Tour Planning Tips for the Inexperienced Long-Distance Cyclist

Photo via Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

It’s a plan that’s been nagging you for a while now – going on an ambitious cycling tour on a racing route or nature trail, either solo or with a group of friends. The idea gives you a thrill every time as you imagine yourself taking in sweet, fresh air, a spectacular landscape, and an ample stretch of miles that will make you proud to cover.

So why not go for it? Collect on your vacation days at work, put on your planning cap, and pitch the trip to your buddies. You only live once, and the joy of being self-reliant on the elegant contraption that is the bicycle for your touring adventure is a splendid feeling to have.

Yet, you’re at a loss as to exactly where to begin, amateur cyclist that you are. A well of questions spring up in your brain such as “Where to go? What bicycle should I get? What gear should I buy?”

Relax. Here are a few tips for how best to prepare for a major long-distance biking expedition, whether cycling solo or with a team, on a nature trail, mountain path or bike race:

  1. Set Your Destination

What kind of first long-distance ride do you want to have? In a city, such as your hometown, near it or, more ambitiously, at a scenic far-away destination? Will you need to fly or drive to that place? Have a think as to where you’d like to go, time and budget permitting, and research, research, research your list of potential destinations. Gather relevant cycling route and map information, and plan on bringing along your trusty GPS device so that no area of the world is a mystery to you.

Be sure to check on projected weather patterns for the time you’d be visiting, and make a decision on when and where you’ll be starting and ending your ride. Start drafting a preliminary travel plan involving the transportation of your bike to and from your destination.

  1. Work Out Your Cycling Route

Once the general area of your destination has been picked, plan your route. Figure out how many miles you can cover in a day, how much time you want to be cycling, and when and where you can take food and rest breaks. Trace a preliminary route on a map, and preferably check with a community of travelers site, or park ranger, if relevant, for information on the terrain, weather, state of the trail, visitor infrastructure and amenities, etc.

  1. Pick the Right Bike

It’s vital that you buy a reliable bike of quality, of a model that won’t suffer broken shifters, levers or sprockets, or any other part. Take into account the type of road/trail and terrain of the route when deciding, preferably with the help of an expert bike handler, whether you should pick up a road bike, mountain bike or touring bike for your journey.

  1. Select Your Gear and Accessories

The Internet offers a wealth of information on what is the best gear, sports clothing and other essentials to pack. What you end up getting will largely depend on the quality of your research and your budget, so do spend time comparison shopping and reading up on reviews so that you save on costs.

  1. On Preliminary Packing

Of course, you’ll want to travel light, to lighten your burden on the road. But even before leaving for your vacation, make sure you’re traveling light in the conscience department. Bolt all main doors to your apartment, let neighbors know you are traveling, set the alarm, and have someone pick up your mail so that ne’er-do-wells in the ‘hood don’t burgle your place. You certainly want your home to stay safe while you’re gone.

As for packing for your trip, again, this is a question of research. Several YouTube videos exist that show you how best to pack your gear on your bike so that you travel lightly.

A Final Point

Taking the above tips into account for your major bicycle tour should point you in the right direction on the basics of how to plan for the ride. The more thought and foresight you invest in planning the trip, the better it will likely turn out, so be thorough in researching the details so that the trip goes off without a hitch. Happy trails!

New Glarus 2013,
20 Years later …

For all those who were unable to make the long weekend outing.

I arrived around 11:30am, and stopped at the local Subway for lunch. Erik Hess was there, so I joined him for lunch. After lunch we headed over to the hotel. Too my surprise I was able to check-in early this year. And they made a special exception this year, and allowed bikes in the rooms. Not sure that will happen again.

There was a good turnout for the Friday ride about 15 riders. I say 15, because we had 14 to start with, and Alex rode the reverse route, since he could not make the ride start.

It was a pretty hot day, and some wind, but overall a beautiful day.

We met for dinner around 6pm at the Glarner Stube. Then back to the hotel for drinks.

You can find George’s slideshow for Friday at:


After a good breakfast at the hotel, which is included in the room fee, we headed out around 8:45am, due to a mechanical. I think Larry had around 20 riders. Including Rudy, who drove up for the Saturday ride only. Heading to Mt. Horeb, we had a few sprinkles, but that was it. The gas station in Mt. Horeb has been totally remodeled now, including a bike rack and tables.

