4 Skills You Need to Gain Before Going Bike Camping

By Mike Jones for 303cycling

Image courtesy of Flickr

Mastering the basics of balancing on two wheels and pedaling to propel yourself forward is essentially enough to make you a “road worthy” biker. If your adventures go much beyond your local bicycle path or the street in front of your house, though, you’ll need a few more developed skills.

Particularly if you aspire to partake in the outdoor phenomenon now known as bike camping, you’ll not only need to know how to effectively control your bicycle but also overcome some of the basic challenges any camper faces. Before you hit the trail with your bike and tent in tow, make sure you’ve honed your skills and master these tasks.

1. Assess the terrain and plan accordingly.

Carrying all of your gear and yourself on your bike presents a significant challenge. You aren’t nearly as balanced or aerodynamic, so shifting gears and changing directions can be challenging and even downright treacherous. To protect yourself and your gear, you’ll need to be able to quickly assess the terrain and plan ahead, especially for shifting.

While riding, you’ll want to watch the terrain and determine if it changes what gear you’ll need to be in. Waiting too long to shift, will cause you to lose momentum and get off balance or even put added pressure on the change, making it more difficult to shift properly. To learn this skill, find an open stretch where you can ride. Then practice shifting your front and back gears to see how the work. Practicing while carrying your camping gear will help better prepare you for an actual ride.

You may also want to get a chain or belt spin bike to begin practicing this skill at home. A chain-driven stationary bike will help you get a better feel for the terrain changes you’ll face.

2. Learn to control your bike (and your body).

Learning to control your bike and your body is an important skill to have before you ever think about carrying extra camping gear with you on a ride. Turns are particularly tricky on a bike but even more so if you have added weight to your bike with you. To stay upright, you’ll need to learn to lean your bike into turns, not your body. You can do this by pushing the handlebar closest to the inside of the turn just enough that your arm straightens. This will allow your bike to lean without your body so that you maintain balance.

You’ll also want to use your outside foot to push down hard on the outside pedal at the 6 o’clock position. Keeping your feet positioned as such will ensure that you don’t scrape your inside pedal along the ground or lean your bike too far.

3. Anticipate timing and other challenges.

When completing a bike tour, timing can be everything. From running into additional traffic to hitting weather-related conditions, you need to learn to anticipate challenges with timing before you head out on your bike. Take into consideration that holidays and summer months are typically busier than others. Likewise, certain times of day can be more challenging for riders, such as rush hour, if you are taking a city-based tour.

You’ll not only want to consider timing regarding planning your trip but also reaching your destination. If you’ve made accommodations (such as paying for tent spot on a camping site), you’ll want to be sure that you can reach your destination each leg of your trip. This will require that you learn to pace yourself effectively. If you plan to cover more miles, you’ll have less time to stop and sightsee and vice versa.

4. Pack your gear effectively.

Determining what you need and how to pack for your trip is another crucial skill for bike camping. The amount of gear that you’ll need will vary depending on the type of trip you are planning. If you’re taking a credit card tour, you’ll need much less to meet your needs.

Knowing how to carry your gear is also important. The most common methods for carrying gear are trailers and panniers. Panniers are luggage that it’s attached to your bike on racks sit overtop or beside the wheels. Quality racks are available for nearly every bicycle. Trailers are available in several different varieties and usually have one or two wheels. Most easily attach to or fit on any bicycle. Panniers are effective on paved roads. Single wheel trailers are best on rough, unpaved surfaces. However, both can work well for any type of touring. Ultimately the choice is up to you.

Final thoughts

Preparing effectively for your bike camping trip goes beyond simply having the right tools and gear. Before you take your next trek, be sure you’ve adequately mastered these skills to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible. Prepare well, and you’ll enjoy touring through the wilderness or biking through your favorite city locale.

Mike Jones had a bike ever since he was a child. He enjoys going mountain biking but recently discovered the benefits of indoor cycling. Mike enjoys writing reviews for ExerciseBikesExpert

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