Advice for cycle-tour newbs

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Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:34 am

Hi all,

I've been thinking of doing a tour around Scandinavia starting from Western Germany and finishing in Finland or Estonia. Roughly 2000-3000km depending on the rout I take (across the channel from Stockholm to Helsinki, or the long way around through northern Sweden and Finland). I plan on using ferries and trains at key sections to break the trip up and not have the ride that whole distance. Hopefully I'll be able to find someone to tour with but I don't fear doing it solo as I imagine I would meet up with people along the way.

First of all I would like to know if anyone has done a tour like this and what it was like? Apparently the weather is extremely unpredictable and it rains a lot, even in spring/summer which is when I was thinking of doing the tour (next year).

I was also thinking of what preparation I would need to do for the tour, in the following components:

-Fitness: How much pre-training and riding should I be looking at doing and for how long? I currently only ride ~10-15km a day which is really quite minimal, but it's all I need to ride atm for my commute. The most I have ridden in a day was about 30km but I did that within 2.5 (including lunch) hours and found it quite enjoyable going at a steady pace. I can imagine that I could ride 50-60km over a few hours each day in comfort and not kill my legs and perineum. Is that being unrealistic? I am 23, reasonably fit, non-smoker, no health conditions or anything. What is a reasonable average distance to be covering per day taking into account time to rest, relax and take in the scenery (plus the occasional hill)?

-Bike: What is a good bike set up for a long distance haul? I have seen some purpose build touring/'randonneur' bikes, will these do or should I be looking at a customised job? Should I buy and build/customise over there or will it be better to buy, build and break in the bike here and then bring it with me on the plane?

-Gear and equipment: I was thinking of keeping it simple and credit card touring with only a saddle bag and a pair of small pannier with personal items. However it would be nice to be a nice more self-sufficient especially as Scandinavia allows free camping and has some nice places off the beaten track. What sort of storage should I be looking and and what sort of gear should I be looking at getting/taking with me? Obviously less is more.

-Budget: How much should this cost? How much should I budget for the bike and equipment? I was thinking roughly around $2000 for the bike (looking at standard AU prices) + $500 for the panniers/bags and racks + $200 for lighting system + $200 for cycling clothing etc. Then I also have to consider the cost of getting there, plus costs for the off train/ferry at certain legs of the journey. I'll be looking to camp or couchsurf with people along the way to keep costs down and avoid being 'that ragged looking cyclist' at a hostel..

-Planning: How much should I plan, or is this a 'piece of string' kind of thing? I would like to have a good idea of where I am going, what I'll be seeing, what the ride will be like generally (weather and topography) etc but I don;'t want to have to schedule and plan every single hours for every day. I'd like to just be set up with all my gear, have a rough idea of where I am going and then just ride in a general direction stopping where and when I want. I am thinking that 8 weeks should be enough to cover the distance at a moderate pace. Aiming for May - June time of year.

Does it sound like I have a grasp on the situation and a fair idea of what I will need to do/organise, or am I off the mark? I was thinking about doing a mini-tour around here (Perth) however it just isn't the same considering the weather, traffic and scenery is less than desirable. Maybe I'll do a longer ride (40-60km) on my fixed gear around Perth's PSP network and see how I fare with that.
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by BNA » Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:01 pm

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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby dirty_harry » Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:01 pm