While at the bar, Dave and Michelle arrived. They joined us for dinner, and for the Sunday ride.

Puempel's Olde Tavern — post ride drinks

Tossing a bill. My first try almost took out Dietmar's eye, Mike then had a go, no luck, then my second try, after some coaching, it stuck.

We had dinner at the hotel, outside, since there was a wedding at the usual dinner spot. It was family style and very good. After dinner Larry handed everyone a special pint glass, to celebrate 20 years of rides in New Glarus. And thanked Heather, who designed the artwork. Heather unfortunately was unable to make it this year.

You can find George’s slideshow for Saturday at:

Sunday always has the least amount of riders. Some didn’t ride, because they wanted to enjoy the day with their better half. Some were tried, and some left to watch football.
Anyway, it was nice and cool, after a very hot Saturday ride. It was overcast, but no rain, just some wind. When we got to Attica, some turned back early. They had enough.
Almost back, this PACTour trailer passed us, very cool. Then this large dump truck coming around a corner, heading towards us came very close to us. Yikes! The bulk of the riders, missed the turn coming back, and we ended up on 69, across from the camp grounds. So, we rode the shoulder back to the hotel, nice downhill.

We got back in time to shower, checkout (before 11am) and eat breakfast, after starting at 7:15am.

Larry, thanks again for making this trip one of the highlights of the year.

Some Garmin data for Friday and Saturday, provided by Dan, with different elevation gains.

Friday Data
Distance: 42.31 mi
Time: 2:33:16
Avg Speed: 16.6 mph
Dan’s Elevation Gain: 3,993 ft
Larry’s “Ride with GPS” Elevation Gain: 3,481 ft
Dietmar’s Elevation Gain: 2,600 ft
Jane’s Elevation Gain: 3,028 ft
Max Speed: 40.2 mph

Saturday Data
Distance: 65.23 mi
Time: 3:49:14
Avg Speed: 17.1 mph
Dan’s Elevation Gain: 5,059 ft
Larry’s “Ride with GPS” Elevation Gain: 4,644 ft
Dietmar’s Elevation Gain: 3,300 ft
Jane’s Elevation Gain: 3,652 ft
Max Speed: 42.9 mph

Some Garmin data for Sunday, provided by Dietmar/Jane.

Sunday Data
Distance: 41.23 mi
Time: 2:32:23
Avg Speed: 16.2 mph
Larry’s “Ride with GPS” Elevation Gain: 3,405 ft
Dietmar’s Elevation Gain: 2,534 ft
Jane’s Elevation Gain: 2,835
Max Speed: 37.4 mph

And finally elevation gain from SportTracks
Friday 3,093 ft
Saturday 3,979 ft
Sunday 3,092 ft

Is Mountain Biking the same as Road Biking?

I started riding seriously about nine years ago now, and it’s become a passion of mine. I’m a roadie and I usually average around 7,000 plus per year. Just enough, any more you tend to get labeled as obsessive.

Anyway, I’ve had the opportunity to ride a MTB a few times now, on single track and double. And I find it really enjoyable, and yes, it’s nothing like road riding. I like it because it’s different, it’s good for cross training, and there’s never a dull moment.

Here are some things I have noticed and the differences
between Mountain Biking and Road Biking:

This past Sunday, I rode 24 miles on a MTB, and I felt pretty good afterwards. But, only because I have a lot of miles on my legs, and because I do endurance cycling. When I did my first MTB ride years ago, it was difficult.

I guess my point is, if you can ride 24 miles on the road, don’t expect 24 miles on a single track will be the same effort. It will be much harder. Why is it harder? Well first you’ll be doing more climbing, then you’ll do on the road. Unless you happen to live in California or southwest Wisconsin. You’ll need to be a good bike handler too, so you don’t ride into a tree, etc.

