Choosing a cycle tour route

We are still learning the ropes on the cycle touring.  So, I’m sure we have a whole lot still to learn.  As budding cycle tourers, we have learnt a few lessons along the way that may serve as some helpful hints to others.

Pick a region that has good access.

This is the hardest part of organising a cycle tour.  Getting us, our bikes and our stuff to a location can be tricky.  Doubly so, considering how far apart we live.  We have previously chosen locations to visit with a friend who was driving.  We have also considered leaving a location right from the airport or public transport.  It helps if you know some one on the ground who can store your bike bag/boxes and/or act as an emergency pick up / contact if anything goes wrong.  If we don’t have a mate handy, other options include leaving your stuff at at hotel or getting it shipped to your final destination.So, logistically, we chose a region that can be accessed via public transport (train, bus, ferry, plane, etc) or via calling in a mate for a favour.

The prevailing weather is also plays a part in our trip locations.  Head over to BOM  and check out the climate data for info on what the typical weather in that location might be like during that time of year.  We pay close attention to the average temperatures, the prevailing winds and likelihood of rain.

Plan on riding about 60-80km per day if you want to actually do anything other than ride your bike.

On previous tours, we set ourselves some pretty ambitious goals on how many kms we could do in and day and get up and do it again the next day.  These included some days of 120+kms including 1500m of climbing and things like several days in a row of over 100km. While this is great for a challenge and we were happy to have completed such a feats, it isn’t always fun.  We stressed about how fast we were going, would it be fast enough, would we make to to that location before dark, would we meet up with some one we had arranged to meet, would that particular place of interest be open at that time, prayed and hoped we wouldn’t have a mechanical.

Our most recent tour, we decided to knock it back a notch and self imposed the above cap.  It was fantastic.  We had much more time to visit local attractions, markets, cafes, shops.  We didn’t have to get going at crack-o-dawn and we got to our next location in a timely manner in which we could enjoy the destination.  We actually got time to visit each destination rather than just pass through.  Plus buy some nice souvenirs.  In future, we intend to visit all those wineries, niche museums, cheese factories, markets, special cafes, bakeries, deer farms, reptile parks, icecreamerys, fruit stalls so we will be keeping the cap.  60-80kms feels like you have done a good days worth of cycling and actual gone to a different town but leaves you with enough time and in a good enough state to do things other than cycling.

Look for routes through locations that have small towns or places of interest at regular intervals of about 20-30kms.

The internet is a great cycle touring resource.   We use it almost exclusively to plan tours. Always worth a look is the local tourist promotions sites to pick some fun attractions and local deals.  We also check local online notice boards for possible local events.  We’ve chosen wineries, service stations, cafes, town centres.  Any location of interest will do really as long as you have access to food and water.

If the route requires more than this distance between good stops or no good stops are to be found, we have to stock up on the food and water and be prepared.  This may mean a stop at the last service station to buy a ham and salad roll and a pack of pineapple lollies to take with us and beg the use of a tap to fill up the water bottles.

Using a ride mapping resource, like bikely, to see what people have ridden before also comes in handy.  It highlights popular local cycle routes and routes taken by other people touring through the area.  The tags facility on bikely lets us know if the section of road has anything unexpected on that person’s route – dirt, heavy traffic as well as some times pointing out good locations to stop.

Map out your route and check the profile.

Again using bikely, we usually map a proposed cycle route to give us an idea of exactly where we will be going and what we have gotten ourselves in to.  It gives us the amount of distance to be covered for they day and between stop as well as an elevation profile of the proposed route so we know what to expect and can adjust times accordingly.

Unfortunately, bikely is a bit of an unstable website and can be unresponsive or unavailable at times but there are plenty of alternate mapping websites to chose from.

Visit tourist info centres.

These places are the bomb.  We have been to many to find out what the local specialities are, what particular community event is one, what attractions can’t be missed.  They are also a wealth of knowledge on road conditions and traffic conditions for the next leg of your journey.

Eat nice food.

After cycling all day, nothing is less appetising than another pasta dish or starting the day with another bowl of gluey porridge.  These may be energy power foods but I can’t stand them two days in a row.  I’m also not one for a lot of sandwiches.  So we do eat out a fair bit whilst on a tour.  To cut down on the costs, we might buy a few groceries on the way in to a town to make a dinner and breakfast at our destination.  A place to stay with a kitchenette is a must.  We would typically buy lunch most days but a convenient bakery can cut down the cost of constant cafe meals.

Don’t be afraid of just stopping.

Whatever the reason, if we want to stop, we stop.  To  have a rest, check out something we saw on the side of the road, explore up a side street, to check out a shop, to enjoy some shade under a tree, to look at a creek, to paddle feet in said creek..  It is a cycle tour.  It is supposed to be fun.  It’s supposed to be a holiday.

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