hi .
im 18 nearly 19 and at the end of last year i toured round france for 4 weeks. it was very nice. im not sure what you mean by credit card touring i guess i did that in a way. i stayed at my aunties house in england and bought a road bike off of ebay. caught the train to were the bike was a rode it back to my aunties in liverpool. i found a nice bike shop who was willing to adapt and fit a rack to the lugless road bike id bought. be warned though it wasnt exactely cheap for the rack. by the time i bought the rack and bags and paid him for labour and adapter bits off of other things it was like 115quid for a rear rack and bags but i had to have them so yeah. bike only cost be 350 quid for an ultegra equiped trek (2005). i caught the train from liverpool to london then on the eurostar to paris. once i started riding i was really grateful of the triple crankset that i never was intentionally looking for. fitness wise before i left for england i was doing 30 to 40 km rides regularly (a few times a week until i got a proper job then just on the weekends (so the last 3 months i was in oz i only rode weekends)) i would also do the occasional 60 km ride maybe once a month if that but then i 2 months in england and europe off the bike before i went touring so yeah dunno if that really matters. in aus i would do my 60km in about 3 hours so i set myself goals each night of a town about 50 km away i would then book a cheap hotel (not many hostels when you get regional) of which i found many surprisingly (anywere from 30 to 60 euro the 60 euro one being an apartment with a private beach on the italian riviera between Nice and Genoa the 30 euro being pretty average as youd expect). much to my surprise these 50 km rides according to google took me like 5 hours or more every day.(i think they were much further i didnt have a speedo but i rode with a dutch guy for 1 day from nice to san remo which was meant to be just over 50 according to google but his speedo read closer to 65 70 at the end of the day). so i would definately recommend racking up the kms a few times a week at least. in terms of gear i had a few changes of clothes 2 sets of riding gear pair of normal shoes sleeping bag and a day pack plus stuff i collected along the way. i also had a digital slr in the pannier bags. anything the didnt fit in the actual panniers (quite alot) got put in the day pack and occy strapped ontop of the panniers which worked fairly well. i would certainly recommend the occy straps cos there were mega handy. although it didnt seem like alot of stuff to take it weighed a fair bit. the the point were i was probably a little back heavy and low sided on a wet diesely hairpin heading to a train station. the deisel contributed as much as the bad weight distribution but i think all the rear loading definitely didnt help. so maybe a small front rack and pannier would be goot for weight distribution purposes. erm i think thats all for now. you can do it pretty cheap. i would recommend a eurail pass if there valid in scandinavia and you plan on taking a few trains. although 400 ish seems a lot an individual ticket will cos 60euro on average for me . it was 60 euro from paris to geneva (sui) 60 euro from paris to amsterdam 60 euro from genoa to nice and 80 euro from nice to paris so it does add up and i was never planning to take trains so i didnt have a eurail pass. i talked to some people and went to amsterdam with some people with a eurail pass and they still had to pay a booking fee but that wasnt much they said most the time it was 10 euro but paris to amsterdam cost him 40 euro.
i dunno if the prices will fluctuate cos of summer i was travelling in november december (which was cold i admit) i also got told bye the popular hostels that in summer you have to book accomodation at least a week in advance which will limit spontaneity of your trip if that applies for scandanavia (this hostel was in the south of france). spontaneity is really good though. i was never planning on going to nice i was gonna head from the alps across to the pyrennes but i got some showtime wether and the col's in the alps were getting snowed under so i met this canadian girl completely randomly who had just been to nice. i was comoplaining about the weather and she said i should head down there so i did and it was the best thing i did on that trip same with going to amsterdam. never planned but people in the hostel in paris were going and invited me so i went. its really good to go out on a limb so if you can find out more about acccomodation and how far in advance you have to book then that would certainly be good.
i think thats all
if theres anything else you wanna know just ask i wouldnt say im a touring cyclist (more of a rec racer) but i always wanted to ride france so i did it and it was absolutely amazing. so just do it is all i can say.
also if you plan on bringing the bike back be careful of codeshare flights. i went with BA code share with qantas as it was the cheapest flight i could get. when i got to heathrow with the bike boxed BA wanted 555 pounds (not dollars) in excess baggage as allthough you can buy an extra bag off BA you cant buy an extra bag off quantas but you can have as many bags as you want with qantas provided there under the weight limit but cos it was code share apparently that didnt work. so i went the qantas desk they were amazingly helpful. changed my BA ticket to a qantas ticket at no charge took me over to the scales weighed my stuff i was 30 kilo instead of 23. so i put a few jackets on etc had 19 kg of carry on (instead of 7) and at the end i was still 3 kilo over checked baggage. they waived that fee for me (30 quid per kilo). it was an amazing service nice people etc nice service on the plane (better than BA on the way over). and also when i landed in adelaide the cardboard box was almost undamaged (apart from one corner) hence it was looked after. also when i put the bike on the bike rack they were the only ones willing to dispose of the cardboard box for me. so flight wise my heart is with qantas from now on however some on here say emirates are good and have a 30kg limit so yeah.
i think thats it
cheers harry (hope its readable all the memories came back and i was just writing and ive never been great at english so yeah)
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby mikedufty » Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:04 pm

My experience has been that up to about 100km per day is quite doable for unfit non-regular cyclists in flattish country (WA). Even when I've been quite fit I've still found more than 100 a day becomes less fun, 275 is the most I've done, but I actually damaged some nerves in my palms doing that (had hardly been on the bike for 6 months before).

Less km is probably good if you want to do more than just ride.

I'd be inclined to go with the minimum gear. I found it detracts from the pleasure a fair bit having a really heavy bike (toured with camping and rock-climbing gear once). Maybe restrict camping to only when the weather is good?
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:00 pm

mikedufty wrote:My experience has been that up to about 100km per day is quite doable for unfit non-regular cyclists in flattish country (WA). Even when I've been quite fit I've still found more than 100 a day becomes less fun, 275 is the most I've done, but I actually damaged some nerves in my palms doing that (had hardly been on the bike for 6 months before).

Less km is probably good if you want to do more than just ride.

I'd be inclined to go with the minimum gear. I found it detracts from the pleasure a fair bit having a really heavy bike (toured with camping and rock-climbing gear once). Maybe restrict camping to only when the weather is good?