There is no drafting, but at the slower speeds, and because of the terrain, drafting would not work anyway. And on a single track, you need to allow a lot of room between riders, unlike the road. So, if someone falls or stops on a climb for example, you don’t ride into them. Plus, the more room you have, the more control over your momentum. Stopping on a climb sucks, and you’ll probably have to walk the rest of the way. Because it’s almost impossible to clip in on a steep trail hill.

In regards to the slower speeds. Don’t assume slow means easy, when it comes to mountain biking. Mountain biking is more like endurance cycling, and of course there are 24 hour MTB endurance races too. Nonetheless, when I do endurance cycling, I’ll sometimes be riding at 13mph, and roadies will say, 13mph, that’s easy. Until you tell them that was during a 600K ride that took 35 hours to complete — and 24 hours in the saddle.

Unlike road riding, you use more of your body too. You have to be more like a gymnast. And this adds to the calories burned, and good for the upper body. Meaning, when you go down a hill, you’ll extend your butt way back over the saddle. Up hill, just the opposite. You’re also constantly using your brain to scope out the best line on the single track, and yes brain power burns calories too.

Don’t forget nutrition. You’ll more than likely burn more calories in 24 miles on a MTB, then you would on the road. Despite the slower speeds. Just like on the road, if you’re not eating something ever hour, you will bonk. Same goes for hydration. One thing I noticed on my Sunday ride, is a camel back is a must. Especially if there’s mud. Because my only water bottle was low to the ground, and it got dirty. You don’t want to drink dirty water, that might also have horse poop in it.

As a final note, and don’t misunderstand, riding on the road at race speeds is very hard. The same goes for endurance cycling too. But, if you’re interested in giving it a try, don’t have the attitude, “hey 24 miles (or whatever the distance) on a MTB, how hard can that be?” Because I hear crow doesn’t taste very good!

Written by Rick Cosaro (a road biker, who plans to do more mountain biking in the future)

July 13, Metric Ride

Beast and Sis — Sis on her new bike, photo by Ace

I haven’t done a post in along time, and it seems others are not willing — that’s okay.

Today’s ride wasn’t stellar (but it warrants a post), the weather was great, and a bunch of very good riders / friends came out for the 63 + route. But it was stellar, because of the following highlights:

It was one of those rides, where everyone had a good time, though as they say, a bad day on a bike, is better than a good day in the office. No mechanicals, though Phil wanted water, private joke. Though we stopped on the way back, at the fire station on 127th. No drops, and everyone was looked after. And yes there’s more to riding then speed, but we averaged 17.9.

We saw Tom Clarke aka Ace at Commissioners Park, riding with LifeTime. It would have been fun to ride with them, but we could not wait. Maybe next time.

We saw the Park District boys on Ashley, a very large group today, about 25. I might even have had a chance in that size of a group, maybe not — still, I need to do that ride sometime.

The Beast was stirring the pot today, and told Kaye to get out and pull. And she did, and he was kidding. Though, she did very well pulling up to 22mph. Thanks Kaye, riding that century has paid off, and the more you push it the faster and stronger you will be. That holds true for any rider.

The riders today: Kaye, Heather, Mike, Larry, Rudy, Scott, Phil, Rick, Alex, and Jane. Hope I didn’t miss anyone.

Hope to see a good turn-out at the picnic. So far we have 21.


2012 New Glarus Cycling Trip

For those who haven’t been to New Glarus, it’s a small town located near Mount Horeb, and about a three hour drive from Naperville, IL. Every year Larry Alvino organizes this three day cycling trip in early September, and he always does a great job. This year he had a great turnout, especially for the Saturday ride — 20 riders I think.

The trip begins Friday, with a 1pm ride to Blanchardville, about 45 miles, then on Saturday with a 65 mile ride, and Sunday with a 42 mile ride. Most of the riders stay at the — Chalet Landhaus. Though some stay in local B&Bs.


Leaving Naperville it was raining like crazy, though once I hit DeKalb, the sun was out, and based on the radar when I left, it looked like the ride was going to take place. 12 riders left New Glarus at 1pm, headed for Blanchardville. It was a little cold, windy, but the rain was holding off. Once we got to a town called Postville, we decided to cut the ride a short, since the rain was starting. During the ride I was keeping an eye out for Eric Peterson, since he was unable to make the ride start, but was still planning on doing the ride.

