Planning Cycle Tour

Cycle Tour Planning, 8 Stage Action Plan

Cycle tour planning and preparation is more is more like planning an expedition than a holiday. There is just so much more to consider when you’re constantly on the move with your bicycle. Here is list that will help you with your cycle tour planning. It will take you from dreaming about a cycle adventure to living it in 8 steps.

#1 Pick a Destination and Date

The first step in cycle tour planning is to decide where you would like to cycle tour. There are numerous considerations when choosing a route including:

  • How far is the destination?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Do you need to acquire visas?
  • Will the destination have the facilities you need for a cycle tour (good roads, campsites, B&B’s, healthcare, public transportation, food, etc)?
  • What’s the climate like for your dates?
  • Do you have the necessary equipment for the country and climate?

Most importantly you should choose a country you have a strong desire to see by bicycle. That will drive you to finalise your cycle tour planning and get going with living your adventure. For inspiration on locations you could take a look at My Top 5 Favorite Cycle Touring Countries or spend some time browsing Google Maps.

When cycle tour planning I really enjoy browsing Google Maps for inspiration. I find that Turning on the photos overlay is a good place to start your search for an ideal cycling route.

Cycling in Kos town, Kos
Cycling in Kos town, Kos

Remember to keep it simple if you can, the grass is not always greener on the other side and you might have some great cycle touring destinations right on your doorstep. It’s exciting to rediscover where you live and find new places that are easy to visit.

#2 Decide How You are Going to Transport Your Bike and Equipment

You might be lucky enough to have an ideal cycle touring route on your doorstep, in which case your cycle tour planning might be finalised really quickly. However, if you plan to cycle tour a little further from home you might need to consider transportation.

Cycle Tour Planning - Packing a bicycle for a flight
Packing a bicycle for a flight

For information on transporting your bicycle you might like to read my post on Transporting Bicycles on Ferries, Boats and Trains.

#3 Cycle Tour Planning Equipment List

Check out my recently published cycle tour planning equipment list. When I’m cycle tour planning and I get to the stage where I’m testing my setup this is what I look at first. I don’t take everything included here, instead I pick and choose from the following kit list and use it to ensure I don’t forget anything important.

Pick 'n' Mix Cycle Touring Kit List
Pick ‘n’ Mix Cycle Touring Kit List

#4 Cycle Tour Planning, Navigation Options

There are several options for navigation on a cycle tour. The most traditional and reliable way is with paper maps. Paper maps have the advantage over many other mapping tools as they tell you in great detail what is around you as you cycle.

Paper maps can illustrate the land and features around you in every direction, not just what lies ahead, as per many GPS units. They also don’t require powering and are very durable, especially laminated waterproof maps.

Some GPS units do show you a terrain view and surrounding features and really good ones can even show you what business and facilities are nearby, such as shops B&Bs and campsites. But consider that more features on a GPS device typically requires more battery power.

Garmin Forerunner 310xt
Garmin Forerunner 310xt

Other, simple GPS units, such as the Garmin 310xt use very little battery power and offer just enough information to navigate a pre planned cycle route. This is my prefered method for ultralight cycle touring. See the Using a Garmin Forerunner 310xt For Mapping and Navigating a Cycle Tour for a video demonstration of sports watch GPS mapping.

One last navigation option is to use cue sheets. If you subscribe to CycleFar you’ll receive a free ebook the ‘Ultralight Cycling Instruction Manual’ where you can read all about cue sheets and other ultralight cycling tips and tricks. I won’t share your email and you can unsubscribe at anytime.

In short, cue sheets are directions written down in a super condensed format that can be printed or written out on paper. Cue sheets can then be laminated or covered with tape for waterproofing. They can convey a lot of information very simply and for very little weight.

#5 Consider Sickness and Exit Strategies

New places, new people and most commonly of all; new food and accidents are common causes for sickness and injury when travelling. Some places in the world also come with their own unique health hazard such as rabies and malaria.

Sick When Camping
Sick When Camping

Cycle tour planning should involve a visit to your travel doctor if you are going to countries you are unfamiliar with. Find out what vaccines you might need early on, you may find that some vaccines have to be given in multiple doses over a period of time. Once you know where you stand with vaccinations then next stage in protecting your health whilst cycle touring is to build or buy a medical kit. In addition to antibacterial wound cleaners and plasters you may want to equip yourself with some basic medications. I usually take:

  • Imodium (to combat diarrhoea)
  • Broad spectrum antibiotics (can be effective against food poisoning, urine infections and many other things)
  • Electrolytes  (for aiding hydration)
  • Antihistamines (Allergy tablets that work well against hay fever,  animal allergies and bad reactions to bites and stings)
  • Painkillers of some kind

Though I take these drugs cycle touring as a precaution I have only ever used allergy tablets and vaccines. I would avoid using antibiotics at all costs as they kill just as much good bacteria as they do bad (a huge topic for another day, and probably another website!). None-the-less, there are many possible situations when travelling when I would be very grateful to have a selection of medications. So I’ll continue to pack them and hope I don’t need them.

#6 Maintenance, Repairs and Building Your ToolKit

When building your cycle touring tool kit it’s best to start with a thorough analysis of what your bikes actually needs. Look at the various parts of your bicycle that may need adjusting; brakes, gears, seat post, spokes, racks, etc. then pack only the tools you need for those jobs.

Ultralight Toolkit
Ultralight Cycle Toolkit

Next, take a look and work out what might need replacing; brake blocks, chain, spokes, lubricant and grease, etc. and take only the spare parts that you think you will struggle to find during the cycle tour. Tools kits can soon become bulky and unnecessarily heavy, this simple approach ensures you have no dead weight and only carry the essential tools and spares. To see how far weight saving can go regarding tool kits see the Ultralight Tools For Ultralight Cycle Touring and Ultralight Cycle Touring Toolkit posts.

