How To Hit The Road: A Beginner’s Guide To Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

Everything you need to plan your ride in a single comprehensive guide.

If you’re dreaming of a bicycle-mounted adventure of any kind, and you’re trying to put that dream into action, this book will guide you though all the steps you need to take to make it happen.

It doesn’t matter where you want to go, or for how long. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you ride. It doesn’t matter if you call it “cycle touring”, “bikepacking”, or any other name. The fundamentals are the same – and the 34 detailed chapters of this book cover all of them.

This is not another badly-researched ebook written in a week to make some quick money online.

I remember ‘discovering’ cycle touring. It was 2006, and I was browsing a bookshop in Edinburgh when a title involving ‘adventure cycle touring’ caught my eye. I bought it on a whim and spent the afternoon under a tree devouring its contents. By the end of the day I’d decided to try and cycle round the world.

Then I started Googling the first questions that came to mind – questions about bikes, camping equipment, border crossings, and other technicalities. This one mistake cost me a year. Because that book, while useful, forgot to tell me that a bicycle adventure, at its core, is really very simple.

Conversely, on blogs and discussion boards on the web, nobody agreed on anything, everyone claimed to know best, and there seemed to be an overwhelming obsession with which shiny bits of metal were better than others.

It was also never clear how much time any of these anonymous strangers had actually spent travelling by bicycle.

This all made me confused and daunted. A long bike trip felt like a Really Big Thing. I didn’t know where to start. There seemed so much I needed to know, and Google only uncovered more things I needed know. I thought I needed to have every last detail figured out before setting off, otherwise something terrible would happen.

A year later, I did eventually set off to cycle round the world. And I soon realised I could have started much sooner and with far less stress. All that confusion and fear was unnecessary – a result of getting bogged down in all the wrong questions.

I wish someone had told me what I actually needed to know to get to the starting line, and what could wait until later, or was in fact never important at all.

My sole aim with this guide is getting you to the starting line of your ride.

I’ve since spent over a decade riding and writing about bicycle travel – somewhere in the region of 25,000km in around 50 countries. I write primarily to help people, because it’s intrinsically gratifying to share and evangelise such a wonderful form of travel.

This has resulted in some basic principles for this book:

  • It’s about making things simple, covering the full range of topics, but not getting bogged down in unnecessary details.
  • It presents a range of perspectives, rather than the “my way is the best way” approach you’ll find on blogs and forums and in other books on the subject.
  • It’s written to reassure you as much as to provide practical advice, because getting started isn’t about knowing everything, but about knowing enough to begin.

Whatever you’re planning, and wherever you’re going, if it involves a bicycle travel and the spirit of adventure, this book has got you covered.

Even if you only discovered bicycle travel today.

Especially if you only discovered it today.

The guide is broken down into three logical parts.

Part One: How To Get Ready contains 9 chapters covering the big questions you’ll probably have already asked yourself. You’ll learn about a range of approaches to each topic, and come away with a much clearer picture of how to approach planning your trip in a way that fits your priorities.

Part Two: How To Get Going contains 14 chapters on every common scenario you’ll encounter between leaving your front door and finishing your ride. This is all about helping you visualise what life on two wheels is going to be like, so you can prepare mentally in advance of hitting the road.

Part Three: How To Go Further contains an additional 11 chapters that are likely to become relevant once you’ve got the hang of the basics, or if you’re planning something particularly ambitious. (This is where the experiences of the guide’s other contributors really come into their own.)

If, after reading this book, you still don’t know where to start – well – I’ll film myself eating my cycle helmet and upload it to Youtube.

(Nobody has yet taken me up on this offer.)