A lady on her bike outside

Cyclotourism for beginners

Cycle tourism, namely, bicycle tourism, is gaining popularity among adventure and outdoor enthusiasts. Accessible to sportspeople of all levels, this activity offers a variety of options for alternative travel while fully enjoying the summer. Here are some tips to help you plan your road cycling holiday!

How to prepare for your getaway

Be aware of your limits when planning your cycling trip. Setting big goals can be motivating but starting small is likely to be more enjoyable for you. You will be able to increase the level of difficulty as you improve your endurance.

To avoid ending up in dire straits, good planning is essential - especially during a pandemic. As several places or businesses still limit access to visitors, try to plan your essential stops - meals, accommodations, etc. - and make reservations ahead of time.

If your bike has not been used for a long time, have it examined by a bicycle repair specialist to make sure that all essential parts (brakes, chain, tires, etc.) are in good condition.

Choose your type of adventure

Different types of bike trips are at your fingertips:

  • Fully autonomous long-distance excursions: This type of trip is best suited for people who are very active and who are used to long trips. As you will travel many kilometers, it’s better to plan your overnight stays at a hotel or on a campsite. If necessary, you will need to purchase additional accessories, such as bicycle bags, a portable pump, or wilderness camping gear.
  • Organized trips: Different companies and travel agencies will be able to offer you personalized itineraries according to your interests and abilities. They can also offer you packages that include luggage transportation during the day, meals and accommodations. These packages are more expensive than a self-planned tour but may be worth it if you are looking for a turnkey solution!
  • Day trips: By taking shorter trips that will get you back to your starting point in a matter of hours, you can fit this activity into your schedule without spending your entire vacation on it. This option is ideal for families, slightly less active people and those who do not want to travel too far from home, but who still want to discover new places.

Tools to plan your trips

To find a trail or route that inspires you, consider checking websites or tourist offices of the region, city or municipality you would like to visit. These sites often offer suggested routes and maps of designated trails or streets that you can take.

La Route Verte is an essential website to discover the multiple cycling networks in Québec. Among other things, you will find interactive maps, getaway suggestions, accommodation options and various tips for exploring the trails in the province behind the pedals of your two-wheeler.

For day-to-day use, Google maps is an essential tool for discovering cycle networks. This application will be able to suggest itineraries that include safe routes, such as paved shoulders, designated roadways or cycle paths.

If you want to better track your routes and your goals, Strava - a tracker application for cycling and running – can help you save routes, browse itineraries submitted by other users and track your performance, among other things.

Essential cycling accessories

Besides a bicycle, you must at least bring the following accessories to ensure your safety and comfort throughout your trip:

  • A helmet that will protect your head in the event of an accident. You must always place it in the middle of your head, not tilted, and snug without being too tight. You should be able to slide a finger between the strap and your chin. If your helmet has already received a shock, replace it, as it may be less effective at taking impact.
  • Glasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays, which can have irreversible effects on your vision. It's better to always wear sunglasses outdoors, even in winter.
  • A reusable water bottle. The dangers of dehydration are well known, and the risk of suffering from it is much greater on hot days or when doing physical activity.
  • A good sunscreen. As recommended by the Canadian Dermatology Association, an SPF of 30 or more is preferred to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Headlights and reflectors. If you don’t have these accessories, you can easily find them in stores.
  • A strong padlock to prevent theft. U-locks are among the safest to protect a bicycle because they're stronger and require a lot more effort and tools to break them.
  • Good quality shorts that will prevent skin irritation caused by friction. Some models even contain gel inserts that help absorb shock and reduce seat discomfort. Remember: the shorts are worn without underwear!

How to avoid hurting yourself

Adopting a good posture on a bike and ensuring that it is the right size for you is essential, especially if you plan to go on longer rides. For example, a small detail like a seat being too low could cause numbness and pain in the back and knees.

To avoid injury, pay attention to the following:

    • Take good care of adjusting your bike settings before your departure. To help you, you can go to a specialized store. If you realize that your bike doesn't quite fit your measurements, see if it is possible to replace some parts.
    • Listen to your body: take breaks and pay attention to your body signals. Feeling pain while cycling isn't normal. If you experience persistent discomfort, check that your bike is adjusted properly or contact a bike positioning expert. 
    • Pay attention to your posture. According to the Ontario Physiotherapy Association, your back and wrists should always be straight, and your legs should be almost fully extended when the crankset is at its lowest.
    • Start slowly! As with any type of physical activity, a warm-up period is essential to limit the risk of injury and to relax the muscles.
    • Make sure you maintain a good cadence. Typically, it is recommended to give around 90 to 100 pedal revolutions per minute, which will reduce knee pressure and promote your muscular endurance.

Sources (French)

Vélo : bien se préparer pour éviter de se blesser durant la saison

Cyclisme ou comment éviter les blessures

Cyclisme : en santé, du casque aux pédales

Comment réussir son positionnement vélo?