Self Supported Touring
Freedom in its purest form. I did my first multi-day tour last year when I rode from Girona to Milan. Since then I've done a few 2 and 3 day rides but nothing over that. Something is in the works, however. It was weird thinking that this is all I have for the next few days, if something were to happen I’d be on my own. Flats, bike issues - anything could go wrong. Thankfully it didn’t and it was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever done. It can be a little scary to do one of these but it all comes down to planning, the route, what to bring and the weather.
Strava has an excellent route builder and that’s how I plan mine. If you use the “heat map” feature you can see the more popular roads and avoid the busier ones. It’s not always avoidable (some highways in France aren’t so fun). I like to plan the entire route over the course of the days that I’m doing it and upload them into my Garmin.
Booking.com or Airbnb are my choices to find somewhere to stay along the way. What I like to do as motivation is reserve the hotel/airbnb when I finish each day so I have to get to the destination otherwise I just wasted money. Hotels usually have breakfast for 10-15 euros which I always get because it pays for itself in terms of fuel for the next few hours and snacks for the road.
What to bring/Where do I keep this stuff?
I have a Rapha x Apidura saddle bag that I use which is 11l in capacity. A recent 2-day ride rendered it pretty useless and they warrantied it for one of their new 20l bar bags which I am pretty excited about. When you overload a rear pack it sways side to side when you’re out of the saddle which has a weird feeling that takes some time getting used to. Depending on the length of the trip you can usually use 1 kit for 2 days (I know it’s kind of gross but this is touring) before washing it in the hotel. So for example, if a tour is 6 days I’ll bring 3 bibs, 3 jerseys and 3 pairs of socks. Of course, I’ll look at the weather forecast for all the places I’ll be passing through. Having a rain jacket, arm/leg warmers, gloves, lightweight shoe covers (something like velotoze) is always recommended to have unless you’re blessed with 30-degree weather everywhere you go - unlikely but hey you never know. I also packed a regular t-shirt, pants, and flip flops which I didn't use so that was just a waste of space. A portable charger is also highly recommended (I have a 20k mAh) that can charge multiple devices at once, it’s a little heavier but definitely worth having. All the essentials: toothbrush/toothpaste, contacts and solution (if you’re like me), any vitamins you take, spare tubes, patch kit, c02 AND a mini pump, a spare tire (it doesn’t have to be brand new just in case), tire boot, extra chain pins or quick links, multi-tool with chain breaker, 2 x spare spokes, chamois creme (if you use it). If by some miracle you have some room left you can put some ride food in there as well.
What to eat/avoid
Since you might be riding 8+ hours a day it’s a good idea to be on top of your nutrition. The usual 250-300 calories per hour of riding are still intact but you also have to take into account dinner and fuel for the next day. Just from experience, I would avoid any foods that are high in sodium and regular pasta. You’ll definitely be dehydrated and eating 2 pizzas in your hotel room means the next morning you’ll be carrying some water weight and that’s not amazing on the climbs.
You’ll be experiencing a country an entirely different way, there are no “out and back” rides and that’s the beauty of it all. No rush, nowhere to be just riding all day and exploring. It’s an adventure and it’s something that will stick with you.