Yeah I want to cover a reasonable amount of ground but I don't want to over do it and it become a chore. Maybe I'll do a semi-self sufficient tour. You know, have a full set of panniers but only take with me some light-weight camping/cycling essentials. No need for any cooking gear as I found most camping grounds have free use kitchens anyway. For the occasional stint out in the country side you can always just go with fresh, raw foods and pre-packaged ready to eat foods. No need to have to lug around cooking equipment.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:11 pm

dirty_harry wrote:hi .
im 18 nearly 19 and at the end of last year i toured round france for 4 weeks. it was very nice. im not sure what you mean by credit card touring i guess i did that in a way. i stayed at my aunties house in england and bought a road bike off of ebay. caught the train to were the bike was a rode it back to my aunties in liverpool. i found a nice bike shop who was willing to adapt and fit a rack to the lugless road bike id bought. be warned though it wasnt exactely cheap for the rack. by the time i bought the rack and bags and paid him for labour and adapter bits off of other things it was like 115quid for a rear rack and bags but i had to have them so yeah. bike only cost be 350 quid for an ultegra equiped trek (2005).

i caught the train from liverpool to london then on the eurostar to paris. once i started riding i was really grateful of the triple crankset that i never was intentionally looking for. fitness wise before i left for england i was doing 30 to 40 km rides regularly (a few times a week until i got a proper job then just on the weekends (so the last 3 months i was in oz i only rode weekends)) i would also do the occasional 60 km ride maybe once a month if that but then i 2 months in england and europe off the bike before i went touring so yeah dunno if that really matters. in aus i would do my 60km in about 3 hours so i set myself goals each night of a town about 50 km away i would then book a cheap hotel (not many hostels when you get regional) of which i found many surprisingly (anywere from 30 to 60 euro the 60 euro one being an apartment with a private beach on the italian riviera between Nice and Genoa the 30 euro being pretty average as youd expect). much to my surprise these 50 km rides according to google took me like 5 hours or more every day.(i think they were much further i didnt have a speedo but i rode with a dutch guy for 1 day from nice to san remo which was meant to be just over 50 according to google but his speedo read closer to 65 70 at the end of the day). so i would definately recommend racking up the kms a few times a week at least.

in terms of gear i had a few changes of clothes 2 sets of riding gear pair of normal shoes sleeping bag and a day pack plus stuff i collected along the way. i also had a digital slr in the pannier bags. anything the didnt fit in the actual panniers (quite alot) got put in the day pack and occy strapped ontop of the panniers which worked fairly well. i would certainly recommend the occy straps cos there were mega handy. although it didnt seem like alot of stuff to take it weighed a fair bit. the the point were i was probably a little back heavy and low sided on a wet diesely hairpin heading to a train station. the deisel contributed as much as the bad weight distribution but i think all the rear loading definitely didnt help. so maybe a small front rack and pannier would be goot for weight distribution purposes.

erm i think thats all for now. you can do it pretty cheap. i would recommend a eurail pass if there valid in scandinavia and you plan on taking a few trains. although 400 ish seems a lot an individual ticket will cos 60euro on average for me . it was 60 euro from paris to geneva (sui) 60 euro from paris to amsterdam 60 euro from genoa to nice and 80 euro from nice to paris so it does add up and i was never planning to take trains so i didnt have a eurail pass. i talked to some people and went to amsterdam with some people with a eurail pass and they still had to pay a booking fee but that wasnt much they said most the time it was 10 euro but paris to amsterdam cost him 40 euro.
i dunno if the prices will fluctuate cos of summer i was travelling in november december (which was cold i admit) i also got told bye the popular hostels that in summer you have to book accomodation at least a week in advance which will limit spontaneity of your trip if that applies for scandanavia (this hostel was in the south of france). spontaneity is really good though. i was never planning on going to nice i was gonna head from the alps across to the pyrennes but i got some showtime wether and the col's in the alps were getting snowed under so i met this canadian girl completely randomly who had just been to nice. i was comoplaining about the weather and she said i should head down there so i did and it was the best thing i did on that trip same with going to amsterdam. never planned but people in the hostel in paris were going and invited me so i went. its really good to go out on a limb so if you can find out more about acccomodation and how far in advance you have to book then that would certainly be good.

i think thats all

if theres anything else you wanna know just ask. i wouldnt say im a touring cyclist (more of a rec racer) but i always wanted to ride france so i did it and it was absolutely amazing. so just do it is all i can say.

also if you plan on bringing the bike back be careful of codeshare flights. i went with BA code share with qantas as it was the cheapest flight i could get. when i got to heathrow with the bike boxed BA wanted 555 pounds (not dollars) in excess baggage as allthough you can buy an extra bag off BA you cant buy an extra bag off quantas but you can have as many bags as you want with qantas provided there under the weight limit but cos it was code share apparently that didnt work. so i went the qantas desk they were amazingly helpful. changed my BA ticket to a qantas ticket at no charge took me over to the scales weighed my stuff i was 30 kilo instead of 23. so i put a few jackets on etc had 19 kg of carry on (instead of 7) and at the end i was still 3 kilo over checked baggage. they waived that fee for me (30 quid per kilo). it was an amazing service nice people etc nice service on the plane (better than BA on the way over). and also when i landed in adelaide the cardboard box was almost undamaged (apart from one corner) hence it was looked after. also when i put the bike on the bike rack they were the only ones willing to dispose of the cardboard box for me. so flight wise my heart is with qantas from now on however some on here say emirates are good and have a 30kg limit so yeah.

i think thats it

cheers, harry

(hope its readable all the memories came back and i was just writing and ive never been great at english so yeah)


Hi Harry, thanks for taking the time to share your insight and advice.

