Adventure Cycle Touring

I did a lot of mountain biking in the North of England and Scotland and worked as a mountain bike guide in Croatia, but the first time I did a multi-day trip was in Scotland in 2006. The trip turned out to be hard but amazing and that lead later to organising "Ride Earth" - which started out as cycling round the world, but ended up being more of a wander around Eurasia. The trip was made better by not over preparing, accepting invitations and being willing to follow the process and change the route if necessary.

Bicycle touring means self-contained cycling trips for pleasure, adventure and autonomy rather than sport, commuting or exercise. Touring can range from single to multi-day trips, even years. Tours may be planned by the participant or organised by a holiday business, a club, or a charity as a fund-raising venture.

A bike tour is when you decide that you are going to go out on your bike and cycle a certain distance but then instead of looping back you stop somewhere and then the next day you cycle a bit more and that constitutes a cycle tour. There are different types of bike tour. If you want to camp you need to take panniers which contain equipment for sleeping, and staying dry overnight such as a sleeping bag and the tent. However it is possible to do something called ultra light cycle touring which is where you take just a credit card and your absolute basics with you and then you stay in guest houses and hotels along the way and by all of your food. Anything that you need to just buy it and discard it if necessary.

Why would you go on a bike tour?

When you cycle you can go in different ways. For a sporty cyclist you will ride very fast and try to go as quickly as possible. Your bike will reflect this by being streamlined, light, and focused entirely on going as fast as possible.

However, you could choose to go quite slowly just looking around, enjoying the surroundings, stopping when you desire, meeting people, and generally just focusing entirely on enjoying the experience as opposed to going fast.

Cycling in general is very good for your health. It is good for your lungs, thigh muscles and it gives you the opportunity to get away from distractions and be in contact with your natural environment.

Bike tour allows you to see a area slowly, cheaply, and in such a way that you will notice more of the small details that add value and interest to a place that you might not see if you were to go on a different mode of transport such as a bus or to go in a guided tour.

What do you need for a bike tour?

You don't need much to go on a bike tour. You just need a bike and if you want to be comfortable then you need to take some kit such as a rat for the bike which allows you to carry pannier bags with equipment in. Equipment that you might find useful would be for sleeping, for eating, for fixing the bike, and for gadgets if you are that way inclined. You can be as purist or prepared as you want but either way you're going to have to carry it all!

Cycle touring unlike travelling by other forms of transport tends to spit you out far from 'facilities' at the end of your ride, unless you planned otherwise, so being able to find a secluded camp spot somewhere is a useful skill that is just learned over time. However, generally avoid urban areas at the end of the day.

Traits to look for in a touring bike:

  • steel-framed
  • rack mounts
  • 26in wheels (for expedition riding)

The main thing is to have a bike ready to go and if desire and weather permits to throw things in a pannier and hit the road.

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