When we got back, it was cold, and still raining, and we should have done the whole ride, given the rain wasn’t all that bad. Some of us met on the patio for beer, thanks to Janet. While sitting there, Eric arrives on his bike. He rode the whole thing. We told him we cut it short — kidding, he called us a bunch of pussies.

At 6pm we had dinner at the Glarner Stube, which is a small bar / restaurant within walking distance of our hotel. After dinner we had more beer in the lobby, and some stayed up to wait for those arriving late.


Still a bit out of it, from the night before, we pushed off at 8:30am, after having a big breakfast at the hotel, which is included in your bill. The sun was out, but a bit on the cool side, though some like Dave and Dietmar did not wear arm warmers. Within a few miles, my arm warmers came down.

It was a bit windy, heading to Mount Horeb, and the peloton of 20 riders soon broke into smaller groups — Dietmar, Ed, and Erik were pushing the pace. We regrouped at the first rest stop of the day, in Mount Horeb. Next, we headed to Blue Mounds State Park. After descending a switch back, we broke into groups. Michelle in her pick socks pulled a bunch of us for like two miles or more. Mike said she must be doping.

When we hit Ryan Road, those who were aware, of what was coming started to pace themselves. Dave on the other hand, went off the front. I was going to say something, but Carla said, don’t tell him. As we started the 13% climb, everyone went at their pace. I was next to Ed, also his first time doing this hill, and he said, this hill is shit. Meaning it was hard. Though, he did it twice for fun.

At the top, meaning the park at the top of Blue Mounds, we climbed the look out tower, and took some photos. We then headed down to Blue Mounds, the very small town, and got some food.

Heading back, except for some headwinds, it was mostly a tailwind back. We regrouped at Highway A, and then headed to the last rest stop, at the church. Some took a short break, some longer. We had a tailwind, but we also had some more climbing to do. After descending, where Alex passed me at 50 mph, we hit the last hard climb of the day, I managed to catch up with Ed, then Jane, and behind me Carole was hammering up the hill. The four of us, rode back together, with Jane and myself putting the hammer down. We caught Eric, and almost caught Dietmar, and Lee who left before us.

After the ride, some went to the brewery, and some went to town for beer at Puempels Olde Tavern. We ended up staying there until dinner, which was at 6pm, and we ended up drinking almost five pitchers. After dinner some stayed in town for a beer, before heading (walking) back to the hotel, for one more. It is Wisconsin by the way.


Sunday’s ride starts early, since we need to get back in time to shower, before checking out, which is 11am. So, at 7am we headed out. The sun was coming up, it was cool, but not too bad, and it was nice to have cool weather all three days, especially when you’re climbing. We regrouped a number of times, and there is no rest stop on this day. We got back around 10:15am, after 42 miles, and showered. Then we all had bunch on the patio, before heading home.

Highlights, and if I had to give out awards, to certain riders:

  • Not that I need help going up hills, but Ed on Sunday was pushing me.
  • Ed says to Dietmar, at that mailbox, let’s start the sprint up the hill. They did and neither one noticed Erik, who ended up winning the sprint.

Most Surprising Kick Ass Riders:

  • Irish — climbs hills like a mountain goat, who knew, he’s been holding out on us.
  • Carole — who lost control of her bike on Saturday, but managed to stay upright, before riding off the road, only to come back strong by the end of the day.
  • Kevin — after crashing early on, Sunday morning, due to gravel, finished the day strong.

First Time Riders:

  • Ed — since he only rode on Sunday last year.
  • Michelle and Dave
  • George H.

Hardiest Rider:

  • Eric Peterson — since he rode the whole route on Friday in the rain.

Stats and mechanicals:

  • The steepest grade was on Saturday at 13%.
  • Top speed by some of the riders — 50 mph (downhill)
  • Two riders dropped their chains, no flats.


Highlights of our 63 mile ride on Saturday …

We headed out to Ashley, after stopping at the convenience store in Oswego. We took the trail up to Reservation, and met three other riders, headed our way, sort of. The Beast started talking to them, and they said they were headed out to Sheridan.

