Preparing for a long distance solo ride

by Mark Hawkins

In 2011, I set myself a challenge to cycle from London to Africa for 2013 when I turned 50. Up until that point, the longest ride I had ever done was the London to Paris ride.

So, how do we tackle a large ride?  Well, it depends on your budget. A supported ride is a great option, but expensive to set up the logistics. On the other end of the sca

le, we have the classic touring mode where a cycle is loaded with paniers crammed with tons of kit. Supported rides makes it easier to cover great distances quickly but when the cycle is loaded up with 40KG of kit, then the 80-100 mile per day target a bit of a far reach.

I opted for the middle option, which is to travel really light and to stop in hotels. It worked well, and I have used the same strategy for the long rides I did in 2014/15. So here are some of the things I think about when planning a long ride:

  • First of all, it has to be fun, so I plan interesting and challenging routes. Spain is my favourite as the weather is often more predictable. Late August/early September is good as it’s cooler
  • The detailed route planning is part of the fun – don’t rush it. Routes can be created carefully when you have time in winter – use Google street view to verify the quality of the roads
  • What to take? My rule is this “if it does not fit in a back pack, then it does not go. So I minimise on clothing (which I wash each day). As I have a few days at my destination, I post things ahead such as the bag I need to fly the bike back to the UK
  • Basic first aid, tools, tubes and an ultra-light laptop is carried
  • The rucksack is actually lashed to a rack. On a 14 day ride, I would advise against carrying a heavy backpack
  • I do not book all of the hotels ahead, just one day at a time. This gives me the flexibility to alter the route to discover something new, speed up the pace, or slow down and take a day off
  • Use very rugged tyres and know in advance where the bike shops will be to buy spares or go for help

On the 25th August 2017, I set off on a ride from Bordeaux to Gibraltar via Lisbon. It’s just about 2,000KM and I have allowed 18 days to do it. You can view the route map and track my progress on my blog: