Surviving Adventure Rides

22 September, 2016

 I've always been super impressed by the girls who set their minds on something and go after it. The girls who know the challenges ahead and figures out the unknown along the way. I've always been a planner. When there is something I strongly want to do, I like to secure things in place before I can actually plan and share it. Like this bike tour I'm doing in October. Since my decision, I've had weeks of planning and training to get me to this point of sharing. I think when it comes to making it a point of making an effort to adventure, we gotta go with the mindset of just do it and the rest will follow.

There are some things I've been thinking a lot about when preparing for my tour in Maine. A long weekend in October along Bar Harbor coasting down to Portland with a total of 130 miles to cover may not seem long to some but when you're not used to spending long hours on a bike, there are a few things to keep in mind. All the training leading up to this point may seem relevant, however, it's not until we actually put ourselves out on the road does preparation matter in the grand scheme of our abilities.

Whether it's a far adventure to plan or a long days ride with friends or club, being prepared matters. If you're planning a great adventure by bicycle, here are some things to consider and prepare for on the saddle.

My bike deserves just as much maintenance as my body does, especially if it will be the vehicle I take from one point to the other. A good clean, lubing and tuning can go a long way to make sure performance and safety on the bike is on point. Although most bike maintenance can be done at home, taking it in to a bike shop/professional to diagnose minor issues can be a good run to ensure all is up to gear. Some essentials to bring along and learn how to use are: multi-tool pump, inner tube, puncture repair kit. There are loads of videos on youtube to help guide one's skill along the way. I for one, have definitely been referring youtube like it's Bible. It's good to empower oneself with tools that will serve you well along the journey, that way you are 100% self reliant.

Although it may seem obvious, there are some things to consider when planning your route besides destination. For example, where you will camp or stay overnight, cafes/restaurants, routes you'll take away from traffic, accessible bicycle shops by route (in case something breaks), and the nearest clinic/hospital. All these are easily accessible by Google Maps to help plan your route. Probably a good idea to download the app before take off too.

If an adventure is self-supported it's important to have details of your accessibility. Strava recently released Beacon, a safety feature that allows you to set up safety contacts to track where you are. This is helpful in case of an emergency like a flat tire, accident, or getting lost. To learn more about this feature check out Strava's blog post about Beacon here.

When an ride is self supported, it's key to be ready for anything. Carrying a emergency kit, a repair kit, back up lights, a navigation device or map, a portable charger for phone, money or credit card can all come in handy for those times when you need a safety net.

Most women adventurist I follow tend to think a lot about safety, especially at night in the dark. Fear in these circumstances is a legitimate place to come from when worrying about safety. If you can, invite a friend, family member, or a partner. If you meet another tourer out on the road, team up to help each other to the next destination. I know there is nothing like solo adventuring and being in the outdoors alone but if safety drives you from having an adventure, there are options to have family/friends host you in their backyards, or you can book hotels, Airbnb's, Warmshowers, or volunteer fire stations to address safety concerns.
One thing I learned on a few bike tours is to always dress comfortably. Although wearing comfortable clothing may be nice to wear on a long distance ride, being aware of saddle comfort is just as important. Saddle sores can break a joy ride and take time to heal so wearing proper cycling shorts with a good chamois can assist saddle discomfort when you've been riding for hours. Some of my favorite women's bibs and shorts to date are by Machines For Freedom and Cafe du Cycliste.

Being prepared for weather, rain or shine, is a good thing. Key items like sunglasses, merino wool based socks and layers, arm/leg warmers, gloves, and a rain jacket can go a long way in maximizing your comfort whatever the weather.

Since planning for this bike tour, I've got into the habit of increasing exercise habits along with healthy diet habits. The last thing I want to do on a ride is bonk out completely and not have enough energy for the last stretch of a days ride. I'm a master snacker, so preparing my own food is important to have a better control over what I need in my diet for the right amount of energy. Although many cyclists rely on gels, pasta and breads for carb loading... if you're gluten-free like me, you'll have to find alternative carb loading through more natural starches. Some good examples are quinoa bars or gluten-free granola bars.

One key ingredient to always have on your bike: water. That's right, keeping hydrated should come as naturally as eating. Some very good training info I got recently from a trainer is to carry an extra bottle filled with electrolytes to replace anything you've sweated along the way.

Whatever you choose, practice carrying healthy amounts of fuel on your ride and test what works for you best. You'll be glad to not have to rely on restaurants which my not give you what you need in terms of healthy fueling. If you do plan meals around restaurants, make sure you plan ahead en route to ensure you're getting what you need when you need it for the journey ahead.

Body Care
When it comes to personal care, worrying about sunburns, chapped lips, sore muscles and saddle sores are usually the obvious things we address. However, for men and women, when it comes to delicate parts, planning for prevention is usually secondary. Unfortunately, saddle sores will happen but preparing with chamois cream can go a long way in reducing friction on your bits and saddle. If you're concerned about caring for more sensitive parts of the female anatomy on rides, Bicycle Magazine recently shared a great article on protecting your lady parts filled with helpful information on prevention and care. Some things to consider on caring for recovery are massages, stretching, and recovery creams. A great assortment for body care and recovery products can be found in VeloVixen's body care.

Although this post is packed with minor details on what to prepare for, simply being open to the experience is something to keep in mind. Things happen along the way, some great, some not, but going with full hearts and open eyes, you can't lose in the journey.

photo courtesy of @laurascott

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