Fresh from a tour of South East Asia (with the 2010 Tour D’Afrique already under their belts), Jerry Cross and partner Viv Slack gave us a storming talk at our recent Manchester ‘Local Hero’ event, sharing tales of their adventures and how to best prepare for two months on two wheels.
We soon found out packing panniers is just the first step to a successful tour and considering kit, clothing, technology, nutrition, health, and your fitness are all key to preparing for an adventure. Here are some of Jerry’s thoughts and tips when getting ready for the road – and a couple of lessons learned the hard way.
Kit and Equipment
Once you have your maintenance kit organised it’s time to think about comfort. Although we were away for over eight weeks we took just two sets of bike clothes (jersey and shorts) and two sets of casual clothes (t-shirt and shorts), being sure to wash them every evening. Make sure you’re comfortable in your cycle shorts as you’ll cover many miles and spend many hours in them. I recommend testing some at home first then when you know what works for you – get two new pairs, but wear and wash them a couple of times before you go. And, of course, take swimming shorts or a costume – taking a dip to cool down after a long day can’t be beaten.
If camping in a malaria risk area a malaria net(along with anti-malaria tablets) is essential. However, it’s worth taking one even if you plan to stay in other accommodation because there will be times when rooms won’t have them. Make sure you have your Thermarest or sleeping mat, and don’t forget to pack it, like Viv did – it’s not the best start to a two-month tour realising your poor back will be getting to know the hard terrain a bit too well. Consider a silk sleeping bag for warmer temperatures – they aren’t any more expensive than a typical sleeping bag and a good and comfortable night’s sleep is invaluable.
Top tip (and apologies for lowering the tone) but be sure to pack toilet roll, and then pack a bit more. When on the road it really does come in handy and a little comfort can ease an upset stomach.
It took some convincing, but I am now a handlebar bag convert. It means essentials can be at arm’s reach and the camera can be pulled out at a seconds notice to take a snap of the amazing scenery. Packing a second and third SD card and even a smaller and cheaper camera is a good idea. You wouldn’t want to lose photos and memories as a result of troublesome technology. Using a mi-fi device and a local sim also means you can stay online while on tour, and packing a powerful powerbank which will charge all your mobile devices is a must have. A solar charger can also be convenient for when you’re a few miles short of a power socket.
Eating the right things and keeping topped up on vitamins, minerals and salts is important. The types of
food available will vary depending on where you are touring but a carbohydrate rich diet with a good level of protein will keep you going. Being on the bike for long periods of time can result in serious weight loss if it’s not something you usually do. Pack rehydration salts and any other supplements you usually take at home. Energy gels can also be brought along for an extra pick me up. Bottled water and lots of it is a must to prevent dehydration, consider the availability of it and how long it will be until you reach the next point you can pick some up and pack accordingly.
Keeping in good condition is important when on tour, with long stints in the seat saddle sore is inevitable. But preparing and packing correctly can ease ailments and prevent further flare ups. Saddle sore cream will ease and stop serious sores but it can only be used for a short period of time as it contains steroids, so slather on the chamois cream and apply it throughout the day. Aqueous cream also works well and can be bought almost anywhere.
Other medical kit necessities include sun cream, diarrhoea tablets, antibiotic cream, insect repellent, antihistamine and a small first aid kit (bandages and plasters).
Building up your fitness before a tour is a good idea, you may be able to do a full day on the bike at home but consecutive days across tricky terrain does sap your energy. It’s also a good idea to break up your tour with other forms of transport and incorporate rest days into your schedule.
Keep your passport and travel documents handy. Travel insurance is also a good idea. Take into account how long you will be away and if you are cycling at altitude as prices and policies differ. Checking you have the appropriate visas and border crossing opening times will prevent frustrating tour delays.
So with everything considered make sure you’re prepared for an epic adventure and cycle on down to your local Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op store to stock up on essentials.