Ben with bike at Amtrak commuter rail stop

Hey all, Ben here. Late last month I went on my first tour with back-to-back multiple days of riding, self-supported, with a friend. We took the commuter rail out to Newburyport, and then rode through NH, Maine, to northwestern Vermont. I was either riding my bike, recovering, eating, or sleeping, so I didn’t take too many photos; but here are a few reflections from the ride:

screenshot of New England cycling tour computer tracking

While the seacoast of New England is pretty flat, the rest of it isn’t. The trip had something around 6-7,000 feet of climbing for the entire 230 mile trip and I learned a lot from this amount of climbing alone: test your gear! Bring what you need, but not much else. I had a minimum of superfluous gear, and that makes a big psychological difference when you’re spinning a 65 pound touring rig up a 1,600 ft. ascent!

Appalachian Gap Vermont bicycle tour

(Mine and a friend’s bike at the top of the App Gap/Route 17)

New England bicycle tour hammock and tarp shelter

The other major thing I learned that good gear shouldn’t just be (reasonably) light, durable, and reliable, but also makes the entire experience more comfortable. Over three nights of camping I slept in a hammock, under a tarp shelter (above, which worked pretty well!), and on a couch in a field. After this trip a single-person tent is definitely on my to-buy list. Keep in mind that physical comfort as well as psychological comfort both help you sustain endurance for the ride, whether it’s 200 miles or 20 miles.

New England bicycle tour food and water

The most important lesson of all is that when you’re riding a bike for 6-8 hours straight a day, food is super important. I think on some day I carried more water/food weight than clothing. Nutritionally I did really well, but spent a lot of money on calorie-packed energy food as well as comfort food. I ended up loosing girth but gaining a lot of muscle, so I’m definitely doing my homework on nutrition for endurance rides.

Touring is a lot of fun, but you don’t need to be pushing multiple days, or even long mileage to enjoy it. Weekend or even overnight bike camping is a total blast, and there are a lot of destinations in the Boston/Cape Cod/South East NH area. If you’ve been thinking about setting up a bike for loaded expeditions, there are many of us on staff who can recommend it and offer advice.