Cyclists have a tendency to put themselves into neatly divided boxes – I’m a road cyclist, a mountain biker, I ride to commute – but sometimes it’s nice to break out of that box and try something new. This summer, we think you should make that new exploit touring.
Touring – riding from place to place, usually carrying everything needed on your bicycle and person – is a great way to spend a holiday exploring new parts of the world in infinite detail. As the saying goes – 'it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best'.
"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best"
Here are just a few reasons you should give it a try…
You’ll see everything
The saying above about learning the contours of the country by bike is so very true – and never more so than when you’re touring. On a touring trip, you’re often covering long miles, with a fair amount of luggage. As a result, you’re rarely going fast enough for the world to flash by without you noticing the finer details. And of course, you notice the ups and downs a lot more – but there’s no need to rush them, you can just take every pedal stroke at your own pace.
There’s plenty of time to chat
Touring with a friend or partner is great – you’ve got all day to ramble – in movement and in conversation. And if you decide to go it alone, then it’s highly likely you’ll come across plenty of inquisitive locals keen to hear about your journey and tell you about their own adventures through life.
You’ll get really strong – physically
The pace might be gentle – but that doesn’t mean it's all easy miles. Carrying your gear on your back like a snail can be a little tiring, especially when the road goes up. However, the bonus here is that lugging all that kit around will make your legs incredibly strong. And even better, once you remove the tent and poles, your steed is going to feel like the lightest in the land!
… and mentally
It’s not just physical strength you take from getting around with your equipment in tow. Managing to scale the hills with the added burden can teach you useful mental skills required to overcome hurdles. Not only that, navigating yourself and being totally self sufficient can provide you with a supreme feeling of confidence.
You’ll be able to try out ALL the local cuisine
Ever had that thing where you’re on holiday, and all the food looks amazing – but you just don’t have space in your stomach to sample it all? That won’t be a problem when you’re touring! Better still, when you’re actually really hungry from your exertions, even the simplest, plainest but freshest food tastes absolutely amazing. Flat peaches? Locally grown oranges? Freshly baked baguette? Sublime fine dining!
You’ll learn plenty about your bike
When you’re at home, it’s easy to nip into your local bike shop when something goes wrong with your bike. Especially when you’re busy working or juggling children, a home – and everything else in life. Out touring, you might not have a bike shop close by when you need one, and you certainly don’t want to be hanging around waiting for the mechanic to have a slot in their diary! The good news is that enforced learning is sometimes the very best form, and you’re unlikely to forget the fixes you taught yourself by the side of the road.
You’ve got total freedom
You can pitch up at whichever local camp site you happen to chance upon, build your home for the night, and do whatever you want for the evening before packing up to move on however far your legs feel like carrying you. Unless you’re aiming to complete a set distance in a specific time frame, you can really do whatever you fancy. In a society that’s often guided by set routines – work time, meal times, scheduled weekend activity – it’s pretty cool to let it all go and just ‘be’.
But if it all goes wrong, a debit card is a beautiful thing
This said, modern day tourers have a magic tool: the debit card. If the bike really dies, your legs fail you, the rain is coming down so hard you can’t get your tent poles to stand up in the ground, the debit card can always save you with its taxi buying, hotel booking, bike fixing witchery. Is that cheating? Sorry, not sorry.
You’ll have stories to tell all year
Your friends who DIDN’T come on your trip might get a bit sick of the stories – but who cares? You and your touring buddy (or just you, yourself and I) will never get bored of recounting the time that road to the campsite went on for twenty unscheduled miles, but was stunning when you got there, or the time when your bike was so heavy you couldn’t lift it off the railing you’d propped it up against.
You’ll experience all of the emotions
Desperation: lugging a 20kg bike up a 20 per cent climb on a gravelly road. Exhaustion: laying your head on the grass at the evening’s campsite and praying the tent would just erect itself. Elation: spotting the sign for a local bakery that’s open after passing 20 shuttered up premises with not a scrap of food left in your pack. Pure, unadulterated joy: scanning the roads and appreciating just how damn beautiful the world is.
Want to try it? Here are some guides to help you out...