Cycle Touring or Bike Packing
Going up the weights and distance we can look at slightly more palatial tent. We love being able to sit up, and again the Big Agnes Copper Spur is a huge volume for the weight. Tents by Coleman are good, and again comfort is the key. I have never once felt the need to give over any of my tent space to bringing the bike under cover. This is what insurance cover is for. Get a good lock and have the bike close. There are also tents that use the bikes as part of the construction. This is fine with walking poles as you will not need them to go to the pub. The bike is transport and to be honest most of the designs run the risk of the bike falling on you in the night or certainly compromising the wind stability. Each to his or her own though.
Much of your equipment choices will be governed by the choice of route and climate expected. Do not cover every possibility or you will take too much. If you do not mind being slightly uncomfortable 1 day in 7 then you can pack lighter. Within the first week of every major tour there will be a package going home. The record I have come across is 20Kg and I know you will be parceling stuff up and posting. The big thing about cycle touring is having the confidence to leave things behind. I do not carry a spare tyre and lots of the special tools that bikes need. I have never needed them. There is an amazing tool for taking off a cassette - it is called Next Best Thing 2 and comes from Holland or Spa cycles in the UK. With this and some spare spokes you can recover from breakages front and back. In 10,000 miles I broke 1 spoke. So, you have to ask yourself, do you feel lucky. You probably better learn how to change a tyre and repair a puncture, but people have set off around the world not knowing.
The UK has an amazing network of routes. If you have ever bought a lottery ticket, quite a bit of that money has paid for them. Germany has a spiders web of paths, many of which are away from traffic and take you from places to buy cake and coffee to places to but beer and through stunning scenery. France is wonderful and they let you get away with mangling the language if you arrive by bike. Portugal is perhaps the undiscovered gem of Europe and camping under Olive Trees with a bottle of their amazingly fine wine has to be a good touring destination.
Try doing weekends from home before you set off around the coast of the UK. Once you have the bike and the kit there is no reason you need ever spend another weekend at home. Pay someone to mow the lawn and be on your bike from early April to November. For that first big tour try to devise a circular route - one you can stretch or shrink as appropriate. Be flexible and do not start a trip by going to the computer to create a spread sheet. There is a system called Warm Showers that provides free hosting for touring cyclists all over the world. This may help to stretch your budget and you will certainly meet some good folks. Do not panic about not knowing things. You can find out how to do most stuff from youtube and booking into a hotel to sort it out is possible.
Now you have your touring bike you will want to keep it ready for touring. Which will lead you to getting a second bike or possibly a better bike just for touring and a second bike for what you will start to call ' Training '. Before you know it you will be moving house or getting a bigger shed. Most cyclists, which is what you will be calling yourself quite soon, never stop at just one bike. My wife and I have 13, and yes I do have one more than her.
Written with great thanks, by Warren and Esther Sanders with experience gained from a 4 year world ride. See blog The Sportswool Diaries.
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Weight issues