How to Plan a Bicycle Tour (And Avoid Surprises!)

How to Plan a Bicycle Tour

Do you want to get started in bicycle touring and are wondering how to plan your first trip? 

Have no worries as you have landed on the right page. 

Here, I’ll show you what you need to pay attention to when planning a bicycle tour, from getting the right gear to making the right route choice.

Whether you want to explore the uninhabited places in your country or tour the famous bike tour destinations across the globe, planning is key. 

Adequate preparation will make your journey more enjoyable, safe, and comfortable. You won’t have many surprises that may inconvenience your tour or freak you out.

When I started bike touring in various parts of the world, I knew that even the simplest preparation would always pay back while out there.  

So, does this mean that I got it all right during my first trip? 

Absolutely not! I made many mistakes as a beginner. Even though I was already an experienced cyclist, there was much I didn’t know about bicycle touring. 

Over the years, I’ve learned many things about bike touring and am here to share with you my tips on how to plan a bike tour. 

Let’s get started…

How to Plan a Bicycle Tour

Plan a Bicycle Tour

Choose a Destination

Deciding where to go is the most important thing when planning your first bicycle tour. You need to choose a destination based on the places or sceneries that interest you. 

You don’t pick a touring destination simply because you heard someone say it was a good place to ride. 

Now, the best place to go for cycle touring will depend on the amount of time you have. If you have, let’s say, a week or just a few days, then it’s wise plan for a short local bike tour. 

For example, if you live in Virginia, you can explore rugged Virginia’s bike trails. You might find that even your county has the most challenging yet fascinating places to explore. 

You can also travel around Colorado, Portland, and Onion Valley. These places have great bike paths and camping grounds for tourists. 

However, if you have more time, like weeks or months, you may want to plan a bicycle trip to your dream country. 

Just because you are a beginner doesn’t mean that you can’t tour abroad. There are many beginner-friendly bicycle touring destinations in different parts of the world. 

Countries like Japan, Chile, Sweden, Holland, Italy, and France are safe bike tour destinations. They are camping-friendly with an incredible network of cycling paths to explore. 

You should also not be afraid to try more challenging bike tours in destinations like Kyrgyzstan and the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean. 

If you need more inspiration on the best cycling tour destinations, you can always research online to find a great article with useful information. 

Find a Good Touring Bike 

Find a Good Touring Bike

The type of bicycle you use matters a lot when it comes to getting the most out of your tour. 

Having a good bike will help you ride comfortably, carry all your essentials and enjoy more. 

But you might wonder, what exactly does a good bike for touring mean? 

A good bike for touring is one that matches your specific travel needs. One bike may be good for one person but unsuitable for another cyclist. 

For example, a race bike may be a good option for someone going for a local trip with less gear. 

However, the same bike can be a disaster for tourists who intend to haul heavy loads for long distances. This is because race bicycles do not handle the camping load so well. 

Similarly, a fat bike can be inappropriate when planning a tour that mainly involves cycling on the road or paved surfaces. But the same bike will deliver the best experience when cycling off-road. 

When my friends and I went for a bike tour in the famous Fiji islands, we actually had to rent fat bikes to explore the coastline efficiently. 

Renting fat bikes was the best decision we made during the tour, as our standard tour bicycles wouldn’t have handled the sandy and rocky trails so well. 

So, it’s also important to consider the type of touring you intend to do with your bike. Is it a cross-continent tour, or do you want a one-week tour of riding on difficult terrain? 

In general, high-quality tour bikes with a longer wheelbase are the best for long-distance or multi-day trips. They are unlikely to fail when riding on different terrains. 

Old mountain bikes are also great for bicycle touring as they have sturdy construction. Their strong steel frames can handle heavy loads, allowing you to pack everything you need for your tour. 

If you can afford an expedition touring bicycle, you’ll be able to travel around the world in all kinds of terrains with heavy loads. Expedition bikes offer unmatched stability.

