Whether you’re riding through the Basque Country, the Raid Pyrenees, the Raid Alps or any other amazing adventure on two wheels, the best thing you can do to enjoy your time in the saddle is to make the proper preparations before you even take the first pedal stroke. In the last few blogs, we’ve offered some tips on preparing you and your bike for a cycling tour. This time, we’d like to talk something quite simple but very important: what to pack for a successful trip.
Our first piece of advice about packing? Don’t leave it until the last minute! If you try to pack in a hurry, like right before you board a plane or train for your holiday, you’re likely to forget something essential. There’s nothing more irritating than having to buy new cycling shoes before a big week in the mountains. (But if you do happen to leave something behind, don’t worry, we can help you find a replacement! Pack in an organized and methodical manner. It may even help you to make a list and check off each item as they are put in your travel bag or suitcase.
Let’ start with the bike. If you are bringing your own bike, make sure it has no missing or worn-out parts. If you need more help with preparing your bike for a tour, be sure to check out this Bike Basque blog post. Make sure to bring your 1) helmet, 2) cycling shoes and 3) pedals. If you ride with a GPS or power meter, don’t forget to pack those along with the proper mount and power cables specific to your device. Sunglasses or other eye protection is also essential for comfort from bright sun and safety from road debris. This is a good time to mention packing sunscreen!
Now on to cycling clothes. For a weeklong cycling tour, it’s best to pack a minimum of two sets bibs or shorts. Washing can be done at hotels with a laundry service or you can hand wash in the sink and dry in a towel overnight. Think about bringing a set of knee or leg warmers. The weather can change rapidly in the mountains, even in the summer. The same goes for jerseys and base layers. You will receive a Echappée Cycling Tours jersey on our tours but you may prefer to bring a few favorites along too. Don’t forget to pack a long sleeved cycling jerseys for cold mornings. Or you may wish to pack arm warmers and a vest. A packable gilet is a very handy piece to have with you, especially for Raid Pyrenees tours, when the weather can change drastically from the base to the summit. A packable waterproof outer shell is also recommended for rainy days on the bike. You may also want to consider bringing shoe covers, a casquette or other head covering, short-fingered gloves for hot days and long fingered gloves for cold days and even a bandana or sport towel for sweat and/or wet weather. If you join a tour with a support van, you can pack all of these “emergency” weather items in a small bag or backpack to stow in the van. Then you can add or remove layers as needed.
What about after your ride? Bike Basque founder, Xavier, has a great tip for off-the-bike comfort: “Straight when you get to your hotel, take off those hot, unsteady cycling shoes and wet socks and put on a pair of your favorite flip-flops…it’s the best feeling!” And even better, if it’s summer time, why not pack a swimsuit or swimming trunks and head straight to the pool. Most hotels on a Bike Basque tour will have a swimming pool! A pair of shorts and a tee-shirt, plus a warm sweater or hoody after your swim, makes for a great recovery outfit.
Don’t forget off-the-bike essentials. Pack light and comfortable for your tour. Most hotels and restaurants won’t mind you wearing casual clothing to dinner. A pair of jeans is just fine. Remember to pack your usual toiletries. Bar soap and shampoo are generally available at hotels. Don’t leave home without adapters for your phone, laptop and other electrical devices.
Safety and security. If you require any personal medication, pack those first. Also, don’t forget your passport and a copy, which you should store separate from the original. Be sure to provide an emergency contact name and phone number and a copy of your health/accident insurance card in the event on an unlikely emergency. It never hurts to carry a little bit of the local currency with you on tour for anything extra during the day that you might want or need. Not every shop in takes credit cards (and you may want to buy a cool Tourmalet souvenir!)
The guides at Bike Basque and the staff at our local shop, Capra Velo, have lots of experience riding in France. So as always, if you have any questions about how to prepare for your upcoming bike tour that are not answered in our blogs, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always happy to help you have the best time on your bike.