Interviews

On this page we want to share information from other bicycle travellers. We made a list of questions that we were not sure about and asked some experienced bicycle travellers to get our answers. Feel free to ask your own questions in the comment section at the bottom and we will try to get some answers for you. 🙂

I. N. 1 – Jessica and Nick Leaver

Jessica and Nick wanted to do a bicycle tour together for a father and daughter trip. In summer 2014, they tavelled from Zürich to North London in 24 days. They had less weight with them as they decided to stay in hostels and B&B’s rather than camp along the way

  1. How do you make sure you have enough water on the journey? E.g. For riding and camping
    Water wasn’t a major issue as we weren’t camping. We filled up 2 water bottles each every morning one with Isostar – which was very good – one with plain water. We generally bought further drinks once a day, most often Isostar or something similar.
  1. What type of lock do you use?
    Normal cable locks. Sightseeing on the road was always done one at a time, we never left the loaded bikes unattended or out of sight.
  1. Do you take spare inner tubes?
    Yes, but we never had a puncture. We had Schwalbe Marathon puncture resistant tyres fitted before the trip.
  1. Roughly how much weight have you got with you?
    15 kg.
  1. What equipment have you gotten rid of during journeys because you didn’t need them?
    Nothing, we had the absolute minimum with us and it was OK. For a future trip I would invest in really good Gortex wet weather gear. We took cycle capes which weren’t a good idea. They increase your wind resistance enormously, you get wet from underneath and you sweat a lot. I’d also spend more money on better, water proof, panier bags. We packed everything in plastic bags which probably added about 1-2 kg.
  1. How do you find directions?
    We primarily used Google maps, but in future I would use MapsMe, their location finding doesn’t need an Internet connection and is very accurate.
  1. What is the most difficult part about bicycle touring?
    Navigation, on 3 or 4 occasions we very quickly found ourselves 4 or 5 km off course before realizing the mistake. It is very annoying to have to turn round and go back over the same ground. That mainly happened because we were using Google and wanted to avoid the expensive Internet connections. Jessica got a sore bottom for few days, but we had cream/medication. I didn’t have any such problems.
  1. What is the most rewarding/best thing about it?
    The satisfaction of actually doing it, we rode half way across Europe! On a bike you are moving through the countryside at a pace that means that you have constantly changing scenery, but slow enough to take in the sounds and smells as well as the sights.
  1. How often do you take breaks?
    We averaged 100 km a day. The first 40 or 50 km were usually done without a break, unless there was something worth stopping to looking at. We usually stopped 2 or 3 times during the afternoon.
  1. Where do you usually stay?
    Guesthouses, bed and breakfast or simple hotels.
  1. How do you find a place to stay?
    Booking.com. We booked the first few nights in advance ca. 100 km apart to force us to make a flying start. After the first 2 days we found that 100 km was a good distance so thereafter we booked 2 or 3 days ahead.
  1. What do you consider when finding a wild camping spot?
    We didn’t camp because of the weight that we would have had to carry and because we only had 14 days in which to do the trip. I did one cycling trip with a tent many years ago and found that I spent a lot more time camping than cycling. The independence was very enjoyable and it was a very cheap holiday but it was very hard work.
  1. How many km per day would you ride usually?
    80-100. We once did 125, because we got very badly lost, which was a killer.
  1. Is there something you would like to tell us as an advice?
    Load up your bikes with exactly what you intend to take, leave home at 08:00 and head towards Rapperswil, Schmerikon, Ziegelbrücke, see how far you get by 16:00 or you’ve had enough and then take the train home. Do the same again a week or so later, but stay overnight, there is a camping site Camping Gäsi near Wessen, and then cycle home again.

 I. N. 2 – Dieter

Dieter has made quite a few bike tours, from Zürich to Germany, Zürich to Morocco and a few other small trips around Switzerland. We thought he would be a great source of information before our trip and here are his answers to some of the questions we had during our preparation.

