“Be Carefree. Be Mad. Be a little bit bad.
It’s the unknown around the corner that turns my wheel.” – motto on Heinz Stucke’s bicycle
There are few better ways to explore the world than by bicycle. Unencumbered by the rigid schedules and routes of public transport, free of the sterile environment of the car and travelling at a pace just a little faster than walking, you can easily cover distances between towns, while still appreciating the details along the way.
The change is constant. With a steady breeze on your face as you propel yourself forward, you might be entertained one moment by a bird flying across the road, then thrust into full concentration as you spin your legs round furiously and tackle the next 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. The hard work over, you can sit back and relax for the ride back down and stop at the next store for a well-deserved ice cream, where inquisitive passers-by almost always come over to say hello.
Later in the day, your might pitch your tent in a campground for the night, get a hotel, be invited to spend the evening with a local family or head back home again. And in that flexibility is the most wonderful thing about bike touring: it can be anything you want it to be.
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. Stay in hotels or explore the wilderness. 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.
All that really matters is that you are having fun and enjoying the sights and experiences along the way.
Like any journey, there’s a lot to think about when you’re doing it for the first time but, at its core, bike touring is really quite simple. The most crucial ingredients are a bike and a desire to ride that bike somewhere beyond your front doorstep. Experience and equipment are helpful but by no means required.
Karl Creelman, the first Canadian to ride around the world, had never owned a bicycle and only learned to ride one a few weeks before making his decision to circle the globe in 1899. His bags were slim, with just one change of clothes, and his wallet was empty.
Don’t be put off if you’re unfit either. Training can almost always 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. This book aims to help you make those choices but in the end it’s up to you and figuring it out is half the fun. Don’t get too wrapped up in how many pairs of underwear to take, just get out and enjoy the ride.