YOUR BIKE AND THE KIT
The complete list of what to bring
We've had an eclectic mix of bike on our tours so far including a tandem, mountain bikes and fold up bromptons. While diversity always keep things interesting, there are some bikes are much more suitable then others.
It's worth noting 90% of our route will be sticking to tarmacked roads.
Best bikes for the job
- We'd highly recommend either a road bike or a touring bike. Touring bikes are heavier but have very low gears and are generally a bit sturdier than road bikes
Will get you there
- Hydrid, non suspension slick tyred mountain bikes
There is no need to spend an obscene amount of money on a new bike for the trip, what is important in acquiring your steed is that it's the right sort of bike (road, tourer or hydrid) and that its set up and working correctly.
It's important to have some low gears or 'granny gears' for most of our tours as we'll be tackling some large hills and mountain ranges. Smaller hills with the wrong gears will make you feel you're in the Pyrenees when you're just trying to get up Crystal Palace hill.
Although standing up on your bike and charging up the hills may feel like you're in the Tour de France you'll highly likely to get exhausted pretty quickly. It's a lot more effort to stand up in a higher gear with slow leg rotation on a hill then it is to sit in a low gear and pedal your legs speedily (high cadence). Standing up on your bike on hills increases the likelihood of reaching your anaerobic threshold, which basically means you'll be producing lactic acid and tire quicker. On some of the tougher rides (like Bilbao/Barcelona) we'll be climbing for over a few hours at a time. So get the low gears.
Having good tyres is really important on a trip. If its wet, late or the same person continually gets punctures it can be really demoralising for the group. It can also be very dangerous on hills if your tyres are worn so making sure you have good tyres is a really worthy investment on a cycle tour.
So what's a good tyre? We highly recommend Schwalbe marathon tyres as they're as close to puncture proof as you can get as this image demonstrates.
Good tyres should last at least 2000 miles before being worn down and need replacing. Make sure you have the correct size inner tubes for your size tyres (the size is written on the side of the tyre) and right pump for its valve type (Schrader or Presta). For inner tube buying guide check here.
Setting up your bike
It's important to set the bike up correctly for yourself before you start any serious training. Being in the saddle for the majority of the day doesn't have to be an uncomfortable experience, a constant sore back, bum, knees or shoulders could indicate your bike isn't set up correctly.
There are 3 measurements which will really help in finding the right frame size for you. Your inside leg measurement, your height and your reach. The easiest way is to take the inside leg measurement and subtrack 9 inches. When standing over the bike there should be at least 2 inches between your groin and the top bar.
Here is a video detailing how to correctly set up your bike and avoid injuries.
The 5 minute bike check
The 'M' check is a quick and easy way to make sure you're bike is fit to ride. All you'll need is a bike pump and a set of allen keys. Oh and your bike of course
Packing your bike for travel
You'll need to pack up your bike in a bike box/bag. Probably the best and cheapest way of doing this to go to a bike shop and ask for an old cardboard bike box that the bikes get delivered in. They just throw these out and they are a lot more robust than the bike bags. We can then pop them in the recycling when you arrive and collect some new ones at a bike shop at the end of your trip. This will really help save on space in the van, there isn't room for the hard-casing bike boxes to travel with us. We'd highly recommend the cardboard bike boxes, however if you do want to buy a bike bag this one is pretty decent and affordable.
Essential (this stuff is mandatory)
- A bike: let's start with the obvious shall we
- Bike helmet: These really are mandatory, may feel like a dork but remember what happened to humpty dumpty when he bumped his head
- Decent tyres: As discussed above we’d highly recommend Schwalbe Marathon Tyres
- Lights; really important for cycle safety for early mornings, foggy days or tunnels
- High visibility clothing: The tour you're on will what clothing you'll need in terms of weather but we'd recommend at the least a high vis waterproof/windproof for downhills
- Water bottle x2 and fit them to your bike
- Pannier or bike bag - you'll need to carry your lunch, snacks, spare inner tube and allen keys each day
- Maintenance kit: Multi-tool, inner tubes (at LEAST 2 spare suitable for your bike) and tyre levers/adjustable spanner if you haven’t got a quick release wheel
Pretty useful (you'll probably want most of this)
- Padded cycle shorts - at least one pair as you don't normally wear pants underneath. We'd recommend not going for the cheapest pair as they can rub
- Cycle tops - great at wicking the sweat away from your body and keeping you warm or cool depending on what your body needs
- Sunglasses/cycle glasses: Not only preventing squinting but saving your eyes from dive-bombing insects
- Thermal base layer - for those early mornings
- Cycle gloves - fingers can get cold on downhills, they also offer more padding so you have less shock on your wrists
- Bike locks - we'll have a few big ones with us to lock all our bikes together at night but you're welcome to bring your own if you wish
- Bike computers/garmins/gopros - each team will have a Brake the Cycle garmin with them to use to navigate but you're welcome to bring your own if you have one and are into the stats
- Power packs - useful to keep your phone/camera/garmin charged throughout the day
- Cycle shoes - cleats are a personal choice as they take some getting used to but if you can get used to them then they'll increase your efficiency as you'll be able to pull up when you cycle as well as push down
- Gel padded seat cover - for ultimate bum comfort
- Bespoke support vehicle
- Loads of charging points for the tech addicts
- Individual cubby holes to store your bags
- Field kitchen
- Tables, chairs and lights
- Large water proof event shelter
- Mini bike workshop including: oil, de-greaser, full allen key set, pedal spanner, brake pads, brake cables, gear cables, 2 track pumps, bike stand and more.
- 5 first aid kits
- 3 Garmins
- 2 Gopro's
Essential (make sure you pack this)
- Head torch
- Tent: Make sure it has a rain cover and is waterproof. We have a few spare tents so let us know if you'd like to borrow one/be in a communal tent
- Sleeping bag: Make it a warm one, you don't wanna be cycling all day and shivering all night
- Sleeping mat: The ground will suck your heat from you if not
- Non cycling clothes: You don't need loads but you will need some for our days off and the evening
- Toiletries & towel: only eco friendly non chemical products as many places we visit will use shower water to feed their gardens
Pretty useful (you'll probably want this too)
- Jumper: wool is generally really good at retaining heat even if wet
- Inflatable pillow
- PJ's: Fleece pyjamas for the nights in the tent
- Woolly hat: For the evenings star gazing by a fire
- Sun lotion/insect repellent: Depending on what tour you're on
- Eye mask and ear plugs: make sure you get a good night every night
- Swim stuff: for lunch time cool offs in lakes, rivers and seas