Now that 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 whack.

3. Visas
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.

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