Hooray you travel nuts! Have you ever wondered how to plan a bicycle trip? Check this out!
I've never thought I'd be writing a post talking about trip planning, it's true. Generally I don't plan my trips, as going with the flow has always been my mantra. It doesn't mean that it usually goes smooth as baby's butt though, in fact I run into all sorts of mishaps that add to the whole story afterwards.
In the words Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer of polar regions:
Adventure is just bad planning. - Amundsen.
However, this last time I was not planning to travel Europe during the winter, nor going into the depths of Patagonia, which I've never planned anything. I wanted to cycle on a windy region, and gosh, I hate headwinds!
From the headwind fear, I've decided to think a bit more about the variables when it comes to bicycle touring and, furthermore, share the proccess with those willing to do the same. Enjoy!
Bicycle touring is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to enjoy a good trip and contemplate the beauties of nature around us - all you need is a bicycle and a route. On the other hand, being outdoors means we are vulnerable to nature's desires; weather changes will hit you sooner or later!
Other variables may be more flexible to changes, but for the more organized traveler, they are also important to preview. Things such as mileage per day, where to camp, points of interest and nutrition play a huge role to garantee a safe journey.
For my last trip I started with a route, followed by a complete weather lookout, previous and during the trip. With this two figured out, half of the planning is done. So, let's do it.
1. Route Planning
First things first, unless you want to go full Into the Wild, you'd better know where you wanna go and what route is best. A few points are worth noticing when planning a route:
- Roads with less traffic are always welcome (some countries do not allow bicycles on high-ways);
- Going farther on plain terrain is better than climbing a huge mountain on a straight line;
- Sometimes that beautiful short-cut is not worth it;
The best way to check the route, including elevation profile, is the Google Maps. Or more advanced GPS apps such as Gaia GPS or WikiLoc.
Once the route is figured out you can use My Maps, from Google, to plot anything related to the trip. Below is an example from the trip I'll report on my next posts.
Combined with the satellite this becomes a powerful tool to figure things out, such as:
- Points of Interest;
- Possible camping spots;
- Supply areas;
- Distances to cover, etc etc
You can access that map HERE.
After you are done you can overlay your map into Google Maps or export to GPS unities, but I won't go any further or else this post will become huge. It doesn't matter whether you use a paper map or a fancy GPS, the idea here is to have a reference. From there we can move to weather planning.
2. Weather Planning
There's nothing worse than headwinds, not even rain! If you are on a longer trip or with a limited time you'll have to deal with it, but if you have the chance to plan ahead and wait for the perfect conditions, it'll be way more enjoyable.
I generally use and recommend checking your local weather forecast and a more advanced apps such as Windy - often used by sailors. On Windy you'll have everything about the weather, including wind direction, temperature and rain.
I'm not going to lie, after putting myself in all sorts of weathers, I waited for the perfect wind conditions to complete the trip above - it worked like a champ! Sometimes Windy might delay or postpone the forecast, but most of the time it's spot on!
You can access Windy HERE.
3. Food & Equipment
Being myself a broke traveller, I avoid eating out or staying on paid camping sites. That means carrying my own food supplies and equipment to cook and sleep. I won't talk on this post about what exactly I carry, but rather give an idea on how to plan for both variables.
When it comes to food, I divide my day in breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner; everything chosen with the logistics of a bicycle trip. If you want to be super meticulous on the whole proccess you can use the website MyFitnessPal to arrange your meals.
For the equipment the best way is to have the same gear for everything, just adapt for summer/winter time; the only thing that changes on my load are the clothes, again, thinking on the season. The more experience you aquire adventuring, the more you'll discover what goes and what doesn't.
On others I'll list everything that I never plan, but for you it might be a priority.
- Accomodation in advance (with the route in hand it's just a matter of giving some calls)
- Ferry tickets (Yes, waiting for a ferry for 5 days was a pain!)
- Calling Friends (If you plan to meet friends on the route, call them...)
- Emergency (Just in case, have a plan!)
- How to go back home (Seriously, don't run outta money not knowing what to do)
- Plan what to do if you DO run outta money!!!!
Eventhough I planned my last trip, I still believe that going with the flow, or at least having tolerance for unplanned events, is great. Following this post I'll talk about this particular trip and you'll see how things can change and adapt for better throughout the journey.
Furthermore, with planning or without, once you are out there and enjoying yourself you'll also see how great the world can be, way better than what the media prints. Never forget that everything can be done if you put the efforts to do it!