Chapter 2: No Experience? No Worries.
We are not super-cyclists who put in hundred of miles a week on the bike. What it really took was the realization that we could do it. I think getting beyond all the ‘what ifs’ and just getting on the bikes is all it takes. We finally realized that all we really needed to do was ‘shut up and pedal’! – Dan, Alison, Sonia & Gus
Here’s a little secret: we haven’t always been cycling fanatics. Before we set out to ride around the world, we had no bike touring experience. We were unfit from years in the office, and we didn’t know how to change a flat tire.
When we launched unprepared into bicycle touring, we were simply two people with a dream to see the world and hunch that maybe – just maybe – it would be possible and even fun to do it on bicycles.
We hit the road imagining that everyone would have more experience than us: two city slickers, in our 30s, who’d never even done an overnight tour before thinking up this crazy venture to bike around the world. What we found couldn’t have been further from the truth. We met students and retired folks. Solo cyclists and families. People on first tours and veterans who’d been pedalling for years.
Here’s proof that you don’t need a lot of experience or fancy equipment to enjoy bike touring. This is Nathan Chase and a bicycle he bought in India. He’s simply strapped a backpack to the luggage rack, to carry his things while bike touring. (Photo by Tim Travis).
It’s true, we had a steep learning curve those first few weeks. Our panniers were filled with things we didn’t need (anyone want two plastic champagne glasses?) and our first wild camping site was in the middle of a popular local park. On that night, we figured out that the best wild camping spots are hidden, unless you want to hang out with local teenagers.
Despite – or perhaps because of – our early mistakes, we learned quickly. Every day we picked up new tricks such as how to fix flat tires and set our tent up in record time. We developed an eye for the perfect camping spot. We sent the champagne glasses back home. And one day we found ourselves weaving gracefully between heavy city traffic, instead of nervously dodging cars.
Three years and some 50,000km later, we were home. Despite setting out with no bike touring experience at all, we made it all the way around the globe with a newly discovered passion and dreams of dozens of trips to come.
We’re telling you this to make the point that bike touring really is something anyone can do. You don’t need to be super fit or below some arbitrary age barrier. You don’t even need to know a lot about bike touring and you certainly don’t need a fancy bike.
That doesn’t mean you should drop everything now and run out the door unprepared. Every tip you pick up beforehand will make life easier. It might even save you some money and frustrations along the way.
That said, you can learn about and deal with almost anything on the road as long as you go slowly and remain flexible. One of the great joys of bike touring is discovering just how capable and independent you can be.
Don’t underestimate your ability to adapt to situations as they crop up.
Finally, if you remember nothing else then remember this: people of all types and descriptions are out there right now, pedalling across their countries, continents and even the world. You can too, and you’ll have the time of your life along the way.