Bicycle touring, Good and Bad

Third time lucky

Europe claims the prize, as being our third major bicycle tour destination. We are by no means experts; however as they say, third time lucky. I’m not about to broach the subject of how to set up your cycle, cycle kit or indeed what you NEED to bring. This is such a personal decision, and very dependent on prevailing weather conditions, length of travel and funds you have available. Here is a site where you can read a great deal of info about everything bike touring. Alex from ‘Cycling About’ is extremely knowledgeable about all things cycling. I recommend having a look at his site. Here is a good page to start on: Gear lists for different length rides.

Fast moving- times

Unless you intend to roll the bike out of your front door and ride off into the sunset, you will inevitably require some form or transport to get you to the beginning of your ride. This is a little different from taking the Mountain Bike on the back of the 4X4 to the trails. Now you have to think about your panniers, bags and the fact that no aircraft will take your bike unless it is correctly packed. So, in the week previous, you will need to take a run into Qantas and purchase a bike box. These are lighter ‘by 2Kg’ than the boxes you can get from your local bicycle shop. You may think, what does 2kg matter…trust me, it matters.

Next you will be playing the weight game dance. It goes like this…..of course I need my Helinox chair, lots of clothing, two gas stoves and all the toiletries you have in the cupboard … etc etc … But NO… the 30Kg maximum limit sneaks up on you very quickly. You end up with a toothbrush, hair brush, long pants that can unzip to become shorts, 3 sets of undies, a couple of socks, a few shirts, a jumper and that is about it. As you line up for the aircraft, your ensemble will involve wearing 2 sets of clothing in addition to the thermal underwear, your jumpers, as well as your bicycle helmet. Your camera and lens will be in your pockets, as will your power banks and possibly some of the heavier cycle specific tools you will need. Welcome to cycle touring.

Trains aren’t so bad for the movement of bikes. Especially in Europe. You must ensure that the train will actually take bikes. You will also have to pre-book your seat, and the bike also needs to have its own ticket. It is a small price to pay for having your own transport with you. But it is a cost none-the-less. Getting the bikes on and off the train depends massively on the train itself. Sometimes it is at the same level, roll on roll off. Sometimes it is 4 steps high, with a skinny door designed for a twig to squeeze through sideways after fasting for a month and these ones also include a 90deg turn through another door at the top of the stairs and lots of angry people. Remember you have 35Kg. The bike with panniers has now somehow stretched to about a metre wide. It can be a struggle.

Slow moving- times

Once you actually arrive to the starting point of your journey, things slow down ‘a lot’. On the bike, you ‘do’ have time to experience the environment around you. You are part of the environment, the changes in temperature, slight mist in the air, the sounds of the birds, trickling streams, laughing kids and wind in your hair/helmet. Choices of routes, sites to see, places to stay, meals to eat become more important. Are there specific cycle paths? Where will we camp tonight? What is around me to see? Cost of travel now diminishes, thus allowing sustained lengths of travel to become more affordable. Map out for the iPhone is a plotting app that is very useful, as it allows you to download maps offline, plot with your finger real time and most importantly, it shows you the gradients of the roads you have plotted.

Berlin stop over

A quick stopover in Berlin on our way to Amsterdam. Powerful moments, at the wall, around the government buildings at through the concentration camp.


  1. What is the deal with bikes and European trains?

    I’m familiar with Japan where you just need a bag (Ringo) that preferably covers the whole bike, but can just cover the wheels and chain at a pinch – if you’re good at talking. No extra tickets are needed. Do you need bag or anything in the EU?

    ps. Tulips are gorgeous!

    • Hi Col.
      OK depends on the country. In Germany, Holland and Belgian you can just wheel them on, panniers and all.
      Looks like France is a little different, and they will need to be in bicycle bags.
      Spain is no problem, and Spain also doesn’t charge for the bicycle, where as the other countries all charge you a ticket for the bike.

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