Yes it was a bit of a wall of text, a bit of punctuation and new lines wouldn't have hurt. Thanks anyway though, I'll read through it now.

Ok, just read through it.

I should mention I have family in Germany and I have been over and travelled through Europe twice. Once in Winter by myself through central and eastern Europe (France, Switzerland, south Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Rep, east Germany, Turkey, Holland, Belgium and France again) and the second time with my GF during summer and travelled through the Med (France, Spain and Italy), central Europe (Switzerland, Luxembourg and Germany), Belgium, Holland and London. Both times was for around 6-7 weeks and did it all via planes+trains (and car for a bit in Germany with the family). Travelling through the Med in summer was a drag, I had to book months in advance to be able to get decent places at reasonable prices. Even then we got caught out a few times and had to move hostels/hotels after a few days as we couldn't get the whole time booked at a single place (happened in Switzerland when we stayed there for a week).

By credit card touring I mean minimalist touring. Just the bike maybe a small pair of panniers or just a saddle bag with a change of clothes, some small tools, spare tube and your wallet. This you have a lighter, faster and easier to ride bike. The downside is that you pretty much have to stay at hostels/hotels the whole way so you can clean yourself up and have a place to stay.

The more I think about it though I would like to do a mixed approach, have a front and rear set of pannier, a day bag on the rack as you mentioned and maybe a saddle bag for tools and often used items and/or front handle bar bag for snacks, maps and other often used items at easy access. However instead of loading up with cooking and heavy duty gear like I have seem some people do when touring in more remote places, I should be able to get away with just the basics of gear to keep it simple and light, and also save money.

From what I read a touring bike would be the best bet, as it is designed to take heavier loads, mount racks and panniers and still be reasonably fast and comfortable for longer rides. I think 60-70km a day would be doable, depending on weather and terrain/contours. I like you idea of booking accommodation on the day or the day before and then just riding until you get to your destination. It makes it easy to set goals and reach them, providing they are attainable.

Anyway it's good to be thinking about this stuff. Hopefully, I'll be finished with Uni at the end of this year so that's why I am looking to do some touring. I want to combine my love for cycling with my love for adventure travelling (contiki... pffft). The lease on the house runs out in Feb, I've got some money saved up, I have a Euro passport.. so it all makes sense to go over and tour around the continent and possibly UK+Ireland for a few months.

Not sure about the bike, it might not be worth buying it here in Oz due to shipping costs. I'll have to look into it. I am thinking that I might start researching and buying the accessories and gear, such as pannier bags, so the cost impact is spread out over the year and I can try them out with my current bikes. I could buy the actual bike in the UK or Germany (might actually be cheaper than in Oz), stay with my family for a few weeks while I test and break in the bike and all the gear as well as do some training in the process, and then when I am ready after 2-3 weeks I can set off. Should be mid-spring by then so the weather should be nice (its been around 20 degrees and sunny during the day lately in western Germany).

Thanks
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby RonK » Thu May 05, 2011 3:55 pm

You have a lot of general questions, but the answers will beget more and more detailed questions. Already your ideas about the type of bike, the style of touring, even your itinerary are evolving.

I recommend you start by reading through some of the relevant journals and forums here, then start researching. It will take time but the planning and research is half to fun of touring. Later you will be better placed to seek answers about the specific questions that arise from your research.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Thu May 05, 2011 4:55 pm

RonK wrote:You have a lot of general questions, but the answers will beget more and more detailed questions. Already your ideas about the type of bike, the style of touring, even your itinerary are evolving.

I recommend you start by reading through some of the relevant journals and forums here, then start researching. It will take time but the planning and research is half to fun of touring. Later you will be better placed to seek answers about the specific questions that arise from your research.


For sure. I think I was really just trying to hear some advice/stories from members about touring in these areas. Just to get me thinking about what I want to do and how I will go about it.

I am constantly reading and learning from journals/websites/forums to try and learn from other people, such as where they went, what issues they had, costs, what gear worked and what didn't etc.

I have also started research into rear panniers bags, rear rack and saddle bag. As I figured that even if I didn't end up touring Europe I'll be able to use them for daily commuting and local touring anyway- so it wont be money wasted no matter what. Researching and buying gear in small batches over time also allows me to learn how to use them best and spread the cost impact as well. It's far easier/less impact to carefully research items and spend $1000 over 8 months than rush it and spend that in one week.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby RonK » Fri May 06, 2011 12:28 am

elStado wrote:I have also started research into rear panniers bags, rear rack and saddle bag.

