We've made mistakes in planning trips in the past, and likely have on this one, as well :) . I think that's part of what makes a cycle tour so special: to randomly run out of road while cycling up a mountain, to end up in a town that existed on no maps whatsoever, to have your road going straight through the middle of a huge lake. It's all part of it!
That said, we documented our process in the hopes that it will make it easier for others that are thinking about planning a cycle tour. On this page, you'll find our packing list, mapping strategy, and "Trip Compass" template that you can use to project manage your own adventure. I want to be up front and apologize for call this a "Trip Compass." I really, really sound like a tool calling it that but... creativity doesn't grow on trees, so that's what you get.
As you scroll down, you'll also find all the helpful sights that we used in building our route, based on other cyclists who were willing to share their stories.
***If you are browsing around and think there is another piece of content that we should add, please click here to submit this to us!
This has got to be the most fun part of researching a tour! We spent days pouring over old maps, spread out across the dining room table and the floor. As we measure each degree latitude and longitude, we'd look up and realize that we weren't living in 1975. Let's be serious, paper maps are amazing when you are actually out on the open road, but there's no easier way to plan a lengthy trip than zooming in and out of Google Maps.
Google Maps is our preferred mapping tool for pulling the big picture together. We used this to highlight the main points of interest and share the general idea with family and friends. If you are unfamiliar with how to use this tool, you can check out this blog post online to learn a bit more before getting started: How To Use Google Maps | Digital Trends.
To plan the big picture, we created a new map in Google Maps and started to "Pin/Save" places that we knew we wanted to hit along the way. You can find these all on our page "Follow The Journey: The Americas Adventure." As we added locations, a best practice is to change the map view to "Terrain" so that you can zoom in and get a sense for what the ups and downs are going to look like. This will also help dictate how long you estimate to get from one place to another. For example, we decided to budget 60-70 miles a day for the trip, assuming we were on relatively flat roads. For days we were climbing a large portion of the day, we dropped our estimate to 40 miles per day. One skill that will come in handy for this part of the route planning is to learn to read contour lines on a map. You can do this here.
For the nitty-gritty details of the journey, we used local maps that we purchased online and dove into Map My Ride online. If you haven't used Map My Ride before, I highly suggest logging in and adding this to your mobile device. It can be really helpful in planning details down to the turns you will take each day on your cycle tour. You can also do this through local maps you purchase through AAA or at gas stations as you venture forward. The one aded benefit of using Map My Ride is that you can save and bookmark each leg of the journey (up to 1K miles in the free version) and it includes the climbs you will face along the way.
For our trip, you can find the detailed breakdown for the route by checking out the Map My Ride links for South America here and for the US and Canada here.
Save the "Nerd" call outs for the end, but below you'll find a simple project planning template that we found useful in planning our Americas Adventure. The main reason I always find this kind of system to be helpful is in keeping me honest in all that goes into a trip and to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. Since you can link out from the sheet, it also ends up being a sort of "mission control" for everything you need as you plan.
The Trip Compass is broken down into action items to complete along with the location. I also included space for a brief description and to link out to additional resources that are needed in executing the action. Most importantly, each item concludes with a due date and status (set as either: Not Started, In Progress, Completed).
There are two other sheets included besides the main summary: Visa Info and Budget. Visa Info is pretty bar bones: list the countries you are traveling to, figure out if they require a visa or not to travel to (based on your country of citizenship), and then mark the cost of this. In the final column, I included if we had obtained the visa or if this was still a work in progress. While this seems incredibly basic, having the plan in front of you with relevant info will ensure you don't run into any surprises preparing to enter foreign nations.
The budget sheet should be customized most of all if you are going to use this. Hopefully, the one I have here helps give you an idea of what helped us ensure we didn't run out of money and become even more gypsy-ish than we already were being. Our budget varied month to month since we were covering really cheap parts of some countries (Southern Paraguay) and expensive portions of others (Yellowstone). On the topic of budgeting, we owe (pun.. oh yea) a bunch to all the research Tom Allen and Traveling Two did on their sites, which you can find below:
- How To Budget & Save For A Cycle Tour: A Foolproof Financial Plan - Tom's Bike Trip
- How Much Does Bike Touring Cost? We do the math. - Traveling Two
If you are interested in downloading the Trip Compass to make a copy of your own, click on the link below to get access to this:
What you take with you can make things a hell of a lot easier on you through your trip. Pack too many things, and you'll quickly run out of limited space and find yourself moving particularly slowly up those big hills. Pack too little, and you could find yourself cold in the dark on the side of the road with no civilization nearby to speak of. Grim, am I right?
Below, you'll find a copy of almost everything we planned to take with us on the Americas Adventure. We included the purpose of each item along with a brief description for why this is important and the estimated cost of this.
I hope this guide helps as you go out on your next shopping spree and prep for your own trip. If you'd like to download this as a checklist or shopping list, just click away on the link below:
In making the decision whether or not to cycle up from the Straights Of Magellan, these sites helped us to understand what was involved in cycling the Carretera Austral and in the Pampas region of Argentina: