There are so many sights, sounds, and moments of joy that come with touring on a road bike, whether it’s the wind flowing through your hair or the mountain range in the distance. Although touring on a road bike can be a thrill, even expert riders run into roadblocks, both literally and figuratively, during their tour.
What are some expert tips for touring on a road bike? Planning your tour route and what you will bring is important. It’s important to take note of the type of terrain you will encounter. Whatever gear you bring, try to limit the amount. A healthy amount of gear weighs anywhere between 20 to 45 pounds, no more than that. These are just a few recommendations. Read on for additional tips for touring on a road bike.
To save you some time and money, I’ve compiled a list of 8 expert tips for touring on a road bike. From purchasing the right road bike to knowing how to map out your tour, these tips will provide you with the essential information to make your next biking tour a successful one!
Can A Road Bike Be Used for Touring?
For those unsure whether or not a road bike can be used for touring, you’ll be happy to know that it is completely fine to use a road bike for touring. You should, however, keep in mind that because road bikes aren’t exactly touring specific bikes, they come with their own set of challenges.
For starters, let’s identify the differences between a road bike and a touring bike.
Road bikes are mostly meant for covering relatively short distances compared to touring bikes and are designed to be speedy and efficient.
Depending on where most of your touring will take place, it’s important to take note of the type of terrain you will encounter. Because of their light, aerodynamic design, road bikes are not as suitable for riding on rough or unpaved terrain.
Touring bikes are designed specifically for touring long distances. They are not meant for speed and efficiency but rather for durability and comfort for long rides. Because they are designed for touring, they are able to accommodate extra gear and the weight that comes with it as well.
“The main challenge to contend with in touring on a road bike is mastering the psychology of traveling light. A simple target is to carry not more than 25 lbs.11kgs of gear (not counting your shoes and the most basic outfit you will wear while riding.”
Another important difference to take note of is the riding position that each of the bikes offers. Touring bikes have a more relaxed design to help you maintain comfort throughout your journey while road bikes have seats that tend to lean forward. Sitting in a forward position on a road bike for a long-distance can lead to back, neck, and shoulder pain after a while, so keep this in mind.
Overall, if saving money or general practicality is the force behind your decision to tour on a road bike, there’s nothing wrong with that. You can pretty much use any type of bicycle for touring. For a road bike specifically, though, be sure to adjust or customize it in a way that will make it safe and suitable for the duration of your tour.
1. Adjust Your Road Bike to Accommodate Your Travels
So, now that you know that the road bike sitting in your garage is an acceptable choice for touring, it’s time to make some adjustments to it so that you can travel with little to no issues.
Because road bikes are not specifically made for touring, you might need to make some changes to the tires and purchase some extra parts as well. One suggestion concerning the tires is to equip your road bike with 25mm tires instead of their standard 23mm tires. The reasoning behind this is to allow easy maneuvering through different terrains.
You could also change out the pedals and replace them with pedals that can accommodate a recessed shoe cleat. Many touring bikes come already equipped with racks for securing gear. However, these racks can also be purchased separately and put on a road bike.
While these minor adjustments are not required, they can certainly make touring on your road bike more comfortable. I highly recommend the tire adjustment, though, for extra-long distances, it can help with maintaining the overall sustainability of the road bike.
For more information on what types of bikes to purchase for touring and where visit here.
2. Complete Adequate Training and Preparations for Your Journey
Touring on a road bike is a lot different from your relatively short and speedy commute to and from your workplace. Long-distance touring requires a lot of lower body strength and stamina. If you don’t bike long distances on a regular basis, it’s definitely not a bad idea to work at getting in shape before your journey.
Moderation is key, however, for any form of physical training.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to partake in bike touring, but you do want to be in good enough shape to complete the distance you plan on traveling. Think about it. You don’t want to be so exhausted the first few miles into the tour that you can’t continue on to the end. You also don’t want to overexert yourself and risk getting injured as a result.
The best way to start getting your body in shape is to start with a moderate amount of physical activity both on and off the bike. Strength and endurance are the areas you’ll want to work on the most, as riding a bicycle, in general, is a physically demanding activity.
The areas of your body you’ll want to strengthen are the legs, glutes, and upper body such as the arms and back. Additionally, you’ll want to start logging the number of miles you plan on covering on the tour by training on a bike either indoors or outdoors.
Riding about three to four times a week at least two to three months before you leave is a good idea as well.
You’ll mostly want to focus your time on riding for long periods of time in order to build up enough strength and stamina, don’t consume too much of your time with the mileage. And as always, when training for any type of physical activity, fill and hydrate your body with lots of healthy foods and beverages packed with protein and nutrients!
For a guide on how to properly train for your next bike tour, visit here.
3. Create Mile and Destination Plans
One of the most important factors for touring on a road bike and bike touring, in general, is the distance. With planning out the distance of your tour, into the calculation comes the amount of miles per day you will cover, the overall riding time of each day, the speed, as well as the terrain.
Outlining the distance you plan to travel ahead of time is important because distance often relies on a number of additional variables such as:
- Your overall level of fitness
- The condition of your road bike
- The weight of your gear
- The condition of the terrain on your tour
- Projected weather conditions
- Your personal goal
Like mentioned before, physical fitness is a good way to measure how far you’ll be able to travel and under what conditions. Some questions you should try asking yourself when deciding how far you’ll travel include:
How far can I ride in a day?
What type(s) of terrain, i.e., flat, mountainous, off-road, etc., will I mostly be riding on?
How much additional weight does my gear add on?
