10 things NOT to take on an epic bike ride

There are a million and one lists of gear that the internet implores you to take on an epic bike ride. I’m not here to add to those mighty fine lists. I’m hear to tell you what to leave behind.

#1 Don’t take your 4×4.

1. A fancy bike. You don’t need it. I’ve cycled over 6,000 miles on my ‘entry-level’ hybrid city bike, everywhere from the Highlands of Scotland to the Sahara.

2. Fancy panniers. You don’t need them. What was good for the school run is probably good for starters.

3. A fancy cycle computer. Sure it’s nice to see the miles click over – but it’s also a massive pain in the ass. Keep your head up, looking at the scenery/traffic – not hunched over your speedo, trying to hit 20mph.

4. Fancy Lycra cycling shorts. You look like enough of a prat. Take a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, for Christ’s sake.

5. Shoes. Chances are where you’re going is gonna get wet at some point. Then you’ll thank me. Note: don’t go barefoot; you’ll bleed everywhere and that won’t be pretty. Wear sandals.

6. A tent, fancy or otherwise. Tents are heavy, man. Even fairly fancy ones. Take a bivvy bag. They roll up to the size of a jacket and they’ll keep you dry at night.

7. A gazillion spares and tools for repairing your bike. Chances are your frame won’t snap in half without any warning and any car mechanic can help you out with tools.

8. A library of maps. It doesn’t take a genius to work out where you’re going. Ask someone. Sure, take a compass if you have to.

9. A pile of money. Cycling is cheap. Sleeping in a bivvy bag is cheap. Beg, steal, borrow. Do whatever you have to do to get started. Once you’ve started, there’s no going back, sucker!

10. Any knowledge whatsoever. I took a one day course in bike mechanics before I left. The only thing I learnt from the session was that my bike was a death-trap and that I wouldn’t survive. To be fair to the instructors, they were correct about the first part – but thank god I didn’t listen to them!

That’s all there is to it.

Feel free to ignore all of these suggestions, especially if you love fancy kit. If you’re skint and just want to get started, then I hope I’ve reassured you: fancy kit is for show-offs.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

4 thoughts on “10 things NOT to take on an epic bike ride”

  1. Can I add underpants to that list? I took a load with me on a 2,000 mile trip this summer and ended up not wearing them – don’t worry, I didn’t go bareback and did wear shorts!

    1. Haha! I found that my padded cycling shorts wouldn’t permit underpants anyway, so I was also pantless 😀 Where were you cycling? Anywhere good? (As if there is anywhere that doesn’t look good from the saddle of a bike!)

  2. I took some ortlieb fancy panniers riding to Africa , although not needed, I thought they were one thing that was worth the money. They took a proper bartering on some falls too!

    I also have to admit that I can’t ride a proper number of miles without lycra. It may be because I’m fat, (and I’m aware I look a fool!) But the discomfort is just not worth it!

    1. Fair enough – I do think I have weirdly freak-of-nature ergnomically-designed buttocks for sitting on uncomfortable saddles for long distances, so I appreciate that others may not! The main thing is that hopefully people aren’t put off cycling if they don’t like Lycra or are worried that they must have fancy panniers or whatever – the most important thing is to get on yer bike and out yer door! 😀

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