Most of the time, I travel really slowly (took me 2 years to get to Chile from Arizona), but because something possessed me to enter the Hellas Rally this year, I suddenly had to cover some serious distance in some very little time. There are just a little over 2,000 kilometers from Warsaw where I picked my bike up to Karpenissi, Greece, where the rally is being held. However, I needed to do a little detour to the Black Forest in Germany to pick up a borrowed roadbook navigation tower, which added almost 4,000 km to my trip. Because of this, I really had to get going, and this was, in essence, my first ride in a rush doing 500km+ daily. Add horrible weather, and this was not a lot of fun despite riding through some of Europe’s most beautiful corners like the Swiss Alps and the Adriatic coast. Still, it had to be done, and here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
Normally, I don’t book accommodation in advance as I’m never 100% sure of my final destination for the day. This time, however, I knew where I would end up each day, so I booked AirBnB’s in advance which saved a lot of money, especially in Italy and Croatia. There’s nothing wrong with winging it, but if you’re riding in a rush, having booked a night’s stay saves money and reduces stress – it’s no fun to be riding around in an unknown town looking for a cheap hotel after a long day’s ride.
A tiny cup of espresso in Switzerland costs five euros, so I packed some trail mix and energy bars in Germany and had a meal only once I got over to the Italian side. If your budget is generous, this doesn’t really matter, but if you’re on a shoestring, hoard snacks and food that keeps in cheaper countries and avoid splurging on gas station coffee or meals in more expensive places. This also applies to finding cheaper restaurants and eateries: if you have a little snack beforehand, you’re less likely to say “what the hell, I’ll just eat here” at the first place you find instead of keep looking for something more affordable.
Avoid Tolls If You Can
I paid 25 euros in tolls to cross Italy from Tirano to Trieste on highways; Croatia along the Adriatic coast was about 8 euros. Normally, I don’t ride on highways or main roads, but since I had to do distance quickly, I felt I had little choice. If you can afford the time, avoid the tolls, and vice versa.
Even if the weather is mild, long hours in the saddle will make you cold, so pack a few layers. I was beyond grateful I had my heated jacket when I had to cross the snow-covered Alps. The sun was out, but the walls of snow on either side of the road made for a chilly ride.
Never Laugh at Mountains
When I first saw the Alps in Switzerland, I thought they looked a little like toy mountains. After the Rockies and the Andes, the Alps just seemed cute. Then I started riding up…and up…and up… true, this wasn’t the Andes, but the Alps thoroughly kicked me in the behind, especially as it was so freezing cold.
If there are mountains on your route, plan for slower riding and potentially bad weather.
Choose Less Scenic Routes
This doesn’t sound like decent riding at all, but if you need to get places fast, the scenery doesn’t matter all that much anyway. After hours upon hours of being stuck behind slow-moving German RVs on the Adriatic coast, I finally turned inland and jumped on a highway. Granted, it was a lot more tedious, but it was fast, and that’s what I needed.
If you’re in a hurry, you won’t be stopping as often as you normally do, so carry a CamelBak and sip water throughout the ride. Being dehydrated on a long haul adds to fatigue, and you need all the energy and focus when doing long days in the saddle.
Keep the Energy Up
I don’t mean guzzling Redbull every chance you get. Instead, go to bed early the night before, and get up a little earlier than usual to get a short workout in before you ride. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises work best; you only need 10-15 minutes in the morning to feel energetic throughout the day. Stop all caffeine drinks after 4 pm to make sure you can go to sleep early again (the deepest and most regenerative REM sleep occurs before 10pm and 2am, so it’s better to go to bed early and rise early even if you’re an owl). I’m not a morning person and I refuse to be a fully functioning grown up until about 10am, but on a long haul, getting up before 6.30 and doing a quick morning workout works wonders.
What are your favorite tips for riding in a rush? Let me know in the comments below!