The Worst Part of a Bike Tour: Research and Preparation

Jan 7th, 2020

Let’s be real: research is intimidating. It reeks of homework and can raise even more questions than it answers. “Am I really prepared for this? What if I get lost, or injured, or sick? What will happen if something goes wrong?”

The preparation phase is when doubts and fears can really sour your mood and give you cold feet about your upcoming trip. You don’t have all the answers yet, and it’s hard to picture what lies ahead. Especially if this is your very first journey by bicycle.

Now, if you actually happen to enjoy research, congrats. You’ll breeze right through the months of preparation and come out the other side all smiles and sparkles, with an itinerary in hand and panniers brimming with useful, carefully selected items. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to sigh a lot, procrastinate, and silently wonder, “Can’t we skip this part?”

The answer is: sure. You’re an adult, and you can do as you please. But properly researching your trip can help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made.

What Preparing Helps You Avoid

Calling your ex-boyfriend (while crying, of course) because you can’t figure out how to shove your bike into a cardboard box and you need to be all packed up and at the airport at 5:00 AM the next day. In my defense, my ex worked at a bike shop, so I figured he was the expert. But upon hearing my blubbering voice, Ex Boyfriend said, “I’m not your boyfriend anymore, and have you ever heard of YouTube?” and then hung up. Which, honestly, was pretty helpful. YouTube is amazing.

Spending embarrassing amounts of money on nonrefundable flights only to realize they’re to the wrong airport/city, etc. It happens, okay? I’m not the only one.

bike trip planning illustration by Levi Boughn
When nonrefundable flights are … nonrefundable.
Levi Boughn

Spending embarrassing amounts of money on gear/equipment that you end up not needing. Sometimes it feels like spending money is the same as researching. “If I buy everything, then some of it will come in handy, and I’ll feel prepared!” Nice try. Really, you’re just going to drain your resources on frivolous things and not have room in your panniers for the essentials.

Getting a blister/sunburn/UTI, and having to delay your trip by a week or two while you visit local hospitals and heal up from your totally preventable infections.

The list goes on and on, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one article. My point is, save yourself a headache in the future by giving yourself a headache now. Believe me and the countless other travelers who’ve been there: having a research headache in the comfort of your own home is much better than getting one while alone on the road, with twilight descending, a flat tire, an empty food bag, and no campground in sight.

How Much Research Do You Really Need?

Excellent question. You can’t learn everything before you go, and you wouldn’t want to — it defeats the purpose of traveling and having your own experiences. Also, there is no amount of research that can save you from having a spontaneous, unexpected, exciting adventure. So how will you know when you’ve learned enough?

You’re in luck. Adventure Cycling has created valuable resources to help anyone Plan and Ride their very first bike tour. They also have free guides available for you to download and reference at any time. You’re welcome, and we’re so thrilled about your upcoming bike adventure!

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