1. Be prepared:
Ask any scout troop and they’ll tell you exactly the same thing. Preparation is key to getting the most out of your trip away. Take the time to make sure you have all the correct kit for every type of riding conditions. You may be in Lanzarote but it’s Sod’s law that if you forget your waterproofs, the heavens WILL open and you will spend the week in wet misery grumbling to yourself. Checking out some local maps will give you a feel for the surrounding area and help you plan some of your own routes in advance or equip you with the right questions to ask your guide.
In terms of kit, you want to be looking your best, in fact you want to be looking sharp! Why not treat yourself to a new jersey or set of bib shorts. There is nothing better than cracking out a bit of new kit during a training camp. It all adds to that pro feeling.
2. Bike check:
Now you’ve sorted out all your riding gear it’s time to give the bike a quick health check. No cough and drop test here, just your basic bike maintenance checks. If your bike’s coming out of Winter hibernation it may be worth taking a bit of extra time over this.
Don’t assume your bike is fine after you checked it at the end of last season, as that creaking in the bottom bracket may turn out to be a lot more serious than first anticipated and that’s not something you want to be wasting your time with when you’re away.
Here at PBK we recommend the classic ‘M’ check of your bike before you embark on an overseas adventure. For those of you not familiar with the ‘M’ check, take a look at PBK Ant’s Essential Bike Care blog for more information.
3. Transporting your bike abroad:
Now you’ve given your bike the ‘once over’ and made sure it’s in full working order, you want it to stay that way during transportation. Care should be taking in making sure your pride and joy is protected to the max on its travels. Whether you’re transporting your bike by land, sea or air, you need to make sure you choose the right protection. Obviously the right bike bag can make a huge difference, although you can never use enough pipe lagging just to make doubly sure.
Most travel operators are geared up for transporting bikes these days, but it’s always handy to check with your chosen operator a week or two before your trip; just to make sure there’s been no sneaky changes to any policies.
Packaging your bike is once again personal preference. Some prefer a more robust bike pod/case, which is able to take more of a beating whereas a bike bag will be easy to store once you’ve arrived at your destination.
For more info on bike bags and getting your bike abroad in one piece, check out PBK Dave’s blog Get Your Bike to Mallorca in One Piece blog.
4. Riding essentials:
Your jersey or gilet has 3 rear pockets for a reason. Making the most of this space may seem pretty trivial, but there’s nothing more annoying than after the first several miles gradually realising you’re losing pressure in your back tyre only to find you’ve forgotten your spare inner tube or patches.
Obviously it’s personal preference what you take. Some people like a camera to hand in order to catch a few scenic shots along the way. Others won’t go anywhere without a phone tucked away in their back pocket. Whatever you take if you have an array of tools and spares spread amongst a group of you, you should be able to cover almost any possible event or mishap. It’s also worth noting that there should be a least one basic first aid kit amongst you.
Also if there’s any snacks or energy bars you prefer during you’re ride make sure you take a decent supply of them out with you.
5. Pace yourself:
So you’ve made it, you’ve got your bike to your final destination in one piece, it’s in working order and your all fitted and kitted to start riding. Remember, you’ve got a week of riding ahead of you!
Take advantage of this opportunity, but don’t take off on the first day like it’s your last. You don’t want to be sacrificing a day in the saddle because you came out the blocks far too early.
Recovering after a hard days riding may involve a cold beverage for some, but if you want to be fully recovered for the next day it might be worth looking at some recovery products. We’re not talking about a full blood transfusion here, just a protein shake or recovery bar and some stretching to cool down.
6. Map the area:
We’ve covered this briefly in the first point, but it’s recommended that you know the area that you’re covering over the next week. We’re not suggesting you take your complete volume of the Britannica World Atlas with you, but an inexpensive AA or Michelin road map may come in handy. Nothing too expensive mind, but something you can rip pages out of without wincing.
You may have a guide or you may have been to your destination several times before, whatever the case it’s always good to have a basic grasp of where you are. If you want to go old school you can source a map of the local area although a GPS unit such as the Garmin 800 is probably the better option.
Not only will this help you monitor your vital training statistics, but also give you that extra peace of mind, knowing you’re going the right way while you hit the big ring.
7. Don’t overdo the buffet and beer:
Another thing not to overdo is the free buffet. Many a rider has succumb to the lure of a free meal. Before you make it out there it may not cross your mind, but after a long day in the saddle an unlimited supply of fodder may get the better of you. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s fat free.
You will be burning a large amount of calories during your days riding and of course you will need to take on-board extra fuel. Although simple maths will tell you if you’re consuming 10,000 calories a day and only burning up 3,000 there’s 7,000 calories that are going to make it a lot harder to climb the hills once you’re back home.
Obviously you need to take into account what you want to take away from your time away. If you’re there simply to have a good time and get a few pleasant miles under your belt in a warmer climate then by all means fill your boots. However, if you’re there to get some proper training in and you want to see the benefits back home then that second big plate of pasta and fifth continental beer may not be the best idea.
8. Meeting pros on the road:
Chances are you won’t be the only cyclist looking to get in the miles in a warmer climate. You may even see a few pros gracing the same tarmac. Remember, despite the fact that these riders get paid to ride a bike they are everyday people off the bike. Acting like a teenage girl meeting the cast of Twilight is not recommended if you chance to meet one.
Taking a photo or two is acceptable whereas squealing and asking for someone’s autograph mid way on an ascent is not. The pros are out there to ride as well, so try and leave them to it. Off the bike I’m sure there more than happy to have a chin wag. It should also be noted though, that not everyone who wears a full team kit and has a team issue bike is a pro!
9. Road surface:
Having chosen your cycling destination you will be hoping for pristine roads; pot hole free and smooth as your newly shaved legs. This will genuinely be the case when the sun is shining although when the dark clouds appear the once friendly tarmac can become tainted.
Oil build up on the roads is always a danger for cyclists however in warmer countries the roads can be extra slippery in the wet. As there’s so little rainfall oil can build up on the road surface which can be extra lethal once the heavens open.
If it’s raining (fingers crossed it won’t), we’re not saying don’t go out on your bike, but just be extra careful out there. We’d rather you bring back bulging calf muscles than broken collarbones.
10. Travel insurance:
Following on from the last point, you want to have all the bases covered whatever the situation. Some package deals will include insurance as an optional extra, but if you’re organising your own two wheeled adventure you may need to look into getting your own. There are hundreds of services out there all offering that extra peace of mind, safety and security while you cycle thousands of miles away. If you are already covered in the UK, it’s worth checking the fine print to see if you can get cover while you’re out there.