Pratical Advice

Pratical Advice

You don’t have to be a professional cyclist to be able to go for a Sunday ride or a few days’ cycling holiday - all you need is the right spirit and a taste for physical exercise. The most important thing is to be aware of your own limits and choose itineraries that are suitable for your capacities. It’s obvious that people who only cycle on the odd occasion should avoid itineraries that are too long or too difficult. The worst thing that can be done is to choose unsuitable Itineraries and turn a day of fun into a day of useless fatigue.

One way of avoiding this mistake is to start with the easier itineraries so that you can see how fit you are while you cycle. If you pass the test, you can move on to harder itineraries. Most of the itineraries in this book are easy, do not require any special training and are suitable for active people who go cycling two or three times a month or do spinning to keep fit. Staying active by going to the gym or swimming is just as good - the main thing is not to overdo it and take your time.

Remember, too, that it is harder to complete whole itineraries, such as the descent along the Tiber river or the via Francigena of St. Francis. In this case, at least basic physical training is required, because even though the routes are not particularly difficult, adequate recovery times are needed. The right approach is to cover the first stages without exaggerating and save enough energy for the last stages. If you have enough time, fit in a day’s rest during the week to let yourself recover and enjoy the journey better.

The cycle tourist does not really need any special cycle wear, and in the case of the easier rides, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt may well be sufficient. However, it is a good idea to wear cycle shorts, given that the specially-designed padding makes cycling considerably more comfortable and enjoyable. Cyclists should also wear a cycle helmet for their own safety (there is a vast range of attractive, light models currently on sale at affordable prices). You should also have a pair of sunglasses, if possible those specially designed for cyclists, to keep the sun, wind and insects out of your eyes.

For those who intend cycling on a regular basis, you are also advised to acquire the following: a pair of padded cycle gloves to protect your hands and provide a better grip; a cycle jersey made of a breathable fabric, with rear pockets to store all the various items you may need during the course of a ride; and a pair of cycle shoes to be used together with pedals with cleats or with quick-release pedals.

Those travelling with guides or on organised tours will have no problems to deal with, as they will be well advised what to take with them on their rides, and will probably have assistance on hand as they ride. For those, on the other hand, who wish to cycle independently, then there a number of things to remember: as well as the obligatory cyclist’s water bottle, you are advised to take along a light snack (such as fruit, small jam or honey-filled rolls, an energy bar or two), even though those cyclists who go cycling for fun, or go on a proper cycling holiday, generally prefer to stop off at some point and taste some of the local dishes on offer: in the latter case, the important thing is not to overdo things, as you still have to pedal back to your starting point, which you should definitely not do on a full stomach. Other items you ought to take with you on your ride are a spare inner tube, a bicycle pump and a repair kit, which can be easily attached to the bike in a small pouch fitted beneath your saddle.

The repair kit should contain tyre patches, levers, a chain-link remover and size 4, 5 and 6 Allen keys. It would also be extremely useful to have a small cycle computer fitted to the handlebars – the kind that tells you how many kilometres you have ridden so far, your speed, and so on - in order to make it easier to follow directions and find turnings on smaller roads, although all directions are in general signposted. In the summer you may also wish to carry an insect repellent stick.

Finally, you should also have a few euros on you for emergencies, together with the ‘phone numbers of the local emergency services and, if need be, a mobile ‘phone, although this should only be switched on and used should you be really necessary.

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