- long distances without any service -

Cycling large distances requires some special preparation.
By saying 'large distances' do I not mean simply cycling a lot of kilometers but cycling distances of 200 and more kilometers without any possibility of getting water, food or even only assistance in case one needs help.

For journeys by bike in breeding heat, on long distances without the possibility of getting water and/or food, in particular on rough tracks, you'll have to consider a couple of things - or you might end up struggling with the worst!

There are certainly differences between regions; But once you got some experience you'll find you can easily transfer the basics to other regions.

Most important basic rule - no matter where and what's the distance - is to inquire every detail about the planned route.
Police, gas stations, restaurants..., all places at which one should inquire - where you'll find people, owners as well as guests, who may help with knowledge (and opinion). You'll probably make the experience - especially with "official" people - that you're advised against your plans. Don't listen too much. Important is the info you get in between the dissuading attempts.
You then need to 'filter' all that info - from as many people as possible - and draw your own picture of how it's gonna look like out there.
The first few times your conclusions may be a bit off-side, that's normal, but they'll quickly improve and become a good and reliable judgement.

A further important thing is the weather. Most important to watch in some places, not that important in others is it still always a considerable factor.
Hitting a sandstorm in the Sahara or floods in the Outback your chances are running low even with best preparation - but it doesn't harm to spend a few thoughts on the weather.

Now what to do with all the info you've gathered? Enter everything into a (accordingly large) map. Or draw a sketch.
This way you're not only sure you got everything but can also add additional info you gather along the way. And at the end of the trip you even have a nice 'souvenir'.

.. split up into landscapes ..


It seems obvious but it doesn't hurt to mention it again. Every desert is unlike all others. The Atacama has nothing in common with the Sahara, deserts in the west of the USA hardly anything with those in Australia. Not to mention the high deserts in the Andes or the Himalaya.

A few questions, though, remain - with slight modifications - the same and are absolutely essential.
Where's the next place to get food - how far is it to it - can you get water along the way - if, where - how secure / reliable is that source - the kind of surface - considering the surface: how long may I need if the weather turns bad - bike broken down, what now? - ...


One should remember - especially because it isn't related to cycling - that all areas in which enormous forests prevail are inhabited by large game which can become quite dangerous to humans.
You may wanna spend a few thoughts on that as well. Because a lot roads are dirt roads (gravel, sand or even clay - not that often in Canada, extreme in Russia) the typical questions look like:
Will the weather be o.k. - condition of your supposed route - are there alternative routes - if you got stuck in mud, what to do - where is the next settlement - can you get food from remotely living people - ...
Updating the "Savanna / Steppe" section made me write one sentence of caution here as well: Never cook or store food in your tent - it will attract bears! And they are not to play with!

Tundra / Pampa

Biggest problem - again - is the weather. The storms in these treeless regions are literally 'mindblowing'. How shall one shelter against a storm if there's nothing there to shelter. During the day you get blown off your bike, in the evening the stove's condemned to suffocate and if the tent survives the night is very questionably. (Take only absolutely wind-stable equipment!).
How's the weather supposed to be - where to get food next - where to get water next - how many additional days because of the wind - ...

Savanna / Steppe (Africa, Central Asia)

I have to differenciate for cycling these grassy and bush lands. It makes a difference if you cycle the steppe in Central Asia or the african Savanna.
While I'd concentrate on weather patterns (wind again) and the sometimes really enormous distances in the Steppe of Central Asia (plan well ahead for food and water - by far not every water you'll find is drinkable!) does the african Savanna add dangerous wild life. Not that an Oryx Antilope or a Giraffe would chase you but if you happen to get to close to an Elephant by accident ..
And let me just mention it because it happend while I was in Maun/Botswana: Lion and Hyena do eat (you actually call it "take") humans! So please be aware and don't forget one of the most basic rules: never cook or store food in the tent!
[This written: let me just quickly add it to "Taiga" as well; If certain bears smell food in your tent they are capable of killing you as well.]

High mountains

Cycling long distances in high mountains ranks among the most difficult and dangerous ventures. In addition to the problems with food and water supplies do you have to deal with acclimatization.
If you climb to much to fast you're very likely to fall victim to the so-called altitude sickness. You begin to feel indisposed and dizzy. Only remedy: right away down at a lower altitude. At its worst altitude sickness leads to death.

Thus, important questions are:
How far is it to the next food and water supply - how far can I get considering acclimati-zation - uphill all day long reduces daily distance - thin air enormously reduces ones power / performance - route condition - how do I carry all that water - ...

A reminder

I would like to achieve two things with this page. First, point out that it is extremely important to do all-embracing planning if on routes without the possibility to stock up on food or water. 'Cause only a little mistake and you may face fatal consequences.
And secondly, give those who are really interested some little assistance and ask the others - who undertake a bike journey for the first time - to first get some experience on easier routes.
I unfortunately know already of several people who got rescued in the last second only; and that by pure luck. But that can't be the sense of bicycle travels.

A certain uncertainty will always remain. But it's exactly this that lets bicycle travels become an adventure.

Particularly for travelling large distances by bicycle:

With appropriate consideration and planning will your journey become a true adventure; Without are you asking for problems.

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© 1998-2008 Thomas Schleicher