Some bicycle travel tips

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
Here are a few things I've learned the hard way.
  1. Plan your trip. But plan to ditch your plan.
  2. Don't book hotels very far ahead. In fact, try to book where you are going to stay that night on the same day. You can use various apps (Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia.com) to get a good feel of availability on the road ahead and only book when (or even if) rooms are starting to look pretty tight. This gives you a lot more flexibility on your trip and avoids the hassle of canceling a bunch of reservations at different locations.
  3. Have more than one booking app set up on your phone, and set them up with your login information and credit card that you are going to use for stays before the trip.
  4. Try not to carry much more food with you than you are going to eat on that days' ride. I also like to start out my trip with very little or no food at all and pick it all up on the way. On a longer multi-day trip you inevitably accumulate some stuff (jar of peanut butter, tortillas, &c) anyway.
  5. Try to find places to stay that are within a short walk of a decent grocery store. You don't have to do that every day but you'll eat healthier and be stronger the more you can manage it.
  6. Pack an overflow bag and some straps so you can put stuff on the top of your rack. This is helpful when you've got wet and dirty stuff that you don't want in your panniers and also is great if your panniers are filling up and you want to bring some additional treasures along with you. Good examples of overflow bags are this mesh stuff sack, this dry bag from tailfin.cc, and this dry bag from Mountain Laurel Designs. Note that these overflow bags don't need to be very big to do a great job. I think a 2.5L bag is just fine most of the time.
  7. You are probably taking too much stuff. You probably won't need six pairs of socks or three t-shirts.
  8. USB power strips are pretty damned useful, though. Don't forget all the cables you'll need to charge stuff, though!
 
Good list!! I use disposable clothes!! Just old clothes you don’t care about. Wear them, get them dirty, throw them away. Makes for more pannier room as you go.
 
How does the disposable clothing approach work on anything but a very short trip? Is it really that hard to do laundry?
 
It's also a good idea to check if there is an in room lithium battery charging ban at the hotel you book. I have already run afoul of that one.
MARC (Maryland regional rail) just put stickers on the "bikes welcome" signs disallowing ebike/e-mobility charging. I had to disconnect this past week. Not a problem for phones/laptops, which I don't understand given the number of recalls over the years for particular models presenting a fire hazard.

Nobody is going to check if you have a UL-underwritten Bosch battery, and I can't blame them. It's just easier for hotels/trains and others, like restaurants, to ban charging across-the-board. I do think ebikes are getting singled out with "explainer" articles about cheap Chinese batteries/scooters "believed to be" the cause of NYC rooftop fires, just as an example.

I suppose Id rather not be in an environment with shoddy battery charging, but this potentially wipes out even weekend trips -- no matter how much you paid for the safer battery that is rarely involved in fires.
 
I have not yet encountered an e-bike charging ban on my travels in the Northwest.
 
I have not yet encountered an e-bike charging ban on my travels in the Northwest.
I hope that continues out there and that the ban doesn't continue to spread here in the Northeast.

On one occasion, I was foolish enough to ask at check in and was told in room battery charging was not allowed. I had to run an extension cord out the hotel room window and charge the batteries in my truck. Unfortunately, you can't rely on being able to do this since many hotel room windows don't open. You also can't be sure you'll find a parking space close to the building.

I learned a lesson from that experience and adopted a don't ask, don't tell policy. Unless a charging ban is clearly marked, I charge in room. I also make a note of the hotels that have such a ban and make sure the proprietor knows I will be staying elsewhere in the future.

All this makes me want to go back to camping but I'm afraid, for me anyway, those days are gone. Who knows, even RV parks & campgrounds could adopt similar bans if this trend continues to escalate.

I know I'm just being paranoid here but I really enjoy these drive & ride mini vacations. In 2022, I spent 66 nights in two dozen different hotels and only one had a no charge policy. Not bad odds right now and I'm hoping it stays that way.
 
The closest I have came to the charging ban was that I have encountered certain private campgrounds had banned e-bikes after a plague of people with unrestricted e-bikes zipping all over their property. By that time it was too late to educate them about Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes.
 
The closest I have came to the charging ban was that I have encountered certain private campgrounds had banned e-bikes after a plague of people with unrestricted e-bikes zipping all over their property. By that time it was too late to educate them about Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes.
You can try to convince the camp host that the thing down there is a pinion gear box, and not a motor… :)
 
The closest I have came to the charging ban was that I have encountered certain private campgrounds had banned e-bikes after a plague of people with unrestricted e-bikes zipping all over their property. By that time it was too late to educate them about Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes.
Unfortunately, you can ride like an idiot on any class bike.
 
How does the disposable clothing approach work on anything but a very short trip? Is it really that hard to do laundry?
You can usually buy a 3 pack or so of basic white T shirts or so. They are flat and pack easily. As they get dirty just throw them away, sometimes you don’t find a laundromat and are just hauling around dirty clothes.
 
