Chapter 1: Why Go Bike Touring
Bicycle touring is heightened awareness. It’s the difference between microwaving and cooking a meal from scratch. It’s the difference between standing awe-struck in front of a painting and clicking past it on the internet. Now imagine this feeling every day, all day. Something as simple as THE GROUND becomes very important. Is it level? Soft? Wet? You really begin to SEE the ground. You see people. And landscapes. And food. You might even see yourself. –Rebecca Jensen
Photo by Michelle Wurlitzer (http://www.wheeledmigration.com)
There is no better way to travel and explore than from the seat of a bicycle. With two wheels under your feet, the world goes by at a perfect pace; fast enough to get somewhere and slow enough to admire the details along the way.
On your bicycle, you are free. You can ride anywhere you like and stop anywhere that takes your fancy. You can nap when you’re tired, knowing that you don’t have to rely on a bus to reach your next destination. Just stroke those pedals to zip into town for a hearty meal or head down a quiet dirt track and make dinner on your campstove. The choice is yours.
Back on your bicycle, you’ll pedal along to a constantly changing series of sensations. One moment you might be daydreaming and watching the birds. The next, you’ll be thrust into full concentration as you spin your legs furiously to tackle a big hill.
A sense of achievement greets you at the top of every climb as you crest the summit proudly, if a bit weak in the knees. With the hard work over, you can fly down the other side with ease, stopping at the next store of course for a well deserved ice cream.
Later in the day, you might pitch your tent in a campground for the night, take a room in a hotel, be invited to spend the evening with a local family or head back home again.
In that flexibility is the most wonderful thing about bike touring: it can be anything you want it to be.
Do It Your Way
Go for a day trip or on a world adventure. Take your whole family and the pets or strike out solo. Pack a little or a lot in your bags. Splash out on a posh B&B or camp in the woods. Have a plan or no plan at all. When the going gets tough, take time to wait it out or put your bike on a bus, train or plane bound for the next appealing destination.
Above all, don’t be put off by an obsession to figure out every last detail. Like any journey, there’s a lot to think about before you take those first steps but, at its core, bike touring is really quite simple. The most crucial ingredients are a bike and a desire to ride that bike beyond your front doorstep.
Experience and equipment are helpful but by no means required.
Karl Creelman, the first Canadian to ride around the world, only learned to ride a bicycle a few weeks before making his decision to circle the globe in 1899. His bags were slim. He had one change of clothes. His wallet was empty.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re unfit either. Training can be done on the road, as long as you’re willing to take it slowly at first.
As for the other details – what kind of bike, panniers or trailers, old fashioned maps or a GPS – it’s all a matter of choice. If something doesn’t feel right, try another option until you find a better way of doing things.
In the end, the best preparation is to get out there and do it. Once on the road, you quickly find out what does or doesn’t work for you.