Here are our 5 tips for your first mountain bike tour – to ensure it runs smoothly
By Catherine Shearer, H+I Adventures owner
If you’ve never travelled to explore a new destination on your bike before, taking part in your first mountain bike tour, and riding for several consecutive days in a new country, can be a bit daunting. To help ease your nerves and prepare you for being in the best shape – both physically and mentally – here are our top 5 tips for your first mountain bike tour!
Never underestimate the amount of training you should be doing
It’s happened to us all: you have the best intentions of riding your bike three days a week, plus a long ride at the weekend, but somehow, life just gets in the way and you find yourself struggling to get out even once a week. STOP! Don’t let yourself get away with it, because the more hours you put in on the saddle before your mountain bike tour, the more you’ll get out of the whole experience.
No one likes to be the one hanging on for dear life at the back of the group – believe me, I’ve been that rider! To help motivate you and give you focus, our guide Alex Glasgow has put together this great training plan for you to follow in the months running up to your adventure.
Read the kit list carefully and do a test-run with your fully-laden backpack
For most of us, our regular rides are from 1 to 4 hours and we’ll carry a 10l – 12l backpack with just enough food, water and spare clothes to see us through that time. However, when you join us on one of our mountain bike adventures, you’ll most likely be out in the mountains for 4 to 10 hours a day, in areas where weather conditions can change very quickly, therefore you need to carry much more in your backpack than normal.
This is the reason that we recommend a 20l backpack for most of our mountain bike tours, and practising with all your kit in this larger pack will allow you to make any adjustments to make sure that your pack is comfortable to ride with all day.
“the more hours you put in on the saddle before your mountain bike tour, the more you’ll get out of the whole experience”
Don’t use your mountain bike tour as the time to try out your new bike shoes
This is a classic ‘school-boy error’! Quite simply, there’s nothing worse than having sore feet and blisters, it’s miserable, and will really put a downer on your trip. Test out your new shoes on several local rides, and if they’re not perfect, go with the old faithfuls!
Make sure your helmet is fit for purpose
An implicit part of mountain biking is risk taking, however you don’t want to be taking risks with your most important asset, your brain! This means that you should be checking your mountain bike helmet is fit for purpose before coming to ride with us in a new destination, on new trails, for several consecutive days.
Your mountain bike helmet is designed to protect your brain, with high-tech design and materials, but it doesn’t come with a ‘lifetime guarantee’ and you should be checking your helmet every year for UV degradation and damage, and after every crash, of course. I had two opportunities to check my bike helmet on our recce trip for our new tour to Croatia! Thankfully there aren’t any photos of that!
One of our Scottish guides, Chris Gibbs, has put together this handy guide to checking that your helmet is fit for purpose.
“your mountain bike helmet is designed to protect your brain, with high-tech design and materials, but it doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee”
If you’re travelling with your bike, don’t leave packing it until the last minute
The EVOC bike travel bag is an excellent choice, both for protection and ease of use, requiring (after a few tries) just 10 minutes to pack and unpack your bike for travel. It’s also incredibly well designed for pulling around airports, train stations and lugging into vehicles.
When packing up your bike for the first time, however, it will probably take longer than anticipated to get everything just right in the bag or box, so it’s a good idea to start the process a day or two before leaving home. If you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, your local bike shop will probably be happy to help you with it, and when you arrive on your mountain bike tour with us, your guides will assist you with unpacking and re-packing your bike, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Another extremely important point if you’re bringing your own bike on your tour, is to make sure that you have it professionally serviced, including all suspension and brakes, before travelling. If your suspension fails in the middle of the Himalayas or the Andes, you could be in for a very uncomfortable ride for the rest of your trip.