... sometimes you don’t find a laundromat and are just hauling around dirty clothes.
My own bicycle travel and distance backpacking experience has been that most hotels/motels/b&bs have guest laundry. And most private RV parks and campgrounds do too. And a lot of campgrounds that don't still have a big laundry sink somewhere where you can hand wash your clothes.

Generally I plan that one night out of three or four is in a hotel or motel somewhere. Preferably with laundry, a hearty free breakfast, and rooms on the ground floor so I don't need to take the bike in a tiny elevator or up and down stairs. In better weather or more remote country I might stay at a private campground to get access to laundry every few days. Anyway if you can hand wash clothes in a sink you can manage for a week or two anyway before you really need a washing machine.
 
Travel related, just not by bike. I used to go to California every year for 2 weeks in the summer, and 2 weeks at Xmass. I got to the point that I didn't pack any shirts or socks. As soon as I landed in LAX I'd walk to a bicycle shop, buy a ex-rental bike. Then I'd jump on the light rail with my new junker and go to Hollywood. Never needed a car to get around in Cali. I'd buy a bunch of the tourist 2 for $10 t-shirts and hit up a flea market for the bag of cheap socks. Wear and toss when done. I can travel very light. If I buy anything I cared about I'll ship it back to my house. No need to check luggage. I dread flying now for some reason and I no longer belong to the low rider car club.

When I drove 18 wheelers I used the wash and fold services at staffed laundromats for my laundry. I could usually get a same day turnaround for my laundry as well. Worth the extra money when you have to keep moving to make money and I could usually threaten my dispatcher to reimburse me for the wash and fold bill. That guy was terrified of me quitting!
 
Good stuff!! We are “gypsies” as we are full time RV. We always have our bikes and our own laundromat as well, so we are covered I guess. Since it is Oct TOW ber, we are getting ready to head south for the winter and find some new places to ride. This is us.
 

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In my younger years, I used UPS or the USPS to send "care packages" ahead. I'd send them to a post office or UPS store along my route. I'd return items the same way or just toss them.
 
In my younger years, I used UPS or the USPS to send "care packages" ahead. I'd send them to a post office or UPS store along my route. I'd return items the same way or just toss them.
Sounds like you reinvented the hiker "drift box" or "bounce box". That whole thing is a lot easier if you have someone at home to do the shipping.

When I did this, or still do it, I usually have four or five shoeboxes (that's usually all you need), a plastic bin full of supplies I might need, preprinted labels for likely destinations (with a lot of labels printed with my return address), and a bunch of packing tape. Then when I needed something or it looked like I might need some things, I could call my "ground control" and have her fill one of the boxes with goodies, put the appropriate label on it, put some labels with my address in the box, and take it to the post office. Works pretty well, and I had a box right there and labels I could use to ship stuff back.

A more advanced trick was to make a hotel reservation a week or ten days out, call them and tell them you are shipping a package to them and to please hold it for you, and use UPS to ship the package to the hotel. A big advantage to that hack is that you don't need to intercept your package during hours the post office is open, and if you have some blank UPS shipping forms you can actually leave a box at the hotel with the form filled out and call UPS to come pick it up.

REI and to a lesser extent Amazon are pretty good about letting you ship stuff to yourself General Delivery. I've made Amazon orders that way while hiking the PCT. Craziest one was a warranty replacement on a busted camp stove, which took a lot of phone calls to coordinate everything.
 
You can usually buy a 3 pack or so of basic white T shirts or so. They are flat and pack easily. As they get dirty just throw them away, sometimes you don’t find a laundromat and are just hauling around dirty clothes.
I’ve done some longer haul on and off-road my trips included ing to a few ‘middle of nowhere’ type trips, and mostly found a workable balance of packing, although its always a challenge chasing ‘how can I lighten further?’

A couple of synthetic shirts, 2-3 socks and underwear + a rain/warmth layer in reserve did the trick pretty well. I’d just wash in wherever wound up staying - sink or shower, hose if need be, let them dry overnight, and stuff anything ‘not quite dry‘ into a mesh net on the outside of my pack. The synthetic workout t-shirts (e.g. UnderArmour and clones) dry out super quickly so usually I’d just have socks ‘drying while I ride’ the next day. Synthetic type gear isn’t ideal for high speed pavement slides (can melt) but a non-issue for off-road and non-MC speeds (plus I’d throw on kevlar mesh outer gear on the MCs).

I guess something about making yet more waste and throwing stuff out needlessly is kind of sitting wrong with mr but YMMV; just saying other ways work just as well IMO.
 
REI and to a lesser extent Amazon are pretty good about letting you ship stuff to yourself General Delivery. I've made Amazon orders that way while hiking the PCT. Craziest one was a warranty replacement on a busted camp stove, which took a lot of phone calls to coordinate everything.
Amazon locker locations can also be used. Their locker network has pretty much spread across the country now.
 
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