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Destination Unknown: Planning Your First Bicycle Trip. Part 1

May has ended and spring will be over in a few weeks’ time.  The weather is warmer and the days are getting longer, so can summer be far behind? 

With summer in mind, a bicyclist’s fancy turns not to love but to travel. 
For those of us who are part of the two-wheeled tribe, it seems unfathomable to go anywhere without our bikes in tow.  
So the question becomes, “I really want to take a cycling related vacation, but how do I begin?”  Well, there are various things to consider in planning such a vacation, and this first of a two-part article series will give you the tips you need to get started.

The easiest kind of bicycling trip to plan would be one that can be done locally or within driving distance that works with the amount of time you have available. 
This kind of trip could be for a big event ride or a vacation that is built around cycling as the major activity. 
If you do choose to drive to your destination, the first thing you’ll need to have is a car-mounted rack for your bike.

While pulling the wheels off and stuffing the bike in your car’s trunk is an economical workaround, it also limits the amount of space available for tools, a bike stand, and other gear you may need to bring -- items which are essential and could save you time and expense searching for a shop to make a quick adjustment, quick repair, or to buy a new chain, etc. 

It really doesn’t matter too much what kind of vehicle you have when it comes to bike racks. Thule and Yakima, the big names in bike rack technology, offer roof racks and hitch-mounted racks as well as trunk racks. 
Both companies offer rack systems for almost any car you can imagine.  In order to find the one that is right for your car, just visit the manufacturer web sites ( or and type in the specs of your car such as year, make, and model.
Not only will you learn about the kind of racks that can be mounted on your vehicle, you will also find out about any accessories you might need or want.

Regardless of whether you choose a roof or hitch rack, the benefits of such a rack system are many: the bike never comes in contact with your car, it is securely connected to the rack with no possibility of coming loose, and if transporting two or more bikes, the bikes never have the chance of touching one another and getting scratched.
Trunk-mounted racks are a great alternative to the two types mentioned above, require no additional accessories to be installed on the car, and are less expensive. 
A trunk rack uses adjustable straps that connect to areas on and beneath your trunk with two “arms” upon which your bike rests.
Even more important than a rack is figuring out where you want to go for your trip.  Of course, you’ll need to consider how much time you have available. For a first cycling trip, I would suggest a destination that does not require too much planning. 
With this kind of trip in mind, you will learn about what is involved in planning a cycling trip; then you can apply this knowledge to the next (maybe longer trip) you want to take. Later, you may want to do a weeklong trip or a trip of 7-10 days. 
With that span of time available, many of the major cycling publications have websites that can help you in making a choice about a place to go. 

Sites such as offer all kinds of trip-related information for both mountain bikers and road cyclists under their “Ride Maps” section. 
Not only can you view articles about destinations the magazine has highlighted, but if you use the “find rides” option, you can type in a location and find information about rides uploaded by residents of that area, which may also include routes with maps that can be downloaded onto your smartphone or GPS-enabled bike computer.  Map My Ride ( offers similar information. 

The nice thing about Map My Ride is it allows you to sort rides into a particular areas, distances, or level of difficulty.
Another option, of course, is to consult your local bike shop, which usually has a bulletin board of event rides throughout the state.
Plus, the employees there have probably done some of these rides and can give you additional information.  If none of these options appeal to you and you’re lucky enough to be in reasonable driving distance to a national park, I would suggest this option since the NPS allows bikes free of charge on their roads which are often in much better condition than any public road.

*****   In part two of this article series, we will discuss planning for longer-duration trips and international destinations.  Some of that planning includes bike shipping and/or bike rental.  Stay tuned!


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