Planning Your Next Cycling Vacation? Here Are Tips to Make it More Comfortable.
Contributed by Anne-Christine Strugnell
In the past few years I’ve had the good fortune to take a few ship-based cycling vacations and I’ve loved them. Along the way, I’ve picked up some tips for planning a cycling vacation that’s more comfortable and more fun. Read on for the advice I wish I’d had before I went on my first trip!
Cycling Vacation Tip 1: Ride a bike you know.
I travel with my own bike, which is great but not always possible or affordable. If I were renting, though, I’d definitely bring my own saddle. It doesn’t take up much room but is key to your comfort. If you’re going to be renting a bike, try to get a model that you’ve already experienced at home so you’ll already be somewhat familiar with it. On my trips, I’ve noticed that people who are riding rentals do need a little time to get accustomed to their new bikes — otherwise, the combination of unfamiliar bike and unfamiliar terrain can lead to accidents. See this post for more advice on traveling with a bike or renting one.
Cycling Vacation Tip 2: Slather up.
I ride almost every weekend at home, with my longest ride being 63 miles. In between, I do almost daily 45 – 60 minute spin sessions on my Peloton stationary bike. Before my first cycling vacation, I never used anti-chafing chamois creams. I’d always wear a chamois, but just the idea of slathering some special cream on all my saddle-touching parts seemed weird, so I never even tried them… until one of my fellow cyclists on my first trip literally saved my butt by giving me a few little packs of her “butt butter.” Turns out, day after day of riding about 50 miles adds up to a lot of chafing, and once your skin starts getting tender, things get worse in a hurry. Chamois cream prevents and reduces soreness from constant movement on the saddle, and the kind I use is water soluble so washes out of clothing easily. I’m totally sold on it and now use it every time I go on a long ride. When I’m planning a cycling vacation I buy a bunch of little single-use packets — they’re under the TSA size limit and easy to stash in my jersey pocket.
Cycling Vacation Tip 3: Pack more.
I pride myself on being a light packer. In preparing for my first trip, I studied the weather reports and read about the laundry service and packed three cool-weather cycling outfits. It was a perfect plan, but then most of the days turned out unseasonably warm and I ended up having to buy a few lightweight cycling jerseys. Doubling up on your jersey selection is an easy and low-impact way to improve the quality of your experience. More clothing also reduces the stress of wondering whether something will be washed and dried in time. If you have to minimize the amount of clothing you bring, here are some great tips on how to pack light for a cycling vacation. For me, I’m loving my new approach of bringing lots of jerseys, but if I really had to pack light, I’d go for a few long-sleeved Soleil jerseys, a few Echelon tights, and a windproof shell. I think that would keep me happy in temps ranging from the 50s up to the 90s.
Cycling Vacation Tip 4: Stretch it out.
Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes after a spin class I don’t take the time to stretch. It doesn’t seem to do me any harm, but when I’m doing days of back-to-back cycling, I can’t get away with this or my knees start to hurt from tight hamstrings. Don’t rush to the showers once you’re off your bike. Stay in those comfy, already sweaty cycling clothes and go through a simple 15-minute stretching routine for cyclists. Don’t have one? There are tons of programs out there, but you could just start with this routine from Map my Run.
Cycling Vacation Tip 5: Consider melatonin.
If you’re crossing lots of time zones, you’ll probably be battling jet lag for part of your trip, which can be a drag. I don’t take sleep meds, ever. But if I’m crossing five or more time zones eastbound, I do take 5 mg of melatonin at my target bedtime for the first few nights, and it is amazingly effective and all natural. Skeptical? Check out this legit medical study here.
Anne-Christine Strugnell is a writer and cyclist living in Marin county, California.