To travel by bicycle is a very rewarding experience and those rewards begin on your first day.
How great is that ?
OK that is the end of the sales pitch, because that is all it takes. One day. When people ask me about cross country trips and months on the road they expect to hear tales reminiscent of an Everest expedition. They ask about the months of planning, customized equipment, teams of logistic specialists, huge stock piles of cash and travel grants from National Geographic. I have to disappoint them. The reality is that anyone can bicycle tour with a minimum of equipment on a extremely modest budget and on any bicycle that fits them reasonably well.
I don’t plan on creating a site dedicated to teaching folks how to tour, there are plenty of those out there already and none of them will equal what you will learn by yourself. The articles below are meant to be a general overview only. The rest of this site explains how I do it and goes into great detail about my experiences and my gear. It is intended to show how I approach touring and that is all. I like my equipment because I am a gear geek and a creature of comfort in my old age. I also am fortunate enough to have refined and acquired a pretty extensive kit over the years. Do I need all this to tour? Hell no.
If you have never toured before the best way to start is with a day trip. Pick a park or other picnic space that you can ride to and back easily. Think about what you need to spend the day out, water, a snack or two, some lunch and a book should do nicely.
Day touring is a great way to ease into the mindset and determine if it’s really for you. Combine your day trips with everyday activities, stop and pick up a few groceries, visit some friends just spend the day on your bike. If you haven’t been using anything but a backpack now is the time to start thinking about a rack and maybe some bags. You should be carrying a tire repair kit and a pump by now and know how to use them. That’s it, your no longer a beginner, you are ready for your first s24o.
24-48 Hour Tours
Once you decide that you want to do an overnight trip the only decision is where. Maybe you want to pick a nice B&B a days ride away and eat in a restaurant. Maybe you want to try camping for a weekend. The newest lingo for these is s24o “Sub 24 hour Overnights” or “Sub 48 hour Overnights”. These let you test the waters a little deeper and are terrific fun !
The beauty of these kinds of trips is that you don’t have to deal with a lot of the routine issues that occur on a longer tour, like laundry and bike maintenance. If you are planning to camp somewhere without fees, these trips often have a zero dollar budget. You can make these as inexpensive or elaborate as you want. I often go for up to 4 days on a zero dollar budget carrying all that I need for food, and mixing powdered drink packets for beverages.
If you like these trips but wish they could be longer, you are ready to address the additional considerations of an extended tour.
I use four days as the benchmark to call anything longer an extended tour, and here’s why. Most of the things you do on an extended tour occur in cycles. If you are carrying two jerseys and two pairs of riding shorts, and rotating them daily, then you will be on a daily cycle of washing and drying your kit for the next day.
Same is true for food if you carry X number of days supply then X minus one days is your shopping cycle. You should wipe down your chain at least every two days. If you are camping , you may like to get one indoor night per week. You get the idea. I can’t think of any routine tasks that have a cycle longer than four days. This is true if you are camping and are completely self contained or if you are credit card touring from place to place. All things will begin to cycle at some point if you stay on the road long enough.
This is known as “the rhythm of the road” and you will become part of it. Different riding conditions due to weather, terrain, rider mood, availability of supplies, lodging and other non controllable factors will alter the cycle. It is not a hardened schedule but a soft framework for getting the things done that need doing.
Possibly the greatest thing about bicycle touring is the freedom. You have no schedule, you shouldn’t have to be anywhere at any specific time. In my experience the greatest memories are not of my planned daily destinations. My memories are of the people I met on the way, the towns that invited me to spend a few hours at lunch exploring, the views at that overlook, those “worlds’ largest ball of twine” moments , and the impromptu campsites when plan A fell apart.
The journey is truly greater than the destination.