Airtable is a fantastic tool for planning anything. It is a combination of simple database and simple spreadsheet, coupled with calendars and to-dos.
The basic level is free, and you can do plenty with the basic version.
Every tour I have ridden for the last four years has an Airtable as part of the pre-ride planning.
I have even planned a tour that I did not ride – Lands End to John O’Groats in 2020. I was all set for six weeks in the UK in May-June 2020, but not even Airtable can overcome a global pandemic.
For most tours, the route comes first. I plan my routes in RideWithGPS. I plan out routes for each day’s ride, and join them up as an “event” in RideWithGPS.
My Airtable bike-tour planning template then takes over.
The most important table is the route plan – it is your bike tour at a glance. It takes the day-by-day routes from RideWithGPS, and presents them in a table with date, day, start and finish locations, daily distance, lunch location and distance, and links to the accommodation table. The table also tallies your total distance for the tour.
The accommodation table is a deep dive into your accommodation options. You can put in multiple options for each town or location, and link to the URL, note the tariff and whether you have booked.
Grouping by town is a good way of comparing options if there are several to choose from.
The packing list table is one that I have refined over many years. It helps me work out what’s important to take on this specific tour. I group the items by ‘location’, which in this context means where is an item stored on my bike.
The “locations” listed will change depending on which bike I am taking on this adventure: my 650B touring bike or my 29er hardtail touring mtb. And as I consider which items to take, and where there might be room to store them, I get a feeling for the set-up I will need.
Am I camping? Am I taking my stove? Am I taking an Aeropress for a delicious coffee each morning, or will there be somewhere to buy a coffee?
If I’m camping in remote locations (i.e. not in towns), am I taking a tarp or a tent? What are the predicted minimum overnight temperatures for this time of year in these places? If we are staying in towns, is it camping or pubs?
What is the mix of roads and trails that comprise this tour? My most recent five-day outing on the Central West Cycle Trail I took my 29er hard tail mountain bike, and I was happy with the choice, especially on the last day through some rough, rutted and bumpy forestry trails through the Goonoo Forest near Mendooran.
The mountain bike has different luggage carrying options than my touring bike (the Sholto). And for my next mini-adventure I’ve decided that the Sholto will do the trick. The gnarliest piece of road or trail that I expect to ride is the crossing of Yarraman Creek on Old Yarraman Rd, and If there is a little bit of hike-a-bike coming up from the creek bed that will be fine.
But with more than 200km of bitumen road as part of the tour, the Sholto bike is a clear winner over the 29er, because of the more road-oriented position, and smaller tyres. And of course this means that when sorting through my packing list, I have in mind the low-rider panniers and front bag system on the Sholto, rather than the bike-packing style luggage on the mtb.
So if one of the barriers to getting started in bike touring is a lack of expertise or experience … l invite you to grab my Airtable template, and just see where it takes you. Any questions, just ask.
I recently posted some photos of my touring bike, all set up for the Great Queensland Rail Trail Adventure. And people asked questions, or expressed opinions, about the bike and the luggage setup.
So let’s get nerdy. Here’s a deep-ish dive into the shallow water of what I know about setting up your bike and equipment to go touring.
The bike now known as ‘the Sholto’ started out as a Shogun Alpine GT. I bought it in 1993, so the frame is now 28 years old.
Most of the components are much newer than that. The seatpost is the only other original component.
The Shogun Alpine GT was a touring bicycle, with a triple chainring at the front, and 700x35 tyres. Mine was a medium size, ordered from St Kilda Cycles, and put together for me by Andrew Pritchard at Flashing Pedals, Acacia Ridge.
After several other incarnations (flat-bar singlespeed hack bike, ghetto cyclocross/gravel grinder, mustache-bar rail-trail tourer), the bike was re-born as a 650B touring and commuting bike about three years ago, and re-named in honour of my late friend Sholto Douglas.
Here’s the current spec, in more detail than anyone could ever want.
Luggage, water etc
My camping kit
I like to do mildly adventurous bike tours. Sometimes when I post pix of what I’m up to, friends say “I wish I had known you were going to do that, I would have liked to come along.”
OK folks, here’s your chance.
The Barrimoon Tunnels section of the Boyne-Burnett Inland Rail Trail is going to open on Saturday 11 September, and I am planning to attend the opening celebration. My plan is to ride there, leaving from Wulkuraka station on the morning of Saturday 4 September.
In my head it’s called the Great Queensland Rail Trail adventure. Bob Webley has probably already done it, I’m certainly not claiming that this will be the first ride of this route.
But the plan is to ride sections of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, the Kingaroy to Kilkivan Rail Trail, and the Boyne Burnett Inland Rail Trail, connected by the most minor roads I can find on the way.
My version of this ride will be 9 days riding, with a combination of camping, and pubs/motels.
Here’s the rough idea: Wulkuraka / Toogoolawah / Blackbutt / Kingaroy / Proston / Gayndah / Eidsvold / Monto or Mungungo / Ubobo / Gladstone (fly home again).
4-12 September. It’s a little bit less than 700km. About 200km of rail trails, about 300km of sealed roads, about 200km of gravel road. This is a self-supported ride. I am providing you with nothing, other than a friendly smile and a hello each morning.
If that sounds like your sort of adventure, let me know.
You need to own all the bicycles that will allow you to do the type of riding you enjoy.
Everyone who rides a bicycle starts with one bicycle. Nobody launches into cycling with a stable of bikes. But eventually, or sooner than that, most bike riders start to consider the idea that more than one bike would be great.
