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Old 12-22-2013, 07:18 AM   #1
atomicalex OP
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Yet another Alps trip: How we do it

Since my previous Alps trip was a solid success, I figured I'd share some of the legwork that goes into planning as I work to plan our next mountainous adventure. As I work on it, I'll update the thread. We're about two weeks in to the work so far.

Step 1: have an idea of where to go. One minute to weeks of discussion.

If you want to actually plan your trip, you need some bare minimum of goals. These might change throughout the course of planning, but it's important to start somewhere. For those who just want to ride, well, you have to get where you are going, so that part will take on the role of a goal.

For this trip, we started with the idea of the French Alps. We did a bunch in Austria and Italy this past September, so why not head west a bit? We tacked on two additional specific points - the Col d'liseran and Menton.

Here, I will place a note... If you are riding a wandering route and don't have a fixed daily itinerary in mind, you are in luck. One of the coolest things about a well-planned trip is that you may not need to book hotels ahead of time if you route through regions where it is normal to have a lot of traffic. If you need to book hotels in advance, the route-planning steps will allow you to get a closer idea of where to put your stopovers. You may choose to fit specific hotels in as points of interest. Knowing this ahead of time will help you sort out your routing so that you can get the most of whatever it is you want out of your trip.

Step 2: research the area. Allow about ten hours of reading and browsing to get an overview of your goal turf.

We had great success reading some German motorcycle touring books, so we dug deeper into the ones we had and bought some new ones. Post-It flags are your friends here. We start with flagging things that look interesting as we browse through the books. A pass here, a town there. To keep things under control, color code where you can. I like to use a consistent color for the trip, this lets me leave old flags in the books so I don't either re-ride passes I don't want to or miss ones that I do want to re-ride.

Maps are your friends, too - you can get a good idea of the basic terrain from an overview map.

Weather might not be your friend. Check on the internet to be sure that you will be ok with the weather where you are going when you want to go there. We need to take care of pass closures due to snow, and as we will travel in late September, this could be an issue in one or three passes.

Spend some time thinking about how far you will want to ride each day. For the Alps, we found that 250kms a day was quite reasonable, with some days piling up and others very light. If you expect heavy terrain, you will ride shorter distances. Interstates, Autobahna, etc will allow the distance to pile up. We tend to plan around the big events in the trip, trying to insure that we can treat those days with respect. On our last trip, we knew that Stelvio could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so we allowed only 150km that day to insure we would have plenty of time to take it all in. And we did!

We did hit a snag this time around - because we are planning early, we have to wait for DeutscheBahn to post the AutoZug schedules for the fall. This means extra work as we will plan the trip to start from two different locations, to allow flexibility with the train. sInce I have a good eight months to get this planned, I think we will be ok.

Step 3: First round of mapping. Hours on end. Allow at least one hour per expected day of travel.

The first thing to do is get more flags. And more maps. An overview map of the area(s) and some larger-scale detail area maps are needed. I'll address BaseCamp later - I'm separated from my trusty mapping PC temporarily, and full-on gpx planning is a whole thread in its own right. Add a pencil or erasable pen to the mix and you are ready to start.



Begin by flagging on the overview map all of the things you've found in the tour guides, magazines, and so on. This is how your tour will start to take shape. Don't be ashamed to rank locations by interest or difficulty or howevere you want to do it. We typically do not rank at first - we leave it to the second round of mapping to really dig into how we want things to play out. Once you've got the overview map flagged, you can start comparing it to the detail maps and see how the flags line up. Overview maps are notorious for having things out of place. You will need to adjust your flagging to insure that you find the right locations for everything.

If you are already ready to start your electronic activities, either create or find waypoint tables and get them loaded into a folder in BaseCamp. That alone will keep you busy for a while.

At this point, we have identified about 45 points of interest, mostly passes. We will add to and subtract from this list as we work through the next step.

Step 4: preliminary routing. About an hour per cycle, plan for many cycles. This is where you get deep into discussions if you are travelling with other persons.

Routing is the activity of joining up the places you want to see into a sensible path that you can follow. Sensible is relative here - it only has to make sense to you and anyone you are touring with. We spend most of our planning time in the preliminary routing step.

One thing we have learned is that you almost can't overplan, but you do have to do the overplanning intelligently. How to describe that.... The key is to break up the route into logicäl steps. Again, logical to you and your touring partners. We turn to our tour guides and the internet to read up on which dirction to take a certain pass or road, or which particular street might be worth turning off onto. This will help us decide how to link things up, assuming we believe what is written. We've learned that certain keywords are used in German motorcycling tour books - and which ones mean what. Typically, the worst is assumed by the authors, likely to prevent beginners from riding off the sides of the mountains. This also gives some insight into what to expect from a particular section of the trip. Again, when you have a lot of terrain involved, you might want to plan for fewer kms that day.

