A Beginner’s Guide To Bike Touring: 9 Tips To Start Cycling

Cycle Touring Is An Eco-Friendly & Adventurous Form Of Travel. Here's How.

Have you ever wanted to hit the open road…but on two wheels instead of four? 

Bike touring is a low-impact form of travel offering both freedom and adventure in equal measure. 

Doing your first cycling tour can seem like a daunting prospect as there’s arguably more planning involved than setting off in a van or backpacking. You need to think about equipment and training alongside the route you plan to take. 

To help you get started, we’re braking out some easy tips to set you off on the right pedal and have an epic cycling adventure of a lifetime.

What Is Bike Touring?

Bike Touring by Lucas Canino

Bicycling touring is a combination of backpacking and cycling. 

It’s a form of travel where you cycle continuously for days, weeks, or even months at a time through a country or region, carrying all your gear in panniers and other bags strapped to the bike. 

It’s sometimes used interchangeably with ‘bikepacking’, although some purists argue that bikepacking is reserved for mountain bike touring and minimalist camping only. 

Think: backcountry hiking but on a bike instead of on foot. 

Whichever term you use, cycling is an eco-friendly form of travel. Bikes don’t burn fossil fuels so you have a much smaller carbon footprint than if you were driving or using public transport. 

It encourages you to slow down and get to know a place rather than speeding through it. You also learn to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle as you’re only carrying the essentials you need. 

For those reasons, cycle touring holidays are a growing trend as travelers crave adventures beyond the ordinary that combine freedom with the great outdoors. 

9 Easy Tips To Get Started With Cycle Touring

1. Have The Right Bike

Bike Touring by Kzenon

It may be one of the most obvious bike touring tips but you must have the right bike for your tour as it will be your main mode of transport. 

Make sure it’s the right size for you so it’s comfortable to ride. Check if it can handle panniers (you’ll likely need to mount a rear bike rack on which to hang them) and will be suitable for the type of terrain you’re planning to ride on. 

There are many different styles like road, gravel, and mountain bike touring. Choosing the right one for your adventure will maximise its performance and minimize damage. 

You could also opt for an e-bike with electric assisted pedal power to make your tour a little less strenuous, but you will need to be mindful of their charging needs. 

Whichever bike you go for, check that it has a comfortable seat at the right height and working safety equipment like a bell and lights. 

It’s also critical to ensure your bike has the right frame size for your body. Like clothing, they typically come in frame sizes XS–XL. Riding an improperly sized bike can make for a very uncomfortable and inefficient ride. 

If you’ve familiarized yourself with bike fitting basics but are still unsure of how to size your bike, any local cycle shop can help you out.

2. Get The Right Gear

Bike Touring by Marek Piwnicki

Be prepared for your pedal-powered adventure by choosing the right gear for you and your bike. 

Opt for panniers and a frame bag instead of a backpack to take pressure off your back. Make sure they’re waterproof and fastened on securely, as you don’t want one to fall off and get left behind. 

Topo Designs makes bike bags out of recycled materials. They’re colorful and fun with plenty of versatility. 

While you don’t need to go full unitard, cycle touring clothing—such as fingerless gloves, sun sleeves, padded leggings and shorts, windproof jackets, and jerseys with easy-grab lumbar water bottle holsters—is also a must.

Ornot sells certified climate-neutral bike equipment made from recycled or natural fibers. 

You’ll also need to make sure you have the proper shoes. Road bikes are often equipped with specialized pedals that you actually clip your shoes into so they don’t easily slip off, whereas gravel and mountain bikers use flat-soled shoes and clipless pedals that make it easy to disengage in the event of a crash.

Traveling by bike is not without risks, so always wear a helmet to protect yourself on the road or trail as it could save your life.

3. Think About What You Pack

Bike Touring by Dmitrii Vaccinium

Remember, you will be carrying everything on your bike so you should think carefully about what to bring. 

Aim for minimalism to reduce the amount of excess weight you have to shift. After all, it will be you peddling up that hill!

Start by choosing where you plan to sleep. If you book accommodation along your route, you will be able to travel lighter but you won’t have as much flexibility to stop for the night if you get tired. 

Camping is more affordable, but requires bringing a tent, stove, cooking equipment, sleeping bags, mats, and food. It’s a lot more weight to carry but you have more freedom to stop and rest (depending on camping/pitching laws). 

A lightweight, easy-to-pitch cycle touring tent you can strap on the back without fuss will be key. 

If you camp, you may need to sacrifice the amount of clothes you bring which is doable by making occasional stops at a laundromat or bringing some detergent to hand wash as needed.

While it’s handy to have some cupboard staples, you don’t need to bring the entire kitchen with you as you can stop at supermarkets along the way. 

Some lightweight and more densely nutritious food you might want with you include energy bars, oatmeal, dried fruit, trail mix, tea, instant coffee, and chocolate.

4. Tune Your Bike Before Beginning

Bike Touring by torwai

It’s always good practice to tune your bike, especially before going on tour. 

