Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

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Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Hiking Fox » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:32 pm

(I couldn't find a thread on this already)

Having just spent a load of money getting my old bike overhauled and sorted, I'd like to try cycling a long distance trail. When I say "long distance" I mean a couple of hundred miles or so, I'm not going to go mad (not yet, anyway).

I know that it takes me 5-7 days to walk 100 miles, depending on the terrain and how much I have to carry, but I have no idea how fast I could cover that distance by bike, any thoughts?

Any advice, tips, experience and recommendations of (British) routes to pass on?

(I have a mountainbike with a road tyre on the front wheel, panniers, waterproofs and a good lightweight tent.)
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby fredrikw » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:44 pm

what does "long distance trail" mean?
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Hiking Fox » Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:06 pm

fredrikw wrote:what does "long distance trail" mean?


A nationally-recognised path or series of linked paths forming a designated route that is advertised and maintained, such as the CTC, the Hadrian's Wall route etc.

Basically, it means following a route that is marked on maps and recognised by others, rather than simply making up your own route. This isn't as adventurous as making it up yourself, but for inexperienced peope there are a number of advantages, such as cycling-friendly camp sites, pubs and cafes near the route, water points etc.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Mr. Cleetus » Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:01 pm

Since I imagine you are doing this purely for enjoyment and not to be as fast as you can, I think comfort is key. The three most important things for that might be your saddle, your shorts and your "position" on the bike. Having a reasonable pair of shorts is probably a good place to start with that. Comfort on the bike is a personal thing, but don't be afraid to move your seat or bars up and down a bit to experiment - try not to have too much weight on your arms - you should be fairly relaxed. Carry as little as possible on your back - it can be a real pain, literally, in a very short time.

How far you ride will depend on the terrain and your motivation - it really just depends on how long you want to sit on the bike and what else you want to do each day. Most reasonably fit people could probably make it through 200 miles in one day over flat terrain, but that probably wouldnt be much fun for most. Sixty miles might be quite cruisy and I would think 200 over three to four days would be rather comfortable for most.

Make sure you know where you food/water sources are, unless you plan to carry everything, which I wouldnt recommend - but I guess that is less of an issue in the UK than in NZ!

Carry a few spare tubes and a patch kit and something to boot your tire with, ie, something strong that you can put inside your tire if you should get a large cut in it. In a pinch a dollar/pound note can work.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby vCLaW » Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:39 pm

I'd agree with most of Mr. Cleetus' advice.
Though if you're talking about off-road, on paths of varying quality, I'd say lower distances than that would be reasonable. Maybe more like 40 to 60 miles per day.
Though yes, it does depend on the terrain, how hilly it is, and what the path surface is like, and how much you are carrying. If you have heavily loaded panniers, they will affect the handling of your bike, so might make some terrain trickier.
Plus how long you are actually cycling each day, ie how early can you bothered getting up, having breakfast, packing up your tent etc (for me its usually not very early...), and how much stop along the way.

As for specific routes, I've done most of the Great Glen Way a few times. I think its rather nice, much of it on forest tracks or tow paths etc, so not too hard cycling. Though there are a few narrowish paths, and some steep hills. But it is only about 80 miles long, so only really a couple of days cycling. You could extend it by linking it up with part of the West Highland Way, though I'm not sure how much of that is ridable.
Or I've recently been cycling parts of the Speyside Way, its also nice, similar sort of terrain/difficulty.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Hiking Fox » Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:12 pm

Thanks guys, this is the kind of advice I was after. Looks like I'll need to load everything I'd like to take in panniers, cycle up a hill, realise the bike handles totally differently and then take stuff out!

I'll be doing it for fun and fitness, not speed. Walking is pretty painful for me at the moment so I'm going to try cycling for fun (I've only ever cycled to commute before.)
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Clem Snide » Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:25 pm

If you're not already proficient, practice changing an inner tube a couple of times before you go.

And to echo others, get good shorts, make sure your fit is good and don't carry a back pack if you can avoid it.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Big Good Wolf » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:13 pm

Do some longer rides looping out and back to home.
You don't want to find out your saddle becomes unbearable after 50 miles when you're 50 miles from home.
This should give you some idea of how long you can ride in a day, how many breaks you need and what sort of distance you can cover.
Make a note of all the bike shops near your route in case you need emergency help. Halfords are normally open til 8pm and on Sundays which might be useful if you need a bike shop out of normal shop hours.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Hiking Fox » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:01 am

Good idea, I'll look up all the Halfords shops up and mark 'em on the map.

Better get changing innertubes, too.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Noel » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:21 pm

The Devon Coast to Coast is good. Its National Cycle Network Route 27. Its a mixture of Sustrans style traffic free cycle paths (Tarka Trail, Granite Way, Plym Valley, etc) and quiet Devon country lanes (some hills but nothing too bad and hills have to be expected in Devon). At one point you do find yourself on a bridal path, so you need semi-slick tyres, but its a nice ride and covers the sort of distance your talking about.

Also, best of all, the Tarka Trail takes you near Barnstaple and a small five minute detour takes you to The Owl Vegan Cafe which sells lovely food and is very cycle friendly (you lock your bike up in the centre of town and walk 2 minutes around a corner and hey presto your at The Owl).
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Clem Snide » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:13 pm

Hiking Fox wrote:Better get changing innertubes, too.


Oh, and take a good few spare inner tubes as well, rather than repairing them on the road. You can take the punctured ones home to repair later at your leisure. But hopefully you won't get any punctures at all!

Didn't you used to be called cycling fox? Or was that another forum member.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Big Good Wolf » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:43 am

And didn't you have some plan to cycle every navigable waterway in Great Britain at one time too ?
Or was that someone else as well ?
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Hiking Fox » Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:51 am

Yes, that was me. I used to cycle pretty much every day. I had the name "Cycling Fox" because of a hat I used to wear in cold weather; it had fox ears on the top and a snout at the front (I got it from a car boot sale). I stopped wearing it because motorists kept doing a double take and I got worried it was distracting them.

I dropped the towpath plan because I couldn't figure out a way to finance myself. Saving up to take a few months off work is too tough when you earn pretty much the minimum wage.

Besides a circular ride at the weekend and a shorter one last week, I haven't ridden in two years. I'm getting back into it after getting my bike fixed and realising that it is a good way to exercise without pain.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby Clem Snide » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:32 am

That's nothing about cycling that isn't excellent.
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Re: Long distance cycling; any hints and tips to pass on?

Postby philthy builder » Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:41 am

I would carry a rucksack for off road touring as racks and panniers effect bike handling a lot.The pennine bridleway looks like a good couple of days riding,ive ridden short sections of it but not managed to get time to do the whole thing yet.
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