Whenever Debbie and I talk to someone about our long-distance bicycle tours, we hear some interesting reactions. You did what? How did you do that? That’s too much work. That’s about the last thing I would want to do on my honeymoon. That must have been so awesome. You must see some interesting people and places.
I think some of those reactions reflect some misconceptions about bicycle touring–or at least about the type of bicycle tours we’ve done. I’ve narrowed those misunderstandings down to four.
1. Bicycle touring must require training. Not really. A tour is not a race. There’s time to log plenty of miles at whatever speed you are capable of and comfortable with. On our tours, pre-trip training was deferred until early in the trip itself. If you don’t have the time to train before embarking, you can do it on the first few weeks of your tour. But don’t forgo training if you can fit it in. Pre-trip training will toughen up your rear-end, which will help prevent saddle sores that could jeopardize completing your trip.
2. You must need to be athletic to succeed on a long-distance tour. Nope! Tourists come in all different shapes and sizes. Physical endurance is not difficult to develop for those who have the will to complete the journey. The goal is not to finish in record time, in which case only the svelte and athletic types would “win.” Those who merely finish are winners. And you’ll be rewarded by finding yourself in better condition than when you started. Perseverance definitely trumps athletic prowess on a bicycle tour.
3. You must meet so many interesting people. This is perhaps the most common misconception I’ve heard. Yes, you will meet some interesting people, and people will be more inclined to engage with you once they learn what you’re doing. But you’ll also spend countless hours in the saddle, unable to communicate effectively with even your travel mate(s). Off-bike chores geared toward memorializing the entire trip and preparing for the next day also chew up time. Most tourists will allocate much of their time to reaching their destination. And since time is money, most will want to do so efficiently. That leaves less time to socialize.4. You must see so many interesting places. Yes and no! As mentioned above, riding and off-bike chores will compete for time. Security concerns about leaving bicycles unattended and out of sight also influence the extent to which you’ll wander far from them. Taking in an attraction along the way is not as straightforward as one might think. Thankfully, you see many interesting places while riding. It’s a perspective that is well worth the trip, even though you’ll bypass some famous sites and “skim the surface” along the way.
When fantasy becomes reality and you take to the road, adjusting your expectations to take into account the above misconceptions about bicycle touring will put you in a better position to make the most of your trip.