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Adventure Hacks for Cyclists
Adventure, by definition, means lots of unknowns. Some of us thrive off the thrill of unexpected. Others spend more time rehashing possible scenarios than on the adventure itself. Exhausting. Boring.
I’ve found a compromise between winging it and feeling super prepared in this short list of travel hacks for cycling. Most of them I've learned through trial and error and by being resourceful during my travels across 5 continents. Take a look, maybe a few of them will come in handy for your next adventure. Then, get out on the road and embrace the unknown!
1. Pants in a Jar
This is what I call Vaseline. If you show up to a destination and it’s cold and rainy, stop by a pharmacy or supermarket and grab some petroleum jelly. Slather a thick layer onto bare arms or legs. This will create a hydrophobic layer that keeps water away from your skin and prevent heat transfer from your body to the cold wind and wet water. It does wonders for preventing frostbite and windburn on the face during nordic climates' winters.
You can find this stuff almost anywhere, and it’s cheap. (It’s also messy so make sure you have a decent bar of soap to degrease yourself post-ride).
2. Microwaved Potatoes
Finding good ride foot that tastes good, has the right macros, sits well in the gut, doesn’t cost a fortune and is easy to come across is kind of like finding a unicorn. But, potatoes actually fit the bill. Microwave a medium potato for 2.5 minutes on high, and slice into 0.5cm thick discs immediately. Sprinkle each side with garlic salt, put the potatoes into a sandwich bag or wrap, and put them in your pockets. They’ll emanate heat to keep your core super warm for a while and serve as a perfect endurance sport snack later on.
3. Breadcrumb Trail
Most sports GPS devices have a “breadcrumb trail” feature. (I use a Wahoo ELMNT ROAM bike computer and ELMNT RIVAL sports watch). If you’re in a place you’re not familiar with, take a quick look at a map to get an idea of the general area you might want to ride or run in. Aim in the general direction of country roads, or away from swaths of intersections, but there’s no need to make a concise plan.
Start your GPS device before heading out, and follow your instinct (or your heart!). When you’re about halfway done, scroll to your breadcrumb trail page. A line that traces where you’ve been will appear on the map – this is the breadcrumb trail. Use the map to guide yourself back towards the general direction of your start-point (to create a loop) or follow the trail back to head to home base by retracing your steps.
4. Bring the Rain Bag
Being okay with tackling the unexpected doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show up to the job without a few basic tools. Make a little kit of essentials including arm warmers, a light wind vest and an ultra thin baselayer (like the Craft Cool Mesh Super Light) . These items are easy to cart around, really don’t weigh much but can have a powerful impact on how you enjoy your ride or run when the weather turns. (If the weather is really “turn-y”, these three articles are also super easy to remove and stash when it gets warm.). We called this bag a “rain bag” in pro cycling, since we’d dip into it before heading to the start line if things were cooler or more inclement than expected.
5. Another use for Tape
If you’re a cyclist, chances are you have “Presta” valves on your bike. These are long and slender with a tiny twist-open top, as opposed to the stubby “Schraeder” valves that are found on cars and motorcycles. Many bike pumps are compatible with both types of valves, but lower end bike pumps as well as compressors (such as those found at gas stations) are often only compatible with Schraeder valves. When you’re in a pinch with a flat tire “in the middle of nowhere”,a tiny adaptor (commonly found in bike shops) can save the ride. After the Presta valve nut is open, the adaptor can be threaded overtop making a Schraeder pump-compatible fit.
Also: Consider keeping a long piece of electrical tape on your bike. It could be in an inconspicuous spot on the frame, wrapped as an extra layer over the finishing wrap on your handlebar tape, or even stuck around your waterbottle. A piece of this stuck snugly on a tiny tube hole, can often hold in air long enough to get you to a place to find proper flat-fixing material.
Heading out to ride in the pouring rain and don’t want to get your hands frozen off? Pick up a pair of dishgloves from the local grocery store. If you can, opt for a size that doesn’t sit too close to your skin. A little bit of air remaining in the glove will hold heat in, while the water stays out thanks to the waterproof shell.
7. Bright side
Sometimes facing adventure adversity is Type Two Fun (the kind that’s not so pleasant in the moment, but looking back when it’s said and done, was a brilliant experience.). To handle the more difficult instances, seek the bright side in your misfortune (there always is one). If you’re lost: you can be excited that you’re discovering another place. If your bike is broken: you can be grateful for the chance to savour the moment while you’re at a standstill. If you’re stuck asking for help, left, right and center: find the value in the experiencing of engaging with lots of new people. If things are just totally going wrong: be excited that if this ever happens again you’ll be able to navigate the situation with more confidence, like a seasoned pro.