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Old 04.10.2011, 01:43
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Bikepacking - a tempting thought

Hello everyone.
So one day my friend and I woke up and decided to arrange an exciting yet affordable trip around Europe for summer. After some digging, riding bikes seemed a very tempting choice to us. What we want is to visit 2-3 countries while we ride on days and visits places and take rest at nights. Countries are not final, but we're thinking of Germany, Netherlands, Denmark.
I was wondering if any of you have any word/advice on that. We're absolute amateur riders, and know nothing about this bike packing phenomenon. Particularly, what we're interested to know includes:
0- First of all, is it a good idea?
1- What sort of diet/eating habits should we start to have?
2- What equipments would be needed (as essentials) during the trip?
3- How safe is it to ride on inter-country roads in Europe?

Any help and advice is highly appreciated.
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Old 04.10.2011, 03:07
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

0. Yes. In my opinion.
1. Start to enjoy sausages and dubious marine produce. In preparation for the trip, get into the carbs. Also, lose weight if your BMI exceeds 25, or at least get your respiratory and cardiovascular fitness up a bit, if you're not at least moderately fit.
2. Bicycles. Others can and no doubt will provide advice on which ones and which accessories are essential. You'll also need appropriate cycling attire, wet weather gear, a tent, mats and sleeping bags (nah, only kidding, stay in B&Bs or Fomule 1-style motels), season-appropriate après-bike clothes and shoes, cameras and a car to carry everything (including the bikes and you).
3. These roads are not good:



These are better:




Roads with these signs should be avoided:



and strangely, this sign means the same thing:



Supplementary question: why does your numbering system start with zero? I don't have a zeroth finger, so I always start at 1.

Good luck and have fun -- sounds like a great idea! (Go soon. Don't go in February.)

Last edited by Guest; 04.10.2011 at 14:35. Reason: Photos wouldn't cooperate
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Old 04.10.2011, 03:27
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

Thanks for the great info.
The first question was somehow a gateway to other questions. If someone thinks it's not a great idea to do this in Europe, then answering the rest would be out of question. If you're still not persuaded, consider this as one lame habit of computer science students [arrays and lists in programming languages usually start from 0]
By the way, there is something wrong with the pictures of bad roads/better roads. They're not displayed.

Last edited by zhigoolet; 04.10.2011 at 04:30.
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Old 04.10.2011, 03:58
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

Strange about the photos.

Anyway, yes, do it. If you can't do it in Europe, you can't do it anywhere.
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Old 04.10.2011, 05:21
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

3- why on earth would you want to travel on main roads? On a trip like this the route itself is actually the goal - not "what's the fastest way to Rotterdam?"... so pick a scenic one.

Bike traveling is very popular and there are countless of awesome ready-made routes available. You simply follow the signs for them and you can get the recommended day trip, hotels and everything nicely packed. Since you are in CH and you want to get to NL, the most obvious choice would be to follow the Rhine from it's spring in Switzerland to it's mouth in Rotterdam. Some really nice places along the river (from the Alsace over lovely castles to cities like Cologne)

Here you go: 1470 km

http://www.rheinradweg.eu/en/
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Old 04.10.2011, 09:54
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

some guys I know biked through Europe this summer. They crashed at our place in Zurich for a few days. They had a blast. Here's a link to their blog:
http://mtnbikeurope.blogspot.com/
Cheers,
Sue
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Old 04.10.2011, 12:28
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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3- why on earth would you want to travel on main roads? On a trip like this the route itself is actually the goal - not "what's the fastest way to Rotterdam?"... so pick a scenic one.
Taking fast routes to places is off the tables, and enjoying the journey itself is the main reason we decided to bikepack [otherwise we could buy cheap flight tickets]. But I thought we should leave some space for spontaneous traveling too, which is really, really important to me (you're on a road, and suddenly decide to change it to another one which seems more beautiful. You've got to know how safe the new road is). But in general you and I are on the same page here.
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Old 04.10.2011, 13:20
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

I traveled with friend, the length of the Atlantic coast in SW France this summer. We camped and so had quite a lot of gear with us. If you plan take a tent with you, I can highly recommend one of these trailers...

http://www.bobgear.com/ibex

It also became a great talking point amongst the other cyclist we met on our route. It's definitely the best of it's kind and so doesn't come cheap.