 

  1. How do you make sure you have enough water on the journey? E.g. For riding and Camping
    We usually carry three bottles of water in three bottle holders fixed to the bike. For water, we also took some tablets with, which clean the water. You can find these in most sports shops.
  2. How do you find directions?
    Even though our phone has a compass, we carry an extra one with as in sunny weather you usually cannot see much on the screen. We carry maps with us that are in scale of 1/3000, when we get to a village, we might go to the tourist office and ask for a local map to find our way around. We also got Apps on our phones to find directions if needed. But again we like to meet the locals, ask them for directions, and getting into a chat with them. For us this is how we get to know the land and people. Although, we like travelling without any particular route in mind. We take whatever a road which we feel has little traffic and seems to have nice sights.
  3. What is the most difficult part about bicycle touring?
    I think when traveling with someone and you have the same ideas, for example, getting up at the same time, traveling the same amount per day, then most likely, you will have a good ride, otherwise you might struggle. But for me personally big roads with many cars I find quiet difficult. This is why we both have rear mirrors. Daylong rain and packing a wet tent can also be very challenging.
  4. What is the most rewarding/best thing about it?
    You witness many things; you see beautiful sights and smell your surroundings. You can always stop whenever you want and be on your own schedule. You get far and you see much more then with just driving on the motorway. Not having fixed plans, being able to stop and take a day of is a very rewarding too. We like to use maps as little as possible which make the journeys for us adventures. Also, when riding a bike you are alone and can’t comment on everything you see, so in the evening when sitting in the camp site together, you talk about your day. Somehow, you are alone but also with someone.
  5. What type of lock do you use?
    A heavy ABUS lock and an additional thick wire to lock the wheels to the bikes.
  6. How often do you take breaks?
    We have no routine just whenever we felt like it or when we find a nice spot to rest.
  7. Do you take spare inner tubes?
    Yes per bike one inner tube and a repair kit.
  8. Where do you usually stay?
    Mostly on Campsites or we also like to stay in hostels.
  9. How do you find a place to stay?
    Depending on the position of the sun, our mood, how we felt at that time or if we wanted to have a roof over our head we started looking for places to stay. We wouldn’t leave the search for accommodation for too late. Other than that we had no particular idea of how to find a place to stay.
  10. What do you consider when finding a wild camping spot?
    Hidden places and try not to shine light on the reflectors on your bike too much. We once camped in the wild and children from the village noticed us and made a lot of noise. So try not to attract too much attention.
  11. Are there any snacks you always bring with or have with you on a bike tour? We usually have Salted Nuts, Dextrin and a few cereal bars with us in our handlebar bag. Some time we forgot to eat or it just didn’t work out because of the rout we were taking. But generally you don’t need any survival snacks in Europe as a shop is mostly not far off.
  12. How many km per day would you ride usually?
    We generally drive about 70 km per day but could also go up to 100 km when the conditions of weather and roads are good.
  13. Roughly how much weight have you got with you?
    One time we weighted our Bags and both of my front panniers where 4.3 kg and the back panniers 6 and 8 kg. The handlebar bag was 3kg and I also had the tent of 4.2 kg on top of the carrier and the back panniers, which adds up to 29.8 kg. The bike itself is 17 kg.
    My Partner bike is also 17 kg. At the time where we weighted the bags she didn’t have front panniers yet so she had a backpack on top of the carrier which weighted 2.7 kg. Her back panniers where 6.2 and 7.1 kg which for her adds up to 16 kg, and for both of us to 45.8 kg.
  14. What equipment have you gotten rid of during journeys because you didn’t need them?
    I like to keep the local maps, which we get from tourist offices so i sent some home once. Also I brought a lot of synthetic clothes which I found not to be suitable when sweating and not being able to wash a lot. So I have send clothes home before and replaced them with woolly wear.
  15. Is there any advice you can give us as beginners?
    “Trust in god but bind your camels legs first” – Sufi Meaning, believe in good things happening but first do your part in preventing bad things to occur. So you don’t need to fear anything