#7 Build Your Cycle Touring Bike Including Luggage and Equipment

Once you have your travel plans in place it’s then time to consider building your bicycle. There are several ways to carry your luggage when cycle touring but the two most common (and probably best) ways for fully loaded and ultralight cycle touring are shown in these two videos:

Cycle Tour Planning – Fully Loaded Cycle Touring Video

Cycle Tour Planning – Ultralight Cycle Touring Video

 #8 Test Your Cycle Touring Setup

Once you have finished your cycle tour planning it’s time for cycle tour testing. Test out your cycle touring and camping setup. A quick S24O (sub-24 hour overnight) bike camping trip should reveal any last minute creases that need to be ironed out and will give you a taste of what’s to come.

Unless you’re going on a very short cycle tour, where you need to bank the miles from the start, don’t worry too much about your fitness. Most cycle tourers find they ease into a longer ride and pick up the pace as they go. If you’re in pretty good shape anyway you’ll feel fit on the bike within a week of sustained effort followed by a rest day.

What Next

If you enjoyed this cycle tour planning article please consider sharing it or leaving a comment below.

For more information on building an ultralight touring bike you can subscribe for free and receive the condensed “Ultra Light Cycling Instruction Manual” or grab a full copy of the Ultralight Cycle Touring Guide from your local Amazon website.

6 thoughts on “Cycle Tour Planning, 8 Stage Action Plan”

  1. Any advice about lightweight locks or avoiding needing locks? I like to stop in cafe’s and pubs and sitting outside on a cold rainy day isn’t my idea of fun. Not many places will let you bring a bike inside.

    1. Hi Lyn, thanks for your comment. It’s a good question and a tricky one, it seems that there is no deterrent like a big heavy block of metal. Shorter locks are more secure for the same weight so long as you’re still able to attach them to something.

      I guess it depends on what you’re protecting against, for example;
      Thief with professional tools – Nothing can stop them,
      Thief with bolt cutters – Heavy duty locks should work,
      Thief with wire cutters – Mid sized wire locks should work,
      Thief with bare hands – A heavy duty cable tie should slow them down.

      Having said that, most thieves only attempt to steal bikes they can readily sell on, they go for bikes that are very generic in appearance. So perhaps security by obscurity could a part of your overall solution?

      Personally I can’t rest unless I have a window seat where I can see my bike. It’s sad that it has to be that way.

      Good luck Lyn and I hope your bike stays safe!

    2. Hi Lyn
      Some approaches to reducing risk of theft and minimizing worry about it:

      Have a bike that no-one wants to steal. Not too flash. Unusual as unusual bikes are harder for thieves to sell.. Have your name written on it as removing name take time and effort, and might help police find you if it is stolen and recovered by police (as happened to mine!).

      Avoid having a bike that you’d be very upset to have stolen. Avoid high money or sentimental value.

      Use a dutch style frame lock. Easy to use to stop ride-away thieves, and because it easy use even for short time away from bike like going into a shop. Ride away theft is perhaps greatest risk during shopping stops at least.

      Minimise risk factors when leaving bike, such as: in big city, where dodgy characters hanging around, leaving bike for too long a time, at night, further than necessary from where you are.

      Leave minor accessories on bike rather than removing them. If stolen/removed you have a warning that special care of bike may be desirable in similar situations.

      Talk to people nearby, as that improves chances that they’ll react to any theft attempts.

      Don’t let worry bout security spoil your trip.

  2. I’m a convert now to using a tablet instead of a GPS. On my France trip this northern summer used a Samsung Galaxy Tab3 8 inch. Get gps, camera, internet, maps, all in light package. If you get a 3G model you also get a phone. Or can use wifi model with a sep phone that provides a wifi hotspot. I now have mine tied to handlebar with shock cord. Use ridewithgps.com to create route, then download to tablet using french app ‘sitytrail’. That gives me live gps and a line to follow (or be generally guided by). Sitytrail has world version using open streetmap, or versions for france etc using local maps.
    Are you in NZ? I’m in Christchurch pondering my next trip. Probably France going very light.
    Regards
    Ed

    1. Hi Ed,

      Thanks for your comment and welcome to CycleFar. That sitytrail app sounds interesting I will certainly take a look at it. I use ridewithGPS often and love OpenStreetMap. Your tablet must be power hungry how do you keep it charged? I would probably use my phone but the GPS is not as good and it devours many times more power that the Garmin. The Garmin charges on USB to full in a matter of minutes and will last about two solid days of GPS navigation. But, what I would do for a proper (large) cartographic background and a colour display!

      I have been in NZ (New Plymouth) for the last 21 months but I’m leaving today. I have a flight to Auckland this afternoon and then on to London. I’m really going to miss this country and it’s people but it’s time to look to new horizons.

      Trip planning is a form of meditation, enjoy pondering France Ed, and hopefully cycling it too.

      1. James, if you’re using android, you can eek out your phone’s battery power by using an external Bluetooth GPS device (e.g. GlobalSAT BT-338) which has a 20+ hour battery life (and an external charge socket).

        You’ll need to turn on ‘developer options’ in your Android system settings, then select the ‘use mock locations’ option, and also install an app like ‘Bluetooth GPS’ which interfaces between the BT GPS and the GPS app, but it works really well (for iOS you’d need to jailbreak to be able to install a similar app).

        You’ll need to be sensible with your phone display settings; time on, brightness, etc. And the GPSr I mentioned used an older Bluetooth protocol, so finding a newer device which uses BTLE (BT4.0) could help the setup last even longer between charges!

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