To help you figure out the details of a tour, here are a few thoughts, broken up into edible pieces. Please, remember, these are just my ideas...and are not all inclusive by any means. Part of the fun is discovering what YOU like. Only you can plan your tour. Make it what you want it to be.
In my mind, bicycle touring can be split up into several larger sections: Planning, The Bicycle, Gear, Accessories, Suggestions for Getting Started. These will all relate to road touring and carrying the gear on your bicycle in one form or another...panniers, trailer, or any other means you may come up with.
First things first: PLANNING. This involves sitting down with yourself and thinking about a road trip. Period. You may want to read about tours that others have done. Like this website. Cycling magazines. Movies. Whatever. Other blogs on touring. Planning is a way to make things go better, overall, on a tour. Figuring out how things got screwed up after you're on the tour sucks. Now, some folks just head out. No real planning, just a vague idea of where they want to go and a route they want to take. Nothing wrong with this. I'm a bit more obsessive about planning. In 1988, I met a teacher who, at the end of the school year, went to a bike shop, bought a bike, some gear, went home, loaded it up, and headed out on the highway. No training. A vague plan. And he got stronger as he rode. Did it work? Yes. I met him when I was touring solo from Alaska to Maine. He was doing fine after some rough acclimation of his muscles. Just goes to show you that a well laid plan isn't critical. Now, some straight up and straight forward thoughts from me:
- DESTINATION: The first thing I try to do is figure out just where the heck do I want to go? What do I want to see? Do I want to go solo? I prefer solo...I can decide where to go, how long to ride in a day, where to camp or stay for the night, etc. Or do I want to have one or more other cyclists join me? Those decisions now become group decisions. I'm a Civil War and Revolutionary War aficionado, so those things direct me in my touring. Another thing to consider is whether the tour is one-way or round trip. Round trip involves less planning. One-way involves figuring out how to get you, the bike, and the gear back home...and extra costs.
- WHEN: When is a very important factor here. Why? Weather, that's why. Do you want to dance through the rain? Tornadoes? Hurricanes? Hotter'n'hell weather? Snow? Hopefully, you're getting the picture here. Think seriously about the WHEN since it will dictate to you the destination. WHEN also will dictate gear, clothing, and costs. Going somewhere off-season is cheaper. And fewer, as well as smaller, crowds. Having grown up in a tourist area, I learned to dislike tourists and I try not to be a jerk tourist. Off-season can also mean that what you might like to see/visit might be closed. Be sure to check out the details. No point in busting your butt just to find the place closed, eh?
- ROUTE AND MAPS: Once you figure out the destination and the when, you're route is next. What you want to see will dictate the route, plus the weather you may want, or the weather you may want to avoid, will also guide you along. As for maps, I have mostly used regular AAA maps. You can buy an expensive GPS, but most people these days have a smartphone, which should suffice for helping you route yourself. Adventure Cycling Association has some very elaborate maps that spell out all the critical details...food, water, lodging, camping, stores, etc. To me, they're great but I don't use them. Why? I think they take the "adventure" out of adventure cycling. Not demeaning them, I just like to meander on my own. As a first timer, these can be very helpful, however, my first bicycle touring trip was from Alaska to Maine. I used AAA maps and some Adventure Cycling maps.
A tune to exit with. Anyone remember The Troggs? Their lead singer, Reg Presley (Reginald Maurice Ball), just died. He was 71 yrs old. Not one of my top ten bands, but the tune, "Wild Thing", was one of those that stuck in my head and I'd be humming the same, and only, part of the song that I could remember repetitively, all day long. For those who remember and for those who've never heard it before....