Enjoy your adventure
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Old 04.10.2011, 13:40
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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Hello everyone.
So one day my friend and I woke up and decided to arrange an exciting yet affordable trip around Europe for summer. After some digging, riding bikes seemed a very tempting choice to us. ...

Any help and advice is highly appreciated.
Just a thought but do you actually cycle at the moment?

Do you enjoy cycling?

You don't actually say you are cyclists in your post.
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Old 04.10.2011, 14:15
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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Just a thought but do you actually cycle at the moment?

Do you enjoy cycling?

You don't actually say you are cyclists in your post.
And to add to that - if you don't cycle - cycling with 15-20kg of luggage will be a culture shock!

In terms of what to take - think light, compact and flexible. You'll need stuff to cycle in - and then stuff to change into of an evening - just don't to take your best "going out" clothes. Shoes take up a lot of space/weight!
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Old 04.10.2011, 16:20
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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Just a thought but do you actually cycle at the moment?

Do you enjoy cycling?

You don't actually say you are cyclists in your post.
As I mentioned in my first post, we are amateur cyclists. And by amateur, I mean the normal, daily use of bikes to get here and there. We do enjoy riding bikes, but have no idea if it would remain true for long distances as we have no experience with that. That's why I want to learn and get prepared during the remaining months (until summer).
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Old 04.10.2011, 17:02
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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As I mentioned in my first post, we are amateur cyclists. And by amateur, I mean the normal, daily use of bikes to get here and there. We do enjoy riding bikes, but have no idea if it would remain true for long distances as we have no experience with that. That's why I want to learn and get prepared during the remaining months (until summer).
Go for it. My post above just made the point that there are plenty of readily prepared routes available in Europe - this EU money has to be spent on something after all... get a book or simply search for "Radwanderwege".

Best practice would probably to get a heavy bike
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Old 04.10.2011, 17:16
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

What treverus said Go for it, you won't regret it. A long time ago, I did a similar (but much smaller in scale) road trip, with similar aims: to step out of Zurich and see more of Switzerland, the mountains, meadows, huts, cows etc., for as little money as possible, it was simply great.
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Old 04.10.2011, 17:33
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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As I mentioned in my first post, we are amateur cyclists. And by amateur, I mean the normal, daily use of bikes to get here and there. We do enjoy riding bikes, but have no idea if it would remain true for long distances as we have no experience with that. That's why I want to learn and get prepared during the remaining months (until summer).
Sorry, missed that bit. If you ride bikes already, you'll be fine. Unless you plan on alpine passes, you really don't need to do any training.

From experience, here are my tips:

1. Cycling shorts are a must (at least with an insert). Your backside will thank you.

2. Taking a small tent is a good idea as it means you can stop where you want.

3. Take as little as possible.

4. You'll get fitter as you go along.

5. You don't need to spend a lot of money on a lightweight bike - the 1000CHF extra that you pay to save a kilo will be negated by the gear you will carry and will all be a bit meaningless.

6. Learn how to adjust your bike's gears yourself.

7. Choose a camping stove depending on which country you are going to and at what time of year. Camping gaz is fine for the summer.

6. Regarding diet - I once spent three months cycling just eating porridge for breakfast, bread and butter for lunch and plain pasta mixed with tomato puree and garlic fried in butter -and little else and was fine, if not a little bored.

I'm envious!
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Old 04.10.2011, 17:46
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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Sorry, missed that bit. If you ride bikes already, you'll be fine. Unless you plan on alpine passes, you really don't need to do any training.

From experience, here are my tips:

1. Cycling shorts are a must (at least with an insert). Your backside will thank you.

2. Taking a small tent is a good idea as it means you can stop where you want.

3. Take as little as possible.

4. You'll get fitter as you go along.

5. You don't need to spend a lot of money on a lightweight bike - the 1000CHF extra that you pay to save a kilo will be negated by the gear you will carry and will all be a bit meaningless.

6. Learn how to adjust your bike's gears yourself.

7. Choose a camping stove depending on which country you are going to and at what time of year. Camping gaz is fine for the summer.

6. Regarding diet - I once spent three months cycling just eating porridge for breakfast, bread and butter for lunch and plain pasta mixed with tomato puree and garlic fried in butter -and little else and was fine, if not a little bored.

I'm envious!
Excellent post.

The good thing about being a beginner is you get noticeably fitter as you go along , so 4 is spot on. So is 5 and the rest of the points.

