Elevated Experiences: 5 travel packing guidelines from an Outdoor Afro cycling expert

Cycling now scales outdoor activities that local participants of national not-for-profit Outdoor Afro mark off their summer travel plans. Just this month, Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Chasity Ramos guided an 8-mile neighborhood spin around Swamp Rabbit Trail in South Carolina’s Greenville County.  “Our participants showed up from near and far,” said Ramos to her Instagram followers about the July 15 “Black joy” bike ride. “From Atlanta to Charlotte to Greenville and Greer, our people were outside.” 

Her Greenville and Asheville, North Carolina, network supporters automatically accepted the fitness, health, and well-being challenge to a section of the original 22-mile, multi-use greenway. Ramos bonded with cyclists, delivered a few punchlines for laughs (as her personality calls for), and weaved the area’s Black history into pedaling pit stops. For those Outdoor Afro participants who have discovered or rediscovered cycling in their communities with the organization, these biking adventures can often lead abroad.

Curious about newer cycling destinations around the globe? Outdoor Afro’s executive director and international cyclist Lisa Bourne volunteers five travel packing recommendations. Bourne cycles nearly 4,000 miles annually at home and overseas. Whether road cycling, mountain biking, endurance cycling, leisure cycling, e-biking, or in cycling events, global cycling is definitely doable. Her suggestions to plan accordingly: 

DECIDE WHAT TYPE OF CYCLING ADVENTURE YOU WANT. During May 2023, Bourne shipped her Canyon road bike to island destination Mallorca, Spain, and headed right along with it. The weeklong stay allowed her to bike more than 120 miles and climb close to 15,000 feet. “Ask yourself: is it a road, gravel, or mountain bike trip for you?” said Bourne. “I’m a roadie. I love climbing – and descending – mountains on my bike.” Bourne admits she’s partial to mountains, especially those near beaches. Hence, this recent trip to Mallorca. Laden with camouflaged coves, chalked mountaintops like the Tramuntana range, fresh market farms, and turquoise water beaches, “I was so blessed to travel for my fourth time to this gorgeous island,” she said.

CARVE OUT TRAINING TIME FOR SPECIFIC TRAILS. Bourne’s Spain trip in the Mediterranean Sea landed her east of the Spanish mainland. Mallorca’s breezy climate and network of paved roads offers dreamy routes for a medley of cycling adventures. Back in 2012, Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins trained for the Tour de France by clambering up Sa Calobra – one of the island’s famous cycling climbs with 26 tightly packed, hairpin turns. Today, Mallorca is a cycling destination hotbed for pro cycling teams and amateur cyclists worldwide. Bourne recommends dedicating at least 12 weeks of personal and professional instruction before pursuing new courses. “Hire a cycling coach like Black-owned and -operated CIS Cycling,” Bourne said. “Don’t forget strength training – the core, back, and lots of squats. Try yoga on your off days to open those hips.” 

DETERMINE IF YOU WANT TO BRING YOUR OWN BIKE OR RENT ONE. Mallorca is built up with the best infrastructure to support diverse cyclists, confirmed Bourne. For refueling moments, the island provides bike racks stationed at community cafés, local bike shops, trained mechanics on standby, bike rental setups, and hotels with bike garages. “Bike garages allow you to build up your own bike if you’ve brought it along,” Bourne said. “You can even store your bike there when you don’t plan to ride. Mallorca is home to some amazing, local cyclists you can hire to lead you on the roads.” To help pick between bringing or renting a bike, Bourne points out two thoughts. First, look at the number of days you plan to spend on your bike. “If I’m spending one or two days cycling, I typically rent,” she said. “If I’m cycling for up to four or more days, I want to ride my own.” In both instances, Bourne stresses that the body should become well trained and adapted to your individual bike position. Warning: You risk injury riding on a rental for more than a few days if the position is incorrect. Second, calculate the cost of transporting your personal bike. Research if airlines will charge for special equipment. For certain situations, drill down on how much ground transportation will charge for hauling your bike and parts.

PACK FOR THE CONDITIONS (THE UNEXPECTED). Not everything during your adventure abroad will go as planned. “Assume there won’t be a bike shop nearby when you arrive at your destination,” said Bourne. “Cycling multiple days? You always want to bring extra.” Extra cleats for clipless pedals. Extra batteries and chargers for electronics. Extra gear and equipment for iffy weather forecasts. “If you’re climbing at elevation, the weather will vary,” she said, “so pack layers.” Bourne recommends smart packing, including items like a base layer, jersey, wind vest, long-sleeve packable jackets, and arm/knee warmers. Cycling gear and equipment brands to consider: Rapha, Velocio, PEARL iZUMi, and Giordana.

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE. ABOVE ALL, HAVE FUN. A friend invited a then-amateur cycling Bourne to complete a three-day 350 AIDSRide in the year 2000. The AIDS awareness ride stretched North Carolina to Washington, D.C. Since Bourne loved her gym spin class, she thought “why not.” That experience led to her becoming a Luna Chix – CLIF BAR’s legacy ambassador program for cyclists that inspired more women to ride bikes and at the time supported breast cancer research. Throughout the decades, cycling has given Bourne mental clarity and strength; assisted her with lowering heart rate and blood pressure; and helped maintain her figure (legs and core especially). The years have increased her bike riding confidence and ability to incorporate cycling into the outdoor leader’s traveling lifestyle. She devoted 8 to 10 hours a week for four months straight to train for Mallorca trails. “I exceeded my personal goals,” she said. “In years past, this accomplishment hasn’t always been the case with factors out of my control – like my body’s response to jet lag, the elements, road closures, and at times falling sick.” Bourne has learned to go with the flow on her cycling journey: “Travel being grateful for your health and the freedom to just ride.” More about Bourne’s Outdoor Afro story here.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities. “Where Black people and nature meet,” Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow us @outdoorafro on social.