As most of you know by now, me, my husband, and our three children (ages 6, 4, and almost 2), are on a crazy cycling adventure. We decided to ride our bikes from Kingston, ON, to London, ON, a 557-kilometre trek along beautiful Lake Ontario (and sometimes highway 2). We already shared what we’ve brought on our trip, but we thought you might be interested in what we didn’t bring—but wish we had.
What most of you might not know is that we are total cycle touring newbies. My husband is more of a cyclist than I am. Last year, he commuted to work virtually every single day (a 15-Kilometer ride each way).
I used to do sprint triathlons, but since my youngest kiddo was born, I’ve been embarrassingly inactive. So my most recent long bike ride was a 30 Kilometer ride during a sprint triathlon (in which I came last in my age group), way back in 2013. I did these triathlons for fun, so I didn’t have proper gear – I just rode my little hybrid bicycle and wore my running shoes. Alas, things are different when you’re cycle touring. You need proper gear. Trust me.
We are learning lots as we go, and here I’m sharing the 4 things we should have thought of bringing before we set out on this trip. Number 4 is by far the most important.
1. Padded Bike Shorts.
For the first 225 Kilometers of this trip, I wore what I had in my drawer: “bike shorts” with no padding at all. They were basically just bike length shorts. They’re comfortable and all, but not for 225 kilometers. Seriously, I should have invested in proper bike shorts waaaaaaaaaaay earlier. They’re not cheap, but are they ever worth it.
My behind (and other parts) fell sleep frequently for the first week of this trip. These parts still fall asleep when I’m wearing the bike shorts, but it takes longer now. I’m also learning some interesting things about wearing bike shorts that I never new before. Namely, the whole underwear question.
I am very thankful for the ridiculous amount of money I spent on these. I’m also thankful for our awesome Oshawa Couchsurfing host, who drove us to the store so that I could purchase these shorts. I also bought myself a cycling shirt at the same time (another expensive item). While not essential, this shirt has pockets on the back, where I can put my cell phone in order to reach it quickly, in case Dan and I ever get separated (I’m really relying on Dan for the maps/directions for this trip, since my sense of direction is non-existent). I also learned to keep my inhaler in the back of my shirt, after a scary asthma attack at the top of a hill.
2. Bike Shoes
Like I said, we’re biking newbies. Because my husband used to commute a good distance to work last year, he got himself a pair of bike shoes. Me, on the other hand… I’d always just worn my gym shoes (even when I was doing my sprint triathlons).
Okay, let me tell you right now, spend the money and get proper bike shoes (and the necessary pedals that go with them). Whereas it won’t kill you to wear gym shoes, your feet will hurt. Really. When you’re doing 30-40 Kilometers per day, day in and day out, you need rigid soles. I have some sore spots on my feet from wearing inappropriate shoes on this trip.
Unfortunately, bike shoes require a lot of practice to be worn safely and effectively, so it’s not something I feel comfortable just walking into a store and getting before practicing clipping in and out without hauling two kids behind me. I’m going to stick with my trusty gym shoes ’till the end of this trip, but rest assured, if we ever do this again, I will be buying bike shoes ahead of time.
3. Road ID
Okay, we confess to being huge procrastinators on this one. We’ve been meaning to get these even before we decided to set out on this trip, and we just keep putting it off. Road ID is an awesome safety product meant for the active individual (joggers, cyclists, etc.), who are notorious for setting out on the road with no ID whatsoever. It’s basically a bracelet that has your full name, emergency contact information, medical information, and other important information in case of an accident.
I have asthma, and although it’s mild, it’s been on the back of my mind to wear something to alert people to that fact for a while now. After a scary asthma attack during this trip (where, in my desperation, I tore through three ziplock bags to find my puffer), it’s become even more clear that wearing an alert bracelet of some kind would be a good idea.
Because we procrastinated a little too much, we wouldn’t have had time to order the Road IDs on time before setting out. So I just went into an engraving store and got a “dog tag” with my name, “asthma,” and my emergency #’s engraved on it for now.
Rest assured, whether or not we do a big trip like this again, the minute we get home, we will be ordering Road ID for the whole family.
Another lesson learned – I now carry my puffer in the back pocket of my bike shirt (so perhaps the bike shirt is an essential after all).
4. More Water
This would probably be a no-brainer for most people, but I guess we’re not “most people…” Looking back now, we did not pack nearly enough water for all of us for a full day on this trip. Day 2 of the trip was extremely humid, and we went through our water really fast… and ran out in the middle of nowhere. No stores for miles, just farmland with nobody around.
We lucked out and saw a lady cutting the grass in her front lawn, and we attempted to rely on the kindness of strangers to see if she would fill us up. Apparently the people around that area are all on well water, and their well water isn’t good, so they buy all their water from a place 10 Kilometers away (in the direction we had just pedaled from). She was hesitant initially, but once she saw the kids she gave us about a liter (see, kids are good for something!—just kidding, you all know I love my kids).
When we got to the next town, we bought a 4L jug that we re-fill at every spot we can. We still have the other bottles, which together, make another 4 liters. We haven’t yet run out of water again. We have about 8 Liters now, but we stop frequently enough that it’s not a problem. We are cautious now of checking our maps and carrying extra if we now we’ll be in farmland for long periods of time.
So there you have it, the stuff that is pretty essential to a bike trip, that we should have taken but didn’t. We’ve learned some good lessons and hope you heed our advice if you decide to take off on your own adventure as well.
What about you? Did you ever forget to bring something pretty important on an adventure? Let us know in the comments.