Bicycle Touring in New Hampshire
Get rolling! Tour New Hampshire from your bicycle.
Self-contained cyclists carry everything they need with them.
Photo courtesy of Selina Kok/Adventure Cycling Association
Bicycle touring is as varied as the bicycles you see on the roads and trails. It can be as basic as spending a couple of days exploring the area around your town to leaving everything behind to ride around the world.
There are the self-contained do-it-yourselfers carrying everything they need while others are credit-card tourers, preferring to sleep indoors. Organized and sag-wagon-supported tours offer routes, gear and guides. Many charity rides are overnight pursuits and a fine introduction to touring.
Some cyclists ride solo, others like groups.
North Conway’s Jeanne Twehous is a lifelong cyclist operating Vesta Velo, a bike touring company for women.
She stresses the importance of research and honesty about physical limitations and expectations.
“Bicycle touring can be an amazing, life-changing experience,” she says. “Give yourself the opportunity to experience that by choosing a tour that suits who you are.”
Mileage, terrain and weather are other components to contemplate before hitting the road. So are cycling skills and enthusiasm for pre-trip planning and map reading.
There’s more to cycling than the bike. There’s also the social, scenic and spiritual sides.
As Twehous says, “ How can you not be happy when you’re on a bike?”
Nearly 100 million bicycles are produced globally each year.
A good helmet means comfort, lightweight, secure fit and proper ventilation. The Specialized Echelon II ($65) is such a find.
Be seen in the bright Canari Eclipse II ($70) jacket that can be converted into a vest.
Choosing a bicycle is personal but touring rigs tend to have lots of gears, braze-ons to attach racks and bottles, trusty components and a sturdy frame. REI serves up the Novara Safari bike ($899) for under a grand.
Photo by Marty Basch
Starting on a childhood Schwinn, Jeanne Twehous, 56, has grown to lead bike trips, ride cross-country, be a Boston bike commuter and pedal Mexico’s Copper Canyon with her husband. A registered nurse and massage therapist, the North Conway cyclist owns Vesta Velo with Virginia Schrader, a bicycle touring company geared towards women, and believes in “the power of the bike.”
What’s the best way to get in shape for a multi-day bicycle ride, whether it be a tour or charity ride? Think of it as a lifestyle. Before the trip, do some exercise on most days. Biking is best but any exercise is better than none. Start small — as little as 10 minutes — and increase over time. Do more biking as you get closer to the ride. Mimic what you’re doing on the trip. If it’s hilly, ride hills. If you’re carrying all your own gear, throw your packed saddlebags on your bike now and then.
What advice can you provide someone on how to choose the right tour or ride? Know what you want. If you’re looking to be pampered, don’t sign up for a self-contained, camping tour. If you enjoy a challenge and like doing things for yourself, avoid the sag-supported, leisurely, low-mileage tours where they do everything for you. Read the fine print and know exactly what the trip includes and what’s expected of you. Don’t overestimate yourself. If you’ve never cycled more than 10 miles a day, don’t sign up for the hilly, 50-mile-a-day tour.
Let’s say I do a tour that transfers my luggage between accommodations. What do I need to carry with me while I’m riding? Carry two water bottles or hydration packs, snacks with protein and quick carbs like Fig Newtons and nuts, spare tube for your tire, patch kit, tire levers, small bike tool kit, sunscreen, bug dope, extra layer and shell, money, ID.
How much do I need to know about bicycle repair, like flats and things? Your tour leader will know how to repair bigger emergencies but tour participants should know how to fix flats and change tubes, inflate tires properly and adjust seat height and position.
Bicycling on roads sometimes spooks me. What can I do to be seen and be safe? Wear a good bike-specific helmet and reflective or bright clothing. Ride single file. Use a bar-end or helmet mirror. Always signal turns. Be aware of what cars and pedestrians are doing around you. Ride defensively, meaning don’t assume all drivers will see you.
If we want to do a ride or tour as a family, what’s the right way for us to get ready? Pick something that is easy for everyone, especially the kids, the first time out. If you turn them off to riding early on, you’ll only make them miserable and they’ll never want to do it again. Include fun things along the way like ice cream shops but also things that will catch their interest like waterfalls, covered bridges, parks with playgrounds. If they have fun and accomplish something that first time out, they’re yours.
What about the scenic, social and spiritual sides of biking? Not only is it an amazing form of exercise, it’s also very forgiving in that you can do more with less damage to your body than other types of physical activities. You can do it at any age. In fact, as people get older, many turn to cycling as a gentler way to stay fit. Riding a bike can also be a very meditative and spiritual exercise. If you’re racing — or just pushing yourself — it’s an excellent mental exercise, as well. And, there’s always the social element of just going out for a casual spin with friends.