By Doug & Kathy Kirk
One of life’s great truisms rings especially true for bicycling. Life’s a journey, not a destination. But there’s a second truism that’s directly related to riding a bike. The best riding of all is pedaling through new places, where every road is new, every vista, farm and town is new, where all the people you meet are new, and the places you eat and sleep are new.
There’s an inherent thrill that accompanies the adventure of being on your own and fending for yourself, of figuring out how you’re going to get where you want to go, riding routes you discover to new and different places, and of having it all work out. You absolutely, positively do not get the same feeling riding the same roads you’re used to riding, riding routes that bring you back to where you started, or being part of a pack or peloton.
Bicycle touring is modern day exploring while riding your favorite form of transportation. It allows you to see the world at the perfect pace. And no other variety of riding allows the synergy of man and machine working together—and looking after one another—to develop so deeply. Truly, touring by bicycle is the finest way to “Ride to live; live to ride.”
But maybe you think bike tourists don’t look like they’re having all that much fun?
Their legs churn at 40 or 50 RPMs and there’s not a stitch of lycra in sight. Their tires are big, fat, and heavy. With bulging panniers front and rear and tent and sleeping bag piled atop a luggage rack, their bikes bring to mind modern day packhorses festooned with lights, flags and reflectors.
Add clothes, food, utensils, lights, fenders, rain gear, etc. and we’re talking about a lot of weight and a big reduction in the fun factor. Their loaded bikes weigh 80 or 100 pounds — five times what your racing bike weighs. Maybe bike touring is taking them for a ride instead of vice versa.
Bicycle touring, even touring on your own without support, doesn’t have to be like that! Touring by bicycle can be nearly as sublime as riding your lightweight race bike with nothing but water bottles and a seat pack. Because that’s the bike we propose you tour with.
Truism number three: The amount of fun you have riding your bike is inversely proportional to the amount of weight on your bike. Corollary: More weight equals less fun.
You can tour with no support on almost any good quality bike — even racing, cyclocross or triathlon bikes — and you can do it on skinny tires. We know because we’ve done it and so have our friends. Your gear can weigh less than your 16 pound race bike. A lot less. You can still go fast. Your bike will handle almost the same as ever. You don’t need a special (and heavy) bike, or hundreds of dollars of special gear. Likely as not, you don’t even need panniers.
If you like the idea of taking a bike trip, especially a trip riding your favorite lightweight velocipede, but for one reason or another haven’t quite figured out how to pull it off, you can! We’ve done it, and it’s a blast.
Want to rediscover what a great world and great country you live in? Want to restore your faith in the basic goodness of humanity and the good old U.S. of A.? Go ride your bike far and wide. Get away from your routine and use your bike to take an up close and personal look at the real world, which we’re here to tell you is not the house-full-of-horrors that television, newspapers and the internet sell you. Use your bike to immerse yourself in the people and countryside and communities that make up your country, and that make your country great.
People treat you differently when they see you’re traveling by bicycle. They find you more approachable, and you’ll find them more approachable too. Traveling by bicycle reveals the true essence of the country because you have to experience it — the terrain, the weather, the distance, all of it. You breathe the local air. You feel the wind the locals feel. You shiver in the cold, sweat in the heat, crank up the hills and revel in the descents. You purposely put yourself a little bit at risk, and people intuitively understand that.
Along the way, and often best of all, you talk to the people all sorts of people. You’ll discover they’re far more open and approachable when you’re on a bicycle, and that nearly all of them are nice folks and quite a few are wonderful human beings.
We’re convinced that even a three-day bike tour does more to refresh the head, body and soul than a weeklong ordinary vacation. Sound good to you?
Give it a go, and see if you don’t agree!
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Doug & Kathy Kirk’s new ebook, Touring by Race bike. This 47 page book teaches you a much simpler approach to bicycle touring that doesn’t require a dedicated touring bike and panniers and all the extra equipment that you might imagine is “necessary” to go on a multi day bicycle tour. It’s a truly a game changer to learn that you can approach touring in an entirely different way!