Planning the trip
It’s not always possible to arrive in the best season, but with some careful planning you can avoid to arrive in the monsoon season or, in tropical countries, in the hottest months, when cycling may be impossible.
Pay special attention for prevailing wind directions, for a strong headwind for weeks, can ruin your cycletrip.
But it’s only rarely impossible to cycle. On our world trip we arrived in Australia in the wrong season. It was the hottest time of the year and the rainy season was about to begin. It was so hot (40°C and more) that during midday we had to sit and wait in the shade for several hours. In an early electrical storm our tent washed away and we had to take shelter in the amenities for the rest of the night. But we had Kakadu National Park almost for ourselves, while only a few weeks earlier it was crowded with people. And despite of all the “hardships” we had a great time.
A good site with climate information is www.worldclimate.com
Using the right maps
It’s all about scale and road-signs. A map can’t be too detailed, so the scale should be as small as possible. Destinations with a limited road network however, do not require a lot of detail.
It helps if distances in between points on the map are printed. In countries with another than Roman script try to find a bilingual map, as the road signs are often in local writing only. If bilingual maps are not available, learn the basics of reading the local script.
What tyres do I put on my bike?
Tyres are the only part of the bicycle that wear relatively fast. Be aware of the different sizes around the world. When you arrive in a country find out if the local size (and quality!) suits you. For longer trips always make arrangements to have them send to you from home when necessary.
When we missed the tyres we should have received in Delhi, we had to use the old ones for almost 5000 kms untill they got completely used. Those last weeks we had several punctures a day.
How to handle repairs and spare-parts
In countries without advanced cycle technology, local repair shops often are very skilled in repairing with a minimum of tools and parts. Still, don’t count on help, be self-reliant.
You should know all the ins and outs of your bike and be able to repair anything that can be broken.
But when, like it happened to us on a trip in India, the derailer of one of the bikes broke in two, there’s not much one can do. As it was towards the end of the trip, Paul cycled those last days on a one-speed-cycle.
On other occasions we would have tried to buy a local brand. If that’s not available or not sturdy enough it’s a good idea to have someone back home who’s willing to send you whatever you are desperate of. So don’t forget to leave a comprehensive list of spare parts with brands and types or article numbers.
How about health?
If you are not healthy then forget about cycling. Whenever we didn’t feel well we rested untill we were okay again. Even a simple cold makes you feel miserable when cycling.
As cycling can be hard work, drinking water is a necessity. It also is the main cause of diarrhea, so always take precautions. In India one of the daily choruses was to boil several liters of drinking water for the next day on our petrol stove. Boring, but necessary. Nowadays bottled drinking water is widely available.
Of course you can buy bottled water (if available) or use one of the other methods, like adding iodine or filtering the water. When you stay long enough in a country you will probably develop some resistance, like we did during our six month stay in India.
During the first weeks we had several attacks of diarrhea, but the last few months we had no problems at all. Read before leaving home all about diseases and health problems, but don’t worry too much. After two years of cycling we returned home in a better shape than ever!
Passport and other paperwork
When staying away for a longer period it’s a good idea to buy a passport with extra pages, to make sure there’s enough space for lots of visas and all those entry en exitstamps.
Communications with the folks back home
Internet cafes seem to be everywhere. Before setting of it’s a good idea to check if your email provider supports web based mail. This means you can receive and send e-mail everywhere in the world using your internet browser as the email-program.
Be aware of the fact that some providers offer only limited space to store incoming messages . If you plan to receive a lot of mail; especially with attachments, check this before leaving.
Where to stay
It depends on the local circumstances where we stayed. In general in Europe, Australia and New Zealand we camped. In Asia we decided not to camp, because alternatives were easy to find and cheap. Camping in the neighbourhood of an Indian village would inevitably mean you have the entire village around your tent from the moment you arrive untill you leave. We preferred the ‘luxury’ and privacy of a hotel room after being among people all day.
In Europe we camped almost always on campgrounds, in Australia and New Zealand also frequently somewhere in the bush. If we camped somewhere along the road we had to feel safe. If not, we looked for another place.
Staying in hotels we never separated from our bikes. We carried them to our room, even if it was on the third floor.