Posts Tagged ‘bicycle touring’

Bicycle Touring as a Way to Travel

Monday, August 31st, 2009


I’m tired. I’ve been in the wind all day, spent the night in a tent in the rain, and desperately want a hot bath.  But I’ve also been slowly winding my way through fields, lakes, and forests. I’m touring Maine by bicycle, and it’s a singularly unique way to travel. This is my first time, and I’ll try and sum up tips I’ve learned about bicycle touring:

  • Support: There are two ways to tour. You can pay a company who will carry all your stuff behind you in a van, or you can go self-supported and carry everything yourself. This is what we chose. Company tours are thousands of dollars, so although we spent money on equipment, a couple of tours will make it pay for itself. That said, a loaded bike is heavy, and going uphill is tougher. You also need at least one person in your group to be bike-savvy in order to take care of minor technical problems.
  • Credit Card, or Camping: If you go credit-card touring, you stay in little motels or hotels along the way. This can be a little more expensive, but you don’t have to carry a tent and other camping equipment. We are doing a combination of both. Camping for two to three nights, and then spending a night in a motel. We have found, however, that in Maine, private campgrounds can cost up to $50 a night- and so a motel is sometimes a better option.
  • Fitness: There are two ways to prepare for touring. Either spend some time out on a bike before you go and get yourself used to hours in the saddle, or let the tour train you. It took me a couple of weeks to get comfortable sitting on the bike for hours at a time, which I did the month before we left. I wanted to enjoy going out on the bike, and not spend the first few days suffering.
  • Equipment: Don’t skimp. If you are buying your own, buy the best. I was so glad to be warm and dry inside our tent when the remnants of a hurricane came through and we were too far from a hotel to change accommodation. I didn’t have to worry about being soaked, because we got a weather-proof tent.
  • Pace: Flexibility is key. Fully loaded, we travel about 10 miles an hour, on average. We travel between twenty and forty miles per day. We have given ourselves extra time to get to our destination so that we can be flexible. If we are feeling tired one day, we can stop early, and if we are feeling good, we can push through.

Overall, bicycle touring is a great way to get a feel for a place. You get to see things that you zip by in a car. It feels good to keep active and know you are staying in shape as well as having fun. Our trip in Maine is preparation for some touring in Patagonia. I can’t wait to see how it compares.

Julia Evans wrote this article where she blogs about her life as an expat.  She also writes a personal blog Evans’ Gateabout living as an American expat in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her husband.  Comments on both blogs welcome!

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