Notes on Lightweight Touring

I've been extremely fortunate in my life to have been shown 'the way' to do these kinds of rides, which in a nutshell are, bike rides from your back-door to a destination (usually a cost effective venue like a YHA) and back the next day. The route should include the best roads, pubs and food you know of. I am now trying to pass this knowledge onto you. 

When you get these rides right, you will create some of the best memories of your life, without a doubt. 

I am writing this now, after refining this skill for over 10 years. I see so many people/brands online now doing it in the least authentic way possible, which I believe does cycling as a whole a disservice. I thought a few notes on this style of riding (AKA Yomping!) might inspire/help a few of you who have always wanted to do this kind of trip. It's taken me this long because I always thought it might sound patronising (I don't like telling people what to do or think!), but after a conversation with a young-pro this weekend who said "I wouldn't know where to start doing a ride like that", I changed my position and thought I'd jot a few things down after our recent trip.

Firstly, for the record, you might want to refine a route over a number of years. What roads work? What roads don’t? Which sections of rough-stuff are rideable on a road-bike? Bridleways and small lanes sometimes need to be seen and explored in person. Sometimes you can wing it, other times plotting a route is worthy of careful consideration and needs hours of research and decision making. I'm fortunate to live and work in Sheffield, so I've done approx 60,000 miles on roads in the Derbyshire Peak District, I know the place well which makes planning this kind of ride relatively easy (my approach is different somewhere else in the country, I may write about that in future too).   

For luggage, my advice would be to pack-light and take bare essentials. You'll spend most of the day on the bike so SPD shoes with a recessed cleat gives you the option to not pack casual footwear, which can take up valuable space and saves you some weight. Depending on the forecast/time of year, I take a long sleeve t.shirt, a light-insulated jacket/gilet, a pair of lightweight trousers/shorts, a spare pair of socks and something to sleep in (boxer shorts), that is 100% enough! You can rent a towel in most YHA’s and don't forget your toothbrush. All that should fit in a small saddlebag and although your bike will weigh considerably more, it won't be too uncomfortable for a long ride. I've found it's a critically balanced compromise! Ultimately, the bike is still nice to ride and you've got everything you need. 

Having someone follow you in a car with your luggage like a support vehicle is 100% NOT Yompin’, in fact I find it pathetic and I seriously frown upon those that do it! These rides must be self-supported to get the most from them. Don't be fooled by brands who aren't doing it this way either, it's fraudulent behaviour and deserves x500 lashes for poor marketing practices! 

Find a good pub-stop or cafe for dinner, it's always a winner! If you choose the pub, then this gives you the potential for a couple of pints too (daytime drinking cannot be beaten!) The heady mix of endorphins, alcohol, good conversion, quiet lanes and hopefully some sun or nice weather is a hard one to beat. I can assure you, if you get this mixture correct, the memories you create will be up there with the very best and you'll want to book your next trip as soon as you get back home.  

Use the ride as a chance to ignore the junk of the world, that includes your mobile phone! I use a disposable camera or 35mm point-and-shoot camera to document my trips. This can help you stay in the moment, since you’re limited to x24 or x36 frames to record the day. You cannot document it all and you’re more selective with your image making - therefore more likely to live in the moment, which appears to be a lesson in of itself nowadays and one which takes a considerable amount of time to master!

There is nothing worst than riding with someone who is trying to take multiple photos of everything that is happening to share with the world, that is like filming a concert on your phone, there is no point in even being there! If you're trying to 'display' your life to other people, you are not living your life. No one wants to watch your shitty video of your bike trip, you won't even look back at ALL the photos/videos you've taken either. You'll invite envy into your life from people who aren't your real friends on social media. The solution - don't do it! Focus on making moments of meaning and connection in the here and now. 

Soak up the environment, the roads you're riding and the people you are with.

If you need routes, I've got them. You can email me and I'll happily share them with you, but my advice would be to do it your own way and enjoy yourself. 

These photos are from our recent trip into The Peak District National Park. 

All words and images by Thomas Barnett

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