Here are some reasons I’ve heard about why you might need another bike.
And so on ad infinitum. This sequence is called N+1.
The number of bikes that a bike rider should own is often expressed as N+1, where N is the current number of bikes you own. For many riders however, the number of bikes you actually own is more practically expressed as S-1, where S (for separation) is the number of bikes owned which would cause your significant other to leave you (presumably for a non-bike rider).
N+1 is of course a frivolous answer, and because none of us really have endless funds or a shed big enough to house all the bikes, the question still remains. How many bikes should I own?
My answer to the question, how many bikes do you need? One. You only need one bike … of each type.
I only have one road bike, one cyclocross bike, one commuting/touring bike, one mountain bike and one e-bike. (Update: and one folding bike).
But I have curated my fleet so that each bike also serves the adjacent purpose if required. So if my road bike is not in service for whatever reason, my cyclocross bike only needs a three-minute tyre change to be ready for a dash to Wynnum with the bunch. The mountain bike is good for dirt road adventure touring, as well as singletrack Sunday. The commuter/tourer can just about fill any role at a pinch, except maybe singletrack.
So for me, one (of each) bike is enough, and serves all my purposes.
But I’m not you, and many of my friends take a different approach. Some have several bikes of the same type. Some even have many bikes of the same brand. Some collect bikes, some collect bike parts and turn them into complete bikes.
So what is the right number of bikes to own? One.
Well, it’s a start anyway.
#bikes #cycling #touring #commuting #bikeshed
I’m going to an all-day workshop at Bokarina on the Sunshine Coast next week. I dislike driving to meeting at which I represent the interests of bike riders. So I am going to multi-mode it to the meeting. Only trouble is that it starts at 8.30am. Stay tuned for how I get there by bike and public transport!
Road bikes and cyclocross bikes and gravel bikes and all-road bikes all come with drop bars.
But most riders of these bikes that I see out and about don’t take advantage of the benefits that drop bars offer.
I ride on the road with a couple of different bunches. And I race cyclocross at Qld CX events. And I ride around Brisbane and SEQ a lot. And I would say 90-95 percent of riders I see almost never use the drops.
There are two major benefits of riding in the drops:
And there’s one reason that most bike riders don’t use the drops:
So what do you get out of being able to use the drops as an option when riding road or cyclocross or gravel?
Well, firstly it’s an option. I don’t ever spend a whole ride, or even a whole race, in the drops. Hands on the hoods, elbows relaxed and bent, is still the most common position for me when on either the road bike or the cyclocross (CX) bike.
But there are two situations when I always move to the drops, and a third when there is also benefit to being down there.
The first situation is descending, whether on bitumen or gravel.
Before I go any further, I have to credit Anthony Mortimore as the person who explained these principles to me in a comprehensive and convincing way. He runs an excellent weekend course on climbing and descending on the road bike. If you get to the end of this piece and want to put some of these ideas into action, do Anthony’s course (although it seems these days that you might have to go to New Zealand to do it). It will make you a better, safer, faster rider.
So, when descending on a road bike or CX bike, you want to be in a position that gives you the best control for braking and the most even or centred weight distribution. Being in the drops (assuming that your bike fit is correct) gives you a position on the bike that is low and centred (fore & aft), and also gives a grip on the handlebars that is able to withstand unexpected impacts from the road surface.
If you descend with your hands on the brake hoods, as many riders do, a sudden hit to the bike from a pothole or bump in the road has the potential to weaken your grip or even dislodge it altogether. If you’re on the drops, the force of the same impact pushes your hands harder into the bars, rather than off them.
The second advantage when descending in the drops is in braking force. If you are in the drops, you can brace your weight through your arms against the bars, and get your weight nice and low when you are braking. Doing the same manoeuvre from the hoods again puts you at risk of your grip weakening, and your hands sliding forward off the bars.
The third advantage of this position when descending is that is gives you the best way of keeping your weight pushing down through your outside pedal, thus giving you the best possible traction, the best grip on the road.
The second situation to be on the drops is when riding single track trails.
This is probably only applicable to cyclocross or gravel bikes. I don’t think many people are taking to the trails in Gap Creek or Daisy Hill on their road bikes with 25mm tyres.
But all of the advantages that being in the drops gives you when descending, are ramped up to the max when riding single track. For me, it is mostly about leverage to get the maximum braking power. Riding a cyclocross bike on single track is already very challenging. Riding it on the hoods is just asking for a crash.
I’ve ridden my cyclocross bike on single track at Gap Creek, Daisy Hill and Underwood trails. And my experience of doing so merely emphasises to me that being in the drops is the position which gives the greatest level of control over your bike.
And the third situation when I like to be on the drops is when riding in the road bunch on a windy day.
Once again, there are situations in group riding where you want to be prepared for all eventualities, and also be as aero as possible. And that’s what being in the drops gives you, if your position is correctly set up.
On a windy day the bunch tends to be blown around a bit, and positioning can be tricky. In most non-racing situations, the bunch should not set up in an echelon, because the echelon increases your width in the lane, and will appear from behind as through the bunch is much more than two-abreast.
And so maintaining position in a cross-wind or a headwind in a two-abreast inline bunch requires greater concentration and your best ability to respond to a changing situation. As always, the solution to that is to be in the drops!
To sum it all up: Katie f’n Compton rides in the drops. You could learn heaps from Katie f’n Compton.
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Email me and we can talk. My name is Andrew Demack. I have a Gmail address. Smash those two bits of info together and send me some words.
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