I’ve just received a plaintive plea for advice on cycle touring from a friend about to embark on her first Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour – the annual pilgrimage of ~2000 cyclists from Ottawa (or Perth) to Kingston and back in one weekend. So here, in no particular order, are some thoughts on safely (and hopefully comfortably) getting through a large tour.
1. Make sure your bike is well fitted to you and in good working order. Carry a spare tube and bike tool (make sure the valves are long enough for your rims, and have more spares in your luggage if your tubes are non-std – the onsite mechanics may not have unusual sizes).
2. Pack for extreme warm weather and extremely cool, damp and windy weather. (Just ask anyone about the 2010 tour for an example of crazy conditions)
3. Get your miles in before you go (if possible!) but be well hydrated, fed and rested the night before departing.
4. Pack some extra chamois butter in a small canister (like a film canister) and stash in your toolkit. A refresh of your chamois butter halfway will really help the nether regions. (oh, and remember to do any ‘undercarriage maintenance’ a few days in advance or whatever strategy you find best for chafing management.)
5. Clean, spare kit for day 2 or launder as needed. Save your plushest chamois for day 2 when you’ll really appreciate it.
6. Eat and drink regularly on the ride – even if you aren’t hungry or thirsty. A bonk can come on with little warning. Have some caffeinated gels or similar as a pick-up for the last few kms. Red Bull and potato chips are great bonk busters in a crisis.
7. On the road – form a paceline if it’s windy and you are comfy in a close riding formation. Don’t let the gap between riders get too much as it’s super challenging to get back on.
8. Hold your line and signal any road debris or potholes and always signal your intent to stop (pull off the road if possible). There are some very fast paced groups on the road and they sometimes pass extremely close to other riders without realizing how much that can spook someone or that they are putting others at risk. ( sadly, you will likely see some really reckless maneuvers – like passing people on a blind crest on the centre line). Cops do patrol but they can’t be everywhere so be careful.
9. If you have to stop, pull off the road but don’t use any local residents’ driveways. Some can get mighty angry at the intrusion on their ability to travel easily due to all the bike traffic and a cyclist blocking their laneway is mightily aggravating. Same for nature breaks – don’t be inappropriate.
10. Support the businesses that are participating – the gas station in Westport, the little corner shop 30km from Kingston etc.
11. Thank a volunteer.
12. In the event of hypothermia – warm water in a Camelback doubles as an excellent hot water bottle.
13. Have a ‘getting home if something catastrophic happens’ plan. This could be bike failure, weather, illness. Hopefully the plan is redundant.
14. Change, stretch, rehydrate and refuel as soon as you can after arriving. Ibuprofen and/or muscle balm can be a godsend. If you have a willing partner to trade massages with – even better (or perhaps you’ll find the room of guys with the crazy massage machine like we did last year 😉 ).
15. Start day 2 as early as you can so that you get a good distance before the afternoon breezes pick up.
16. Pace yourself on day 2 and expect it to take a few km before your legs warm up and your butt forgives you.
17. You can make it up Westport Hill! (oh and going down Westport Hill on day 1 – watch out for any pesky stop signs in inconvenient places. Don’t get a ticket!).
18. Remember to smile, have fun and encourage other riders.
What have I missed? Please add your tips to the comments section…