3 first time bike touring rookie mistakes

When we were planning our first ever bike tour from Belgium to Norway last year, we had absolutely no experience to fall back on. And despite the abundance of information there is to be found on the internet, there were a couple of things we could have done better.

Planning ahead:

As you (might) know, our planned destination was Copenhagen, which we later changed to Goteborg and ultimately even Oslo. Tick, that’s two more countries to scratch of the map. So far so good, because we all know everything starts by picking a destination. We (read I) took planning ahead pretty serious so every stage up until Copenhagen was meticulously planned: daily routes, cities we’d cycle through, overnight stays and resting days,… you know, the works.

Planning ahead gives you peace of mind, it also means you have to stick to your (tight) schedule. Something to keep in mind.

Now planning ahead definitely gives you some peace of mind. In the end, you know where you are going, in which city you’ll be having lunch and where you’ll be staying. Sit back, relax and pedal! But as we discovered while cycling, this also means you have to stick to this (tight) schedule since overnight stays and ferries are booked. There was no “oh what a lovely city, let’s stay an extra day” and no “my bum really really hurts, do we really have to continue?”… we just had to keep on pedaling to meet our further arrangements. So yes, the first two days (117 km and 120 km) were hectic, and the trip from Bremen to Hamburg would have been nicer when done in two days. Live and learn!

Luckily for us, from Copenhagen on we only planned the route north, but decided on the go if we’d stick to this yes or no, something that suited us fine. The second leg of the trip definitely was more relaxed as we could – and did – make last minute decisions that changed the course of our journey.

Preparation is key:

When I go on a holiday, I only pack at the very last minute and you can take that literally. I’m just not the person to stress out about something trivial as packing a bag. For this three week bike trip, I managed to pack a full day in advance. The boss’s orders! A few other things we did the day before our departure? We bought a new tent, two sleeping bags, two inflatable mattresses, and a couple of straps to secure the backpack on the bike. Did we however try to secure the backpack to the bike until half an hour before we started cycling? Erm, no we didn’t!

A few things we did the day before our departure? Buying a tent, sleeping bags and mattresses. How’s that for preparation?

A couple of other things that could have been avoided. While cycling we noticed one of the bikes could have done with some chain lube. I fixed it the next day, but making sure your bikes are in perfect shape definitely is a must. And those two expensive cycling shorts Ann was wearing could have done with a little tryout in order to save her 237 km of discomfort. And we definitely could have packed less!

Reaching your destination:

Knowing where you are going is one thing, how to get there is another. While sitting behind our computer, it was Google Maps Navigation that showed us how to cycle. Point A to B, 75 km, that’s how we planned. On route however, the Garmin Edge Touring Plus would take over and without a doubt show us scenic routes Google Maps couldn’t even think of.

Well that didn’t exactly go as planned now did it. For some strange reason the Garmin didn’t really find any routes, not within a reasonable time span anyway. And since paper maps are bulky and inconvenient on a bike when you’re not prepared to use them, it was good old Google Maps Navigation to the rescue.

Note to self, try to upload routes to your Garmin before hitting the road.

Word of advice: Google might know which funny websites you’ve been watching, it doesn’t necessarily know what’s the best way for you to cycle on. We actually learned this the hard way in Sweden where it kept directing us to a busy highway. One we were ultimately able to avoid. That is after a couple of meters or so. Nothing that couldn’t be solved by going ‘lefty righty’ however. Mental note to self, upload routes to Garmin before hitting the road.

For our next trip, we’ll definitely be more prepared. Or not, and then we’ll just wing it like we did now. Speaking of future trips, where will our next adventure take us?


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