The Why and Who of Loaded Bicycle Touring

Who Can Tour?
By Paul Stockton
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Who can cycle tour? Anyone. People seem to think that you need to be some sort of Tour de France cyclist in order to do loaded touring, but it just isn't true. You don't need a body of steel; all you need is a body of tin.

The key is to set goals that a person of your ability can achieve, 10 miles a day or 100. The idea isn't to see how many miles you can go each day; the idea is to see the sights while also getting some exercise.One day, I was in a campground in California setting up my tent after a long day of cycling when an older man rolled in. He opened up a can of beer, poured it into his water bottle, lit up a cigarette, and started telling stories. His name was Eddie Fitzgerald and he was attempting to get into The Guinness Book of World Records for the longest bike ride.

When I met him, he was 59 years old. Ten years earlier his wife had died, he'd had a mild heart attack, he was overweight, he smoked, and he drank. His doctor told him then that he had to get over his wife, lose weight, and stop smoking and drinking, or he'd die.

So Eddie hopped on his bike. The first day he rode 10 miles. Ten years later he had ridden 106,000 miles and averaged 60 miles a day when biking. Over the years he got over his wife. From the cycling, he lost weight. But damned if he was going to give up smoking and drinking.

But Eddie isn't the only one to have taken to two wheels over the years. Once, while cycling Manitoulin Island in Ontario, I met a woman doing loaded touring with her two teenaged grandsons. Another time, I was driving across northern Ontario, listening to the radio, when I heard an interview with the manager of a hostel in the city of Thunder Bay in the south. When asked what kinds of people stay at the hostel, he talked about a Japanese family cycling across Canada. A couple of hours later I spotted them on the road. The mother, father, and ten-year-old son were on their bikes, while they pulled the two-year-old in a trailer. You're never too old or too young for loaded touring. As I passed them I wished I were with them instead of being cooped up in a car.

People worry that they won't be able to handle the extra weight on the bike. Granted, with the loaded bike it takes a little extra effort to get started and it takes longer to stop, but once you're cruising you won't notice a difference. By the end of the first day, it will be second nature.

Just remember, it's not a race. You have all day to get to where you're going. Enjoy yourself along the way.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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