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NEWBIE - ADVICE NEEDED: Planning Extensive Trip from Berlin to Lisbon

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NEWBIE - ADVICE NEEDED: Planning Extensive Trip from Berlin to Lisbon

Old 06-02-16, 04:18 AM
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NEWBIE - ADVICE NEEDED: Planning Extensive Trip from Berlin to Lisbon

Hi everyone!

My name is Tom, I found your forum by recommendation and I have to say it is quickly turning out to be an amazing recourse for all kinds of useful info.

I am planning an extensive trip from Berlin, Germany (where I will arrive by bus) going West, through France and Spain, to Portugal. I have literally tried to find all the available info online, and have found some very useful sources, but still feel overwhelmed and need to figure out thousands of details before I can actually go.

Here are the headlines of my goals (and problems with them):

1. I have a unique window of opportunity to leave on the 18th of June and have potentially the entire summer for traveling across Europe. The problem is that this leaves me with incredibly little time to prepare, and I also don't want to waste precious summer time, so it would be great if I could meet this deadline.
2. Since it's my first trip of this sort, I don't have a suitable bike to ride with, but I do have some experienced friends that will at least help me find an affordable frame and build a sturdy, functional bicycle around it. The problem is, my budget is quite limited, so this of course limits my choices, but any input on what to keep an eye for would be greatly appreciated.
3. I plan on driving for months, both on paved roads and off-road, so I guess the bicycle has to be sturdy enough to survive on varying terrains, but fast enough to allow me to go at least 50-80 kilometers (I'm not sure, but that's probably like 30-ish-50ish miles per day) per day. I've read a lot about converted mountain bikes, but I've also read that they might not work very well for carrying loads.
4. NEED MOST HELP WITH: Althoguh I've scoured the web for as much info as I could find, I'm still very hesitant on starting to plan the specific routes I'll be taking. All I know I need to go through Germany, France and Spain (duh) to reach the Atlantic, and want to see as much beautiful sights as possible along the way. So if anyone has experience in the areas, any suggestions would be more than appreciated. I would also obviously prefer to ride mostly, if not exclusively without the company of cars, meaning bicycle tracks or at least reclusive roads. Also, since it's a very long trip, it would be great to go without too many detours and maintain a more or less (barring nearby sightseeing opportunities) steady direction West.
5. What to pack. I've read the countless kit packing suggestions, but once again, any input is very valuable to me at this time.
6. Clothing. This is another aspect I found contradicting information on.
7. Wild camping. I plan on sleeping almost exclusively in nature, with exceptions of the occasional Couchsurfing or hostel experience for showers etc. Any advice on this would be greatly valued as well, especially in terms of what to bring, how to find the spots, how to stay safe, what to look for etc.
8. Budget. I will be on a pretty limited budget, but, excluding museums, dining out and other attractions, I would like to spend around $5-10 per day on food/water etc. I read a lot that this is very doable, but would just appreciate if you could confirm.
11. Keeping your belongings safe. This is another thing that is unclear to me - do you leave the panniers on the bicycle when you go sightseeing around a city, taking only the essential belongings? Or do you leave the bicycle in a remote area and walk/use public transport to go into the city center?

This is all I could think of for now, but if there's anything else you'd like to add, it's even better.

I would like to thank in advance anyone who will share any experiences or advice, no matter how big or small. Right now, anything, even a reassurance is really valuable, as I am having a bit of a difficult time wrapping my head around everything.
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Old 06-02-16, 07:41 AM
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1) Get your bike sorted out and start riding it NOW. I just did my first tour, leaving myself about two weeks from the time the bike was built to the time I left, and while I made it work, I could have used much more time to get used to it and find issues and adjustments I ended up fixing along the way. Also be sure to try it out loaded down in a representative manner as to how you will actually be riding it.

2-3) Others who have done it can chime in more, and I have no idea as to the bike market in your area, but I see no reason why an old MTB frame couldn't do that mileage while carrying weight. If anything, they are stronger than road bikes. From my personal experience, I'd say your daily mileage is a very reasonable starting goal. If weight on an airline wasn't a concern, I probably would have used my MTB on my tour through Belgium and Netherlands. Definitely look at tires if you go that way, there are much better options for the type of roads you'll encounter than knobbies. I've got a set of hybrid-style tires with some deeper tread that handle pavement and gravel and dirt very well on my MTB.

4) Open Cycle Maps (a subset of the Open Street Maps project) will show you defined cycling routes that generally fit what you are looking for (low traffic or dedicated to human powered), at least through Germany. If you route yourself through northern Belgium on the way to France, you'll find very well marked, generally very nice cycle routes. OpenCycleMap.org - the OpenStreetMap Cycle Map

5-6) As you've undoubtedly read, people will argue over this non-stop. What worked for me: a pair of cycle shorts (baggy MTB type), a pair of cycle tights for the colder/rainy days, a plain colored long sleeve and short sleeve jersey (I really like the back pockets, otherwise golf polos also work extremely well), and a rain coat. For off the bike I had a pair of jeans, a pair of regular cargo shorts, and a couple t-shirts. I also carried a tool roll, as well as the knowledge to use it. Various wrenches to fit the bolts on my bikes from 8-17mm, hex key set, phillips and flat screwdriver, and tire levers at a minimum. I had a few others as a convenience: adjustable wrench, cone wrenches, and a couple larger T-handle hex keys, as it is easier to torque things down with them than the key set. I prefer spare tubes and a patch kit, I'd rather just swap it out trailside and patch the leaky one at the end of the day. Oh, and zip ties. It is amazing where you'll find uses for them. Just make sure you bring cutters in your tool roll to get them off

7) Can't help there.

8) Can you live on that at home? If so, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to on the road. I don't find supermarkets vary wildly in cost from location to location. Do remember to consider a way to cook your food, if you like hot meals though!

(what happened to 9 & 10???)

11) Take the bikes right into the city with you. We have handles on the panniers, and either used a small little cable lock to lock them to the rack, or I often just looped my cable lock right through them. Park them where you can keep an eye on them. In a week of doing this, and being hypervigilent of always picking cafe tables where I could watch them, not a single person ever took a notice or interest in my bags. As @Doug64 (at least, I hope I am remembering the right name, sorry if not!) pointed out to me when I was worried about the same thing before my tour, most people aren't interested in digging through your stinking underwear in hopes of finding a camera

If you are concerned, also remember that many museums and tourist attractions have luggage lockers, and if you are going to be in town a while you can always try a railway station and stash the bags in the luggage area there for a few hours. Also some places will be happy to keep your bags behind the counter, as we did when we decided to do an Amsterdam canal tour.

Last edited by jefnvk; 06-02-16 at 07:48 AM.
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