A mysterious thing happens after about a week and a half on vacation… you finally begin to truly relax! Since I was extremely fortunate to squeeze two whole weeks of bike vacation fun into a family road trip – it has afforded me some insights into traveling and touring with a bike, plus a few bits of wisdom about everyday life. Some are particularly important if you happen to be touring with someone else, as I did (with my hubby). A few can help you after you get back to the rat-race…
In no particular order, are a few Tips from my Road Trip:
Shenandoah Valley, VA
#1 Decide and Agree Upon the Purpose of the Bike Tour
In other words, what are your goals for your bike-cation? Is it leisure, training, bag some KOM’s (and show off on Strava), to push your limits with something new, or a little bit of each? This step is particularly important if you are touring with someone else. Otherwise, your training or leisure ride could become hijacked at the whim of another person’s agenda. In my case: my husband and I agreed that we would ride for fun, focus on having a good time, push ourselves here and there, but not focus on setting course records …. It mostly worked out ok.
Planning Tip: I use a combination of Strava Heat Map and Google Maps (with liberal use of the street and satellite views) in combination with my Garmin mapping software (ridewithgps.com) to create routes in locations I’ve never been. This saved me from choosing a road with a crazy grade of over 23% and helped me avoid a longer route without water stops.
#2 Choose your Touring Bike Wisely
Once the purpose of the bike tour vacation is determined, then you can go about choosing the right bike for the job or the right components on your bike. If you aren’t out to win bragging rights, you can probably leave the carbon wheels at home. If you are climbing more than your norm – maybe you put on a larger cassette, that sort of thing. Me: I picked my most versatile training bike that would accommodate knobby tires for the few days of gravel-grinding we had built in to the trip – and I was very thankful for those squishy tires after Day 3 of gravel!
#3 Be OK With Change
There are lot of things you cannot predict or control … the weather, traffic, or other people – including your body’s reaction to being out of its normal routine. Do your best not to stress about taking a rest day instead of biking, especially if you are pushing your limits. It’s not a bad idea to pack a few things that will afford you more flexibility with your itinerary should you run up against bad weather. We packed hiking gear (in case of rain) and I brought my yoga mat (because yoga is always good any time). After a day of 60+ miles gravel grinding, I found that my hands and back weren’t happy with another 60 miles the next day so I cut it short, explored a bit, and did yoga. No stress!
#4 Learn to Let Go
Related to topic #3, learning to let go can be you key to happiness in general, not just on a bike tour. I have found that we can become a victim to our own expectations – either of ourselves or others. As a matter of fact: most disagreements happen because of missed expectations; think about it! We love to assume other people will do certain things, act in a certain way, or say things the way WE would want them to… and then get mad when it doesn’t happen. In this particular case, my husband didn’t meet my expectations on certain things; like sticking to the original plan. Since he has a Garmin he feels he must live up to others expectations, so I ‘let go’ and let him go as well. He wore himself out after a while and had the grace to look sheepish when I caught up with him on the next set of climbs.
Letting Go Tip: Instead of allowing my busy brain to yak on about what my hubby was or wasn’t doing, I relaxed into enjoying riding alone. Not everyone likes to ride alone, but I particularly enjoy the occasional solo journey. I can set my own pace based on my own goals. It also easier to ensure that I meet those goals when I am not trying to fit into someone else’s schedule, pace, or riding style. Riding solo affords me the time to check in with my own body and become accustomed to its rhythm.
#5 Enjoy the Journey – Be in the Now
There is nothing quite like exploring new territory on your bike, especially when the scenery is stunning! If you aren’t solely focused on how fast you can go, but more there for training, pushing your limits, or relaxation – take time to soak it all in. Pictures cannot encapsulate the reward of conquering steep climbs with magnificent views at every summit or the thrill of new discoveries around each twist in the road. It expands the heart, fills the mind with joy, and the eyes with wonder. It’s a times like these when you wish you could pedal forever! It’s the ability to be PRESENT in the moment that allows you to release petty frustrations, get a new perspective, and let those worries go.
A Plus of Being Present: I was able to climb better by absolutely being 100% present and focused on what I was doing. I let go of anything else: personal expectations, worries, fears, and any competitiveness (which isn’t easy, fyi). The only thing that existed was the cool air against my skin, my rhythmic breathing, and the cadence of my legs. I didn’t try to focus too far in front of me, just about 5 feet ahead and dropped into what I call a ‘climbing meditation’.
#6 Do Something New
All too often we get caught up and our routines turn into ruts. Get outside of your comfort zone once in a while and pedal someplace new. This can be translated into any aspect of our lives, either on or off the bike. I’ll share with you that it was very hard to come back to the routine now that I have tasted new territory, new challenges, and new horizons. It’s not a bad thing to test the legs out on new routes to see where they go and how far you can too. No one ever accomplished anything by standing still – so get out there and experience what life has to offer!