I have just finished reading the last of Anne Mustoe’s cycle touring books and thought it would be a good time to catch some lessons from how she organised her trips. Here goes:
Choose a route that serves some purpose or explores a central theme. Mustoe was a classics scholar and historian and chose to follow her heroes: the Roman roads to the east; Alexander the Great; the Pilgrims’ camino to Santiago de Compostela, the Lewis Clark trail to the West of America. We tried this on our recent trip down through France, following local traces of The Resistance in World War Two and it worked well to give us a sense of focus.
Pick up some language before you set off. Mustoe was a natural linguist, but still worked hard at it, learning Mandarin and Turkish. She is right about this. Touring without a grasp of the local language is isolating – as we found to our cost.
Plan to exploit prevailing winds where possible. This is bang on: we suffered like dogs fighting into headwinds from the Southwest on our recent trip down through Spain and Portugal. It was the worst downside of going in Autumn.
Choose a season when the climate and weather will work for you. Yes, we know you can cycle in the wet and cold, but it is so much more enjoyable with the sun on your back.
Set a pace and range right for you. Mustoe was a fan of 50 miles a day, 5 days a week, and so 1000 miles a month. We think she has that just right. You need time to recover and to explore and to reflect if you are going to get the most out of your tour.
Decide a realistic budget and stick to it. Mustoe was no fan of camping: neither are we. Old bones need to soak in a tub at the end of most days!
Work hard at managing weight. Mustoe cut maps into strips, used postal services and left unwanted clothes behind in her fight against weight. We did the same (we carried less than 9 kilos each) and like her came to love the liberty of living life with a minimum of stuff around us.
Take layers of thin, light clothing to manage temperature differences. Most of the time this worked for us, but we were lucky most of the time and in truth we were inadequately prepared for soaking wet days. We banked on sunny, dry days: we could keep warm when dry, but not in the wet. A lesson learned hard!
Don’t worry about mechanical matters – help will appear when you need it. Mustoe boasted she could not fix a puncture. On our last trip we cycled 2246km without needing to touch the bikes – but they were well prepared before we left and we were using them well within their capacities.
Travel with an open heart and mind. Mustoe believed, ‘travel for me has been a change of soul’. She is right. We learned to travel each day optimistically and we were met with nothing but kindness.
Aim for tranquility and balance. On the bike and off. Remember Mustoe’s final rule – a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the ride is always a good way to close a day in the saddle. Cheers to that!
- Book Review: A Bike Ride by Anne Mustoe (spoke2spoke.com)
- My Top 5 Cycle Touring Books (spoke2spoke.com)
- How To Cycle Tour (essentialtravel.co.uk)
- Top 10 – International Cycle Routes (essentialtravel.co.uk)