You can do it yourself if you’re familiar with bike mechanics or take it to a professional to be extra sure it’s done properly.

Tuning helps you maintain your bike’s performance and spot any factors that might hinder its safety like rust, dirt or worn-out parts. 

It’s also an easy way to prolong the lifespan of your bike which would otherwise be costly to replace. A well-tuned budget touring bike can feel more satisfying to ride than a brand-new expensive one. 

Get started with basic DIY tuning by giving your bike a good hose down with a water spray. Take care to avoid bearings or suspension seals as you don’t want water getting in anywhere it shouldn’t. 

Next, add some degreaser or simple washing-up detergent to the drivechain and scrub off dirt with a stifle-bristled brush. 

If you feel comfortable, you could take the wheels off and clean the derailleur and chainring with an old towel to remove any grime or grease. 

Always allow your bike to dry thoroughly outside before putting it away as this prevents it from rusting. 

5. Be Repair Ready

Bike Touring by Konstantin Postumitenko

Even if you get your touring bicycle professionally tuned, it’s still important to know basic repair skills on the road. It could be the difference between a successful trip and getting stranded. 

Bring a basic bicycle repair kit with you which includes spare tire tubes, a hand pump, allen keys, a torque wrench, a pedal spanner, a chain breaker tool and pliers. 

Practice using your tools so you’re familiar with doing emergency repairs such as changing a flat tire, resetting a popped-off chain, or adjusting gears and brakes. 

6. Always Be Insured

Bike Touring by akaratwimages

Anything can happen and one of the best ways to protect yourself against theft, loss, damage, injury and cancellations is with cycle touring travel insurance.

Make sure you read your policy carefully so you know exactly what it covers. Chances are you (hopefully) might not need it but you don’t want an unpleasant surprise if you do, especially since most plans are quite affordable.

Some of the best cycle touring insurance providers to look at are: 

The right provider for you depends on your circumstances. If it’s relevant to you, check their policies on pre-existing conditions, age limits and countries they cover. 

7. Plan Your Route


Plan your route before setting off rather than relying entirely on a GPS. You’ll be prepared for the terrain and you’ll be less likely to come up against unexpected surprises like road closures or big hills. 

It’s important not to rush through the tour. Give yourself time to vary it up to give your body a rest and see the places you’re visiting. 

Planning out your route beforehand allows you to set yourself a realistic mileage each day.

If you’re a beginner, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small with a short route and build up from there. This might be an afternoon or full day on flat terrain, a weekend with overnight bicycle camping or a practice run with all your equipment. 

Choose a well-cycled touring route rather than going off-track for your first trip or two. You’re more likely to come across other cyclists who can help if you encounter a problem. 

If you are venturing into more remote areas, it’s critical to carry a GPS, especially one with satellite communication capabilities in case of an emergency, like a Garmin inReach®.

8. Be Fit Enough For Your Route

Bike Touring by Dmitrii Vaccinium

Cycling long distances daily is physically demanding. 

Your body will ache, your legs will feel like jelly, and you might feel stiff in places you didn’t think possible. This is normal. 

You can mitigate the physical endurance by setting a route with a realistic amount of mileage and training beforehand to build stamina.

Set a goal to ride a certain amount of miles or hours a week with at least one weekly long ride. Take yourself to the gym to build muscle and core strength. You may also need to add lunges and squats into your fitness routine to strengthen your knees and calves. 

Do plenty of stretches to aid muscle recovery during breaks and after each day. Bring equipment to help you stay on track like compression socks and a foam roller to loosen tight muscles. 

Remember, the key is to pace yourself. It’s not a race—unless you’re competing in the Tour de France!

9. Enjoy The Adventure

Bike Touring by mmac72

Bike touring is filled with adventure and the exhilarating freedom of the open road so let yourself ride with it. See where the road takes you. 

Unlike a car, plane or public transport, bike touring gives you a unique opportunity to slow down and savour the place you’re traveling through. 

You’re the first to notice the changes in terrain and weather when you travel by bike. You see landscapes and connect with communities you might never see in a vehicle. 

Cycling also benefits your mental health. You have time to live in the moment rather than worry about the past or the future and you’ll make new friends from all over the world along the way. 

Be flexible and open; it’s all part of the experience.

Closing Thoughts On Beginner-Friendly Bicycle Touring Tips

With the wind in your hair and the open road stretched out ahead of you, biking is an exhilarating form of travel. 

It allows you to slow down and see the world at your own pace—with the added bonus of a lower environmental impact than motorized transport.

All you need to do now is choose where you want to go. Some of the easiest adventures can be found in Europe thanks to the continent’s heavy bike infrastructure.

Soon, you could be cruising and eating your way around Northern Italy, cycle touring in Spain along the coast, or wining and dining on the Slovenia Green Gourmet Route

Don’t forget to share this guide with an adventure-loving friend and start planning your bike trip of a lifetime.