Distance yourself: a multi-day riding guide

A long distance adventure on roads you don’t know can offer some of the most memorable riding you’ll ever do. For the launch of the new Brevet collection, three riders travelled to South Africa to explore the Karoo, home to the Tour of Ara, a 700km race across some of the country’s most challenging terrain. While you may not be planning an adventure on quite the same scale, the same principles apply. Here, Ultan Coyle (pictured below), long distance rider and Rapha designer responsible for the Team Sky, CANYON//SRAM and WIGGINS pro kits, shares his top five tips for packing light and travelling far.

#1 Packing light

“Packing is vital. It not only puts your mind at rest, but can save you doing a twenty mile detour for that forgotten Allen key or spare cable. I love packing – I get the scales out and try to shave as many grams as possible here and there. The less weight I carry the further I can go for the same energy. You’ll only figure out what is important to you after a few rides. Some might like a little luxury, others strip it all out – it’s up to you.”

#2 Dressing for success

“Versatility is the key here. Take things that will cover the widest temperature range and cover the most conditions. The new Brevet Windblock Jersey is made of a lightweight merino which sees you good through a wide temperature range and keeps you smelling fresh. This is a huge psychological edge day after day as if you smell like a tramp, you feel like a tramp. The wind block front cover is brilliant for cool mornings and evenings or when the wind picks up, and one of my favourite features of the jersey is the front pocket – so handy for storing your phone. It has been my go-to jersey since I first tested the prototype riding the Transcontinental race in July 2015.”

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#3 Travelling far

“I always try and find the most direct way, but there is certainly merit in plotting the long way round to take in nicer roads and climbs. Planning is vital to make your time on the road more enjoyable. I used to wing it and never use a GPS but I’m now a convert and always plan a route to save me consulting a phone when I’m lost. Another reason to get a GPS is that nighttime navigation is very hard when you are winging it.”

#4 Fuelling adventure

“Do you carry your own food or rely on what you find? It’s very much route dependent, but if you are not in a rush I prefer the latter. If you are riding through a desert, however, you need to pre plan for food. I normally stop every 100km, although alter that number depending on how far you’re going. I make the next stop my goal and the thoughts of a break and some food help get you through many miles. I try and only stop at places on the left side of the road to reduce the decision making.”

#5 Riding solo/together

“Company can be great. It’s hard to laugh on your own. It is more noticeable in the evening when you stop, having someone to share the day’s near misses and wins. The trick is finding the right companion, suitably matched and similarly minded. Two people tend to waste a lot more time than one, but sometimes there is no rush and wasting time is the name of the game. As for one person being stronger than the other, you need to be patient and understanding, whether you’re in front or behind.”

Tried and road-tested

Since the development of the bicycle in the late 1800s, people have been riding further and further in search of adventure. At the turn of the 20th century, long-distance cycling pioneer Paul de Vivie, or Vélocio as he liked to call himself, listed his seven commandments for travelling by bicycle. Over 100 years later, they remain sound advice:

1. Stop infrequently and for a short time only so you don’t lose motivation.
2. Eat lightly and often, before you get hungry. Drink before you are thirsty too.
3. Never ride until you are so tired that you cannot eat or sleep.
4. Put on extra clothing before you’re cold, and take it off before you’re hot.
The sun, air and rain is good for your skin!
5. Don’t drink wine, eat meat, or smoke during your ride.
6. Don’t rush. Ride within yourself, particularly during the first few hours of a ride when you feel strong and are tempted to force the pace.
7. Don’t be a show-off. Vanity is ugly.

See the photo-story »