How Often Should You Shower on Tour?

Floating around the web is a BuzzFeed article about how often you really need to shower: How Often You Really Need to Shower (According to Science).-Rachel Wilkerson Miller January 12, 2015 I read this article and thought, “Yes!” I totally agree! In fact, I’ve already written two articles about this very thing: How to Stay Clean (without a proper shower) While On Bicycle Tour, and Touring Clean vs Home Clean. It’s nice to see that the science backs me up.

On our most recent bicycle tour my tolerance for going to bed without a shower was increased dramatically. When you’re traveling through isolated regions (ok, so New Zealand isn’t really all that isolated, but there were days where we didn’t have access to a shower, so it counts, I swear!) there are sacrifices you make when it comes to cleanliness. Or are there? According to the article, it isn’t really necessary to shower every day, or even every other day. Showers can dry your skin out (especially paired with harsh soaps) and might remove beneficial bacteria from your skin. It’s much more important to change your undergarments daily. And if you’re really grossed out, you can clean your dirty bits (underarms, groin, bottom, and face, hopefully not quite in that order) with a wash cloth.

Speaking of changing undergarments daily, does that mean you should bring a week’s worth of bicycle shorts with you on tour so you can have a fresh pair every day? I think not. During our recent New Zealand tour, I tried a new tactic for undergarments and cycling shorts. Previously, I’ve stayed away from wearing anything under my shorts. I have a tendency to chafe (not fun). But, my husband found these great merino wool boxers for me, and they’ve changed the way I cycle. The wool is soft and comfortable, easily cleaned, and doesn’t develop a smell because it’s a natural fiber. They’re easier to wash out than cycling shorts, don’t irritate my nether regions, and don’t take up much space in my clothing bag. I can get away with two pairs of cycling shorts, and three pairs of underwear.

So, bottom line is: in daily life, and in cycling, showering daily isn’t necessary. You can do it, but it won’t kill you if you don’t.

Lost in Translation: Kiwis say it otherwise

For our first tour outside the United States, we decided to make things easier by traveling somewhere with a common language. We had read about New Zealand’s beauty, the friendliness of its people, and how pleasant a place it is to stay, as well as its claim to speak English.

Upon arrival, we found that even though we spoke the same language, sometimes it didn’t feel that way. Some things still got lost in translation.

For example, for dessert one night, we decided to try a New Zealand milkshake. And not just any kind of milkshake, a “thick shake.” Here in the US, a thick shake is, well, thick, usually requiring a spoon to enjoy it properly.

When our thick shake arrived at the table, we were a little disappointed to find that not only was there no spoon, but it was liquid! It was mainly milk, with flavoring, and a scoop of ice cream. I guess that’s where the “thick” comes from. Ah, well. It tasted good regardless.

Bacon in NZ is not necessarily what Americans would call bacon. I ordered a “bacon burger,” thinking it would be a hamburger with slices of bacon. Nope. It was basically a ham sandwich, on a hamburger bun, not even including a hamburger patty. Slightly disappointing. If you are looking for proper American style bacon, the Kiwis call it “streaky bacon.”

On our last day in NZ, I needed a late afternoon pick-me-up, and we popped into a coffee shop. They advertised “iced” drinks, so I ordered an iced coffee. I expected to get coffee, with ice. Instead, the waitress served me a coffee milk shake, complete with ice cream, milk, and chocolate syrup. It was delicious, and even better than the aforementioned thick shake, just not what I had expected.

A bicyclist stands next to a road sign which reads "slumps"
Matt puzzles over a New Zealand road sign

As we rode our bicycles around New Zealand, we were constantly amused at the differences in road sign wording that our two countries use. Over time, we became used to the differences, but every once in a while one would stand out. We actually came across a sign that we still have no idea what it could have meant: A hazard sign (orange with a black exclamation point), and underneath the word “Slumps.” We’re still puzzling over the meaning of that sign. And, sometimes the road signs were polite to the point of ridiculousness. For example, a sign in Christchurch read: Buses and heavy vehicles to use High St one way system as Manchester/Taum intersection not suitable. Seems like a much more polite way to state: Large Vehicles Prohibited.

The longer we were in New Zealand, the more we found ourselves adopting the local words for various activities and things. In a small way, we were able to pick up a little bit of the culture of New Zealand, even in the short time we were there. We had a fantastic time, and look forward to traveling to many more exciting places in the future.

