Cycling in a group is great, but sometimes cycling on your own can be just as good as it can give a sense of peace and tranquillity, and if you are into touring you can cycle miles whilst barely seeing another soul. However cycling alone requires a little bit of extra preparation and thought before you ‘just head out the door’.
Whether you want to ride solo because you like the solitude, or you are forced to because of something like social distancing, applying some of the advice below will make your ride a little less stressful, and hopefully a lot more enjoyable.
Expect the unexpected – by this we mean be prepared for some measure of mechanical problems, at the minimum you should carry the essentials we recommend in our article here, but in addition if carrying capacity allows we would suggest a simple first aid kit, a foil blanket and some emergency food rations. Just as importantly as carrying the tools is knowing how to use them in an emergency – if you have some spare bike parts then practise on those until you are confident you can fix problems whilst you’re out on the move.
Make sure your bike is well maintained – it stands to reason that a well maintained machine is less likely to have a problem in the middle of a ride than one that is poorly maintained. If you’re embarking on a multi-day tour we would recommend having your bike fully serviced before you depart. But even if you’re only going out for an hour or two then using our eleven point pre-ride checklist may prevent you having a ride ending mechanical.
Learn some basic maintenance – There’s nothing more guaranteed to ruin a good ride than having a minor problem that you can’t fix. At the minimum learn how to change a punctured inner tube and fix / patch the punctured tube. Some other useful skills to have would be to know how to split and reattach a broken chain, adjust a mis-shifting derailleur and change / adjust brake blocks and pads.
Know where you’re going and tell someone – If you’re alone then having a planned route and both sticking to it and telling someone where you’re going is essential. In the event of you having a problem and not being able to contact someone then at least anyone that goes out searching for you whether it’s emergency services or friends / family etc will have some idea of where to start looking for you.
Technology is your friend – There’s whole bunches of tech out there that can help you. As a minimum we would suggest taking your smartphone so that you can make emergency calls, but consider using services such as Strava Live, Find My iPhone, and WhattsApp live tracking that will allow people to see your location in real time without you having to do anything. Also consider installing ‘What Three Words’, a smartphone app that allows people to locate you with an accuracy of a few feet should you be lost and not know where you are. Lastly, there is a growing number of devices such as GPS head units, helmets, and lights that are able to detect a crash, and when linked to a smartphone will automatically call an emergency contact to notify them of the crash.
Wear protective gear – For most people this usually means a helmet, and while we’re not going to get in to the whole argument about whether helmets should be compulsory or not, our view is that anything that improves safety can’t be all that bad. But don’t just limit yourself to a helmet, if you’re off roading then knee and elbow pads are a common sight, and more and more chest and back ‘armour’ is starting to come to market.
Adjust your style – if you’re normally the sort of rider that likes to ‘go for it’ when you’re out, whether that’s on the road or off then you might want to consider backing off a little to lessen your chances of either having an accident or breaking your bike. Sure, we don’t mean that you should potter around at 8mph everywhere, but if you’re out on your own is it really sensible to be tackling that super gnarly downhill track flat out with no immediate help to hand.
Adjust your route – Another way to reduce the risk of having an accident and getting stranded is to stick to safe routes, ideally ones you know very well and are relatively safe, as with adjusting your style of riding, do you really need to tackle that super gnarly off-road descent or high speed downhill road route with minimal backup. Of course this may not be an option if you’re embarking on a tour of somewhere new