How To Plan A Bikepacking Route: The Expert Guide

Ultra-endurance cyclist and former bikepacking world-record holder Robbie Ferri shares his expert guide to planning a bikepacking route

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As bikepacking booms in popularity, more cyclists are heading out on two wheels and enjoying exploring the world on their own pedal power than ever.

The success of a bikepacking trip comes down to many things, but one of the most important is the route you take. An excellent route offers minimal traffic, epic views, and lots of places to stop and enjoy where you are traveling. 

Through my own bikepacking and ultra-cycling experience, which has seen me race the BikingMan series, the Transcontinental Race, and even (briefly) hold the world record for most countries cycled through in a week, I’ve learned my fair share of bikepacking route planning tips and tricks.

Now, I want to pass that hard-won knowledge on to other bikepackers just starting out!

My bike on a beach in Oman at the end of my bikepacking route.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Why Is It So Important To Plan Your Bikepacking Route Properly?


Safety is the most important factor in planning a bikepacking route.

Being on the right roads goes a long way to keeping you safe. Although it may be completely legal to be on busy roads, they not only bring lots of fast cars and trucks, but they are a very uncomfortable place to ride. 

Points of Interest

Incorporating highlights and points of interest along the route will massively increase your enjoyment of your bikepacking trip.

When I first started bikepacking, especially when I was taking part in races, I tended to opt for the most direct route possible, hammering the journey out as fast as possible even if meant there were few highlights along the way to break the trip up.

These days, I put more emphasis on picking out spots I want to visit or stop at along the way, even if it makes my route slightly longer.

It helps motivate you to pedal forward, gives you something to remember, and helps you embrace the culture of the areas you’re bikepacking through.

Fitness And Skill Levels

It’s all well and good planning routes across the mountains, but it will be an unsuccessful trip if your fitness isn’t quite there yet.

The right route will be within your ability, and although it will be challenging, it shouldn’t be impossible. 


It’s very easy to plan a route and forget about what you might need along the way.

Having amenities along the way is vital not just to ensure you have food and water but also a dry place to sleep if the weather turns.

Equally, if you choose a route that you can see has few opportunities to stock up on food, you know to plan ahead and ensure you’re properly provisioned.


Finally, the bikepacking route should be fun!

Planning a bikepacking route that you’ll enjoy is crucial. Bikepacking, for most, is a holiday, and there’s no point going on a route that will make you miserable and suffer.

Photo of me bikepacking on a desert road in Oman.
On the road during a BikingMan race. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

How Far Should You Plan To Ride Each Day?

Every cyclist will be different when it comes to how far you can comfortably ride each day. The best way to know the right distance for you is to test it out for yourself on practice rides!

There is no hard and fast formula for working out how far you should aim to ride for each day of a bikepacking route.

As a rule of thumb, though, a moderately fit cyclist on mostly flat, tarmac roads should be able to manage around 80 km (50 miles) per day without pushing themselves too hard.

However, there are a vast range of factors that can affect this figure. On a rugged backcountry trail with a lot of elevation, the same cyclist might only be able to ride half that distance – or less.

Other factors that can affect your range include terrain, climate, daylight hours (especially if riding in winter), the amount of weight you’re carrying, and the quality of your bike.

Experienced, competitive ultra-cyclists can cover upwards of 300 km (185 miles) a day on good roads, though this isn’t for the faint-hearted.

For example, I averaged around 350 km per day during the BikingMan Oman race, but this required minimal rest, sometimes cycling through the night, and extensive training and preparation.

If in doubt, be conservative with how far apart you plan your overnight stops.

From experience, I promise you’ll have a much more enjoyable trip if you arrive at your destination with a few hours left to relax with a beer in the evening, rather than waking up every morning with a titanic slog to reach the safety of your next stop before nightfall!

For longer trips, it’s also worth factoring in occasional rest days – I’d recommend at least one in every ten days of riding!

My 6-Step Guide To Planning A Bikepacking Route

Now for the fun bit – planning the route itself!

Step #1. Select Your Start And Finish Points

Screenshot of the Komoot web app showing how to plan a bikepacking route.
Credit: Komoot

The first step is to select your bikepacking route’s start and finish points.

The start will have to be a place that is easy to get to with your bike. If you are flying, a cheap flight with a bike box or somewhere with a train station where you can transport your bike is ideal.

The finish is also just as important. If you plan on flying home, go somewhere with a bike shop close by so you can organize a bike box for the airport. You might want to finish at a place with a train station and book your tickets in advance.

You can also get inventive and use your home as the start, finish, or even both. I personally love to travel out somewhere as my starting point, and cycle all the way back home.

It not only makes it easier as far as logistics go but also gives you great motivation, knowing you have your own bed waiting at the finish. 

As an example, I’m going to plan a bikepacking route from Hook of Holland in the Netherlands to Milan, Italy, to show you the process.

I chose Hook of Holland as my start point because it’s easy for me to travel to with my bike from my home in England by ferry, and Milan as my finish because I can fly home from there easily. 