I wouldn't agree on 6 though, save every penny of wasteful expenses elsewhere, but eat like a king, you deserve it after a hard day of biking, at least that is how I think.

p.s. I am envious too, I think the OP will have a really good time.
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Old 04.10.2011, 17:51
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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I wouldn't agree on 6 though, save every penny of wasteful expenses elsewhere, but eat like a king, you deserve it after a hard day of biking, at least that is how I think.

p.s. I am envious too, I think the OP will have a really good time.
You mean the second 6, of course, not the first one. Just to be clear.
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Old 04.10.2011, 18:08
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

Better websites to check are :
www.crazyguyonabike.com ( for travel stories of other longdistance cycle tourers);
www.couchsurfing.org (check the three main long distance cyclists group threads - also a good place to look for staying with locals along the way)

www. lonelyplanet.com - go into the "ThornTree" then look for the "On Your Bike" group thread.

My experiences: I hate padded bicycle shorts/tights. Unless the stitching is in exactly the right place, you will have more chaffing and abrasion.
I agree that you don't have to spend a lot of money on your actual bike - I have cycled over the Andermatt as part of a longer trip, on a supermarket 100 euro bike, with full camping gear in panniers.

I don't recommend the porridge and past as a full diet - you still need to be eating some protein to be repairing muscles at the end of each day, otherwise you are more likely to end the tour feeling tired , rather than gaining in fitness as you travel. ENjoy!!! :-)
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Old 04.10.2011, 18:29
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

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I don't recommend the porridge and past as a full diet - you still need to be eating some protein to be repairing muscles at the end of each day, otherwise you are more likely to end the tour feeling tired , rather than gaining in fitness as you travel. ENjoy!!! :-)
I didn't say I recommended it. I just said it was possible.

My intention was it doesn't really matter too much but protein is really important. I found that I had cravings for protein after mountain stages.
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Old 04.10.2011, 18:30
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

Oh, I just noticed the numbering error. Yeah, this was the 6 I was referring to:

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6. Regarding diet - I once spent three months cycling just eating porridge for breakfast, bread and butter for lunch and plain pasta mixed with tomato puree and garlic fried in butter -and little else and was fine, if not a little bored.

I'm envious!
Reminds me of the old classic
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Old 04.10.2011, 23:09
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Re: Bikepacking - a tempting thought

Go for it! What is the worst that can happen?

I found myself in exactly the same situation in April this year, when my girlfriend and I came up with the fantastic/crackpot idea to ride from Zurich to Calais despite neither of us owning a bike at that time, nor even rating as amateur cyclists.

Even if you know the countries you want to see, pick a route that takes you through the most scenic and interesting regions to make the most of both the cycling and your time off the bikes.

Decide whether or not you want to be fully self-sufficient when you tour. Cooking for yourself and staying in a tent is great if you are on a budget, but you don't get to enjoy the local hospitality. But at the same time there are plenty of budget accommodation opportunities (see 22 Yards' post), which means lighter loads with no tent and cooking system. We opted for this, as over the course of a one week tour the cost difference was marginal and a fresh bed and hot bath work wonders after a long day on the bike. There is of course the middle ground of camping, but eating out to save on the hassle of carrying, preparing and cooking food each evening.

So in a simple and not so short answer to your first question, yes it is a great idea.

Diet was not really a consideration for us. We were spending plenty of energy each day, so a good dinner in the evening to made up the lost calories and we tended to graze throughout the day. Basically whatever we fancied and what was available. No point being fussy if you can't get it mid-trip.

Equipment is preference and budget. My only advice would be not to scrimp when it comes to cycling shorts and a hard wearing pair of gloves. There are far more knowledgeable people on the forum when it comes to bikes and technicalities, but you can make it on most bikes. I rode a cyclo-cross bike with a pannier rack stuck on the back, whilst my g/f had a more conventional touring bike. The only thing we did do was to splash out on durable 35mm touring tires and we were fortunate enough to avoid punctures.

Finally on roads... Spend plenty of time researching your route. I think in the better part of 900km we rode less than 4hrs of busy roads and without doubt the busy roads were the toughest in terms of concentration and least enjoyable as a result. Big cities look great on maps, but are a nightmare to navigate around unless you happen to have GPS and the local drivers tend to have varying levels of considerations for cyclists. Ideally get on a smaller road and follow it for as long as possible, this way there is likely less traffic and you lose less time checking maps for navigating as you can just chalk off the villages as you pass through them.

Best of luck!!!
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