Hi Tim. Clearly you have done a lot of touring and adventuring, and as a newbie to the whole thing I just have a bunch of questions I’d love to ask a veteran. If you have a little time on your hands for a little email back and forth please let me know. I’d love to hear form you. Thanks!
Thanks for the email.
You have my attention so please do fire away with any questions. It’s what I’m here for!
Thanks for replying! A lot of my questions are probably pretty basic but having someone experienced answer them is always a good thing for me. My husband and I are sailing come April for Barcelona and our plan is to bike from there up to the UK, through Norway, back down through Germany and ending in Italy to take a ship back to the US. So knowing our plans, I guess I’ll just fire off questions in succession…
1. For long touring we’ll be splitting time between wild camping and Bed and Breakfast places. Do you have any tips for wild camping? I know the laws vary by country but that’s about it.
Since you’ll be on roads and in developed countries, the “wild” part of wild camping is often a bit of an exaggeration. You will almost always be within a few yards of a road and probably not much further from buildings, houses, shops etc. As such, there are two basic approaches: ask or be discreet.
Traditionally, I’ve always gone with discreet. Bivvy bags are great for this. Just find somewhere quiet you think no one will mind and/or see you (e.g. a park) and don’t make a mess. I’ve never had any trouble doing this.
However, on my latest trip (cycling around the world), we just asked. Every single night, we’d knock on a door or ask in a shop/police station/hotel. We’d either ask if they knew somewhere we could camp or we’d point somewhere that looked good and ask if they thought anyone would mind. Most times people would say yes or help us. Not once was anyone annoyed that we’d asked (and we did this perhaps 300 times).
2. We are freelancers by trade and will need stable Internet connections at least once every few days. Is free wifi or prepay wifi a thing you can find in cities? Or is that more an American thing.
Wifi is everywhere. Some countries/cities will have prepay systems (e.g. BT Openzone in the UK), some lucky towns will have free public wifi and every other cafe/pub/restaurant/hotel will have wifi you can use if you’re eating/drinking/sleeping there.
We maintained our blog once or twice a week whilst cycling, wrote articles for magazines, built a cycling database, I designed some websites and my wife did some legal work (she’s a lawyer) whilst travelling. You’ll find wifi no problem.
You probably know about this stuff anyway but it is, of course, very easy to use mobile internet through your cell phone too. Buy a local SIM, put a few dollars/Euros on it, connect by Bluetooth/USB to your computer and you’ll have internet wherever there’s phone signal (which is everywhere).
3. My biggest question that I’ve had a hard time finding answers for is hygene. With wild camping being the most common way we’ll be sleeping and since bikes are our vehicles I’m wondering about showers and how someone would pack toiletries for a 6 month tour? I don’t expect to carry 6 months of supplies, of course, but I’m still unsure where to start there or when and where I can even expect to use them outside of when we spring for a night in a B&B.
First off, don’t forget that although you’ll be away travelling for 6 months, in Europe you’ll never be more than 20 minutes bike ride from a shop. You will pass several every day. As such, you can buy soap/shampoo/new toothbrush/underwear at any time.
For washing, I carried a small flannel and a tiny pack towel (full size but packed to the size of a fist). Find a public toilet with a locked door and you’re all set for a wash down. Find one without and you just have to be a bit more bold/shameless.
Our wild camps often involved pitching near a tap or toilets which helps with this stuff. But, if not, even a pint of water is good enough for a wipe down with a flannel. We also had the luxury of a folding bowl.
The longest we ever went without a *shower* was six days. The longest without a wash was probably only two or three.
4. As for biking itself I’m also concerned about our packs and what to do should we want to walk around a location but don’t want to take our bikes or carry around the pannier.
A couple of ideas spring to mind:
- We carried tiny fold away rucksacks that packed to the size of a golf ball (see this article). They were excellent and we used them all the time.
- Handlebar bags are great bits of kit and almost always easily detachable and wearable (we had Ortlieb Ultimate 6).
- Panniers, like Ortlieb, often have shoulder straps. Perhaps not perfect but better than nothing.
5. I’m also wondering if you have any input on places that are specifically bike friendly or even places that should be avoided?
Holland, Denmark and Germany have the best reputations for cycling that I know of. We found France excellent. Have you seen the EuroVelo routes? Google them if not. My experiences of Norway (Sweden and Finland) were of lovely, quiet roads too.
Bad places? Nowhere springs to mind. We found Switzerland’s drivers a bit aggressive but not as bad as the States (sorry!) and there are great cycle routes and scenery there so I wouldn’t worry.
I hope that helps Sharon but feel free to fire away with any more questions. Also, it would be remiss of me not to mention my ebook How To Cycle Around The World which you can buy for £5/$8 and has a lot more detail than this email!
To find out how Sharon and her husband Rob get on, visit their blog at www.likegypsies.weebly.com.
And if you have any adventure questions that I can help with then just visit Ask Tim…