New Zealand Lord of the Rings bicycle touring sites

I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I’ve read the series at least once a year for the last 15 years. Of course I was thrilled when the movies were releases, and I was very impressed with the cinematography. When my husband first mentioned New Zealand as a possible bicycle tour, my first thought was: I’m going to get to see Middle Earth.

We’re focusing our tour on the south island, which means we will miss out on Hobbiton and Mt. Doom, which are on the north island. However, there are many iconic vistas and scenes from the movies that we will have the pleasure of witnessing. This list is not all inclusive; I’m sure there are more places to see. But here’re the places I’m most excited to see on our tour of New Zealand.

South Island:

  • Canterbury:
    • Twizel-Fields of Pelennor, where the epic battle took place between orcs and Rohan/Gondor
    • Potts Station-Edoras and Meduseld (Mount Sunday)
  • Nelson/Marlborough:
    • Mount Owen – The Fellowship escape Moria, sans Gandalf
  • Otago:
    • Cardrona Valley/ Mount Cardrona- Panorama View of Middle Earth
    • Arrowtown (Arrow River) Skipper’s Canyon- Ford of Bruinen, where Frodo crosses the river with the elf, the wraiths in hot pursuit, and the water rises up to drown the wraiths.
    • Glenorchy-Misty Mountains
    • Kawaru River, Otago- The Argonath on the Anduin River (computer generated statues)
    • Cadrona Hotel – Prancing Pony (Between Queenstown and Wanaka)
    • Poolburn Dam – Rohan (one of Jackson’s favorite filming location)
    • Sutton Salt Lake near Middlemarch- ambush scenes in Rohan
  • Southland:
    • Kepler Mire, Te Anau – the Dead Marshes
    • North Mavora Lake – The lake at the end of the Anduin River
    • South Mavora Lake- The Fellowship leaves Lothlorien
  • West Coast:
    • Mount Gunn, near Franz Josef Glacier- Warning beacons from Gondor to Rohan

For a list of filming location in Department of Conservation areas along with the GPS coordinates, visit:

If you’ve been to the South Island of New Zealand and have stumbled upon a filming location, sound off in the comments below!

Life and Hills-Metaphors for biking and life

Why are there so many references to hills in our language?

  • An uphill battle
  • It’s all downhill from here.
  • Over the hill.
  • King of the hill.
  • Making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I think hills play a big part of our psyche as humans because they’re so visual. Starting as a little thing in the horizon, it grows and grows, then when you are standing at the base of the hill looking up you finally begin to understand what you are about to undertake. We’ve all climbed a challenging hill, felt the burn in our legs, lungs screaming for air. And then, eventually, the top is reached. With a sigh of relief, you catch your breath, and continue down the other side. Trust me, after our most recent tour in New Zealand, I have an even better appreciation for the incredible feeling of reaching the top of a hill.

But it’s not just climbing a hill on a bicycle. The same goes for any challenge in life that I face. I see it, and I’m a little nervous. Am I ready? Then I face it. I begin, and it may be hard, for a time. I might even want to stop. And sometimes I do. I take a little break, regroup, and collect myself. I might climb off the bike and walk up. But, I keep going, and then, I find myself at the “top,” where I can catch my breath and appreciate all the hard work I’ve just done. With a bit of pride, I continue on until the next challenge, the next hill. And this time, I’m a little stronger, the climb a little easier.

In his book “Spartan Up!” Joe De Sena, the creator of the Spartan Obstacle Course Races describes it perfectly: “To move freely, to breathe fully and deeply, and to have the ability to surmount physical obstacles is a privilege.” Just because something looks hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. In fact, it’s really just the opposite. Every “hill” that comes our way is an opportunity for growth.

As Nelson Mandela said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” But it all starts with that first one. The next time your route goes across a great hill don’t skip it, don’t go around, look at that hill and realize that hill is exactly why you are out here touring, to see the amazing world in ways that most people don’t, to feel what it takes for you to view the world powered by your own muscles, to conquer anything that mother nature can put in front of you. You can do it.

Maintaining Fitness While on a Long Bicycle Tour

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t cycling enough physical activity? Why would you need to maintain fitness while on tour? Well, let’s think about it. Bicycling is a very leg dominant activity. Sure, you need a strong core to hold yourself up. And the calves of bicyclists are notoriously huge. But, generally speaking, the majority of your power for cycling is going to come from your upper legs. A bicycle is a very efficient machine, and over time, you’ll get more efficient at riding. That means you can actually lose some of your fitness over the course of a long tour, if you’re not careful.

