This weeks goal: To teach you how to plan for your first bike tour, whether you have ever even ridden a bike before or not, and to inspire you to do it.
It was the summer of my 20th year, soon after I had quit football and just as I was in the process of discovering my passion for making an adventure of life and intermittently disengaging. Cool breezes blew in from the coast, osprey glided overhead, and Mikey, Jason, and Tara were in for any kind of adventure I cooked up. We liked bikes, so we decided why not ride our bikes to somewhere cool on Cape Cod... like Provicetown, a mere 80 miles away on the complete opposite side of the Cape! I wanted to spend a little more time planning for the trip, but Jason wanted to leave that morning with whatever supplies we could muster up. We followed Jason's plan.
That's not to say bike touring isn't hard: I've been chased by dogs, cats, squirrels, a raging cow, a curious wolf, a screeching hawk. The list goes on. I've been battered by the westerlies, chilled by freezing rain, and impeded by snow. I had my face split open in a bike crash (that was in a race, though) and have gotten lost, lonely, hungry, and kicked off highways. With that said, my greatest personal growth has come during those hard moments - that is also part of what bike touring is about. It's the joys and the pain, the sun and the rain, and the call of that open road.
Getting Started in 3 Steps
1. Think of a place you would like to bike tour. This can be local, or it could be the spot of your next planned vacation. A few things to consider when thinking about this place: how remote is it (are distances between campgrounds or lodging great), what is the topography like (biking the Great Divide might not be a great beginner choice), and what unique challenges does the region present (weather, bugs, grizzly bears, etc)?
2. Do the preliminary research. Here you are basically seeking to answer the question: do other touring cyclists travel this route? The best resource for this question, in my opinion, is the Adventure Cycling Association and their associated blogs and forums. For short trips (which I HIGHLY recommend starting out with) Bike Overnights is an awesome resource as well, which I hope will continue to grow. Other information can be garnered from the internet, local sources, and even Google street view.
In this step, you should seek to answer the questions: what challenges to these cyclists most often face, what routes and detours are advised, what are the best maps to use, and what are the best ice cream places to stop at.
3. Once you have the spot chosen and the preliminary research done, it's time to NOT plan too much. Having a strict plan gets in the way of having a good time, following your heart, and being able to adjust when things don't go according to plan.
Instead, step 3 is all about packing. Based on your research, what do you plan to do? Will you stay at bed and breakfasts, or will you be fully outfitted to camp? Based on how much you are bringing, you will be able to adjust your packing options.
Good racks are made by Tubus and Surly, though a much cheaper rack is made by Topeak (understand that the quality and durability of the latter is inferior, but it will probably do just fine for most purposes).
Aside from being nice on a bike tour, having a rack on your bike turns it into the perfect grocery-getter. It's environmentally friendly, good exercise, and just plain-out makes you happy.
Panniers are the bags that you can attach to the sides of your rack. I have seen these made from old cat litter buckets! But, if you want to invest in panniers, I suggest the classic Ortleib rear panniers.
Once you get loaded up, get out there!
I can't emphasize this enough, but the hardest part of bike touring is getting started. It always seems like there are so many things that could go wrong (and there are), but seriously, you will figure it all out once you just start (plus you will learn a lot and expose yourself to new experiences and people!).
So where are you planning to go?
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