This is executed by marking up the overview map with directional arrows. You can do this with those slick arrow-shaped flags, too. You are going to move stuff around a lot on the maps, so I recommend flags over pencils for this stage.

Sometimes, we find that a particular point of interest is really not what we thought it was, and it gets downgraded. Like the Col de Tende - that started off on our French Alps list, but neither of us want to lug loaded down bikes down what we learned is a dirt pass road, so we chose Col de la Lombarde instead. Now, we have to route that in. It will change how we address that section of the trip, so a new cycle of preliminary routing begins.

That's as far as I am now. We are well into the preliminary cycles and almost ready to go to the next step - building segments. We have about fifteen hours in so far. After that will come route chunking and then begins the real fun with the gpx building. I'm a firm believer in using technology to help, so into BaseCamp I will go, sometime in February.
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atomicalex screwed with this post 12-22-2013 at 11:02 AM Reason: add pics, what else?
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Old 12-22-2013, 07:48 AM   #2
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Why not take the easy way and just follow in your footsteps?
jk of course, it was a great RR you posted. Will await this next one.
I wasn't enough of a techie to use a GPS my first trip, just had more routes than I could possibly cover drawn on a map (then left it at a gas station about the third day).
The second was much easier, just had to keep up with the guy with the GPS ( I did have some input as we fine tuned our day's route over breakfast).
I think I have another trip in me; not sure how I'll handle the planning phase. Always interesting to hear how others handle the task.
Jim
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Old 12-22-2013, 01:47 PM   #3
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Western Alps, eh?
Sounds wonderful
Perhaps a few ideas (and LOADS of pics) from a 3-week Sept/Oct 2013 trip here.
http://www.austouring.com/forum/show...&postcount=149

Perhaps not go into the "segment-planning" yet?
"Tschuess" from another "ex-Radschlaeger"
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:37 AM   #4
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We've just finished off another round of Step 4, and are starting to think about the next piece:

Step 5: Segment building.

Segment building is the process of linking up all of the POIs (points of interest) into some rideable order. As you know where the POI is and which direction to ride it, you can find end points for each POI and link them. You may find that you have to make small loops to get things lined up right, or you might decide to reverse your riding direction to make a segment flow better.

A good segment has a logical start and finish that will link with other segments and is generally less than one day's ride. We average about 200 - 250kms per segment. Some are radically shorter due to being loops or logical start/stop points. Some segments will be transit segments. These are either interesting or not, depending on who you are. We personally attempt to minimize transit stages.

For example, we plan to ride the Route Des Grande Alpes from south to north. We will begin in Menton at my cousin's house, and ride generally north to Martigny. To tackle Col de Restefond, Cime de la Bonette, and Col de la Lombarde, we will have to loop back south from Cime de la Bonette to Col de la Lombarde and return north through Italy as we prepare for Col d'Liseran. This is actually the only way to go to bag Col de la Lombarde, aside from riding this in the other direction. The segment is Barcelonette to Guillestre. We will name it in the gpx files with the start and end POI names.

A note to POIs. In the interest of not going nuts, we will be removing most POIs from our route files and loading them as separate POI files. This will reduce the amount of incidental flags popping up. We will only load passes and endpoints into the routes.
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Old 01-16-2014, 02:46 AM   #5
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Pic of a flagged map...



Starting to flag a tour book... Different colored flags for different trips.

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Old 01-16-2014, 04:47 PM   #6
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Wonderful, thanks. Here's my process:

Stare at a map. Pick a place to ride. Go there and ride. Repeat.

Thanks for spelling it all out in detail. From now on I'll tell people that I use your technique so they are impressed.
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Old 01-17-2014, 12:22 AM   #7
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Your post contributes what to this thread? Glad to know that you are superior to me. I'll be sure to remember that.

I got a bunch of PMs asking how we developed our route for the first trip. No stress on me to share our technique. It's not rocket science, but maybe someone will get something from it.
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Old 01-20-2014, 12:28 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atomicalex View Post
Your post contributes what to this thread? Glad to know that you are superior to me. I'll be sure to remember that.

I got a bunch of PMs asking how we developed our route for the first trip. No stress on me to share our technique. It's not rocket science, but maybe someone will get something from it.
Sorry you got your shorts in a bunch over my post. My only intent was to show an alternative process. Both are valid. That's what my post contributes to the thread, which is not owned by you. I am in no way suggesting I am superior to you. Well, I probably am, but that isn't the point. Lighten up. Live longer.
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Old 01-20-2014, 01:29 PM   #9
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While I have a theoretical understanding on how to properly plan a ride, I never actually did it in 25 years of traveling. So I'm very interested to follow your process here and learn from you.

Another idea shown in momi20's ride reports is to compile your own guidebook with suitable destinations, accomodations or even repair shops along the intended road. That leaves some room for spontaneous changes.

Go on!
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