We regrouped at Reservation and Minkler, while waiting another group of riders came up behind us, and a pick-up truck. Next, I notice to my left, a bunch of riders, about 15 – 20, and I soon realized it was the Park District racer boys. So, I move to the other side of Minkler, and watched them come down the hill towards Reservation. The dude in the front was yelling, at my group of riders, plus those behind them. He was saying, MOVE IT, MOVE IT, as he was flying down the road at 35 mph. My group wasn’t in his way, no one was. I think he was pissed off, because he had to slow down to like 25 mph, to make the turn. Though, he came pretty close to becoming a hood ornament on that pick-up truck.

When we got to Ashley and Walker, those three guys we met, decided to ride with us all the way back to Roy’s. One guy was from Oswego, the other two were from Ottawa, IL. They were friends, and one of guys from Ottawa, is in charge of organizing the Pumpkin Pie ride. They all started from Oswego.

Almost back, at the intersection of Washington and Gartner, we got the red light. While waiting I notice this van in front of us, with a Vision Quest sticker on it. So, I moved up to the driver’s side, and noticed it was Casey. I talked with her a bit, and asked her if she was up in Michigan doing her Dad’s invitational, which is called Bike Benzie — . She was, and she asked me if I did it. I said sort of, I actually forgot all about that ride, but I was out riding August 19th, and happened to see some Bike Benzie riders on M-22.

Back at Roy’s those three guys we met headed to Quigley’s for some food, before heading to Plainfield, to take in the beer fest happening there.

Despite the heat, it was a good day to be on the bike.

June Somonauk Century

Well, an almost perfect century today. Though we did make a wrong turn. I’ll keep this short and simple.

Leaving from Roy’s at 7:30am, I had six riders doing the my century, myself included. Roy had about the same amount, doing his 50.

Heading out, turning onto 248, we saw Dietmar, solo coming back from his 45 mile morning ride, or maybe I should say solo hammer workout. He turned around, and rode with us for a around a block.

Going south wasn’t too bad, but turning west, we had a pretty strong headwind. All we could manage was around 15 – 18 mph.

Arriving in Newark, we saw Mary Tobiason at the BP station, Fred’s girlfriend :). She knows me too, and we talked with her a bit. She was riding with some guy, maybe her husband?

After riding through Sheridan, and doing the climb up after crossing the Fox River, we started to pick up the tailwind. Some of my riders started to fall off the back. Yes, due to lack of miles, but also due to poor nutrition.Truth be told, I was a bit hung over, and wasn’t up to par.

As I said before, we made some wrong turn, or we actually missed it. I need to get a GPS. Anyway, thanks to everyone, we got back on course, and headed into Yorkville.

We all came back with 106.3 miles, with an average of 17.5, thanks to the tailwind on the return. Those who made the ride: Bob, Larry, Jay, Fred, and Joe. Thanks guys for a good ride.

I’ll be leading another century, next Saturday, weather permitting.



First Century of 2012 — Ride Report

The century started at Roy’s Sunday morning at 8am. Matt was the first to arrive, then Eric and Brent. Next Michelle showed up, and two of Brent’s friends, Nate and Bill.

The weather was okay, but it could have been a bit warmer, and the wind was at least 20mph. We got a little wet coming back through Batavia, but no big deal.


Before Maple Park, Michelle was staring to fall off the back. I slowed down and told her to draft behind me. I think she was having a bad day, since she didn’t seem to grasp the concept of drafting (which she does). And when I looked at her, through my mirror, her face looked bad. Like someone who was suffering. After, arriving in Hampshire, Brent said she only had ridden a hundred miles this year. Considering that, she did really well, and got in 80 miles, before calling it quits in St. Charles. She had someone pick her up there. As a side note, you should have at least 600-800 miles on your legs, before doing a century.

Before Sycamore, four large dogs came running out towards the road. One took after Nate, a Great Dane. Nate, put the hammer down, on his hybrid bike, and finally dropped the dog. Then it came back our way, and finally went home. Though Nate, pulled over into a driveway, and bent over. I thought he was going to hurl. But, he actually had a cramp in his leg, because of the dog chasing him. It was all pretty funny, after the fact.