Here is some feedback from my experiences:
Panniers - Ok - you won't do better than Wiggle for price and service. I use Ortlieb Front and Back Roller Plus - the fabric is more pliable and easier to roll than the vinyl of the Roller Classics. Vaude is another well-respected German brand you might like to look at.
Rear Rack - the Tubus Cosmo looks great and the paint doesn't rub off, but stainless steel is a little more expensive. The Cosmo lets you get the panniers lower than the Cargo, so lower C of G, easier for you to mount and dismount the bike, and more room on top of the rack if you need it.
Front Rack - the Nova complements the Cosmo in looks and durability, and the Ortlieb lower hooks fit the flat tube section very securely. Getting the skewer out when removing the wheel takes practice.
Bar Bag - Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus to match the rest.
Rack Bag - The Orlieb rack bags are heavy vinyl and I don't like them much. The Alpkit Gourdon is a better choice - a dual-purpose roll-top dry bag with harness that can be used as cabin luggage or back pack for shopping/side trips.
Saddle Bag - I don't think much of Ortliebs, and prefer the Lezyne bags. Lezyne also make the best pumps.

A few other things you asked about:
Fitness - it helps to be young and fit but you need to be doing plenty of rides around the 50-60 km distance with the odd longer ride to build up the muscle-memory in you legs. It doesn't need to be strenuous riding, just regular - around 200km per week should build a base. On tour you'll develop trail fitness after the first week or so. Usually a 12 or 16 week program of gradually longer rides will get you up to fitness before an event.
Bike - It will be much cheaper to buy a bike in Europe, and you should be able to get any VAT refunded. You'll also get a much better range of bikes to choose from. In Germany most touring bikes are equipped with flat bars, and they offer a light touring class of bike which they refer to as trekking bikes. If you decide to buy locally, make sure you check the airline baggages charges very carefully when booking flights to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the check-in counter.
Budget - spend the amount of money you suggested and you should end up with a quality bike and accessories.
Planning - plan enough to know what the options are, but leave some flexibility.

I think you are covering all the bases. The details will emerge gradually. One final point - after you have bought the bike and accessories you still need a bunch of gear, and if you want to keep your load light it'll cost you plenty to get the ultralight stuff. You need to start haunting the online hiking shops as well for clothing, sleeping bag and mat, tent, cookware etc. if that is the style of touring you adopt.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Fri May 06, 2011 1:23 am

RonK wrote:I use Ortlieb Front and Back Roller Plus - the fabric is more pliable and easier to roll than the vinyl of the Roller Classics. Vaude is another well-respected German brand you might like to look at.


Yeah in my other thread asking about panniers pretty much every single member has responded positively to the Ortlieb panniers. Another bonus is that they were widely stocked by online stores.

Rear Rack - the Tubus Cosmo looks great and the paint doesn't rub off, but stainless steel is a little more expensive. The Cosmo lets you get the panniers lower than the Cargo, so lower C of G, easier for you to mount and dismount the bike, and more room on top of the rack if you need it.

Front Rack - the Nova complements the Cosmo in looks and durability, and the Ortlieb lower hooks fit the flat tube section very securely. Getting the skewer out when removing the wheel takes practice.


Hrm. Not sure it it's worth the money. Quite a big price increase for minimal gain. I am swaying towards the standard cargo series base don feedback in the other thread.

Bar Bag - Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus to match the rest.


Cool. Seems like the best option too from my research so far.

Rack Bag - The Orlieb rack bags are heavy vinyl and I don't like them much. The Alpkit Gourdon is a better choice - a dual-purpose roll-top dry bag with harness that can be used as cabin luggage or back pack for shopping/side trips


I have a 24L Osprey Stratos that I currently use already, so I'll probably just use that and attach it to the rack using straps or ocky straps as dirty_harry (above) did. That should also allow a bit of clearance room for the saddle bag. Waterproof/resistance would be nice though, the Stratos isn't water proof. It also has limited capacity due to the funny concave shape formed by the 'air-core' design. Maybe something waterproof and minimalist like what Alpkit offer would be good.

Saddle Bag - I don't think much of Ortliebs, and prefer the Lezyne bags. Lezyne also make the best pumps.


The classic large? From the comments/feedback on wiggle a lot of people had quality issues with the Lezyne saddle bags. Zips falling off and stitching falling apart after a few months etc.

Fitness - it helps to be young and fit but you need to be doing plenty of rides around the 50-60 km distance with the odd longer ride to build up the muscle-memory in you legs. It doesn't need to be strenuous riding, just regular - around 200km per week should build a base. On tour you'll develop trail fitness after the first week or so. Usually a 12 or 16 week program of gradually longer rides will get you up to fitness before an event.


Cool. Well at this stage I'll be heading over around later February-March, stay with family and get everything sorted out and organised for ~2 weeks and then head off once spring has kicked in properly. I finish Uni in late November so I'll have around 12 weeks to prepare and train before leaving. I'll be commuting 10km each way to work by then daily, plus I'll be able to do a few longer rides to build up longer distance stamina.

Bike - It will be much cheaper to buy a bike in Europe, and you should be able to get any VAT refunded. You'll also get a much better range of bikes to choose from. In Germany most touring bikes are equipped with flat bars, and they offer a light touring class of bike which they refer to as trekking bikes. If you decide to buy locally, make sure you check the airline baggages charges very carefully when booking flights to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the check-in counter.


