In the first place you will fix where to go and then you can get down to the details. You want to travel to the endless Altiplano plains in South America or to Canada’s vast woodlands? Or do you want to start right at your doorstep? Maybe there’s a place you’ve always wanted to explore, or perhaps one of the numerous online travel blogs made you curious to visit a specific area. Once you have decided where to go, you can plan your tour in detail. Without any doubt, the easiest way is to ride a tested trail, but to be honest it is definitely more exciting to try out new terrain. So here are some thoughts and ideas making it easier for you.
Check if your travel time and the season recommended for travelling to this region overlap and are suitable for your planned bike packing trip. If not, it doesn’t mean you can’t go, but you should have a closer look. Travelling during the low season may be advantageous. Trails won’t be crowded with hikers, and campgrounds will be less expensive. However, it could also mean that certain facilities might be closed like shops and tourist information. Further, make sure that mountain passes are not yet or no longer snow covered, and in case your timing involves the rainy season you might expect soaked single trails which are impossible to ride and get through.
Choose a suitable starting and finish point for your tour. Choosing a larger city as starting or finish point is advantageous for international trips as you have the chance to get over your jetlag, shop for equipment you forgot at home or acclimatize a few days. But even if you are not going overseas a larger city is logistically easier to get to by public transport making departure and shuttle easier. Please check ahead whether you can bring your bike on the bus or train. In German long distance trains you need to make an online reservation at least one day in advance for bringing a bicycle. If you bring a little extra time, a visit to the local tourist information or bike shop might be helpful to get recommendations and tips prior to heading off.
Once you have made some basic decisions about the tour, bring time and patience to plan your trip in detail. If you are tired of using the old map, the program https://ridewithgps.com/ offers a good basis for planning a trip. It allows you changing between a classic map and a satellite view, making it simple to differ between a paved road, a gravel road or a single track. You can then export the tour as kml or gpx file to your GPS or cell phone. If you find it too cumbersome to set up your own route you might as well choose an existing track by using fantastic apps such as Komoot and OSMand. However, take your time and investigate and check out various options. For a 3 to 4 day trip the traditional tour will be from A to B, however, you might consider doing a loop.
We love being surrounded by great mountains and remote woods without seeing a single person for days. However, there are hardly any supermarkets out there. Since our frame pack has a limit regarding volume we have no other choice but to fill up our supplies here and there in a village or town. We recommend: do not avoid detours, but integrate towns and cities into your trip. Please check out water supplies as well: are there rivers and lakes or do you need to bring PET bottles? We made the experience that you can drink tap water in most places in Europe. Therefore, when planning a route, a house means there are people living and you might have the possibility to fill up your drinking water.
Camping outdoors, backpackers or the traditional mountain cabin? Where do you want to stay overnight? Some travelers love camping, others prefer the more comfortable option having a safe roof. Traveling with your own tent or bivouac bag, tarp and mattress gives you, without any doubt, maximum flexibility. Staying in hostels or hotels requires a bit more planning ahead of time as it requires finishing your day trip in a village or mountain cabin. This could be a problem in the peak season, especially in the Alps, as many cabins or hotels will be booked out. Therefore we advise you make a reservation. The drawback is, it will make your trip very inflexible not allowing you to make spontaneous changes. If you go for camping, it can be helpful to mark potential campsites on your map. For a bivouac or a camp in the wilderness you do not require particular planning, but you should be familiar with the legal situation in the respective country. In Germany, for example, pitching up a tent in the outdoors is not allowed, a bivouac, however, is permitted. It might be worth checking out the network https://www.warmshowers.org/ and find a dry spot on the couch of a nice host. This will save you a lot of money and you will get to know the country and locals.
Finally your trip is planned and you are getting all excited! On the map it looks great: lots of single trails, steep pass roads, remote places. Watch out: a theoretically planned trip might be different in reality. Once you get there it might be entirely impossible to bike an intended forest road or single trail. It is then advantageous if you have an alternative plan, we call it “escape route”. Mark such escapes on the map, e.g. close by gravel roads or paved roads to detour impassable sections.
Plan breaks! A common mistake is a tight schedule and no breaks. Take your time and plan ahead, especially if your trip is longer than a week, you will need a day in between to get some rest. If you are camping in the outdoors you are totally free when and where you choose to have a break. But you might as well plan your rest day in advance. We often plan to have our rest day at a campground where we can have a shower, wash our clothes and recharge our batteries. When you plan the time frame of your trip you should also consider sudden weather changes. A very tight schedule and bad weather might interfere with reaching your target in time. Unknown bike packing sections are always an unknown risk, you never know if you can really ride them.
It all might sound a bit difficult and complicated, but planning a route can be fun and in the end an individually planned trip will turn out great, especially when you get some experience in finding the right tracks. Go for it, even if things don’t always work out, or if you are overwhelmed by lots of information or numerous apps. Once you have experienced the feel of a pioneer you will prefer designing your own trip instead of following others’ tracks.
Written by Franzi from Tales on Tyres