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Preparing the trip

Always keep in mind

Travelling by bike requires that you take basic preparatory precautions to forestall any unexpected inconveniences. The first thing to bear in mind is that you will be exposed to the elements on an almost continual basis. Regardless of the time of year, sunscreen and raincoats are compulsory.

It is not recommended that you carry a bag on your back when cycling. This is harmful to the spine and causes excess sweating. Use carrier bags that attach to the side of the bike. These are manufactured to fit every type of bike, make sure you select the one that’s right for you. Ensure that they are comfortable to take off and attach to the bike. Remember, you will also have to carry these bags by hand once you take them off the bike while you are stopped off at hostels.

The bike will be your sole method of transport, so be sure to check it thoroughly before you set off. Most importantly, check you wheels, lights and brakes. When your wheels and tyres are in sturdy condition, the uncomfortable task of repairing punctures can be prevented. Brakes and lights are obviously important as they contribute to your safety on the road. You do not need to be frightened of travelling on the roads, but you do need to be aware of your responsibilities. Some countries, like the Netherlands, have highly developed cycling infrastructure and so make this kind of travelling easier.

Nonetheless, there are many European countries where this is not the case. You will be sharing the road with cars, so you must ensure that you are at all times visible. You will need a reflective shirt and lights for cycling at night or when dealing with diverse weather patterns such as fog and rain. If the weather becomes extremely bad, it is better to avoid cycling altogether.

When preparing one’s luggage, try to pack as lightly as possible, but without missing anything that’s essential. Bear in mind that you will be able to wash your clothes in youth hostels. Avoid packing excess materials- this will save you effort later on when you have to carry your bike onto a train or up a hill. Every route that we have thus suggested on Europebybike passes through areas where there are plenty of supermarkets. It is important not to create extra weight needlessly by packing large quantities of food. It is possible to buy food-supplies for one or two days at a time- always remembering that it may sometimes be difficult to buy things on Sundays.

Here’s an example of a list of essential things (there is not an order of importance):

- Helmet - Front and rear lights
- Bags for bike - Bungee clips for luggage
- Luggage carrier - Frontal basket or bag
- Spare tyres - A torch
- Swiss Army Knife - Plastic refuse bags
- Raincoat - Spare brake cables
- Allen keys - Camping stove with pot
- Clothes (be mindful when packing these- not too many!) - Reflective jacket
- Sleeping bag - Sleeping mat/ Airbed
- Tent - Soap
- Detergent - Notebook and pen
- Daily food - Bottles for water
- Flask - Locks
- Dictionary - Sun cream
- Map - Cutlery

The main piece of advice that we can offer is that- once you have completed these preparatory steps- take a quick trip around your local area. This will give you something of an idea about how secure and comfortable everything is before you actually set off.