Open Road Press

Bicycle Touring: What It Is, and What It Is Not!

If you have never traveled on a self-supported bicycle tour, you may be wondering, What is it really like? It is probably not like what you think. At least it wasn’t for Debbie and me. To dispel any misconceptions, here are some things it is–and some things it is not. This may also help to answer a question that seems to come up from time to time from those we meet and, sometimes, from within: Why do it?

Bicycle touring is…

1. A job. Yes, bicycle touring is like work, albeit enjoyable work. Certain tasks must be completed each day. The primary daily activity, of course, is physical exertion. The simple objective is to log miles. And if you are traveling on any kind of timeline, you cannot simply stop every time an opportunity arises to enjoy people, places, and activities. If you do, you may never make it home!

2. An adventure. Every day is truly a new day, with new ground to break, new people to engage, new places to experience, and new sights to behold. You have but a relatively small stash of tools to navigate your way and to meet your basic needs.

3. Wonderful physical conditioning. After weeks of touring, you will feel and look better than when you started. It is also great medicine for the mind and soul.

4. A personal challenge. Traveling thousands of miles without the aid of a motor, while overcoming the challenges along the way, is very satisfying. You will find a healthy boost to self-confidence.

5. A sensory extravaganza. Maximum exposure to wide open air: imagine the smells, sights, and sounds! The slower pace of bicycle travel offers one of the best ways to fully digest your surroundings. By all means, bring tools to record these memories, including cameras, journals, and computers. It will take several months after touring for your brain to process this sensory overload.

Bicycle touring is not…

1. For the faint of heart. You will find yourself traveling through areas that you might rather not, with little alternative but to move forward. You will also confront adverse traffic and road conditions, weather, and terrain that can break your spirit.

2. Easy on the “behind.” Like searching for a cure for cancer, mankind still struggles with addressing the discomfort of a bicycle seat.

3. Boring. (Despite what you might think.) I’ll agree it is repetitious, but to see new ground with each and every pedal stroke brings forth discovery.

4. The best way to get an even tan. When you look in the mirror after a few weeks on the road, you may see helmet straps, even when the helmet is not on your head!

5. For people who can’t get along. But if you have the right companion with you, it can be the experience of a lifetime!

In summary, bicycle touring is an experience you will never forget. It is simply exhilarating, and will leave you looking forward to the next tour!

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