So what do you do about it? I have some ideas. I am planning for an upcoming tour, and I want to incorporate some extra-curricular exercises to help maintain my strength and endurance, for when I get off the bicycle. Here’s what I’m thinking: Each day incorporate some or all of these into a post-ride workout. Nothing too strenuous, and followed by some good yoga stretching poses, such as downward dog and pigeon.

  • Core
    • Planks
    • Wall Walks
  • Upper Body
    • Handstands and Handstand Pushups
    • Pushups
  • Lower Body
    • Squats
  • Cardio
    • Running
  • Total Body
    • Burpees

It’s convenient to focus on bicycling while on tour. But let’s not neglect the other aspects of health and well-being. By adding some of these other activities in, we’ll be more ready to tackle any challenge that comes our way. What kinds of exercises do you incorporate into your daily lives? What about when you’re on tour? Let us know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor an exercise expert. This post is intended for information only and contains my opinions. Please seek medical advice before beginning an exercise regimen.

My Favorite Thing About Bicycle Touring

You’re driving in a car on the Blue Ridge Parkway and an incredible view opens up before you. You want to stop and take it all in, but that car trailing behind you begs otherwise. You hope for a pullout, but by the time it comes, you’ve lost the moment.

How many times has something like this happened to you? As much as I enjoy a good car ride, this is irritates me to no end. The inability to stop whenever I want actually causes frustration, and I end up enjoying the car ride much less than I would have.

Enter, the bicycle. When you’re riding a bicycle, you have the ultimate freedom. Not only are you experiencing nature full on- you feel the wind, the rain, the sun, and the subtle air temperature changes. You are also able to stop whenever and wherever you want.

This freedom was especially evident on our tour down the Pacific Coast. Riding California Highway 1 along some of the most scenic stretches is something I will never forget. While we were sharing the road with vehicles trying to enjoy the same scenery, we ultimately had the better method of transportation. Whenever the beauty would take my breath away, and I wanted to enjoy it a little longer, I just stopped. No waiting for a turnout. I just scooted off the road, put my foot down, and took it all in. Since a bicycle easily fits in much smaller spaces you can pause to enjoy a view just about any time you want; no waiting for a pull-out crowded with other vehicles.

On the other hand, riding a bicycle may make you appreciate even the “less scenic” rides. Traveling in a car going 70+ miles an hour with everything whizzing past you causes you to miss so much. The slower pace of a bicycle allows you to gain an appreciation for the subtle beauty of nature. The small details come into focus, allowing you to experience life more vividly. Instead of seeing something briefly and passing by you have the time to really admire the view. Even views that may be boring in the car can have subtleties which will amaze you as you are pedaling your way to your destination. On the Southern Tier I would have completely missed that along the side of the road in the deserts of New Mexico and Texas there are wild melons that grow. Who knew? On my bicycle I got the pleasure of learning something new and unexpected.

So, the next time you’re riding your bicycle, pause a moment and take it all in. Enjoy the fact that you can stop and admire the view any time you want to. This is a gift, and take advantage of it. What’s your favorite thing about bicycle touring? Let us know in the comments!

Why Scheduling Rest Days is a Good Idea

I recently ran a 7.5 hour race with some friends. OK, so I didn’t so much run as hike. The course was at a mountain ski resort, and took us up and down some pretty steep ski runs. I’m in decent shape, and the hike itself wasn’t super challenging. The duration was what almost did me in. My body is not used to moving constantly for that length of time. I was definitely feeling it the next day. And the next. And, I’m ashamed to say, the next. Three days later, and I finally feel close to normal.

This experience got me thinking about some of my past tours. Tour number one was really rough. We had anticipated being able to cover many more miles in the first days than we were actually able to. However, since we were unprepared, and our bodies weren’t used to that much physical stress, we found ourselves needing breaks. We took twice or even three times as many days off as we planned, which put us way behind schedule. Since we had a hard deadline to finish, the last fourteen days of the tour came with zero breaks. Fourteen straight days of riding almost did me in. After, I felt very similar to the 7.5 hour hike, and spent several days recovering. To me, it’s not fun to have difficulty walking first thing in the morning. And I’m sure it’s not really good for your muscles and connective tissue, either.

Bottom line is, your body needs rest. You build your most strength during rest days. That’s not to say you should sit around on your butt on your day off. Nope! Go on a hike, walk around, explore. Even take a short, unloaded ride. Plan the next few days of riding. Get plenty of sleep. Make sure you’re ready to get back on the bike and give it your best effort.

