you have a trip of a lifetime in mind and the dreams of exotic bicycle
travel are spinning in your head, it's a good time to start the planning
process. As I like to say a bad day of bicycling is better than a
good day of working, but a successful trip is better than a bad one.
You've no doubt heard the horror stories of a good trip gone bad.
What I propose is a way to break down the details and work them into
your goals. I want to focus on international bicycle travel, so here
are a few questions for you to think about as you begin. Where are
you going? Will you need visas? How will you get there? Will your
carry your funds in Travelers Checks or draw on your credit card?
How well do want to be able to communicate with the local people who
can make or break how much fun you have and how well you eat?
Lets start with maps. My advice-you can never
have enough maps. And no matter what they say about going with the
flow, there is nothing like having a good plan-in the world of bicycle
travel it's a particularly good idea.
After 25 years and 120,000 odd miles of bicycle touring
my main reason for a thorough plan stems from a desire to make the
most of my time out on the road while allowing for the variables
and unknowns. I mean that's the reason you're going, right? There
are a number of retailers who sell most printed maps or can order
them for you. I've found a million of listings on the web, but do
start with a local retail outlet as they can find almost anything.
2. Mileage calculations
Once you've got the maps, grab a legal pad and
pencil and start some simple mileage calculations. Divide the distances
between major points by the amount of miles you think you can ride
in one day- that will tell you how many days it will take you to
ride from A to B. After you establish this preliminary outline go
back and try to imagine what the terrain will look like-unless you
are planning on cycling in Holland. Those blue lines or rivers usually
indicate a change in elevation and while you may scream down to
the bridge, do I need to explain at what speed you will climb back
up? One river may be fine, but think about how many times you can
do realistically do that down and back up in one day. Then adjust
your mileage calculations accordingly. Be conservative-as Baba Ram
Teton says "It is rarely a problem to be early, but always
a problem to be late."
The success of a great tour is in your preparation
and pace. From my own travels I can recount many unforeseen delays:
illness and fatigue; a broken spoke on a collapsed wheel; unending
days and weeks of unseasonable rain or wind and did I mention the
problems that can be caused by a closed bank or an unplanned for
multi-day holiday? All of these can throw your entire trip out of
For most countries other than those in Europe,
visas are an evil necessity and in some cases you also need a permit
to bring your bike. You can find out about visa requirements for
almost every county on the Web. In some cases however you may have
to ferret out whether "The Republic of Bikestan" requires
special permission for bicycle travel. If they say no, don't give
in right away. Look for creative ways to visit through in-country
cycling clubs or government-sponsored avenues.