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FEATURE

BIKE THROUGH EUROPE

Italian Countryside

PLANNING TIMELINE: WEEKS BEFORE LEAVING 12-24

Determine how much time & money you have

puts you on the same roads as all the cars and trucks. Although many people find the European landscape generally more attractive than the North American landscape, there are ugly sections of most countries.

Weather 8-16

Select the country or countries you want to visit

8-16

Determine a rough itinerary with start/ finish points

If you’re craving ‘guaranteed’ clear skies and hot sun, the closer to the Mediterranean you are, the happier you’ll be. Although northern Europe is known for ‘less valued’ weather, there can always be surprises.

Trip Planning Resources Travel Books

8-16

Purchase airline tickets

4-8

Purchase and fully equiped touring bicycle

3-4

Plan your detailed route and itinerary

2-4

Purchase panners and ride with projected load

2-4

Make at least one ride of your intended average daily distance

2-4

Reserve any critical lodging (first/last night, major cities)

1

Determine how you’ll get your bicycle to the airport

18 Quest June 2013

If you’re not certain what country you want to visit, or what regions of that country to focus on, there is nothing like perusing coffee-table travel books with stimulating large-format color photographs. Several times I’ve had the experience of seeing a photo of a spectacular or wondrous place and saying, “I want to be there”, and then planning my route so I do get to go there. I think this is a perfectly fine way to plan a trip. Pick a half-dozen places from pictures in a travel book and then see if you can construct a logical route joining them.

Maps I love maps. I can sit for hours looking at maps of places I don’t know, imagining what the locale looks like and deciding what areas I want to visit. Understanding maps - even non-topographic maps - is not a universal skill or pleasure. You’ll want an overall map of the country you want to visit - the larger scale the better. If there are several brands available, look at each of them to determine which has the most detail, is the clearest to read, or that

is printed in the colors you like best. This map will be used for general itinerary planning and fixing locations mentioned in guidebooks. Since the roads shown on this map will not be the ones you’ll be riding on (or you’re in trouble), find a map where the roads don’t obliterate the whole landscape. The Michelin series is generally the best in this regard. Detail maps for actual route planning (1:200,000 - 1:50,000) may or may not be available in local stores based on the country you’re visiting. If they’re not in stock, ask if they can be ordered. If the store can’t help, try calling the country’s tourism office in the U.S. The detailed maps may be less expensive in the source country, but I feel it is valuable to have them ahead of time. First, looking at and evaluating your potential route will help to keep you interested in and excited about your trip. Second, you want to make sure there are acceptable roads to cycle on your chosen route. I usually get good quality, detailed maps (say Michelin 1:200,000) before I go, because I like to do my actual route planning in advance. I then photocopy them, generally enlarging at the same time for more clarity, with one day’s ride on each sheet. I highlight my route, sometimes using different colors for alternate routes that I want to evaluate in the field. These are then used in my handlebar bag for basic navigation, although I take the original along - safely wrapped - to look over the next day’s ride each night. This protects the expensive original from all the folds necessary to get the appropriate section to display in the handlebar bag. I also look at the original during the day if I can’t get enough information from the copy - the colors do help in deciphering small details. If only I had access to a color photocopier! Bringing the originals adds a good few pounds to my kit, but I consider map browsing terrific entertainment as well as a tour necessity. This can also be used for tour planning - highlight several alternate routes on the photocopies for evaluation without marking up your original. When I toured the Dordogne I marked the suggested itineraries from three different books and combined what I liked best from each into my final route - with my own modifications.

Guides These come in several flavors - guides to budget travel for all of Europe and specific countries, focusing on attractions in major cities, lodging and food; or more general travel guides for a country or a region in that country. In most cases you will not want to bring these guides along with you on the tour for space and weight reasons. You might want to photocopy some pages or make notes from these sources. What I do recommend for bringing with you is the Michelin Green Guide for your chosen country,

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