Time to start Packing and Planning An International Bike Trip. I somehow talked my Fiance, Crystal (now Wife!) to spend our honeymoon following the 100th Tour de France from start to finish. The plan was for her to focus on the wedding and I planned the honeymoon, not a bad idea I thought! Little did I know it would consume the next 4-6 months and countless hours on the internet making inquires for accommodations, traveling with our bikes & buying bike bags, dialing in all the different forms of travel along the way, and where to bike along the route. As the information for the 100th Tour de France route was slowly announced there was going to be some amazing locations including the island of Corsica, Nice, the Pyrenees and the Col Du Tourmalet, San Sebastian, Spain, Biarritz, Mont Ventoux, La Grave and the Col du Galibier, Chamonix and the final stop in Paris on the Champs Elysee!
As with any international bike trip, planning and timing is key to make sure everything is dialed in. Make sure to have a back up plan just in case something falls through. We had to rebook our hotel in the Pyrenees as they had major flooding due to a big winter snowfall. I always recommend to people to start with how many bags they need and at most you should have is 3: bike bag with wheels (this is key!), luggage bag, and backpack that can also be used while you are biking as you will need supplies if you plan on watching a bike race like the Tour de France. Keep everything under 50lbs as it will save you a lot over the long run and reduce any excess baggage fees as you will have to pay for your bike bag. Lay everything out a couple nights before so you can do a quick inventory of your bike gear, clothes, supplies, etc. Try to wash as much as possible while you are there as it will make it easier for you to bring less and save weight.
We really liked our Evoc Bike Bags and they worked great over the course of 4 weeks. The bags were really easy to maneuver around the airports, into cars and trains, as well as storage for bike gear as we were traveling. I would highly recommend bringing a good floor pump as this will come in very handy since you will have to inflate your tires after flying and maintaining a consistent tire pressure. The bag has pockets for tools, extra tubes, chain lube, and other random stuff that you might need along the way.
Secondary to this is a solid wheeled travel bag like the Dakine Split Roller. I have traveled all over the world with this bag and will not use anything else. As with any international bike trip or international traveling make sure you get some TSA approved locks for your gear. When you have thousands of dollars worth of gear, bikes, and personal items it is a little extra piece of security. I had my Specialized S-Works Roubaix road bike with Dura Ace Di2 and the last thing you want is someone getting into your bag let alone stealing stuff.
As mentioned above a good backpack that you can also use while biking can come in helpful. If you are planning on going to watch a grand tour, you will have to be up on the Col’s early and plan on spending most of the day on the roads. Bring rain gear, extra layers, food (a lot of times you can find little stands of food/drinks by the locals), camera, sunscreen, and the essentials. Keep it light if you can and it will be very handy if you are up there. If you are not going to be watching a race, then you can easily ride with a saddle bag or items in your jersey as you can stop along the way and have an espresso, lunch, and a cold beer after a long day on the road.
When packing personal items make sure they can all be stashed away or hidden from sight if you are in a rental car. Don’t give someone the opportunity to steal something. Most of the places you will visit along the way are very safe and friendly but its better to be safe. If you have a rental car its nice to have the option of a cover in the hatch to slide over your gear and you should be able to find this in most cars. I try to bring a couple pairs of pants, a pair of shorts or two, 2 pair of shoes including sandals if its warm, enough clothes basically to get you through a 5-7 days as you can wash your clothes along the way. It really makes life easy and the weight savings over 1 to 2 weeks will make a difference.
You can get all the energy snacks, hydration drinks, etc in most places now so you can save on this. If you have a specific one you like I would bring it just in case. Have all the usual cycling tools (frame pump, extra tube, patch kit, chain tool, tire levers, chain lube, etc) just in case and most places will have these supplies in case you forget or use yours along the way.
International bike trips and traveling abroad with your bike is an incredible experience. Traveling by bike allows you to see things that you normally would not see while traveling by a car. You get the opportunity to take in the views at a slower pace as your senses are overwhelmed by the different smells, sights, and sounds, and you have the opportunity to stop at numerous places along the way to take pictures or dive into the local culture. Once you experience a trip to a place like France in the summer it will awaken your senses and have you wanting more. This is one of our favorite adventure bike tours and would love to have you on one of our trips in the future. Feel free to contact us anytime with questions about our trips or ask questions about a guided bike trip. See you on the road soon!