As the weather warms up, and lockdown restrictions ease, thoughts will be turning to bringing our bikes out of hibernation and hitting the roads again.
Cross-continent expeditions may be off the menu for now – for many of us they may not have been on it to start with – but there’s still a lot to be enjoyed, accomplished and seen in a simple day’s riding. A Sunday out on the bike has been, and will continue to be, a staple for many of us. But where will you ride to? What kind of roads will you be riding on? Are you going to revisit old favourites or try to find somewhere new? Just how do you get the best out of a day’s ride?
Many riders are of the school of thought that you don’t plan at all; just throw as little as possible on the bike and ride in an approximate direction until you happen upon a nice road or feel the need to stop. As attractive and liberating as that sounds, it has its pitfalls.
Without any planning you’ll not be armed with those little bits of knowledge that can make the difference between a cracking day’s ride and a nightmare. Here’s what to think about:
The long and short of it
Only got a couple of hours free, or are you able to be out and about all day? The time you have for your ride will dictate distance, destinations and the type of roads you travel on, so make sure you know how long you’ve got – and how long you’re happy to be out riding for – and plan your day around it. Bear in mind the season; you get much longer days (or daylight at least) in the spring and summer months than you do in autumn/winter. And the time of day you plan on setting off will lengthen or shorten your itinerary.
Type A or Type B?
Are you the type of rider who likes to use their bike simply to get somewhere nice, stopping to enjoy the scenery or sights and sounds along the way; or are you in it for the thrill of riding, and would prefer a fast, twisty route with fewer or no stops? Whichever you are, make sure your day’s riding ticks the right box. Stuck for ideas? Ask fellow riders, take to the internet and find forums, track down books or magazines that recommend riding routes, or download an app to your phone that will suggest them for you.
The route of the problem
It might sound excessive for a simple day trip, but wherever you think you want to go, check a map and plan your route. Be aware that you always think you can cram more into a day than is realistic, whether that’s miles to be ridden or places to be visited. Routes should take into account less rather than more. Think about the type of roads you’ll be on too: you can go a lot further on A-roads and dual carriageways than you can on bendy B-roads, so factor that into your timings.
Plan B, C and D
Your well-planned day can be thrown into chaos and confusion by a closed road, an accident or even just heavy traffic, so have an alternative route or plan on hand, and don’t be put-out if you have to revert to it.
Destination’s what you need
Think about your destination(s). Fancy the seaside or a lovely national park? Fine, unless it’s a bank holiday weekend – hordes of tourist traffic, coaches and caravans don’t make for an enjoyable ride and you’ll probably have to queue for everything once you arrive. Maybe it’s time to ride the road less travelled.
Is your ride going to be long enough that you’ll need stops for coffee, food, the call of nature or fuel? Planning for pit-stops means you won’t need to interrupt your ride and waste time searching for fuel/toilets in an unfamiliar area.
Little and often
Dehydration can hammer your concentration, cause headaches and generally drain the pleasure out of riding. Carrying some water with you, especially on warmer days, so you can drink little and often, will refresh you in lots of ways. Some like to use a hydration backpack, so they can top-up on the move. Little and often applies to food too – eating a big meal sends blood to your digestive system, away from the rest of your body, and accelerates tiredness – so snacking as you go is the way forward.
Pack it in
Just because it was sunny when you left home, it won’t necessarily stay that way all day, everywhere you go. Carrying some lightweight waterproofs will not only be handy if you get caught in the rain, but can also be used as a wind-cheater if the temperature drops.
Give your bike a once-over a couple of days before your trip, so there’s time to fix any issues you may spot. Check you have Petrol, Oil levels, Water (or coolant in the radiator, to be precise), Electrics (charge in the battery and all lights working) and Rubber (plenty of tread on the tyres, no cracks or punctures and they’re at the correct pressure) then you’ll be good to go and the press of a button.
A couple of hours spent planning and preparing can make it a day to remember for all the right reasons. And if there’s anything you need, from clothing and helmets to performance and replacement parts for your bike, you’ll find an unrivalled choice at Fowlers.