Ok. I have heard some horror stories about people being slugged $$$ for bikes coming back from a tour that they decided to keep, so I'll make sure I get all the details organised. I was going to fly over with Air Asia.. I don't think it's possible that you can even take anything oversize like a bike, so it looks like I'll be buying OS. I'd really prefer a bike with drop bars in order to allow more hand positions and also to reduce wind resistance when needed. I can imagine it is pretty crappy riding into a strong headwind on a flatbar bike loaded with gear.

I think you are covering all the bases. The details will emerge gradually. One final point - after you have bought the bike and accessories you still need a bunch of gear, and if you want to keep your load light it'll cost you plenty to get the ultralight stuff. You need to start haunting the online hiking shops as well for clothing, sleeping bag and mat, tent, cookware etc. if that is the style of touring you adopt.


I want to go light and minimal. So probably a lightweight sleeping bag, mat and mini-tent (or some kind of all in one swag system) that I can roll up and put on the rack. I don;t want to haul around cooking gear, if I do end up camping out I'll just be minimalist and eat raw, liquid or ready to eat packaged foods (small tins of tuna etc) which are cheap, nutritious and easily accessible form shops. I also plan on eating out along the way, e.g. stopping at a cafe/pub for lunch. That way I am not having to eat packaged/raw food the whole trip which would get boring.

I have some clothing already from previous trips over such as Icebreaker Merino wool thermals and socks. I bought some Rapha cycling trousers to see how they fit as a trial (waiting on delivery still). I am not really sure what to bring/get though in terms of clothing. Should I be looking at a lycra kit.. jersey, shorts/bib etc? Or will a pair of padded under shorts, regular shorts and a regular t-shirt be OK? Originally I was thinking that full riding kit would be best for long periods in the saddle, however then I realised the practicality of it = walking into a shopping centre or a pub looking like I had just come from Tour de France.. maybe not a great look/impression?

I am also not sure about shoes. I have read a few posts where people toured with regular flat shoes and pedals, some others did it with foot straps, and then many people use cleated shoes and pedals. I currently ride non-cleated, with foot retention straps on the fixed gear and normal flat pedals on my Orbea. Riding with cycling shoes will also mean I will have to carry a pair of regular shoes for around town, adding more bulk and weight.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby RonK » Fri May 06, 2011 9:43 am

elStado wrote:Hrm. Not sure it it's worth the money. Quite a big price increase for minimal gain. I am swaying towards the standard cargo series base don feedback in the other thread.

Yes, it's purely about aesthetics - a Cargo and Ergo will do the job just as well. My tip is to put cable ties at the points where the panniers rub to protect the paint.
elStado wrote:I have a 24L Osprey Stratos that I currently use already, so I'll probably just use that and attach it to the rack using straps or ocky straps as dirty_harry (above) did.

I have two Osprey rucksacks and they are great packs but as you note they are not waterproof.
elStado wrote:The classic large? From the comments/feedback on wiggle a lot of people had quality issues with the Lezyne saddle bags. Zips falling off and stitching falling apart after a few months etc.

Mine is the Caddy Large - I've had it for a year without any issues. I have Lezyne pumps and multi-tool, and they are very high quality. For touring I like the Micro Drive Floor Pump with gauge.
elStado wrote: I'd really prefer a bike with drop bars in order to allow more hand positions and also to reduce wind resistance when needed.

That has long been my thinking too, but I've been frustrated by the compromises of lever/brakes/shifters they force upon me. I recently realised I very rarely use the drops anyway, so now I'm building a flat bar bike with Ergon GC3 grips. If you buy on the continent it may be difficult to find a drop bar tourer. The UK would offer more choices.
elStado wrote:I want to go light and minimal. So probably a lightweight sleeping bag, mat and mini-tent (or some kind of all in one swag system) that I can roll up and put on the rack.

The stuff I'm using is a Marmot Hydrogen for a small and light sleeping bag - also a Thermarest Prolite mat, and Hilleberg Soulo tent (will dent your budget). Store your sleeping bag in a Sea to Summit compression dry bag - the smallest size. All these items fit in the Alpkit Gourdon. Actually I find the Hydrogen too warm in Oz (I bought it for Nepal trekking), and I am considering a Thermarest sleep system - the Alpine Down blanket with NeoAir mat and cover.
elStado wrote:I don;t want to haul around cooking gear, if I do end up camping out I'll just be minimalist and eat raw, liquid or ready to eat packaged foods (small tins of tuna etc) which are cheap, nutritious and easily accessible form shops. I also plan on eating out along the way, e.g. stopping at a cafe/pub for lunch. That way I am not having to eat packaged/raw food the whole trip which would get boring.

No problem doing this in Europe, and it's my preferred style too, but sometimes you just want a hot drink or cup of soup or to reconstitute some mashed potato so it's worth considering an ultralight cooking system such as the MSR Pocket Rocket and Titan Kettle - it weighs bugger all and occupies little space.
elStado wrote:I bought some Rapha cycling trousers to see how they fit as a trial (waiting on delivery still).