What average speed do I need to maintain in order to meet my miles for that day?
“With a bit of bicycle-specific training, an average physically fit adult carrying less than 20 pounds of additional gear on their bike can expect to travel at an average pace of 65 miles per day on paved roads and still have time to stop and smell plenty of roses.”
If you plan on completing a multi-day tour, make plans for overnight accommodations. Staying at a camping site is always great for maintaining closeness to nature, and it’s a pretty inexpensive option.
If you think you’ll be desperate for a nice hot shower and comfortable bed after a long day’s journey, though, consider staying at a hotel along your tour route.
Keep in mind that where you stay also has an influence on what and how much gear you bring. For instance, staying overnight at a campsite might require you to bring a tent, sleeping bag, and other extra gear versus if you were to stay at a hotel.
When it comes to choosing the destination, consider choosing from bicycle-specific routes provided by Adventure Cycling’s Bicycle Route Network. You can also check out your local tourism agency or state traveling guide for resources.
4. Plan What Gear and How Much to Bring with You
Once you’ve covered the previous tips, you’re even closer to having a successful tour on your road bike! Now comes deciding what gear to bring and how much. When it comes to touring on a road bike, less is always more.
If you’re anything like me and can easily get carried away with packing for a long trip, you might do best to create a list ahead of time.
By creating a list, you help minimize the number of unnecessary things you would otherwise bring if you were choosing them from the top of your head. Whatever gear you bring, try to limit the amount so that the total weight is less than 45 pounds. A healthy amount of gear weighs anywhere between 20 to 45 pounds, no more than that.
You’ll want to stay 45 pounds and below because extra weight can slow you down and become a bit of a hassle to carry throughout the tour.
If you’ve ever ridden a bike before, I’m sure you’re familiar with how your legs feel after a long bike ride. Riding for a long period of time can cause your legs to tighten up, and all of a sudden, your legs feel like two heavy bricks. Imagine having heavy bricks and 50 extra pounds of weight on your bike during a long-distance tour!
That’s no fun for anyone, so keep the essential gear to a minimum. As far as what to bring, obviously the essentials like extra clothing, a good food supply, toiletries, etc. are always a good start. You can also throw some extra tools in the mix as well, should your road bike break down.
Depending on the length of your travels, you’ll also need a tent and other camping supplies if you plan on staying at a campsite. If one of your stays includes a hotel or similar lodging, you probably don’t need to pack as much gear.
To secure your gear, you’ll want to use panniers or a trailer. Panniers are luggage fixtures you can attach to the racks over your bicycle wheels. Trailers are pulled behind your bike. Many touring bikes, as well as road bikes, come already equipped with panniers and bike racks.
You can also purchase them if your road bike doesn’t already have either addition.
5. Maintain Hydration and Nutrition During the Tour
Keeping your physical as well as mental health in good shape is key to succeeding in anything, especially touring on a road bike. If you’ve had a long day of riding and you start becoming fatigued, take a break!
That’s the great thing about bike touring, you have the freedom to stop and go as you please, and let’s not forget it’s not a race to the finish line. No finish line is worth jeopardizing your health.
The obvious go-to with any type of physically demanding activity, such as riding a bike, is to stay hydrated, especially if you’re touring in a warmer climate.
If your tour includes stopping at food supply sources such as a restaurant or convenience store along your journey, be sure to fuel up your body as much as possible. You’ll want to snack on foods and beverages that will provide you with energy and nutrients without making you fill full or sluggish afterward.
6. Be Mindful of Weather Conditions
Before setting out for the day, check the weather conditions often to scan for any potential dangers to your bike journey, such as lightning or stormy conditions. As the saying goes, a little rain never hurt anybody, but a lot of rain could cause more harm than good to you and your road bike.
Riding in hot and humid weather is also not suitable for all crowds, so add in some extra stops along your route to take a break or rest stop in case the weather doesn’t go your way.
Heavy rain conditions can be dangerous as well if you’re riding off-road on rugged or mountainous terrain, as mud and rocks can become slippery when wet. You don’t want to injure yourself on a slippery slope, especially if you are touring solo.
Having a windbreaker on hand just in case is always a good idea, even if it’s not supposed to rain where you’re touring. Mother Nature has a mind of her own!
7. Plan for Bumps in The Road
With any journey, long or short, in a car, on a road bike, there will potentially be bumps in the road. As in life, you will encounter literal bumps on the road or even deeper either at a physical or mental level. The prerogative is to always keep going no matter what, but in the case that this may not be possible, have preparations in place just in case.
In the worst-case scenario that you become injured or end up getting lost during your travels, decide how you would handle the situation and if it would deter you from reaching your final destination.
What major or minor setbacks am I willing to deal with for the sake of finishing the duration of my biking tour?
Who can I call in case of an emergency?
What are the nearest hospitals, police stations, and sources of food supplies along my tour route?
These are all questions you should take into consideration throughout planning your tour and while actively touring on your road bike
8. Enjoy the Ride!
This is the best tip I can offer. Enjoy the ride. It’s not always the destination that counts, but rather the journey, so be sure to enjoy every moment of it. Whether you’re touring solo, with friends, or with family, appreciate every moment you have in nature and all of your surroundings.
Remember, you planned long and trained hard for this tour, so treat yourself by having fun along the way. Take some extra time out of your tour to visit some local tourist attractions in the area like a national park or take a famous scenic route.
Perfection does not exist, and neither does a perfect tour on your road bike, so stay positive in whatever your encounter and, most importantly, listen to your body.