So you want to get out on your own, and you’ve decided to take a self-contained bike tour. This means you’ll organize all the logistics, carry your own gear, and choose your own route.
Here’s a quick guide to help you plan and prepare for our bike touring adventure.
1. Choose a location.
Where do you want to ride? In your neighborhood or area of the city? To the next town and back? Or will you drive or fly somewhere and start from a completely new location? It’s important to research your location carefully. Gather maps and route information, and plan on bringing a GPS device if possible.
2. Plan your route.
Once you know the location, plan your route. How many miles do you plan to cycle? If you’re planning an overnight trip, how many miles should you cycle each day? Will you have food options along the way? Will you be in areas where GPS will be helpful? Outline your route on a map, and research the area. Know ahead of time what to expect.
3. Choose a bike.
Having a dependable bike is important, since you probably don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhereland. Do you prefer a road bike, a touring bike, or mountain bike? Figure out what will work best with your terrain.
4. Pick your riding partners.
Will you cycle solo or with friends? Gather your team and organize logistics. If you’re going in a group, it’s a good idea to work together on planning. How many tents will you need, if camping? How much equipment can be shared? Who will carry what? And, be sure to choose a route that is appropriate for all the members of the group.
5. Plan your overnight.
If you’re planning an overnight trip, consider your options, such as hotels (“credit card camping”), campgrounds, in the wild, or with friendly locals through avenues such as WarmShowers.org or FarmStayUS.com.
6. Choose your gear and accessories.
What will you need? For starters, the bike and equipment. For lists on clothing and equipment, visit our tour prep page, which helps clients prepare for a commercial tour. Also, check out our suggested packing list. It’s a bit long, but you can choose the items on the list you think you’ll need. Also, check out our packing tips, to teach you how to pack light and smart.
7. Plan your meals.
Will there be restaurants along your route or will you need to pack camping stoves and bring groceries? Will you want snacks for your breaks? Think ahead to what you’ll want to eat and drink. Don’t forget, food is fuel!
This is the most important part of your tour preparation. Make sure you’re ready to spend some time in the saddle (or your saddle will NOT thank you). Try to mimic the terrain of your planned tour. Ride hills, or flats. If you’re planning a multi-day journey, be sure to do some multi-day training rides. Know what it feels like to hop back on a bike after a day of riding.
The Adventure Cycling Association's "How-To Department" has extensive information and resources to help you learn how to travel by bike:
- Bicycle travel basics
- Bicycle travel etiquette
- How-to videos
- Routes, maps, logistics
- Touring bicycles: Selection
- Touring bicycles: Maintenance, Technical
- Bikepacking and off-road touring
- Documenting your tour
BikePacking.net focuses on off-road touring, primarily using mountain bikes on singletrack trails. Helpful information on routes, gear, and planning.