misadventure with the Baron of Issyk Kul.
15. Never ride when it’s dark.
16. Never ride faster than 55km/h, slow down on downhills. Your life is more valuable than your brake pads.
17. Don’t get drunk or high when you’re on your own or with strangers you’re not sure you can trust.
Here’s a video of a time when we got drunk with strangers, but we thought we could trust. After all, it was Japan.
Alimentation and Wellness
18. Stop mid-morning for coffee and cake – this rule is NOT negotiable. Or tea and fruit, or whatever it is. Just have a mid-morning food break.
19. Shower or wet wipe wash every night, ain’t any good to sleep in a stinky sleeping bag.
20. Never pass up a water stop if there is even the slightest chance (or uncertainty) about its availability for the rest of the day(s) ahead.
Water is THE important ingredient in being able to continue riding – once you’ve had to tough it out with a parched throat until the next water-stop, this lesson is learned and respected forever. To the point that I find myself carrying too much water sometimes… but I always end up drinking it.
21. Eat breakfast before you start because you never know if there will be something on your route to fuel yourself when you need it. Which means, always carry some emergency food with you.
22. If you don’t feel good on the bike, something is wrong. Maybe the placement of the brake levers, the angle of the handlebars, reach to the handlebars, seat, or position. Something isn’t right and needs to be fixed.
23. Take a break day. My legs start complaining about day 7 and if we don’t take a break, my attitude starts to go downhill real fast. We don’t always do that, but if we don’t then it means we are cycling very short distances every day (less than 40km). Like in Korea or Cambodia, small countries allow you to do that.
24. Listen to your body. If you ache or are too fatigued, take a break, if you feel depressed or not motivated, it’s usually a combination of not eating enough or not eating good food, physical fatigue, and sleep. Take a day off and eat, maybe a nap, then a milkshake followed by a nap, rinse, repeat.
25. Make sure a rest day is a real rest day. I know you really want to hike that national park, just do it tomorrow.
Organization and Planning
26. Balance luggage when packing. So pretty much the same stuff goes into the bags in the same order to maintain this balance.
Take a look at the complete packing list for long-haul bicycle tours.
27. Put everything back in the same place. And if you don’t find something where you first looked, when you find it, put it where you first looked because that’s where you thought it was! The organization is key to keeping track of your stuff.
28. Never own more than you can carry. I understand that a traditional Kyrgyz dress is beautiful and so cheap… consider shipping it home.
29. Have everything that you want the stay dry in plastic bags before you expect rain. Well, if you’re using proper panniers you’ll really need a lot of rain to get your stuff wet. Since our panniers are proper we never did that, anyway have good care of your electronics, always give them second protection.
30. If you haven’t used it in a week, add it to the list for consideration of sending home after the third week. (Does not work for long time tourers with different types of weather i.e. Wintertime mountain vs summertime beach). I will say better: if you haven’t used it in a year than you don’t need it.
So, what do you think? Do these rules make sense? Do you have some more rules or advice to add? Contribute in the comments below!
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