You're not on a budget then :D .
elStado wrote:I am not really sure what to bring/get though in terms of clothing. Should I be looking at a lycra kit.. jersey, shorts/bib etc? Or will a pair of padded under shorts, regular shorts and a regular t-shirt be OK? Originally I was thinking that full riding kit would be best for long periods in the saddle, however then I realised the practicality of it = walking into a shopping centre or a pub looking like I had just come from Tour de France.. maybe not a great look/impression?

I always cycle in bib shorts and there are plenty of jerseys that don't look like you're doing the TDF. I carry three sets, plus one set of street clothes - longs and shorts. Check out the Ground Effect stuff from NZ - the quality and designs are excellent. But in any case I don't think there is any stigma about wearing cycling gear in Europe. Alternatives are the MTB shorts with internal liners - again look at Ground Effects products and remember the exchange rate is well in your favour. Also look at their wet weather gear.
elStado wrote:I am also not sure about shoes. I have read a few posts where people toured with regular flat shoes and pedals, some others did it with foot straps, and then many people use cleated shoes and pedals. I currently ride non-cleated, with foot retention straps on the fixed gear and normal flat pedals on my Orbea. Riding with cycling shoes will also mean I will have to carry a pair of regular shoes for around town, adding more bulk and weight.

I've been using clipless pedals for years and wouldn't be comfortable without them, however I take only one pair of shoes and a pair of thongs (to wear around camp and in showers). I'm using Northwave Expedition GTX MTB Cycling Shoes but I think they have been discontinued. I wear these everywhere, on the plane, on the bike, on the street and even for short hikes. Look at products like the Northwave Rocker Touring Shoes or Shimano MT60 MTB Cycling Shoes. The Shimanos are a fairly narrow fit - the Northwaves are roomer if you have wide feet. Combine these with the Shimano A530 pedal or similar which have and SPD cleat on one side and flat on the other and you can even ride down the shop in your thongs.

You mentioned family in Germany - do you speak any German? I can point you to a contact there who I think is planning a similar tour and has excellent local knowledge about bike shops etc.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Fri May 06, 2011 9:59 pm

RonK wrote:That has long been my thinking too, but I've been frustrated by the compromises of lever/brakes/shifters they force upon me. I recently realised I very rarely use the drops anyway, so now I'm building a flat bar bike with Ergon GC3 grips. If you buy on the continent it may be difficult to find a drop bar tourer. The UK would offer more choices.


I've looked into flat bar tourers in the past actually for a commuting bike. I've read lots of good reviews on the Ergon grips too. Might be an option.

The stuff I'm using is a Marmot Hydrogen for a small and light sleeping bag - also a Thermarest Prolite mat, and Hilleberg Soulo tent (will dent your budget). Store your sleeping bag in a Sea to Summit compression dry bag - the smallest size. All these items fit in the Alpkit Gourdon. Actually I find the Hydrogen too warm in Oz (I bought it for Nepal trekking), and I am considering a Thermarest sleep system - the Alpine Down blanket with NeoAir mat and cover.


Well, look at average temperatures it will still be very cold during March. Average daytime temps around 0 degrees Celsius and night around -7C.

Even if I go later in April/May it will still be around 10C during the day and 4C at night. So I'll need fairly warm sleeping gear, even if I go in early summer. I also read that summer is also the peak time for rainfall, and late Winter (Feb) is the driest time of year. So I'll have to be prepared for cold and/or wet weather. France is starting to sound more attractive. :P

elStado wrote:I bought some Rapha cycling trousers to see how they fit as a trial (waiting on delivery still).

You're not on a budget then :D .


I got them on special with free delivery. Wouldn't have been able to afford them otherwise. I hope they are all that they are cracked up to be.

I always cycle in bib shorts and there are plenty of jerseys that don't look like you're doing the TDF. I carry three sets, plus one set of street clothes - longs and shorts. Check out the Ground Effect stuff from NZ - the quality and designs are excellent. But in any case I don't think there is any stigma about wearing cycling gear in Europe. Alternatives are the MTB shorts with internal liners - again look at Ground Effects products and remember the exchange rate is well in your favour. Also look at their wet weather gear.


Will do. I think I will go for cycling specific clothes as it will pay off in the long run.

I've been using clipless pedals for years and wouldn't be comfortable without them, however I take only one pair of shoes and a pair of thongs (to wear around camp and in showers). I'm using Northwave Expedition GTX MTB Cycling Shoes but I think they have been discontinued. I wear these everywhere, on the plane, on the bike, on the street and even for short hikes. Look at products like the Northwave Rocker Touring Shoes or Shimano MT60 MTB Cycling Shoes. The Shimanos are a fairly narrow fit - the Northwaves are roomer if you have wide feet. Combine these with the Shimano A530 pedal or similar which have and SPD cleat on one side and flat on the other and you can even ride down the shop in your thongs.


I'll have a look into the Northwaves as I have wider feet. Single-sided touring pedals sound like a goer.

You mentioned family in Germany - do you speak any German? I can point you to a contact there who I think is planning a similar tour and has excellent local knowledge about bike shops etc.


