Bicycle Touring is an exciting, healthy way to spend your free time, either on your own, with friends or even your family! In my previous article An Introduction to Bicyle Touring the main forms of touring were defined. For most Cycle Tours the gear needed will essentially the same, although it will depend upon how much each individual cyclist is prepared to carry, what they view as essential items, what level of comfort is required, what terrain and distance the tour will cover and whether there are any support vehicles to carry equipment.
The following information is a guide to some of the kit you may need and questions to ask yourself. In this post shelter and sleeping are examined, the next post on this subject will examine clothing.
Shelter When Bicycle Touring
If you decide to camp then it is a good idea to use a tent that has a large porch so you can have separate spaces for your bike, your gear and for sleeping. Ideal lightweight tents include the Lightwave XT tents or the Force Ten Nitro Lite 200+ Tent. If you have smaller budget the slightly heavier Jack Wolfskin Time Tunnel III RT would be ideal. All of these tents have extended porches that can be used to store your bike in. The component parts of the tent, i.e. flysheet, inner, poles and pegs, can be distributed into different panniers to help balance out the weight across your bike. If you are cycling with together with a partner the components of the tent can be shared across two bikes.
For vehicle supported tours where weight is not an issue, a larger three season tent such as The North Face Trailhead 8 or Vaude Division Dome gives a combination of ample storage and spacious living quarters. Offering berths for 8 and 5 respectively; these allow the whole family to come, or for smaller parties have a little bit of privacy where you can zip up that internal door and relax.
Tents, Not For You?
You could always push the boat out and take a camper van for that extra comfort and the feel of home. If you are hiring a camper van or mobile home you will find that prices depend upon the season and the berth. Make sure that it is well maintained and roadworthy and that you are aware of any terms and conditions such as mileage quotas and insurance stipulations.
If you are going to stay in a hotel or B&B, there are many ways in which you can find somewhere to stay and shelter your bikes. The Internet is an obvious place to look for accommodation with many sites offering the ability to compare and contrast accommodation. Local Tourist Information Centres should be able to recommend places to stay and there are also organisations that use the various rating systems to look at. As with camp sites prices for accommodation depend on the season, rating, location, number of people and number of nights your going to stay, so do your research.
Book Ahead Or Take A Chance?
Booking accommodation or campsites in advance removes some of the flexibility of Cycle Touring, as you will have to plan and stick to a route in order to have a roof over your head. You can of course book accommodation as you move along and take the chance that you will get shelter, but in areas where accommodation is limited you may need to cycle a lot further than planned in order to find a place stay. Booking as you go along is not for everyone so think carefully before you do. If you have a large party, children or are touring in high season then it is best to book ahead.
A Peaceful Nights Sleep
Rest rebuilds your energy for the next stage of your journey, therefore sleeping arrangements are worth paying attention to. On a self supported tour weight is a concern, down sleeping bags whilst more expensive, are lighter and pack down smaller than synthetic ones. Using a sleeping bag liner will provide additional warmth and prolong the life of your bag.
There are a wide range of sleeping mats to choose from. But why use a sleeping mat? Sleeping mats reduce heat loss, provide insulation and are much more comfortable then lying directly on the ground. So which ones are best? The answer again depends upon how much you want to pay, how heavy you want the mattress to be, whether you want self inflating or blow up your self and so on.
For ultralight weight and small size the best option is the is the Therm-a-rest NeoAir.
More traditional Therm-a-rests provide insulation and are self inflating, less expensive but heavier than NeoAir. the range has many variables including length, thickness and warmth. For the budget minded traveller Mulitmat have a range of inflatable sleeping mats, that are cheaper but generally heavier than Therm-a-rests.
ZZZZZZzzzzzz WAKE UP!
I did not realise all this talk of tents, sleeping bags and mattresses would send you to sleep :D. Unfortunately I probably will not be invited on your cycle tour, so you cannot rely upon me to send you to sleep every night! It is probably a good idea for you to think about the equipment you need from this post, so you can rest and relax whilst on that tour!
Please see the next post for clothing hints and tips.
Happy Cycle Touring!