Mélanie Larouche | Journalist
Pedalling off into the sunset may be a dream for many people, but Bertrand Lemeunier has already checked it off his bucket list. His most recent bike tour took him across Brazil!
Bertrand is a photographer, originally from France, who has been living in Quebec since 2001. He's also been a speaker on Les Grands Explorateurs (in French only). Here, he shares with us his top 6 tips to make the most out of your next cycling holiday.
One of the best ways to make sure your trip is safe is to plan ahead. According to Bertrand, it doesn't matter where you're going--every place has its ups and downs. "The main thing is to find out everything you can about your destination. In this day and age, there are plenty of tools to help you do it. Find out about the local culture and customs, the main attractions, local events, etc."
You can't be prepared if you don't know where you're going. "When you're on your bike, you're exposed to everything: Bad weather, traffic, local conditions. You have to stay cool but be ready for anything. You have to choose the right route: Avoid main roads as much as you can and opt for secondary roads even if it means a detour. They're nicer to ride on, they're safer, they make it easier to meet people and they take you off the beaten path. Like in Brazil... where they might take you to the beach! The beaches there are safe and will give you something to remember!"
It goes without saying that your bike has to be ship shape and it needs to fit you--both your body and your riding habits. "You have to feel comfortable and confident on your bike. And your travel gear has to be as light as possible. Pack smart and front load--you'll thank me on the hills!"
"See and be seen" is one of the keys to safe cycling that applies everywhere. "Handlebar mirrors show you what's approaching from behind so you're ready for it. Bright colours and reflective clothing are also important for night rides, though you should stick to day-time rides if you can. And don't be shy to mount a security flag on your bike--it makes you highly visible in dense traffic."
You can't be a total couch potato if you want to go on a bike tour. Sometimes a few rides might be all it takes to get into shape before the big trip, but it depends on where you're going! The information you gathered about your destination should give you an idea of the terrain, whether it be hilly or flat, rough or smooth.
"Listen to your body, respect your limits and stay calm. That's what you need to make your trip a success. Setting goals is great, but you also need to give yourself the tools you need to make it to the end of the road."
6. An open mind
"The most important thing to remember during your bike trip is to really take advantage of this opportunity to be open to the world. When you're on your bike, you're not cut off from the world--you're part of it. You're closer to the landscape, closer to the people. And this closeness can generate experiences you might never have otherwise! And building relationships with people is also a kind of safety net for you and your equipment. There's always a risk, of course, but it can't hurt!"
Desjardins members also have an access to an exclusive advantage: Free Travel Assistance. Advisory services and help are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, before and during the trip, both at home and abroad. And family members (spouse and children) on the same trip enjoy the same benefits!
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