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.