Nonetheless, you can use what is available if you don’t have a budget to buy a good touring bike. But again, you’ll need to be cautious about destinations and the routes you choose. 

Plan Your Best Route

Plan Your Best Route

So, you already have a good touring bicycle and have chosen a destination, what’s next? Do you start packing? 

Not yet! The next step is planning your route. 

Being a cyclist means that you have many ways to reach you destinations due to your bike’s flexibility. So, you want to find a route that will favor your adventurous spirit.  

As I mentioned earlier, I made a lot of mistakes during my first cycling tour. I traveled with a friend who didn’t have much experience as well. 

The biggest mistake that we made was the failure to plan our route well. We fed our destination in google maps and downloaded the tracks to use them on our handheld GPS devices. 

As first-time bicycle travelers, we thought it was necessary to stick to the GPS tracks to avoid getting lost in the wild.

Was it worth it, though? Not at all. This actually cost us much fun as we truly missed a lot. 

What’s my advice to cyclists then? Is there any best way to plan a cycle tour route well? Hang on. I learned some essential tips later!

After traveling on my loaded bike for several years now, I have realized that being open to other people’s suggestions is vital. 

Here are some other useful tips for planning your first bicycle adventure route:

Plan Short

You don’t have to plan for each day of your expedition as this may limit you. 

For example, if you want to do a bicycle tour of about 20 days, you can plan for only three or four days and leave the rest for taking chances. 

This way, you’ll be able to leverage any opportunity that arises without having to worry about your schedule. 

However, if you want to go for a longer distance trip, let’s say travel several countries, you may have to break the tour into small segments. This will help you explore all the places you look forward to. 

Plan to Cycle Not More than 80km Each Day

Plan to Cycle Not More than 80km Each Day

For your first bicycle trip, you don’t have to exhaust yourself by cycling over 80km a day. 

Ideally, you can ride about 50km to 70km each day, or even less, especially if your trip involves major climbs or extreme trails. 

While you may be an experienced cyclist, riding with a loaded bike is entirely a different cup of tea. 

So, it’s important to take it easy as a  bike tour beginner. Of course, this figure will change as time goes by. 

Avoid Busy Highways

Cycling on paved roads seems enjoyable for beginners as the ride is smooth, and there are no challenging obstructions. However, it’s quite boring for an adventurer to cycle on a busy highway. 

True, highways can be great shortcuts, but there is not much fun since touring is not just about your destination. 

If you want to ride in beautiful locations, stick to secondary roads and remote paths. 

Pack Your Gear 

Pack Your Gear

Before you get rolling on your first bike tour, make sure you have all the necessities packed. 

The best touring gear for your first tour is anything you need to feel comfortable when traveling. It goes down to your personal preference. 

But I’m not going to lie, some things are more important in bike tours, and leaving them behind will cause terrible trouble at night, depending on where your journey takes you. 

A tent and a sleeping bag are among the most important things when the night comes. You’ll always want to rest after a long cycling day. 

Other essential things include a cooking stove, hydration pack, google maps or GPS device, snacks, and appropriate clothing. 

If you suspect bad weather, I recommend that you have more than one layer of outwear, like a t-shirt or a thin sweater, under your cycling clothes. 

Now, when it comes to the best accessories for bicycle touring, everyone has their own opinions. 

So, you need to choose what fits your needs and budget without worrying about specialist equipment. You’ll be able to judge better once you gain some touring experience. 

Bicycle accessories like seats, handlebars, headlights, saddle, and pedals should be suitable for travel to ensure that you have a beautiful experience. 

You should also pack a bicycle repair kit, especially if you plan to explore remote areas where you cannot find bike shops. 

To carry all this gear, your two-wheeler will need good front and rear racks to hold the bags and panniers. Your bags and panniers also need to be hard-wearing to keep your things safe. 

If you have a handlebar bag, you can use it to carry things you’ll need to use often, such as road maps and cameras. 

