This post is the second in a series on how to plan a cyclo-tour from start to finish. Other parts of the series are listed in the A – Z of planning a tour on the menu to the right.
Part B of Planning a cyclo-tour – ‘A to Z’.
Covering where to go and when to go.
where to go?
Deciding where to go when you want to cyclo-tour is actually a very difficult question to answer because it really depends on what you enjoy and how much money you have to allocate to your trip.
I would not be comfortable cycling in many African countries for example. This is not to say that there would be nothing to see (quite the opposite!), or that there is anything wrong with those destinations. However, the cultures are very different to mine and there is a lot of poverty and related social issues in many places. Consequently, I would be uncomfortable – feeling as if I had to be on the alert constantly. This is not my ideal way to cyclo-tour.
However, I would jump at the chance to tour in many places in south eastern Asia, the Pacific basin, the USA, Canada or Europe, the UK or Ireland. That leaves me a lot of options and I am sure I will run out of time and money before I explore all of these!
But many people have cycled all around the world and hundreds of their stories can be found on the web. So if you are not sure where you would like to go, then start reading and see what appeals to you. A good place to start is the Crazy Guy on a Bike website, where you will find forums, lots and lots of tour diaries (you can add yours there too if you wish!) and many other useful articles. You can also do a search for bike touring blogs and follow the ones that appeal to you.
If you can’t make up your mind about where to go, then select one of your most favoured destinations and go with that!
When to go
This question will be answered by a few determining facts. Firstly, you will need to select a time that fits with your personal commitments. Then the second thing is to have a look at the climate of the place where you wish to tour.
Beautiful warm weather at the start of our French tour in 2009. (Chateauneuf, not far from Dijon)
You may prefer to cycle in the cooler weather or you may be like me and relish the warmer months. I would far rather be a bit hot than cold! (Actually, I should ‘fess up here – I really hate being cold, and I feel the cold more than most people 😦 ). A cooling breeze on a bike is lovely, but on a cold day, that same breeze is definitely not as welcome!
Riding along the Loire River, the days getting cooler and we had to start wearing our jackets.
On our first tour – the one to France, we left the trip a bit too late, and Europe had a very cold winter that year. The first few days were glorious, but after that, it got colder and colder and it got me a bit down in the end. We rode on some days when the temperature did not get over O degrees C (32 F). I got a bit grumpy on those days! In future, we plan to go earlier – in late summer/early autumn, irrespective of the destination.
weather-icon (Photo credit: Shmector)
The other thing that cyclists have to deal with is rain. I was intrigued to find that even though it rains a lot in places like England and Scotland, there are almost no places to shelter from the weather. Buildings front directly onto the street without any porches or covered awnings. This is very different to Australia, where you will find verandahs of some sort on almost every building, covered shopping mall areas and so on.
We did get wet on our rides in Scotland and England, but mostly it was not a major problem. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done if one strikes a few rainy days – just don the wet weather gear and brave the elements! If you select the time of year when rain is less likely, that is about all that you can do!
Foggy morning in Orleans.
The internet is a great resource for finding out what the weather is most likely going to do while you are on tour. Once you know what to expect, you can get the right gear to deal with the weather.
What Comes next?
The next part of this series will explore ideas for deciding exactly where to tour and how to get yourself and all your cycling goods to your starting location.