Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Want an eco-friendly holiday? Get on your bike!

With all the controversy over flying and carbon, guilt free holidays are becoming all the rage. Due to new sprog, this is the first year in a long time I won't be partaking of my favourite option - 4-5 days cycle touring. There's nothing that makes me happier than cruising along a country lane in the sunshine scaring the wits out of the local wildlife. If you fancy making me jealous and trying a trip this year, my tips are:

1. Follow a formal route. Every time I try to make one up, I usually find out why there isn't a cycle route in that particular direction and curse myself all the way up the 1:4 hill I should have spotted on the map. In the UK, the routes developed by Sustrans are the best. They're well thought out, take in local beauty spots and it's usually quite easy to find accommodation near the route. Their 'Stirling' maps are excellent - get them from their on-line shop.

2. Get cycle fit. No matter how fit you are generally, if you want to do 50-60 (80-100km) miles a day (or more!) with full paniers for 4-5 days, your joints and muscles will need proper preparation. If you are fit, I'd advise about four 30-40 mile (45-65km) Sunday rides spaced out over the weeks beforehand. If you're not fit, then maybe you should do short rides this year and build up for a long one next.

3. Eat a good breakfast. I used to do the whole 'easily digestable carbohydrates' thing (toast, banana etc), but would flake out early afternoon. Then I discovered the joys of a full English breakfast first thing - I can run all day on the fat and grease with just a small lunch and a steady stream of flapjacks. Conversely, I find a big lunch saps my energy.

4. Buy waterproof panniers. Ortleib are regarded as the best, but are very expensive. I've found Altura panniers a good compromise between performance and price. Don't try getting away with rucksacks, bum belts etc. You WILL regret it.

5. Get up early in the morning. I like to be on the road by 8:30 am at the latest. This gives you time to get where you're going, take the occasional side-trip (planned or otherwise), make any running repairs, and shower/find somewhere nice to eat in the evening.

6. Have fun!

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