Not fluently. My family over there are Aussie ex-pats. My dad (who lives in WA) is German, he has some remaining family in south Germany but not much relevance to my proposed tour.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby RonK » Sat May 14, 2011 9:49 pm

elStado wrote:You mentioned family in Germany - do you speak any German? I can point you to a contact there who I think is planning a similar tour and has excellent local knowledge about bike shops etc.


Not fluently. My family over there are Aussie ex-pats. My dad (who lives in WA) is German, he has some remaining family in south Germany but not much relevance to my proposed tour.

Ok, well if it's of any interest, have a look at Mark Ivo's journal on CGOAB. It's in German if you can read it, and there is a map which shows his intended route, which may be similar to yours.

I've had numerous exchanges of email with Mark. He's a very nice person and has been very helpful with information about bikes shops in Germany. He has passable English - much better than my German anyway. You could leave him a message in his journals's guest book, or email him (his email address is in his profile).

And while you are on the CGOAB site, check out the journals for the area you are interested in touring. You should find much useful information. Norway in particular is a country that really captures my imagination as a great place to tour...
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby LHT » Sat May 14, 2011 9:56 pm

Take a little packet of rubber bands with you, multi-size.
voluntarilly de-registered; ths forum isn't so much funny as it is a joke. Bling sitting in your shed and bragging about it here does not make you a touring cyclist, or capable of giving worthwhile or sound advice to newcomers, this place is proof of that
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Sun May 15, 2011 1:11 am

RonK wrote:And while you are on the CGOAB site, check out the journals for the area you are interested in touring. You should find much useful information. Norway in particular is a country that really captures my imagination as a great place to tour...


Just spent 3 hours reading people's journals. Hard not to considering all the amazing places people are riding through and experiencing.

Has given me lots of insight into gear I'll need and what to avoid too.

It seems that the Surly Long Haul Trucker is one of the favourites for many tourers. I wonder how difficult it would be to buy this bike in Germany or the UK (both potential starting points)?

I bought a pair of Ortlieb Back Roll + panniers the other day, one step closer to getting all my gear together. I still need to get a rear rack so I can start using the panniers though. Not sure if I should get a tubus Logo or Cargo? I have heard a few people mention that the Logo helps avoid the pannier hitting your heels while pedalling. But I have also read that the Ortlieb's "V" style shape avoids this issue. I don't want to spend $$$ on a rack and find that it isn't up for the job.

LHT wrote:Take a little packet of rubber bands with you, multi-size.


For what purpose?
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby LHT » Sun May 15, 2011 1:21 am

You will soon learn, grasshoper. Just take them. 8)

That's about one of ten standard little touring facts of life right there.
voluntarilly de-registered; ths forum isn't so much funny as it is a joke. Bling sitting in your shed and bragging about it here does not make you a touring cyclist, or capable of giving worthwhile or sound advice to newcomers, this place is proof of that
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby elStado » Sun May 15, 2011 1:29 am

LHT wrote:You will soon learn, grasshoper. Just take them. 8)

That's about one of ten standard little touring facts of life right there.


I normally have elastic bands, zip ties and a multi-tool on hand. So I'll make sure I bring it with me when touring too.
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby kellyu » Sun May 15, 2011 2:05 am

I'd have a chat with someone from the Cycle Touring Association of WA - I know a fair number of their members have toured through Europe by bike.

(I seem to be repeating myself on these forums - this is the second time in a week I've suggested the CTA to someone.)
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Re: Advice for cycle-tour newbs

Postby RonK » Sun May 15, 2011 8:37 am

elStado wrote:Just spent 3 hours reading people's journals. Hard not to considering all the amazing places people are riding through and experiencing.

Has given me lots of insight into gear I'll need and what to avoid too.

Warning! CGOAB is highly addictive - the northern hemisphere touring season is just starting and there are many interesting journals, such as this one to follow. And also this journal which has been mentioned in another post here.

If you can find my profile there is a packing list there you might find handy. And a couple of journals you might find interesting.


elStado wrote:It seems that the Surly Long Haul Trucker is one of the favourites for many tourers. I wonder how difficult it would be to buy this bike in Germany or the UK (both potential starting points)?

The Surly Long Haul Trucker is very good value for money if a little on the heavy side, and would be an excellent choice. I found mine to be a little highly geared on the hills of Tasmania and would recommend you replace the 26T inner chainring with a 24T. I don't know about Germany but you can get them in the UK. There are plenty of UK bike shops advertising them online but I can't recommend any particular shop.

elStado wrote:I still need to get a rear rack so I can start using the panniers though. Not sure if I should get a tubus Logo or Cargo?

The Cargo is the gold standard for racks, and it is the strongest. The Logo by design is not as strong, since it does not have the rear hoop over the wheel. Look carefully at the pictures on the Tubus web site and you will see what I'm talking about. My personal preference is the Cosmo, since it combines the best attributes of both the Cargo and the Logo. And it's made from stainless steel so it looks good and there is no paint to rub off. I have no idea though, if stainless steel is as strong as cromoly steel. Heel strike won't be a problem with any of these racks unless you have a bike with short chains stays and you have very big feet. If you get a painted rack, put a cable tie around the tubes at any points where the panniers rub to protect the paint.
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