Research and Research and Research Some More

You will, of course, have done some research when choosing your tour, but that’s only the first step.  Save your good friend, “Touring-You”, all kinds of grief by doing a tonne of up-front research for your: 
  1. Tour Launch;
  2. Tour Close;
  3. Daily Planning.
For planning a Tour Launch, I find it very helpful to visualize each of the moments/steps along the way and consider what challenges I will face, from getting my gear to the airport to getting from the airport at my destination to the start of my tour.  Believe it or not, most airports don’t fall conveniently along a cycle trail.  Frankfurt, bless its heart, does.  Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle runs close to a cycle trail, but “close”, I hear, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

For planning a Tour Close, I again visualize each of the moments/steps along the way and consider the challenges.  For taking care of Launch details like “what will I pack my bike in” and “how will I get my bike to the airport”, you will likely have a lot more options.  You will have lots and lots of time to procure a cardboard bike box if that’s how you’re packing.  You’ll have a fair number of transport options to the airport, like your own vehicle, your friends, your brother-in-law, a rented pick-up truck.  At the end of your tour, your options will be much more limited, and you’ll be very time-boxed for getting everything done.  See Perils of Poor Planning for some of our personal experiences in this space.

Daily Planning.  Yes, you're right, I preach doing your planning on-the-fly during your tour and not over-planning or over-scheduling things ahead of time.  But there are things you can research (not plan) ahead of time that will facilitate effective daily planning.  Technology is great.  It’s wonderful.  But, it has limitations, too, and “Touring-You” will be very grateful to “Planning-You” for providing some basic hard-copy information that can be carried along and used on a daily basis in cases where you bump into the limitations of your technology.  Plus it's just more fun to spread some maps and papers out at the end of the day and confer with your touring comrades on options.

One time, near the start of our tour in 2015, we found ourselves without a tour map (or anything else), traveling up the Rhine from Strasbourg to Wiesbaden.  There is a EuroVelo route up the Rhine (EV15), which we knew, but we didn’t have a map for it.  We ended up following a cycle route, but it was not the lovely EV15 (which we never did encounter),  and we ended up spending seven uninspiring days following a boring route when we could have been having a ball on the EV15.  We even had to contend with this little gem of a bridge crossing:

Brent pushes "The Tank", fully loaded, up the stairs
The bridge is far above ground level.

There are steep stairs up one side, and then steeps stairs back down the other side.

This was our only choice for crossing that didn't involve backtracking many kilometers.

Brent executing a "controlled descent" of the fully-loaded
bike back DOWN the stairs on the far side

Going back down the other side.

Without Brent's help with this bridge crossing, I would have had no choice but to make at least three trips across myself (two to carry paniers, and one to take the bike).

This month’s posts will focus on what to research for your tour launch, tour close and daily planning.  I’ll also cover two dear-to-my-heart topics: finding accommodation and finding laundry facilities (bet you hadn't thought of that one).

One thing I won't be talking about this month is renting a rig (bicycle and paniers).  I'll talk about that after our tour this June when I'll have more to say about it.


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