Bikes for the Camino!

Picking up where I left off when I was talking about the bike clothing there is so much more   nonsense attached to cycling by a bike industry that caters in the main for the racing fraternity.

For those guys speed, weight of the bike, quality components, body fat and nutrition are all that matter. This has influenced what is on sale for the ordinary guy for whom this is all irrelevant.

Average Joe buys a bike usually with the aim of losing weight and looking like a pro rider. It never happens for the weekend warriors because exercise doesn’t lose weight; it’s our diet!

So after forking out a fortune on the gear and an ultra light racer one can only imagine the frustration for our Joe. There are so many ‘round’ cyclists on our roads – and I’m one of them!

My point is simply that owning the most advanced bike and the best of gear isn’t going to do anything for you except lighten your wallet!

That brings me onto bikes.

Any bike shop you go into is full of sleek shiny classy looking machines and you can’t help but think ‘that’s the bike for me’. But it isn’t!

There is no need to spend a king’s ransom on your bike.

Give careful consideration to what you want the bike for.

My advice is only buy a racer if you are a racer.

As this blog is directed at bike touring I think our considerations are different.

Are we off road, on road, self supported (carrying all our gear), short haul or long haul?

True tourers opt for bespoke touring bikes but again these are expensive and while absolutely perfect for touring one would want to be a hardcore tourer to justify the expense. Something like Koga bikes – I’ve met so many Dutch people on the Camino cycling them (but they’ve cycled down from Amsterdam, and are cycling home again!).

For the rest of us the choice comes down to either a mountain bike or a hybrid bike. Again the sky is the limit in terms of price.

It comes down to a couple of key requirements.

Reliability, comfort and strength are three key requirements. Don’t worry about speed, number of gears or looks too much – or fancy carbon fibre frames!

Front suspension is great off road but not essential (called a hardtail).

And It isn’t always necessary to buy a new bike – old ones that are properly maintained are perfectly up to a cycle like the Camino.

The best advice you can get is in your Local Bike Shop (LBS). By that I mean the local man who is passionate about bikes and about service. Someone you can trust to give you the best advice and a good service.

If you are spending €500+ make sure you get the correct frame size – too often we take what we see but for long distance cycling this is so important.

One small thing to check if you are buying a bike is that it can take panniers – not all frames take a pannier rack.

Going into a shop and seeing bikes with 21 gears, 24 gears, 27 gears etc confuses and we assume we must get the 27 gears. But in reality we don’t need anything like 27 gears so don’t be influenced unduly by that.

A mountain bike will be strongest and most suited to the trail, a hybrid will be quicker along tarmac but should handle most of the trail too. It’s a personal preference.

I’ll talk about looking after the bike in my next blog.

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