3 Tips for a Successful Long Distance Cycling Tour
Preparing for a long distance tour is a unique process. Over the years we at Tour d’Afrique have developed a few tips and strategies that help our clients prepare for and deal with some of the things they will experience on long tour. Here are 3 tips that cover three different categories of tour prep: your body, your mind, and your bike.
Take Care of Your Butt!
Saddle sores. The bane of every cyclists existence (our tour nurses aren’t too crazy about them either). No matter how strong your legs are feeling or how great your lung capacity is, if your butt screams with pain every time you sit down on you saddle you are not going to have a fun day. Saddle sores are essential caused by 4 factors: pressure, moisture, friction and temperature. Eliminate or reduce these 4 factors and you greatly reduce your chance of getting saddle sores. The best way to do this? There are several things you can do:
- Buy great bike shorts. Not your favorite ones that you’ve had for 3 years, not the ones that make your butt look smaller, not just good ones, great ones. Buy the best shorts you can. You’re gonna live in these things for 4 to 8 hours a day for up to 4 months. Make sure they fit and are high quality. The Desoto 400 mile short is one of my favorites and comes in mens and womens models.
- Fix your saddle position. Most people do not spend enough time getting their bike to fit them properly. Having the right saddle position is critical to a comfortable ride. Millimeters make a huge difference when adjusting your saddle. Seek help from a pro. Also make sure your saddle is the correct width. Most people ride with a saddle that is too narrow.
- Ride a lot. You’re going to spend 4 – 8 hours a day on your bike while on tour. Don’t think you can prepare for that by riding 2 hours a day at home. Go for some really long rides on the weekends. Use the bike and saddle you will be bringing on tour.
- Keep clean. This is harder than it sounds when you are on a long tour and you are camping every night. Start by wearing clean shorts every day. And take your shorts off as soon as you get to camp. Chamois crème is a great tool for helping to prevent and treat saddle sores.
Attitude is everything
A few bad days can ruin a tour if not dealt with properly. You get frustrated and it starts to affect your behavior. You start to complain about things and try to blame other people or events for your frustration. Other people react to this behavior in ways that strengthen your opinion. It’s a slippery slope that ends in a bad tour experience for you and those around you. There are 3 things that you can do to avoid letting your bad days get the better of you.
- Set goal and Expectations. Make sure they are realistic and be ready to change them if being on tour is not what you expected.
- Talk with the staff. They are there to help and have probably seen people go thru what you are experiencing n tour before. Remember, I said talk with the staff. Yelling at someone doesn’t constitute a discussion.
- Know your limits and take a break if you need to. Typically only 15% of our clients will ride an entire tour without missing a day. It’s OK to take a day off if it will help you enjoy the rest of the tour. But watch out. Taking too many days off can ruin your motivation.
Get to know your bike
Being a complete idiot when it comes to bike repair is cute at first. By month two the novelty has worn off and no one wants to help you. By month three there is probably going to be some real resentment at your lack of knowledge/interest in learning. When your bike start to suffer, you start to suffer. All this is avoidable. The more you know about your bike the easier it will be for you to tell the tour mechanic what is wrong and get on his good side because you’ve done a bit of your own research and can even help.
There are some great books and websites out there that can be great resources. Think of it like this: you’ll likely spend more time with your bike on a four month tour then most husbands will spend with their wives in the same period of time! Get to know your bike.
That’s it for now.
I hope you found these tips useful, or at least entertaining. In case you were wondering, the links I provided above are just for your information and ATMO (according to my opinion). I don’t make any money from any of those websites or products. Except for the Tour d’Afrique of course. I work for them.
– Paul McManus