Within a mile, another dog came out onto the road. This time, right next to me. I slowed down, because I could tell the dog looked friendly. After yelling at it, it took off for Michelle and Brent.

Before Hampshire, the wind was pretty strong, and one stretch Matt and I took off, and took turns pulling. Great workout, Matt said.

In Hampshire, we stopped at the Subway for lunch. Michelle was thinking about calling a cab, not sure she would have gotten one. So, she continued on with us, but way off the back. She had a cue sheet, a very good one, that Eric setup. She just wanted to ride by herself, but we did wait for her at turns, just in case. Though she didn’t really appreciate our waiting.

After Hampshire, it was around 41 miles back. It was like doing intervals most of the way back, due to the headwind. We would get a side wind for awhile, which was pretty easy to ride in, then back into a headwind. This continued on for most of the way back.

We stopped for a bathroom break at LeRoy, just outside of St. Charles. I guess after we left, Bill somehow went over his handle bars. Eric and I were off the front, so we wondered, where are Bill and Brent. Bill was okay, just a weird thing. Maybe it was his tri-bike. :)

Michelle went to St. Charles, then we took Nate into Geneva for his ride back. Then coming through Batavia, we hit some rain. Matt goes, “it’s really coming down.” I told him, wait until you start riding Brevets.

It was Nate’s first century, almost, since he had to cut it short due to time issues. Otherwise he would have made it.

Anyway, great to have the first century in, and thanks to Eric for a good route. It took us from 8am to 4pm to complete, due to stopping, lunch, wind, dogs, but that’s okay. I knew it was going to be along day. We only averaged 16.3, due to the items I mentioned.

Hope to see more out, for the next one.


April 9th week in review …

Another great week of riding for the second week in April.

Roy had a show and go. I wasn’t there, but I heard some riders showed up.

Michelle had her free yoga class for NBC members at 9:30am.

Despite the wind and cold, I would have done the Blur ride, but I had a club meeting to go to. I guess no one showed for the Blur, so Carla rode by herself. The club meeting went well, decent turnout too. Afterward some went to Quigley’s for beer.

Michelle had her free yoga class for NBC members at 9:30am.

I led the Roy’s Wednesday night ride. We went out to Fermi Lab.

Dietmar led the Blur ride, low turnout considering the good weather. Very good average speed though, for so early in the season.

Roy's Saturday Ride Start

Jeff led an easy ride for Frontier Park, and I heard he had two riders show up. Pretty good considering the weather. We also had two different rides from Roy’s. A 40 miler and 60 miler. The weather held, and it turnout to be great day to do 62 miles, actually.

Again, the weather held, and it was a much warmer, but windy. We just headed to Heggs, getting in 33 miles.

The first 2012 actual Blur ride — ride report

Well it wasn’t the first Blur ride of 2012, but it was the fastest.

Considering the good weather, the turnout wasn’t great. Though 6pm can be hard for some. Anyway, Dietmar and Anwar were there when I arrived. Dietmar even had the new ride sheet, with his name printed on it, off his computer. Next, Doug arrived, then Fred and finally Jos. No women, sad.

As we left the parking lot, we saw another rider, who I recognized. It was Roy’s neighbor, Tommy, who can’t even be 20 years old. I asked him, “are you going to ride with us?” He said “yes”, and he was with us, but when we got to Route 59, he was nowhere in sight. Not sure what happened, because he’s a fast guy, at least he looks fast.

The pace picked up on 248, and we were off. We had some break ups, but everyone soon bridged the gaps. On Douglas, we hooked up with a guy named Caleb. Apparently Doug and Dietmar know him. Another young guy, who got out in front on Wooley, and we were soon doing 26mph. He pulled all the way back to 248, before turning right on 248, to head home.

I was a wheel sucker last night, I promise to take some pulls later in the season. But, a big thanks to those out in front, great pulls. I always check the average, just before getting to the parking lot, and I was surprised our average was well over 21mph. Again, thanks to the guys out in front.

The only things that could have made the ride better last night, would have been: A few degrees warmer, more riders, and women riders, especially Shark, with her new bike. Otherwise, it was a great fast ride.

See you on the next ride or Blur …