Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quick Tips for a Last Minute Bike Tour

So your quirky bike friend wants to take you on a bike tour, but she only gave you 3 weeks notice, what do you do?  No need to fear, I have some quick tips that may ease your fears.  And don't worry, I do it too. T-minus 9 days until Laurie, Neva and I leave for a driving and biking tour of the southwest.  I will be posting some of our prepping and packing over the next week, so you all can get an idea of what goes into planning and packing, and what the absolute necessities are (for adult + 4-year-old).  But, first thing is first, getting your bike tour-ready.  Today was a beautiful day in north Texas, and a great day to clean the ol' bike and chain.  If you treat your bike well, she'll treat you well too (or something like that).

Man, there was a lot of grease, grime, and dirt in my chain and cassette, but now it looks pretty good. Once you scrub off all of the build-up, then you can lube your chain and wipe off the excess. You'll also want to check your tires (ALL of your tires) and tubes, and make sure you have spares.  Depending on the terrain, you may want to purchase thorn resistant or slime tubes. You will definitely want good quality tires if you plan on putting lots of miles on them, or if you're riding in a remote area.  It sure is a pain to have to stop regularly to change a tube, so just invest the money into good tires like Schwalbe or Specialized.

Yes, I even put Schwalbe tires on the trailer.

Once you're pretty sure you can stay moving, then it's brake time.  No, not "time to take a break", but "time to make sure you're capable of stopping" kind of brake-time.  It's also good to make sure your brakes aren't rubbing on anything because you definitely don't want extra drag, or to put extra wear on your brakes and rims.  If you ride regularly, you will know what needs fixing or adjusting.  Don't worry if you don't ride that particular bike regularly, just take it for a spin, and take note of if you're comfortable and that all of the moving parts are working like they should.

Laurie and Neva testing their bikes out on the gravel roads.

If you don't have the time to do things yourself, just drop it at a local shop you trust, but let them know the date you need it by, especially if you decide to do your last-minute tour during the busy season (summer-time!). And speaking of busy season, you will want to decide what gear you want asap and have it sent by a reliable service.  Take into consideration too that lots of high quality bike stuff comes from Europe, so you may have to do some investigation.  If you have to call REI to check stock numbers, do it.  Check the tracking numbers daily to make sure your packages are moving and nothing has happened in shipping, etc.  It's nice to reuse when you can, but it's always those small, unexpected parts that break, or had been a forgotten project that now is an important part of your set up.

Mounting a handlebar bag, and this happened.  Small, niche parts can be hard to track down, so phone calls are the way to go if you're down to the wire.

But, usually everything arrives on time, and you end up with a nice pile of the new, the old, the borrowed, the gifted, and the wacky inventions made out of desperation, from zip ties and old bike parts.

Then, put all of that gear on your bike, and ride on the intended terrain.  This sounds like a simple step, but it is probably the most important and time-consuming of them all.  Every rattle you'll want to check, every light battery, every bolt for anything attached to your bike.  Is your seat just right to sustain you for hours?  Does your rack rattle or move at all?  Does your heel hit your rear panniers?  If you're riding with children, assess their comfort too.  Do they complain, or are they engaged with the scenery followed by a long nap? Comfort and safety are key.

Here's me practicing with the Tout Terrain Single Trailer, and front and rear bike racks to make sure the trailer arm that attaches to the seat post will clear the rear rack.

Okay, so just a refresher.  Things to do for a last-minute bike tour :
1.  Get the bike road ready
2.  Get your gear
3.  Ride your bike

Got it?  Good.  Now go out and ride!


  1. Preparation is everything. Looks like, even on short notice, you are almost ready. You and Neva have a great tour.