The Why and Who of Loaded Bicycle Touring

Why Tour?
By Paul Stockton
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A biker in India
An ad hoc greeting party makes a cyclist in India feel welcome

When I tell people that I do loaded bicycle touring I usually get one of two reactions. On the one hand are the people who think I'm crazy; on the other are people who think it's great and wish they could do it too, but don't feel they are up to it. To the first I say, cycle touring is the best way to see the country. To the second I say, anyone can do loaded touring.

Why Cycle Tour?
As I cycled down Highway 1 on the California coast, cars sped past me. I happened to glance over at the ocean, and there, swimming along beside me, were three dolphins. The people whizzing past in cars had no idea that the dolphins were there.

That's the beauty of bicycle touring: you travel at a pace that allows you to really experience a place. It gives you a chance to stop and smell the roses. If you spot something interesting, you can check it out, whereas in a car, by the time it registers, you're watching it recede in your rearview mirror.When I cycled through India, in every town the locals would wave and yell,"Hello." Whenever we stopped, friendly people surrounded us. In a lot of cases, we were probably the first Westerners they had met. Most tourists would have passed right by in a bus.

Even in North America, bicycle touring is a great way to meet people. Whenever I pause at a scenic lookout, inevitably curious people will approach me and ask about my journey. They're always very impressed, especially if the lookout is at the top of a long hill. You won't see these people talking to other car tourists.

You can also take pride in an activity that is environmentally friendly and healthy. Cycling is the most energy-efficient means of transportation on the planet, although it may not feel like it while climbing a steep hill. But what goes up must come down, and the exhilaration of the downhill makes the uphill worthwhile. Plus, after a day of cycling, you can pig out on the local cuisine without feeling guilty.Finally, it's a great feeling to know that everything you need for your survival is with you on your bike. When you reach your destination, there's a great sense of accomplishment, knowing you got there under just your muscle power.

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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