BIKE THROUGH EUROPE
Choosing Tour Objectives and “Must Sees” As mentioned earlier, a perfectly fine way to plan a tour is choosing specific places you want to visit (“must sees”) from a coffee table photographic travel book, and then trying to connect them. Usually I’ll have an idea of a region I want to visit for excellent scenery and good cycling conditions: lack of both excessive climbing and traffic. I may choose several regions that can be connected easily by trains, as I did in England and Scotland. Some folks may want a more ‘relaxing’ vacation experience than I tend to choose, and prefer to thoroughly explore one region instead of attempting to
then selectively adding places from the other levels that seem to fit in smoothly. At this stage you’re not looking for the actual roads you’ll be riding on, since they won’t likely be shown on this scale of map in the first place. However, you should begin to determine your overnight stops, and verify that they’re a days ride from eachother (less necessary if camping). Mark the map’s scale on a piece of paper and use it to measure the rough distance between locations. You want to look for more-or-less straight lines connecting places, and an overall loop shape. Another option is the make the whole trip a single line connecting two major cities with a scenic region in between, or an arc shape, and use a train connection to complete the loop back to where you flew in to. If you find you have to make choices between multiple ‘nonlinear’ places you really want to visit, you have to determine how much out of the way it would be, or perhaps look at the guide books again to help decide if you really need to go there after all.
visit several. I want to see everything - or at least as much of it as I can - and try to visit several areas that interest me. I also believe that my experience will help guide me if I decide to return to the country or region for a longer visit in the future. But part of me suspects that there are so many new places to visit I may not ever get back again, which is all the more reason to sample as much as I can. I enjoy exploring urban areas on bike, and what often works well is to take a train to a city you want to see, cycle to another major city on a pleasant route, and then take a train somewhere else. An excellent example of this would be a three or four day bike ride between Luxembourg City and Koblenz, Germany, largely on bike paths along the scenic Mosel river. It works best to have several levels of areas you want to visit, from the “must sees” to the “if at all possible” to the “not essential, but if it works out”. If you have the Michelin green guide, in the front of it is a map showing attractions at three levels: Worth a journey, Worth a detour and Interesting. In my experience these are a good guide to the relative value of destinations, and might well serve as the basis for planning your route. However, you have to modify these to your individual taste; I have no interest in tramping through 100 rooms of some restored palace. Make photocopies of the overall map for the country, mark your three levels in different colors, and try drawing possible connecting routes. One approach would be to draw the most logical path connecting the “must sees”,
Knowing Your Preferred/Maximum Daily Mileage You’re best off if you’ve had your touring bike for a while before you go and ridden it on a full-day ride with your anticipated load. If you’ve done this several times, or on a weekend mini-tour, you should have a good idea of how far you like to ride each day. There are many factors which can impact this, even for a given rider. Weight of the load, state of conditioning, terrain, weather, attractions along the route,
(over 100 pounds) was only a minor hindrance. If I was touring in the Alps I would have been one sad puppy. Rain and headwinds can make you disspirited and just want to find a dry and warm room for the night in the next town you come to. On the other hand, an unexpected downhill or sudden sunshine can get you psyched to cover more miles in one hour than you’ve gone in the prior 2 or 3. I usually try to plan overnight stops in decent sized towns to give me variety in lodging, dining, and evening activity if I feel up for it. Particularly if you’re traveling in the high season and haven’t made reservations, you should make sure you end up in a town or city with multiple lodging options. I generally know each night’s stopping point before I begin a tour, but will try to pick out a back-up in case I’m tired or hit bad weather and can’t make it to my original destination. One other thing that can change your plans is encountering something unexpectedly wonderful, and deciding you want to spend more time exploring it; or, riding into a charming town and making up your mind on the spot that you’re going to spend the night there. Several times on my Dutch trip I had planned to just spend one night in a city, and then decided that I wanted a whole day there instead. If you’re planning to stay primarily at hostels for budget reasons, their locations could have a large impact in determining your route and where you stay.
Map-reading to Select the Best Cycling Routes After you have a rough idea of your route and where you want to spend your nights, it’s time to start looking at your detailed maps
Dublin Ireland 2011
and to a surprising degree: psychology. Even if you’re not used to touring and have done little training, after a few days you will start getting used to riding all day with a load, and after a week it should feel totally comfortable. The weight of your bike goes hand in hand with the terrain. In Holland, my heavy bike
(1:200,000 to 1:50,000) to select the actual route. Sometimes you’ll discover that there is no acceptable route between two chosen points, and you have to decide between heavy traffic for all or part of the day and changing your planned route. If you’ve selected all of most of your route from published cycling guides, June 2013 Quest 23