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Bike trip tips: Planning is half the fun

The trip may have lasted a week, but the preparation provided a winter’s worth of entertainment: studying maps, plotting routes, buying equipment, reading biking blogs, and preparing certain muscles to sit for hours on narrow, unforgiving saddles.

With a sag wagon for support and transport, our carrying needs on the bikes were minimal. I had the lightest, fanciest bike of the three of us riders, so it made sense that I’d be the one to carry the rain jackets and fleece when we weren’t wearing them. I already owned a handlebar bag, which had served me well for quick access to tools, maps, phones, and other essentials. From one of my favorite online cycling sites, Velofred.com, I ordered a matching racktop bag from Rixen & Kaul with foldout pockets that can hang like panniers on either side of the rear wheel. My trusty old Garmin Forerunner 205, Garmin’s least expensive GPS watch at $149, ably tracked the whole ride and let us share each day’s results with friends and family.

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Vélo Québec, its printed “Cycling in Québec” handbook, and its online maps for the Route Verte were indispensible for helping plan our way through Quebec. In Vermont, the maps from the Lake Champlain Bikeways helped us navigate the less-familiar terrain of northern Vermont.

Google Maps proved unwieldy for plotting long-distance rides, so I experimented with a few cycling services before settling on Ride with GPS. Its free version allowed me to see the routes of others who’d ridden the two cities (Montreal and Burlington, Vt.) and to easily plot each section of the ride point by point.

A one-year membership in the Adventure Cycling Association ($40) provided inspiration and practical advice for long-distance riders, such as how long each leg of the trip should be (40 to 60 miles a day for the casual tourist, advice we promptly ignored). The Ciclismo Classico Bicycle Travel Film Festival, held every May in Arlington, provided an additional boost of inspiration the night before we left for Montreal.

Training was, shall we say, less than rigorous. My companions told me they were hitting the gym all winter, but I had no way of monitoring, and they are young and healthy. I made sure to attend spinning classes at the Huntington Avenue YMCA to harden the seat muscles and watch videos of the Giro d’Italia while pedaling. I managed to squeeze in eight early-spring training rides, most around 30 miles each.

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