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Advice for the Novice Touring Cyclist
A Review of the Book, Bicycle Touring Made Easy
By Lise Krieger
Reviewed by Theresa Russell
Note: A seasoned cycling travel writer and frequent tourer, Ms. Russell authored the recently-published guidebook, Bed, Breakfast & Bike Midwest. (This book was reviewed in our Spring '01 Feature Articles.) She is currently working on a cycling guide to the Yucatan Peninsula.
The scenery on the cover of Bicycle Touring Made Easy makes a statement about why people enjoy bicycle touring. It opens up new vistas to the adventurer who embarks on this rewarding type of journey. Lise Krieger gives a basic overview of the how-to’s of cycle touring throughout this concise guide that focuses on the universal appeal of the sport. She suggests training methods and route preparation techniques. Interspersed throughout the book, there are highlighted boxes with useful information about bike manufacturers, equipment suppliers and bicycling organizations.
Her recommendations for riding with a club and doing a shake-down tour will make the “real” even less of a shock for the first time tourer. As an experienced tourer, I felt that a first-timer will find some helpful information in the book, but they may be in for some big surprises – some pleasant and others annoying. For instance, Lise does recommend buying or borrowing equipment, which is practical advice. But, later in the book she states that the initial investment for touring can run into several thousand dollars. Comments like this could possibly discourage entrance into touring. I have done numerous tours, replacing equipment when necessary and haven’t spent close to that amount of money on equipment. Sure, you could get a custom bike and top of the line camping equipment, but this seems to be the exception amongst tourers.
As for training, the exercises shown are certainly helpful, but where are the upper body strength exercises? Good upper body strength is especially helpful when maneuvering the bike and climbing hills. Exercises that target this area also help with the problem of neck pain that is described in the book. Speaking of which, Lise mentions that there are some “discomforts that are more debilitating than fatigue and muscle pain.” That phrase sure puts touring into a positive light. With a properly fitted bike, time in a saddle that is comfortably adjusted, these problems are easily remedied.
The packing tips section failed to mention the use of an airline box. Usually, it is not necessary to do more than turn the handlebars, remove the pedals and wheel your bicycle into the box. This is certainly simpler than the preparation involved with a dealer box. As far as taping your box prior to arriving at the airport, even prior to 9/11, I have been asked to take everything out of the box. I learned long ago that taping the box is a big mistake. Nothing was mentioned about packing a trailer for transport, although a trailer was suggested as an alternative to panniers. Then, there was the statement about letting air out of your tires so that they don’t explode. This is a myth. Most baggage compartments are pressurized, and even if they weren’t, there is only a 15 lb. pressure difference that any decent bicycle tire can withstand.
Self-contained touring is an individual and personal preference sport. There really is not “one” way to plan a tour. The recommendation for dividing mileage by 50 to figure the number of days necessary for a tour is great for the person who wants to tour 50 miles per day. But, everybody doesn’t want to do it that way, even though Lise alluded to the fact that a 20-30 mile day is too short. Well, maybe this is true for her, but. For some people, that is within their comfort range. I can tell you of a 20-mile ride in New Zealand that is quite enough for a day of riding, thank you.
Throughout the book, topics start off well, but the fizzle out, omitting important information. Never was there any mention of touring with a tandem or recumbent. And mountain bikes with suspension forks were said to be unable to accommodate ranks. There are in fact some racks made especially for this set up.
Many of the photos contradicted recommendations in the text. Bikes were loaded on the rear, only, although this was advised against in the book. Another bike has the seat so high that unless the seat post is specially made, it is rather dangerous. Then again, if the seat needs to be raised that high, the bike doesn’t fit the rider properly.
If you take this book with a grain of salt, and overlook
its omissions, you will get an initiation into some of the aspects of touring.
However, if you are serious about touring, I would have to recommend an
outdated, but more thorough book on the subject by Richard Lovett,
The Essential Touring Cyclist.
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