Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I cycled from New York City all the way to Guatemala. Before that, I had never cycled more than 10 miles at a time and I had never even owned a bicycle! Huh! I had never changed a tyre, patched a tube, put a bicycle together from scratch or oiled a chain. I learnt everything as it happened, because the best lesson is a practical one. Here is what to consider when preparing for your first long distance bicycle trip.
Time and money. First of all you need to establish how much time you have/want to spend on the road and figure out what your budget is. You don’t need much money to make it work; the bicycle I used together with the side panniers and some extras all cost me £100($200). I decided to do it on a budget and see whether I liked it. Now knowing I love it, next time I will invest a little bit more money in quality.
Saying that, it totally worked and if your budget is low or you also just want to find out if you enjoy it, I would definitely recommend do it cheap. It makes it more challenging, but you feel like a hero afterwards:-) because anyone could do it with the top of the range $2000 bike but not many would have the courage to go ahead with a tight budget. What would you do?
Navigation. Once you have your bicycle ready and you have chosen where you’re going to cycle, go to your app store and download one of the map applications(I recommend MapsWithMe) I can’t stress enough how important this is. The app works offline(make sure your GPS works, too) and it will become your dearest friend throughout your journey, it will help you find not only the roads you need to take, but also hostels, gas stations, ATMs, shops, and many more. It’s actually a genius thing to have even if you don’t travel.
Accommodation. Since it’s a long-distance trip (minimum of 2 weeks?) you want to steer clear of hotels and even hostels unless you have no other choice or need some alone-time. Otherwise, you can find locals who will happily have you over, let you use their shower and give you a much deserved and needed bed to sleep in after your exhausting all-day ride.
All you need to do is sign up to www.warmshowers.org briefly describe who you are and where you’re going, and you’re all set up to find locals at each of your destinations. It’s a brilliant way of meeting like-minded people. You have to meet one condition though to be hosted – you must have a bicycle!
My personal first choice is camping. If you’re a female traveling solo then you will want to find designated camping sites or depending on the country you’re in, you might be able to set your tent up in a hostel’s backyard for a smaller charge than at a camping site. I did my first bicycle trip with my partner and we mainly stealth-camped or used Warmshowers.
You can also use Couchsurfing which also allows you to find local people in the area. I talked about it in my previous post. You can find it here. However, since it’s a bicycle trip I recommend using Warmshowers as it’s been designed especially for this purpose.
Traveling by bicycle is an extraordinary way of exploring countries. You have the full power to decide where and when you rest or stop for the day, you can alter your route at anytime, you pass by places you would have never gone to had you traveled by bus or car. What’s more, it keeps you fit and focused and gives you an amazing feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment after reaching each destination. It’s a beautiful experience that you will always be glad you had.