Saturday, 30 August 2014

Cycling Baltic States and Finland: Conclusion and lessons learned

Let's start with the usual question: Did I like the trip? The answer is a definite YES! This was a Type I Fun trip: I liked the trip while I was doing it and I like it in hindsight. It was exactly what I had wanted: An interesting, but still relaxing and enjoyable trip. Would I recommend it to a friend? That depends and if you read my conclusions of Finland and the Baltic States you will know why. This has definitely not been a very spectacular trip and there are easier countries for cycling than the Baltic States. But if that is not that important for you than I can definitely recommend these countries.

Although this has not been my first long bike trip I have still learnt several new lessons:

Travel time: Again I had to realise that I only start to really appreciate a country after staying there longer than 2 weeks. The reason for that is easy: It takes that long to learn some tricks that make life easier like learning a few words of the foreign language, knowing what food to buy and where, discovering what costs how much and the like. I feel a lot more comfortable in a country after having gone through this learning curve. In the future I'll stick to the idea of rather exploring one region or country thoroughly instead of going through several countries in a short time.

Daily mileage: My normal daily mileage turned out to be around 90 km - and I felt very comfortable with that. Physically I could do much more but I realised that doing less than 100 km per day is a more sustainable pace. I never felt stressed out or exhausted, I needed less town stays and I still got all my chores done easily and cheaply (like washing clothes and myself, recharging batteries, going shopping). Cycling in Europe with a lot of sightseeing to be done I will now calculate around 2,000 km per months or 500 per week.

Shoes: Like on hiking trips I only carry one pair of shoes while cycling. So far I have been cycling with trail runners but this system has turned out to be problematic. It is difficult to get quickly in and out of the shoes, you sweat a lot in closed shoes in the heat and once the shoes get wet, they take forever to dry and leave you with cold feet because other than while hiking you don't move your feet that much while cycling. So this time I have used sandals - and this has turned out to be a great success. I have used Keen Newport "waterproof" sandals with a toebox - and this will be my default shoe system from now on on cycling trips. Sandals are very easy to get in and out of. They were perfect for getting into the water on rocky shores and muddy beaches. My feet never sweated in the heat. And when it rained, the shoes and feet dried quickly. The few times when I experienced cold rain I wore neoprene socks and my feet were never cold.

Rain pants: So far I have always used my regular hiking rain pants for cycling - with frustrating results: these rainpants quickly ripped in the crotch area and were also kind of uncomfortable on a bike when your body moves differently than while hiking. For this trip I have bought specific bike rain pants and they were well worth their money. The crotch area is reinforced and did not tear or rip at all. The knee area is pre-formed and is not restrictive while cycling. Plus you can cinch up the leg are with velcro straps. This will be a new default piece of equipment for bike trips.

High visibility vest: This was the first trip during which I was wearing a hi-vi vest all the time - and I must admit that it gave me extra piece of mind. Maybe I wasn't safer, but I definitely felt a lot safer. The vest is cheap, hardly weighs anything and become a standard piece of clothes. I'll wear one on any future bike trip were I'll be cycling predominantly on roads - no matter if they are legally required or not.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing another interesting trip.I enjoy reading your blog since you were here walking the Heysen trail.I admire your adventurous & independent spirit. It is very interesting to read of far away countries & cultures. Have a great rest and looking forward to yout next plans, cheers Els from south Oz.

nobby said...

Always enjoy your cycling posts - I thought your piece on travel photography a few back was excellent.

What make are the rain pants, please?

German Tourist said...

Thanks for the compliment! The rain pants are Vaude Steam pants. They survived the trip very well, but in all fairness I have to say that it didn't rain very much. A real long term test is still to come.

Anonymous said...

Some late remarks, as I found this blog subsequently to reading your fascinating book:

I'm wondering why you are abandoning the UL principle of your hiking trips when biking. Haven't you heard of bikepacking, which would be the correspondant?
Big difference to the usual bike-cog seen on the popular biketrails and many advantages concernig route flexibility or when looking for a stealth tent location.

Keen sandals with closed toecaps - I used them for the first time on a long bike trip this year - have a nasty problem in my eyes. It is the closed toecap that inevitably collects dirt, sand, pebbles when you get into them. I'll change back to sandals with open toe tip as soon as the next replacement is necessary.

Finally, a hint about the favoured "Wahnweste": be sceptical to just trust your feelings in traffic issues.