Step #2. Pick Out Points Of Interest

Screenshot of the Komoot web app showing how to plan a bikepacking route.
Credit: Komoot

Next, we need to think about the highlights we want to include along the way.

The first place I would like to start is by making a list of places I am interested in seeing along the way. On my trip, these are my points of interest:

  • Maastricht
  • Luxembourg
  • Zurich 
  • Lichtenstein
  • Splugen Pass 

These are places I want to check out, and I have put them in a logical order for my trip, ready for when I start putting the basic route together next. You could do the same with hotels or food stops if you wanted to. 

Step #3. Draft Your Rough Route

Next, it’s time to plan out a draft of the rough route you’ll take.

In my opinion, the best way to do this is through a route planning application. I like to use Komoot personally, but I know many long-distance cyclists who use Ride With GPS or Strava too.

Once the application is loaded, select the route planner function. Most applications will give you options for the type of bike you are using and your current fitness level. It’s worth putting these in as they are vital for a great route.

Next, put in the start, finish, and all the destinations you want to stop at along the way. The app will now draft a route for you, and give you all the details of the climbing you will need to do, the distance to cover, and the surfaces you’ll be riding on. 

Here’s a good time to look at the route stats and make sure you are at a level of fitness to complete the route in the time you have spare, or consider shortening it or extending your planned timeframe. 

Step #4. Fine Tuning The Route

Screenshot of the Komoot web app showing how to plan a bikepacking route.
Credit: Komoot

Next, it’s time to fine-tune the route.

I like to go close up and look exactly where the route is taking me to ensure it’s right for me. There are a few modifications that I like to make to keep the adventure as enjoyable as possible:


Firstly, I ensure I pass shops, hotels, and bike mechanics at least once a day.

This is to make sure I have enough places to stop and get food and options for places to stay if I don’t fancy sleeping outside. 

Unnecessary Detours

Sometimes, route planners such as Komoot take you off a perfectly good route or road and then put you on a random path or trail, and then put you back on the road 30 meters later. The computer often thinks the route is better, but in real life, it is not.

Quite often, when looking at the route closely, you will see a handful of these. When I come across one that looks suspect, I like to check through Google Street View to see why I am being taken off the route and see if I can just stay on the road instead. 

Main Or Busy Roads

Though they’re designed to avoid it as much as possible, it’s not unusual for a route planning app to put you on a busy road such as a dual carriageway.

This is because they are in places that are completely legal to ride and can save you a lot of time. I aim to avoid this, and change my route around the crazy roads.

Off-Road Sections

Most cycle route planning applications will tell you the terrain or surface you’re route is taking you on.

If you plan to ride a road bike, it’s good to take a look at the sections that are highlighted as off-road and detour from them. You can find them by hovering over the terrain type, and it will highlight the section.

Screenshot of the Komoot web app showing how to plan a bikepacking route.
Credit: Komoot

Step #5. Route Notes

It’s also a good idea to make some route notes. These are what you’re going to use alongside your route directions to ensure you get the best out of it.

I make notes for the journey to indicate at what distances I’ll have opportunities to stock up on food and water, and where I have the option of stopping at a hotel for the night if I don’t want to camp.

For example, I’d mark distances and town names with F for food and water, or H for a hotel.

Day One (Example)

  • 40 km: Dordrecht – F
  • 70 km: Breda – F
  • 150 km: Beringen – F
  • 200 km: Maastricht – H+F 

I repeat this for the whole trip, going up to however many days I plan to be bikepacking for. This is really valuable information, and you can even list shops and hotels to make it easier for yourself and save you from stopping to research all the time.

A bikepacking mountain bike against a bench.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Step #6. Ride It!

Finally, the last step is to get your bike ready and go and ride it!

Make sure you have all the bikepacking kit you need and are ready to explore new places on your trusty bike.

Terms of Use

This cycling route guide, including any maps, GPS, or other navigational information, is provided for informational purposes only. By using this guide and cycling this route, you accept all responsibility and risk associated with your participation.

Before cycling, you should assess your own fitness level and ability to handle the physical demands of the route. It is your responsibility to review current local weather conditions and road closures, as well as any public or private land use restrictions and rules, and comply with them during your ride, and to ensure you carry proper safety and navigational equipment. Always follow "Leave No Trace" principles to ensure you leave your surroundings as you found them.

The information contained in this guide is not guaranteed to be accurate, and the author makes no representations or warranties about the completeness, reliability, suitability, or availability of the information provided. The author and any contributors to this guide are not liable for any injuries, damages, or losses that may occur during your ride or as a result of using this guide, including but not limited to personal injury, property damage, or other harm.

By using this guide, you acknowledge and agree to release and hold harmless the author, BikeTips, Broadsea Media LTD., and any contributors to this guide from any and all claims or damages arising out of your use of the information provided. This guide is not a substitute for your own due diligence, and you should always exercise caution and make informed decisions when cycling.

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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