Now, readers may be curious as to why an airline blog is discussing bicycles. The answer is simple: we like bikes! We also recognize that holiday priorities have been altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Social distance and hygiene guidelines are a top factor in holiday destinations and bicycle tours are an excellent and healthy option. Bike tours can be conducted solo or in groups and are a wonderful way to see the country up close.
Back to the bike: selecting the most suitable bicycle is the first step.
Bicycles fall into some of the following categories: road; BMX (bicycle motocross); mountain; city; and touring. Road bikes are suitable for racing on asphalt. BMX bikes are used in off-road racing . Mountain bikes are specially tailored for all-terrain cycling, while city bikes are utilized for daily commutes and recreation in urban settings. Touring bikes are designed for flexible use, offering a combination of road and mountain bike features.
Your bike must be suitable for you and for the road
Touring bikes are usually preferred for long-distance routes. With sturdy steel or aluminum frames that support the rider, these bikes also offer a combination of road and mountain features that allow an easy transition from asphalt to unpaved roads. And keep in mind, one of the most important factors in choosing a bicycle is the fit. According to bicycling.com, the three primary measures to examine are saddle (seat) height, saddle setback, and the reach to the handlebars. Comfort, stability and durability are paramount in a touring bike!
Your load should not be a burden
Another advantage of a touring bike is that it can accommodate heavier gear; most touring bikes have front and rear racks that can hold panniers, which can be used as backpacks or shoulder bags when off the bike. This is both easier and safer than having a pack on your back while riding, especially if you are carrying camping equipment. Some bikes even have compartments in the tires for pumps and tools.
Gear and brakes
For gears and brakes, the top priorities are accessibility and ease of repair.
Gears are essential to ensuring that the front and rear cogwheels move in parallel. Most bicycles now have front and rear gears as standard. The front gear is used on flat roads and descents, while the rear is used to increase speed on slopes.
If you have heavy packs, we recommend linear-pull/direct-pull brakes, also known as hydraulic v-brakes. They’re powerful, and lift weight more smoothly. Most touring bikes offer this feature on bicycles designed for long-distance rides.
Material: Speedy or Sturdy?
Touring bikes have sturdy frames made of steel or aluminum. Both alloys have advantages. Aluminum is lighter, speedier, and easier to maintain since it doesn’t rust. Steel frames, while heavier and susceptible to rust, can be welded back together if broken. As well, steel frame bikes are often less expensive than aluminum frames.
The tires you’ll select for your bicycle depend on where you plan to ride. According to flatbike.com, “The rough dividing line between road and off-road tires is about an inch in thickness; Above that, tires are generally measured in inches, and below that, tires are generally measured in millimeters.” Thinner tires are usually sufficient for paved roads; the fattest tires, used in snowy conditions, can reach up to five inches. The average off-road tire can reach up to three inches. Hybrid tires, as their name suggests, are on the thinner side, but feature a tread that is suitable for both paved and unpaved roads. Tip: if you’re riding on unpaved roads, wear a mask to protect against dust.
Shock absorbers or nah?
The need for shock absorbers depends on the terrain. On rough roads, shock absorbers can reduce vibrations and boost speed. On paved or sloped roads, shock absorbers are often just extra – and unnecessary – weight.
Hidden comfort: Saddle and handlebars
As we noted at the beginning of this blog, the saddle (seat) of your bike is ultra-important. The seat should be at a height that allows you to pedal securely, efficiently, and easily. Your positioning also matters – if you tend to ride in a more upright position, for instance, a wider seat is more suitable. For long-distance bicycling, a firmer seat is usually preferred. There are also bicycle seats designed specifically for men or women. In fact, bike saddle technology has advanced significantly and there are countless options and designs available.
Handlebar selection is also crucial. Consider the width of your handlebars, as well as the shape, thickness and material. A more compact handlebar with a straighter shape is preferred for long-distance rides; ergonomic handlebars fall into the mid-range between compact and wide. Like seats, handlebars have benefitted from advanced technology and are now available in a range of models.
Security precautions: Lights and mudguards
Safety is essential! Bicycle lights have two functions: to illuminate the road for the rider, and to illuminate the rider (and the bike) for others on the road. Your bike should have, at minimum, a rear blinker. Advanced front and rear lights include features such as high- and low-light settings, and flash, blinker, and strobe modes. Most bike lights are rechargeable and detachable. If you don’t want to bother with recharging, you can investigate a dynamo set-up. Powered by the rotation of the front wheel, dynamo lights are efficient but may require professional installation.
Bike fenders and mudguards are another useful safety feature. In rainy conditions, mudguards protect both you and your bicycle from water and splashes; they also protect the riders behind you from sprays. And, of course, mudguards are supremely useful in off-road conditions.
We recommend wearing a safety vest with reflective or LED features, for additional visibility, and, also, keeping a spare headlight on hand for emergencies.
With a bit of preparation, you will soon be ready to embark on your own bicycle tour: just determine your route, choose your bike and gather a group of like-minded friends – a great adventure awaits!