In most countries that I’ve travelled, I’ve grabbed a bike and cycled around. Through the jungles of Laos, on the chaotic streets of Nha Trang in Vietnam and across snow covered lakes in Alaska. Without a doubt, these have been the most memorable parts of my travels.
Only recently did I realise that it was very possible to ditch the suitcase and tour bus, and travel entirely by bike. I’ll be doing just that when I cycle around Europe this summer, and from Canada to Mexico this September. Here’s some of the reasons why I’m sold on cycle touring:
Travel at the perfect pace – slow enough to engage with your surroundings, but fast enough to be covering some decent distance. Travelling on two wheels means you have the freedom to stop and smell the roses, but also have the sense of achievement of getting to your next destination.
Get off the beaten track – with a bike, it becomes a whole lot easier to see those small towns in between the big cities. These days everyone is searching for “authentic” and “unique” travel experiences – cycle touring offers just that. When you’re out of the big cities, you’ll inevitably eat where the locals eat and pass through places untouched by Western tourism.
Curate your own adventures – crossing borders, hurtling down mountains, discovering hidden vineyards. Once you fit everything you need in your four panniers, then you have the freedom to go anywhere and do anything you want.
Carbs, for the first time ever, are your friend – What about that bowl of spaghetti carbonara, that entire pizza and or cheesy burger? Yes, you’ll need all of that to cycle the next 50km to your bed for the night. Depending on your weight, age, sex, and distance travelled - your required calorie intake can be anywhere from 3000-5000 calories per day! Despite all that eating, by the time you’re back from a cycling holiday you’ll be able to crack chestnuts with your butt and there won’t be a holiday muffin top in sight!
Naturally release some endorphins – just because you’re miles away from your boring job and daily stresses, doesn’t mean you don’t need to feed your brain. It’s been proven that exercise is important for your sense of well-being and mental health – why is travel an exception? In fact, considering that humans are creatures of habit, it’s probably more important to get some exercise in while travelling.
You don’t have to be a hardcore roadie – any person with a reasonable level of fitness can go cycle touring – just don’t choose the Dolomites or the French Alps if it’s your first time! Stick to scenic, relatively flat, terrain. But the more you train beforehand, the more comfortable your ride will be.
You can do it any age – there is really no upper age limit to cycle touring. Apparently there’s also no lower age limit to cycle touring – I know someone that cycled from Barcelona to Rome with her 1 year old on the back - legend.
Cycle touring is actually a thing – the bike tourism industry has exploded – and that means you’ve got countless options at your fingertips. From fully supported, guided tours to (cheaper) self-guided tours to the heap of resources on the internet that make it very possible to do it all solo. Check out the following websites for some inspiration:
With that said, be smart about it and do your research – some cities or even countries are not suited to cycle touring. But fortunately, most (including off beat places like Iran, Morocco and Uzbekistan) are. On that note, happy cycle touring!