With all the articles available online about bike travel essentials, doing some research will also set you on the right foot.

Researching before buying anything has helped me spend way less than I expected on my bike tour items, from handlebar bags and panniers to top-quality tents. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions on Bicycle Touring

Q: How Do I Plan a Solo Bike Tour?

A: Planning for a solo first bike trip can be overwhelming, especially if you are a beginner. 

Whether you want to do your solo trip in your country or abroad, here are a few effective ways to plan it and get the most out of your journey: 

  • Consider Short Tours on Moderately Difficult Terrain

A solo bike trip doesn’t really have to be so simple, but you also don’t want to cycle alone on the most challenging terrains. 

You need to choose a safe and appropriate route for solo cyclists as anything could happen while out there. 

I often advise beginners planning for a solo trip to look for less challenging terrains and avoid exhausting long rides, especially if they lack a sturdy touring bicycle. 

As much as you want to explore more and have fun alone, it’s wise to use common sense to avoid making decisions that will cost you later. 

  • Don’t Let Budget Hold You Back

When planning to travel by bicycle alone, don’t let your budget hold you back. You don’t need to invest in a new luxurious touring bicycle unless you want to. 

Any bike should be good, provided it has some fitment points where you can attach a rack and panniers for your travel essentials. 

And before you leave home, let your family know where you are going and when they should expect you back. 

Q: What Kind of Bike Should I Use for Bicycle Touring?

What Kind of Bike Should I Use for Bicycle Touring

A: For most beginners, the first question that usually comes to mind is what type of bike is the best for touring?

I often find it hard to respond to this question directly. Well, of course not because of the vast range of touring bikes out there!

The problem is that what matters most when choosing the right bicycle for touring is the context. 

Your touring demands and personal preferences dictate the choice of your adventure bicycle. It should not be the other way round, at least if you want to have a great touring experience. 

Do you prefer to ride fast or slow? How long and where do you intend to travel? 

Will you cycle while fully loaded, or a light backpack will be enough for your gear? 

Such essential questions will help you easily determine which kind of bicycle is the best for your first cycle trip. 

If you love cycling on rugged dirt roads, like me, you may want to go for a fat bicycle as it handles such terrains very well. 

I travel full-loaded in most of my bike touring adventures, and I prefer riding slow for longer distances to quick short-term tours. My fat bicycle comes in handy on the dirt roads!

I have used it for several long-distance bicycle tours, and all I can say is, it is a perfect match for my touring needs. 

However, if your route is mostly on the road with moderate off-roading, you cannot go wrong with a touring bicycle or even a quality mountain bike. 

And if you don’t plan to pack a lot of gear or explore challenging terrains, your regular road bicycle is still a good choice, especially when you don’t want to spend much. 

Q: How to Train for a First Bike Tour

A: Training for a bicycle tour doesn’t have to be complicated. All you have to do is incorporate some strength-building workouts like sprints, push ups, and stretching into your fitness routine. 

You can do this a few weeks before your scheduled departure date. 

If you plan to do a self-supported tour, you need to start carrying weight on the bicycle as you cycle around. You can start with 20 pounds and add as you progress. 

Riding with weight will help you build strength and endurance, which will come in handy when hauling your travel bags and panniers. 

You also need to ensure that your bike is in good condition before knocking off miles. If you are no expert, you can have a mechanic or someone from the bike shops check your bicycle. 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Cycle touring is a perfect way to break your everyday life routine and explore nature. It’s the cheapest way to travel the word apart from walking, obviously. 

Planning for bicycle travel is not as daunting as you might think. You just need to find a suitable bike, choose a bike travel endpoint, gear up and set out for the trail. 

Don’t wait anymore to embark on your first travel by bicycle! The vast, beautiful world is waiting for you to explore. 

And whether you decide to kick off with a solo adventure or travel the world with friends, feel free to use these tips for the best riding comfort and a memorable experience. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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