Planning a bike tour

Last week I cleared space on a wall in my spare bedroom, switched on the printer, grabbed my coloured pens and post-it notes and got started planning my cycle tour from Melbourne to Lisbon. I’ve been dreaming of this trip since getting back from my first serious bikepacking trip around the South Island of New Zealand. The intention was to cycle from my home in Melbourne to Lisbon in Portugal completely unsupported and with a minimum amount of flying or boat travel. I’ve found in the past it’s best not to over think such trips but this did present a few logistical challenges that required some advance planning. The main consideration was this:

What date would I need to leave so that I would be able to cross Australia when it’s not the middle of summer but still be able to cross the Himalayas outside of winter?

To do this I decided to print out the route using google maps and stick it on the wall. By setting the google map zoom factor to 6 I was able to size the maps such that Australia would fit on two A4 pages. This allowed for the entire route to fit into a 2 meter by 2 meter square.

Also using Google Maps I was able to plan stages. For example the first stage is Melbourne to Adelaide. This is a 730km trip and I gave myself 10 days to do this. In general I’ve tentatively allowed myself to do 100km/day, 6 days each week with 1 day of rest. By doing this I was able to plan all stages of the trip and determine where I would be at any particular stage of the journey. For example I could calculate that after 95 days I should be somewhere in Thailand heading towards the Burmese border.

Working backwards from these dates I was able to determine the optimal departure date, given the constraints imposed by the Australian summer and Himalayan winter. It turned out to be early April. This would see me cycling the Stuart Highway through the middle of Australia sometime in late April and May, avoiding the heat of summer. And, should get me to the Karakoram Highway in Northern Pakistan in September prior to winter. It does mean that it will be cold when I get to Europe but this’ll be made easier by having plenty of hostels and warm accomodation to stay at.

I was also able to use the map to determine which countries I’ll be passing through and check the visa requirements for each. As expected the Chinese Visa will be the only real difficulty, especially since I’ll be passing through Xinjiang. I shall have to make enquiries with a Chinese Travel Agent prior to leaving Melbourne and will update the blog once I’ve worked out how one gets a visa to cross from Pakistan to Xinjiang.

It’s great to be able to visualize a trip like this an have a target to aim for. In total I’ll be riding 24,000km, through 26 countries and over 10 months. April 2020, here we come!

4 thoughts on “Planning a bike tour

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