A bike, a tent, and a laptop: planning a cycling trip as a remote worker
As freedom-loving remote workers, we need to push the boundaries of “work anywhere”. If you long to get on your bike and ride for a week but you have to bring work with you, it’s possible; but, you need to do some careful planning and packing to ensure your gear and job are safe.
In early July 2018 my bike, panniers full of camping gear, and I hitched a ride up to Vancouver Island to the town of Cumberland, where I started a five-day bike tour back home to Victoria, British Columbia. Out of the five days, I would need to work for three of them so I had to make sure I could get wifi and work for at least five hours each day. I started planning this trip a few weeks in advance, carefully scoping out suitable camping spots and mapping out daily rides to make sure I both had the energy and time to work. As anyone who’s toured by bicycle knows, rides typically take longer than what Google tells you. It doesn’t account for the slow drag of climbing hills with a loaded bike or the several short stops you make along the way.
If you’re going to work 5-8 hours per day on your trip, plan to only ride 30 to 50 kilometres (about 18 to 31 miles) per day. It may only seem like a few hours of riding but you’ll be tired, it takes an hour to set up and take down camp every day, plus if you unexpectedly have a busy workday, you don’t want to feel rushed or ride into your campsite at 10 p.m.
Research and reserve where you will stay. Here on Vancouver Island, camping books up in advance. You don’t want to get stuck without somewhere to stay. With each accommodation, consider:
- Access to wifi or at least data for tethering your laptop to your phone;
- Noise, in case you need to join meetings;
- Proximity to the nearest town and bicycle repair shop;
- Proximity to your cycling route.
For the first two nights, I camped in a municipal campground on a lake, which was divine (though rainy, more on that in a minute) and only about 20 minutes riding from Cumberland. I didn’t have to work the first two days, thankfully, because the internet went out across town!
After Cumberland, I stayed in a campground right off my main route that had wifi reaching all the way to my campsite (plus hot showers and even laundry!), followed by a friend’s house, and lastly at a campground featuring a recreation centre with free wifi. I scoped out campground maps and called the site owners ahead of time to get a better idea of what the noise and grounds were like.
You could, of course, make this way easier and book Airbnb or hotel accommodations along the way. Warmshowers is another great option for cyclists, but I would check ahead of time with the homeowners regarding whether they’re okay with you hanging out at the house all day using their wifi.
Next, packing. Here on Vancouver Island, you have to pack for all weather. I’m glad I did because it rained the first two days! Make sure you’re riding with waterproof panniers and that your tent or accommodations are waterproof.
Packing light is ideal on a bike but in this case, I had to pack both my 15″ Macbook and an external battery charger. I have an AC Outlet Portable Charger RAVPower 27000mAh 100W(Max.) that I bought from Amazon. It charges my older Macbook, my bluetooth headphones, and my smartphone. I packed this with the laptop and power cords in with my clothing in one pannier and packed my tent, cooking, and other camping gear in the other.
I also packed a handlebar bag with food and toiletries. For food, I brought lightweight dehydrated meals that I packed in these reusable lunch bags, along with Clif Bars, instant coffee, tea, and Emergen-C packets. For toiletries, pack light. I brought a small bar of soap (that I also use to wash my hair), toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes (for waterless showering), contact lenses and eye drops, and a small bottle of sunscreen. That’s all you really need.
Lastly, make sure your bike is ready for the ride. This seems obvious, but the last thing you want to be doing is waiting at a bike shop while someone installs new brake pads you could have had done before the trip. A full tune-up is best.
Working on the road can be hard, mostly because all you want to do is explore. If you have a set amount of hours, plan ahead when you’ll work and split the hours up if possible. I chose to do a few hours in the morning and then a couple hours in the evening. I knew ahead of time that my workload would be lighter over the few days I was going and I’d spent extra time the week before getting as far ahead as I possibly could on everything. I made sure my team could contact me via my mobile during the time I was travelling and made sure the most important priorities were done first-thing every day. For you, this will all depend on your own workload and team culture.
After the five days were over, I concluded that it would be better to tour without the laptop because of the weight and work time it adds to the trip; however, I would totally do this again. All it takes is careful planning.