Starting a bicycle tour, is just like starting anything new in life….It’s scary. But if you start off slow, and gradually build up confidence stopping becomes the scary part.
I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think about starting a bicycle tour. The days of preparation behind you, just a loaded bicycle and the open road. You say your “good byes” promise to call and take one last look back before setting off into the unknown. For most of us you don’t know where you will sleep, let alone what the road ahead of you looks like, but you pedal. Pedaling at first gives your mind something else to focus on, as doubts and worries fly past. Your first few days will be the hardest. Your body, mind and bicycle will resist, leaving you nothing left but your strong resolve. After the first week a routine builds and you are living the dream.
My recommendations on starting a bicycle tour
You have a bicycle and gear….now what?
In many ways starting a cycle tour is like looking for a new job…its a lot easier to get one if you already have one. What I mean by this is that if you are already touring it will be a lot easier to take your bike on the plane to some remote destination. I once planned a cycle tour of Japan and Korea entirely from the chair in front of my computer. I had a plane ticket, all the gear and a route planned, the only thing that was missing was my resolve. The tour sounded like a great idea, and I could even imagine myself doing it. However getting there seemed like such a huge hurdle from where I was physically (in the US) and mentally, that I ended canceling the trip. (I did end up going to Japan and Korea it just took me a while to get there). Therefore, I recommend starting with a semi-local tour of your home state, country or province, and working your way up to the international destinations. Cycling in exotic third world countries is a lot easier when you are already in one.
1. Decide on the location, route, and season. Remember that roads look a lot different from google maps. Mountains, hills and steep climbs may look like nothing on google maps but when you approach them on a loaded bicycle things begin to change. Don’t set your daily mileage goal too high, as you never how you will feel each day, especially at the beginning. When determining your route decide on where you will sleep. If you are comfortable with camping this will give you more freedom in planing otherwise look for hotels/campgrounds. I recommend starting an account on the cycle touring hospitality site warmshowers.org. Once you have an account you can contact other cyclists in your planned cycle touring location and get some more information.
2. Find a partner or decide to go alone. It will be a lot easier to depart on a tour if you have someone forcing you to do it. Connect with friends, family, acquaintances or even other cyclists that you encounter on the road, and see if they want to join you. If you go solo tell everyone in your social circle about it. This will force you to go!
3. Set the date and do it. Its important to set the departure date early so that you know whats ahead of you. I have met so many people who love to make plans but are rarely able to carry them out because they never set a date.
Give your self a few days to a week to fully set in to life on the road. On the first few days you may want to quit and that is as normal as blueberry pie and is just the body’s response to movement. Remember that we were all once nomadic, somewhere deep inside you is the urge to continue this lifestyle.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me!