Probably the best feeling in the world is going out solo and discovering what the world has to offer with that bike right beside you. So, are you ready, to get out there and have the solo ride of your life? If the answer’s “yes,” then keep reading this article to find out your first solo bike experience. If solo biking sounds great to you, here’s a list of tips and tricks based on our experiences.
What’s it Like to Go on a Solo Bike Tour?
Biking solo is exciting, but it can get scary, especially when you come to realize that you’re in another country by yourself. The easiest step to overcome this natural fear is by thinking that you’re going to see the world. That’s more than enough to wish away into oblivion some of those nasty thoughts.
Feeling all better now? Good! Now let’s talk a little bit about your gear and your bike. Frankly, we’ve always preferred mountain bikes over lighter bikes for long tours. The reasons are obvious – they’re robust enough to take a beating, easy to fix, and you can basically find parts at any cornerstone.
We’ve had great results with the Royce Union 21 speed mountain bike. Why this bike in particular? Because the frame’s light enough so not to add to the bike’s total weight, the front zoom suspension’s more than enough to deal with any rogue pothole, and the bike’s padded saddle is just what the doctor ordered.
Now, with the bike out of the way, we can have our little chat about the dos and don’ts of touring Europe or other continents by bike.
Solo Bike Tour 101
Based on what we’ve seen/did/experienced so far, here are the most important things you should keep in mind when touring all by yourself.
1. Unknown Areas
The whole idea of going on a bike tour is exploring new places, meeting new people, and anything in between. However, do keep in mind that there’s no such thing as ‘safe zone’ – anything can happen to anyone at any point in time and regardless of the location. So, when going all by yourself, ask a local which areas are okay, and which are not. Also, refrain from cycling at night, especially through the city.
2. Bike repair skills
Solo touring means that you need to figure things on your own. One of the essential skills is doing minor repairs on your bike. If you don’t know a thing about shifters, chains, derailleurs, then it’s high time you took a crash course in bike repair. You can visit your local bike shop and ask for some tips. On the other hand, if you have a friend who has a thing for bikes, you can always ask him to teach you a couple of tricks.
If you think that the ride’s going to be smoother after a couple of drinks, then you’re dead wrong. Alcohol impairs your ability to drive and, of course, to take immediate action in order to avoid an obstacle. So, if you don’t want to end up in a ditch or even in the hospital, wait until you check yourself into a hotel or hostel before uncorking that bottle.
The first rule of solo touring is to tell someone at home where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone. Why? Because if something happens to you while you’re out there, your trustee could call the local authorities. Remember – in case of an emergency (accidents, kidnapping, assault) every minute counts.
While we’re here, we should also talk about what to do during medical emergencies. Of course, the hospital’s just one call away, but how about basic injury treating skills? Before going on our solo bike tour, you should take a crash course in handling minor medical emergencies.
5. Keep your papers handy
Even if you’re on a bike, you might still get pulled over by the police or border control for a routine check-up. Always make sure to keep your papers within reach. Before leaving the hotel for a city tour, check to see if you’ve got the papers on you.
6. Food, hydration, and sleep
No, this is not another medical man here to remind you about the importance of water and food. Still, you should keep in mind that, at some point, even a professional biker runs out of fuel. Don’t forget to stop for meals at least three times of day, drink plenty of water while riding, and, above all, try to get some rest.
7. Figuring out where you are
We don’t want to alarm, but it’s possible that you could get lost during your solo experience. The first rule is simple: don’t panic! Now, before leaving, be sure to pick up a bike GPS from your local sports shop. It would also be a good idea to buy a physical map, just in case, the GPS goes on the fritz.
8. Safety Vest is not optional
One of the first things you should pack is the safety vest. No, it’s not optional, it’s a must. Earlier, we advised you not to travel at night, especially through the city. Still, this doesn’t mean you won’t be forced by circumstances. So, just before dawn, make a quick stop and put that vest on. This way, drivers will be able to avoid you.
Well, you’re almost done packing so, it’s time to hit the road. Before going out there, don’t forget about the golden rules of solo touring – eat, sleep, drink plenty of water, hone your bike skills, and ask for help if you’re lost.