Everyone is different, and every tour is different. On our most recent tour, we typically rode 6 days and rested one. That seemed to work pretty well. I’m sure other people can ride more days (or less) before needing a break. Do what works for you. Just don’t plan your trip, anticipating 70-100 mile days with no rest days factored in. You’ll make it very difficult to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. What kind of riding schedule do you like to keep? Let us know in the comments below!

Pain While Touring

So, you’ve bought your bike, and it’s been professionally fitted. Great! You’ll never have any pain, it’s a perfect fit, forever, right? Wrong! Chances are, at some point as you put miles on your bike, you’ll experience some pain. I’ll give you an example. Before my first long distance tour, I put about 500 miles on my bike, and it felt great. However, after just 250 miles of the tour, my knees were killing me and there was a pain in my shoulder that wouldn’t go away. What gives?

Well, turns out that as you ride, especially loaded, your body changes. If you do all of your training unloaded and then load up to go, there will be an adjustment period while your body gets used to the extra weight and you may pedal, sit, or grip different than your training.

Proper seat height is crucial to saving your knees over long distance rides. I’ve met some riders who are afraid of changing the fit of their bikes from what the professional fitter set it at. Unless that fitter is following you on your rides, he won’t be able to get the perfect fit for you, and it may need to be adjusted as time goes on. Initially he may be able to get the fit mostly there, but you’ll still may need to dial it in to get it just right.

I’m not a doctor or a professional, so take my advice for what it’s worth. I am a person who is not afraid of making the small adjustments necessary throughout my tours to minimize aches and pains. Here’s something that I find key: small changes can make a big difference. On that first tour, my seat height needed a few millimeters of adjustment to give my knees relief. My shoulders were helped by a smaller stem and a slight change in handlebar angle. I’m constantly tweaking my bike to fit better. I have found that if I pay attention to my body, and make an adjustment early on, I can prevent an injury before it happens. I can then ride longer and further, and enjoy my rides much more.

If you’re not sure how to make adjustments to your bike, find a local bike shop and talk to the mechanic. Hopefully he’ll show you where the adjustments are and how to do it. It’s much better to ask the questions before you leave instead of trying to figure it out on the road.

I cannot stress it enough: if you’re in pain while riding, make an adjustment. For example, mark where your seat currently is then change the seat height a few millimeters. Then ride 10 miles. If it didn’t make a difference, move it back, and adjust the seat forward or back. Ride another 10 miles. And so forth. (Another adjustment that you can make is where the clip is on your shoe. I had to change that one time, and it helped.) Don’t fear change. It just might make all the difference

High Altitude Riding

I don’t know about you, but I live at a pretty low elevation. We’re not right at sea level, but pretty close (just over 1000 feet). When we’re planning our bicycle tours, it’s inevitable that we’ll be running into some high altitude stuff, even just momentarily. Riding at sea level doesn’t prepare you very much for the challenges of higher elevations. Luckily for us, we have a National Forest nearby, with elevations up into the mid to high 7000s feet. We definitely like to get up there and ride as much as possible, not only because it’s cooler on a hot summer day, but it helps train our bodies to know how to breathe when the oxygen levels are lower. When we climbed up over the pass from Arizona into New Mexico last fall, we were unprepared for the difficulty of breathing. We just took it slowly, and tried to rest when we needed it.

I recently visited a family member in Wyoming, and found myself struggling to breathe doing normal activity. My brother’s house sits at about 6700 feet, and I could sure tell a difference. One thing I found useful to getting myself acclimated was physical activity. The second day after I arrived, I went for a run. Sure, my pace was slower than normal, and I didn’t go nearly as far as I usually do, but after the run, I felt better and had an easier time breathing. And then came the real challenge: a bike ride. After I’d been there a few days, I borrowed a bicycle and went for a climb. By the time I had climbed 1000 feet and reached the summit, I was huffing and puffing. I took a break at the top, enjoyed the view, and then coasted back down. It took just about a week to get fully acclimated, but the addition of physical activity made a huge difference.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re making a big climb and you’re is not used to the elevation is to take it slow. Don’t expect too much from your body. Even a few thousand feet of elevation higher has a noticeable difference in oxygen levels. You will have to breathe more to get the same amount you are used to. So, go easy on yourself. If you have a chance to do some high altitude training before your ride, great! It can only help. But if you don’t, that’s ok, too. Just take it slow and steady. Give yourself lots of breaks. And enjoy those views from the top!