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Before You Tour: Biking Basics

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With beautiful, untouched landscapes, friendly locals, and budget-friendly prices, Eastern Europe is perfect for bikers who are interested in exercise, culture, and, sometimes, doing a bit of “roughing it.” For a safe and enjoyable adventure, it always pays to be prepared. Follow this list of basics to get you started on planning your bicycle tour through Eastern Europe.

The Bike

A beginner bicyclist might be overwhelmed by choices of bicycles. However, there is some agreement on the type of bike that is best for a novice. This bike is called a hybrid, and is characterized by flat or raised handlebars and rack mounts useful for tours. It is faster than a mountain bike and is often more comfortable; the upright position is better for long distances than other bike types. Hybrids are also good on a variety of terrain, such as the uneven surfaces of dirt roads.

Handlebar Bag

This is the bag that snaps into place on your handlebars. Keep important items here—like mobile phones, camera, documents, money, and snacks. Also buy large, easy-to-read maps and place them in your handlebar bag. Keep this the weight of this bag between five to eight pounds.

Front Pannier

Some bikers feel that the front pannier should have a heavier weight distribution than the back pannier. This is a more European style and does not impede ease of steering the bike. It is advisable to keep rain gear in the front pannier where you can easily find it. Also, for protecting the belongings in this bag, make sure that your pannier comes with a rain cover of its own.

Back Pannier

The back pannier can contain extra clothing, but be sure to leave some room if you plan on picking up souvenirs along the way. The best rule of thumb for pannier weight distribution is 40% of the weight in the back pannier and 60% in the front pannier.

Clothing Essentials

The proper gear is essential for a safe and enjoyable bike tour. Be sure you have the proper clothing that will allow for changing weather conditions. Less is not always more; bring along a long-sleeved t-shirt that will protect you from the sun on hot days. Proper cycling attire will wick away sweat and dry quickly—other clothing may soak up moisture and be wet for days, adding weight and making the rider uncomfortable. Cycling shoes will reduce strain from excessive pressure of pedaling.

Other Essentials

Make sure you bring along sunscreen, insect repellant, and a first-aid kit and any other essential toiletries. Packages of tissues or toilet paper with the cardboard roll removed are a good idea. On an extensive ride where you don’t pass through any metropolitan areas, you will want to be prepared.

Safety and Precautions

Your bike should have a place to attach a tire pump, but always be sure to pack in an easily-accessible bag, tools in case you need to do a quick repair. When you stop somewhere for a meal or for the night, lock your bike securely and take your bags with you—especially the bag containing your documents and money.

Overnight

You may want to camp, or you may prefer the comfort of hotels or bed-and-breakfasts along the way. In less populous areas, it may be difficult to find lodging. Either plan your trip in advance and book your lodgings accordingly, or be prepared to ask one of locals to put you up for a night. Eastern Europeans can be very accommodating. However, this comes with a word of caution for women, especially those who choose to travel alone.
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