A cycling trip is a human adventure accessible to all. It invites us to slow down and taste the freedom of nomadism. Moreover, is there a more ecological means of transportation than the bicycle?
Travelling by bike is also above all the freedom to choose your itinerary, the freedom to take a nap in front of the sea or to camp under a tree. All you have to do is bring a tent and the world becomes your room!
It is also an economical way to travel, to move around you will only have to rely on the strength of your legs. So there's no need to buy a train or plane ticket or to budget a large amount for fuel.
Why travel by bicycle ?
Cyclotouring allows you to cover long distances, enjoying the scenery. Contrary to some preconceived ideas, travelling by bicycle is accessible to all. By pedalling for a few hours it is possible to cover more than 50 km/day without too much effort.
All bicycle travellers will tell you that the greatest pleasure of a bicycle trip is the feeling of freedom it provides. The freedom to choose the least travelled routes, off the roads with too much car traffic. It also means being in contact with nature and riding on roads that you would otherwise never have to ride on.
At a time when everything goes too fast, travelling by bike is the freedom to take your time to enjoy the countryside, discover places and meet people.
How to prepare a cycling trip ?
In order to prepare your trip, you will need to choose and prepare your equipment. That is, start by choosing your bike. With three fundamental criteria to take into account: sturdiness, simplicity and comfort! To travel light, the bikepacking system which consists of attaching scratch elements to the handlebars, frame or saddle and allows you to free yourself from luggage racks is my favourite. It's ideal for those who want to travel light and venture out on narrow or stony trails.
Then, it is important to take a few precautions beforehand. For example, how much time you have available. This will allow you to target your itinerary. You can thus opt for more or less relief during your journey, depending on your physical condition. In the same way, you will be able to plan in advance the place where you will be able to spend the night. Depending on your level of comfort requirements, you will be able to choose a campsite, sleep in a hotel, an hostel or even go camping in the wilderness.
Think simplicity, lightness and compactness for everything you take with you. You don't need to take a lot of clothes along. A basic tool kit (Allen wrenches, chain daggerboard, knife, pliers...) and a few spare parts (inner tubes, pads, brake and derailleur cable, chain links...) are essential.
What is the ideal bike for a cycling trip ?
Definitely, the ideal bike is the one you already have. However, if you don't want to add an extra challenge to your trip. I recommend that you take into account the three important criteria I mentioned above:
Most long distance travellers choose a steel frame. This type of frame can be found on most touring bikes, which are also already equipped with mountings for luggage racks, mudguards and several bottle cages. If you want to make a very long trip, take a lot of luggage with you, in sparsely populated areas, this is the ideal bike.
If, on the other hand, like me, you prefer to travel light and take only the essentials with you. I advise you to opt for a gravel bike. The gravel is a mix between cyclocross, road bike, mountain bike and travel bike. It's a road bike, but reinforced and with wider tires (from 35 to 42mm), which allow you to venture off the tarmac roads. The gravel is ideal for bikepacking, however the manufacturers leave the possibility (with holes available from the factory) to also attach luggage racks, mudguards and several bottle cages.
How to choose your itinerary ?
You should choose your itinerary according to the time available, as well as your physical condition. But especially according to the places you wish to discover. Today, thanks to a network of about 90'000 km of cycle routes and greenways across Europe. The choice is yours.
EuroVelo the European network of cycle lanes
Thanks to EuroVelo you can discover the following countries:
- EV1, Atlantic cycle route (Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal)
- EV2, Véloroute des Capitales (Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia)
- EV3, Pilgrim's Cycle Route (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain)
- EV4, Central European cycle route (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine)
- EV5, Via Romena Francigena (United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy)
- EV6, Atlantic - Black Sea (France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania)
- EV7, Sun Bike Route (Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Italy, Malta)
- EV8, Mediterranean cycle route (Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Cyprus)
- EV9, Baltic-Adriatic (Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia)
- EV10, Baltic cycle route (Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia)
- EV11, Eastern European cycle route (Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece)
- EV12, North Sea cycle route (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom)
- EV13, Iron Curtain Cycle Route (Norway, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey)
- EV15, Rhine cycle route (Switzerland, France, Germany, Netherlands)
- EV17, véloroute du Rhône (Switzerland, France)
- EV19, Meuse by bike (France, Belgium, Netherlands)
Bikepacking: what is it ?
This is the minimalist version of bicycle tourism. It is the combination of the desire to travel by bike along the paths and the need to bring bivouac equipment. Bikepacking is travelling light with saddlebags that are attached directly to the bike's components. No need for a specific bike or luggage rack.
How do you equip your bike for a trip ?
For me, the lightness is the most important criteria. That's why I choose to travel in bikepacking mode, with a frame bag, handlebar bag and a saddlebag. I don't take a lot of clothes with me, but I still manage to pack my camping gear (tent, food, sleeping bag). Note that these saddlebags are made of resistant and waterproof materials.
For a long trip, like for example a trip of several months, or even a world tour by bike, I would certainly opt for a touring bike equipped with a frame bag, handlebar bag, saddlebag but also a pair of luggage bags.