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Planning your bicycle adventure


Planning your bicycle adventure starts at home. The internet is a good source of information. No idea where to start your cycling adventure? My website can be your starting point.

But before we have a look what I think you should do, let me tell you first this: don't plan TOO MUCH. Once on the road you will keep on changing plans. Even if you go out for just a few weeks and especially when you start cycling for months! So you may find this page brief but it's all you need to do.

bicycle travelPlanning your bicycle adventure saves you from some difficulties, but not all. Planning consists of a few things you have to do before leaving your home:

  • Check your bicycle
  • Make a list of your luggage and camping Gear
  • Make a rough plan of the region you want to cycle and a rough time table - Maps
  • Organize your visa / passport
  • First Aid / Health care
  • Training

For some people planning can take months but to be honest with you, I never plan too much. Usually I can do everything in about 2 weeks time.

My best advice is, follow the instructions below and don't plan too much. Your plan will change anyway during your journey. And over planning your bicycle adventure will only bring stress when you have to change plans. Do the basic, leave the rest for the road.

First aid, depending on where you are going to, you will want a first aid kit in your bags. It will either be a basic kit or one with some more items. Here's more about what to bring.

More about the choice of your bicycle. Which bike is good for you? Here is more.

My bicycle in the Iranian desert

My bicycle in the Iranian desert

What to bring?

A few things I always bring on any journey, even if it is for only a few days and in my own country:

  • passport
  • credit and debit cards
  • copies of credit/debit cards, visa and passport
  • some cash US $ and € euros
  • map of the area/country I cycle
  • camera, cell phone etc. plus batteries
  • conversion plugs for different electrical systems

Planning your bicycle adventure, let's start with the basics.

What to bring

Florence - Firenze Italy
Never forget your camera, Florence
Italy, a place full of history

Passport

Your passport should be at least another 6 months be valid. If not, apply for a new one. Also, check the amount of pages still available. Many countries in Asia use a full page for the visa.

Visa

While planning your bicycle adventure you may have to organize your visas. If your journey will be limited to a few weeks or one country, you can organize your visa at home.

However, what to do when you go on a world journey? In that case you will have a rough sketch of the countries where you will travel in.

Know how long your visa is valid!!!

Keep an eye on your passport so you will know when your visa expires. Few things are more troublesome then expiring a visa, especially when you can avoid it.

DO NEVER OVERSTAY YOUR VISA. It creates more trouble than good and cost usually a lot of money.

You will find embassies in the capital of a country. In some countries you can arrange extensions at local police or custom offices (the PSB in larger Chinese cities sometimes can arrange that.

Sometimes it can be a bit of a hassle to organize a visa.

In Istanbul I had to wait a week to get my Iranian visa while the embassy kept my passport. In Islamabad, I could keep my passport after applying and come back 2 weeks later.

Indian visas are usually quite easy to organize but it takes a week (normal) to get the job done.

Chinese visa can be different in any country where you apply. In Holland I could get a 2 month visa, Bangkok 3 months, Hong Kong 3 months. However. in Pakistan I could get only one month. Read more about my adventure in the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad Pakistan

Credit/Debit cards

If you have credit/debit cards (and who hasn't one these days?) make sure that the expiry date is not in the near future expiring. Visa and Mastercard are more useful then American Express if you travel on the cheap. I have also a Cirrus-Maestro card. Very useful in countries with ATM. If you are not sure if you can your cards in the country you want to travel, bring some cash for a few weeks at least.

Travelers checks are less in use these days. Still, they are very useful if you do not want to count on ATM's. And in some countries you simply don't have ATM's.

It is useful to know how much you will get when changing money. Use our currency converter to convert your money to the local currency.

Maps and/or GPS

Local map of PakistanMaps and/or GPS are a big issue in planning your bicycle adventure. In western countries you may be able to get reasonable easy a good map or GPS. However, in rural Africa or Asia it's far more difficult. If you're not sure, bring a map from home.

Cycling without a map/GPS is always possible, even if you don't speak the language. Click here for an example what can happen if you can't find a map.

If you decide to cycle a few countries, it may be a good idea to ask people back home to let you send maps of the next country to a post restante address.

Why choose for a GPS on the road? Well, there are pros and cons. Because it goes beyond the scope of this page, you can check here why or why not bringing a GPS.

More GPS's in EBay here

Camping Cooking

Primus Camping StoveWhat kind of camping gear do you want to bring for your cooking? A good stove is essential, especially if you go on the beaten path. Here are some tips for choosing the right stove. We have an extended camping stoves auction for you available.

Bicycle on the plane or other transport

Is it possible to bring your bicycle on a plane, train, bus? Yes it is.

In general you can bring your bike on any form of transport.

In almost all Asian countries (except Malaysia) it's easy to get your bike on the bus or train. Typically you pay about 1-5% of the ticket price. Only in Malaysia I found the bus drivers unwilling to take your bike. Once you have taken the bike in pieces, they will (some with reluctance) allow you to bring it (but I have had several that still refused). In other countries bus drivers simply find the solution for you.

Bicycle on the plane
My bicycle on the plane, here in Guilin, China

Airplanes shouldn't be a problem too. Just pack your bike in a box and bring it to the airport. It is absolute nonsense you have to deflate your tires for airpressure (your box will be together in the plane with animals (if on board). However, deflating the tires will reduce the weight, maybe just enough to stay below the amount you are allowed to brign without extra fees.

Read more here

Health & Safety Planning

Planning your bicycle journey in a safe way is essential. Again it depends a lot where you travel to but a small first-aid kit is useful. Check the risks for specific areas in the world for malaria and other diseases and get your vaccination on time.

When I plan my trip I seldom take more then a basic first aid kit. If I need anything else, I buy down the road. Apart of very remote areas, there's usually the basics available.

bicycle on the boat in Laos
And if there's no ordinary ferry, a bicycle fits in a small boat too, like here in South Laos

In Malaria risk countries, bring medicine from home. In countries like Indonesia or Thailand, you can buy Lariam or other medicines. Not all the available malaria tablets will be within the expiry date. Always consult a doctor before using these medicines.

One thing to be mentioned when you're planning your bicycle adventure is sunscreen. Good sunscreen is usually expensive and apart of the big cities more difficult to obtain. Make sure you have some with when you leave.

Here is a more extensive page about what your first aid kit should contain.

Training sessions for your journey

"Do I need to do training sessions before I start my journey?" Good question. In fact, it depends, if you ask me at least, what your intentions are. Of course you need to be in good health. This seems obvious but it still has to be mentioned.

I started my first long journey with about 3000 km training. Too much? I don't know. It was also because I needed to know my then new bicycle from head to toe, so to say. But is it necessary to make that many kilometers before leaving? In fact, no. If you are in good health, you will quickly build up a good physical cycling condition.

It is however recommended to make training kilometers, if it was only to get used to cycle longer distances and cycling with luggage.

What is essential are the stretch and strength training sessions before and after the daily journey. I am not a fast cycling but I feel the importance of leg stretching and give my back some rest. The funny thing is that I see many older cyclist, see for example my page about other bicyclists, and then especially Arend and Ina's stories who can easily do longer journeys but won't go as fast compared to younger cyclists.

Conclusion

As you see, I don't plan much. Also, I don't recommend bringing a guide book. Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, they're good guide books but on your bike you will not use it much except of general information. Most of the places you visit will anyway NOT be in the guidebook. If you insist, bring copies of the useful pages. If I know I will visit certain big cities, I like to bring maps because it makes it easier to go around.

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