Bike Touring For Triathletes

Pencilling in a few short bike tours in the triathlon season allows me to keep training sessions super-short the rest of the year. So why might you forgo the sun and comfort of a Training Camp in Lanzarote for the potentially muddy camp-sites of France or your local area?

It’s Cheap & Simple
As triathlon seems to get increasingly complicated and expensive, a bike tour is cheap and simple. Most bike tours require very little planning. No need to book ahead as even the most popular campsites will find a space for your tent.

Unfold your map and sketch out a rough itinerary. Try and stick to back roads and forest paths. Include lakes for swimming and trails for running. With everything you need tucked tightly behind your saddle you can ride out of your garage and let the adventure begin.

Leave Your Best Bike in the Garage
Systems exist to attach a rack to your race bike or any other bike without rack eyes. However, it’s better to strike out on a bike that you don’t mind leaving out in the rain overnight and that you’ll be comfortable on all day. Don’t have a dedicated touring bike? Why not save an old frame from the scrapheap and build up a cheap, go-anywhere touring rig?

Get Comfortable
Why does my commuting bike always feel more comfortable than my race bike? I don’t move on the saddle. I flatten the pedals and drive them downwards. I feel great on the drops, hoods or tops. Saddle height feels perfect.

Of course, it’s because I ride it every day. Fine adjustments have been made over the years and my postural muscles have become stronger. Use even a short tour to decide on a powerful position that you can enjoy all day long.

Slow Down
A bike tour is a holiday and a retreat rather than a training camp. Leave your Heart Rate Monitor at home and forget about Power Data. Don’t rush. Ride all day and get from campsite to campsite. Stop at a castle, dip your feet in a stream, have a coffee or a picnic. Read, write, sleep and take photos.

Have an Adventure
If you’re on a quick S24O from home seek out roads that you’ve never ridden before. Turn off onto forest tracks even if you don’t know where they might pop out. When exploring foreign lands you’ll experience different cultures or grapple a with language you might not understand. When pulling into camp or stopping for a rest in a village, the sight of your bike is an instant conversation starter.

You know your destination exists as you’ve seen it on the map. But you don’t know how long it’s going to take you to get there and the obstacles that could be in your way. You’re riding into the unknown. See villages and countryside that tourist buses don’t stop at. That trains speed through and that planes totally ignore. See what’s in-between and get there under your own steam.

Work Hard
With your bike fully loaded you’ll be forced to build strength in the hills. With long days in the saddle planned an endurance boost is guaranteed. Why not push yourself on the last day with an extra ambitious route?

You can ride pretty far when all you’ve got scheduled for the day is sitting on your saddle. You’ll have a massive sense of achievement, possibly set a personal daily mileage record and the beer on arrival will taste great.

Recover From Life 
Go to bed when it’s dark. Maybe read for a little while with your head-torch. That novel you’ve had on hold for months. Get up with the sun. Eat Well. Stop and buy fresh, local produce for lunch. Get Inspired. Keep a diary. Switch off. No computer. No TV.

Pick Up Some New Skills 
We look back on our early tandem tours as cultural and travel successes but bike touring disasters. It took us 3 or 4 years before we figured out what was worth bringing and what wasn’t. Finding a balance between lightness and luxury. We also improved our camp cooking, how far and how fast to ride, pitching a tent, striking camp and basic on-the-road mechanics. 

Holidays of the Future
Petrol prices are rising, air travel is becoming unfashionable and there’s a renaissance in exploring your own country. People are starting to realise the importance of spending time in nature and the growth of cycle paths make it possible to plan tours that are nearly traffic free.

The Path Less Pedalled has also recognized that bicycle touring is changing. People are taking shorter tours, combining train journeys with biking and taking advantage of bicycle friendly accommodation options and other bicycle-focused businesses.

Simplify Event Travel
I hate loading the car and driving to events. I also have a little chuckle when fellow athletes open the boot of their car and piles of superfluous kit tumble out. As I race infrequently I prioritize events that I can ride to. I minimise kit, camp and enjoy having a weekend of steady activity rather a balls-out, results based racing experience.

Camping Is Not Compulsory
Lack of equipment or no desire to brave the hard ground shouldn’t stop you from enjoying bike touring. Checking into a Bed & Breakfast will guarantee you stay dry and sleep well. Bring your best bike if you want as it can be locked away overnight. Pack light using a saddlebag such as the Carradice Longflap Camper.