What is Bike Touring?

What does it mean to go on a Bike Tour Adventure?

A bike tour adventure is a pretty flexible term generally used for getting on a bike and riding somewhere, usually to new places where you might now have previously explored.

Bike touring is an extremely accessible way of go on an adventure without breaking the bank.

Going on a bike tour doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There have been people that cycled around the world on a bike picked up for next to nothing at a local dump and with racks and bags purchased 2nd hand online. Others’ have ridden around the world on bikes that cost in the thousands of $$$, with all of the best kit. I’ve spoke with bike tourers that had a combined budget of 9 euros per day for food and accommodation for two people. Others budget 50 euros per day for two people. Your daily budget, for the most part, is totally up to you. Of course, North America and Western Europe will cost more on a daily basis than many other parts of the world. 

Is one way of touring better than the other?

Not really. A more expensive bike will likely have less mechanical issues, but on the same token, there is a higher risk of having it stolen. A cheap bike will most likely have more mechanical issues, but will allow the owner to feel much more free and probably not as worried about theft or damage happening to the bike.

There’s no wrong way to go on a bike tour.

Going on a bike tour doesn’t have to involve quitting your job and going on a long-term tour through foreign lands, eating exotic food and exploring different cultures. It doesn’t have to involve massive days in the saddle covering ‘epic’ distances.  It can be as simple as cycling to another city in your own province or state, just to enjoy the weather, nature, and landscapes along the way and it can be as complicated as packing your bike into a box, flying somewhere new, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants while enjoying the local cuisine.

Most people that you hear about that have been on multi-year bike tours started with smaller bike tours first. Whether for the joy of travelling around a country at a slower pace and enjoying the food, such as Harry and Roellie in Episode 010 of Bike Tour Adventures, or doing an out and back tour such as my wife’s first tour in the summer of 2019 from Ottawa to Quebec City and back.

Of course, some people enjoy the feeling of freedom while on tour to such a degree that they eventually decide to make the bike tour a major part of their lifestyle and then embark on longer and longer tours. Of course, as mentioned before there is no right or wrong way to go about this. Many people opt to cycle tour in the traditional sense of the word, while others decide to do things in a way that can be quite shocking and awe-inspiring to others. Some such notable people include people such as Jonas Deichmann, an adventurer that hold multiple world records for fast-touring. You can listen to his story in Episode 013 and Episode 023 of Bike Tour Adventures. Other notable bike tourers include Ed Pratt, who cycled around the world on a unicycle, Joff Summerfield, who did it on a penny farthing, and Rich Adams, who crossed Canada using a push scooter.

My personal experiences have seen me use a variety of bikes all to the same purpose:

  • I’ve used a high-end XC mountain bike which I covered in duct tape, installed a seat-post rack and attached my gear while covering 1500km in Indonesia

  • I’ve used a beat-up old road bike to do short (3 day) tours that cover about 500km in various countries like Germany, Japan, and Malaysia.

  • I used a Bike Friday New World Touring folding bike to a one week, 650km tour, through the mountains of Northern Thailand, while never cooking a mean and always staying in cheap hotels. You can read the blog or watch the video to learn more.

  • My wife and I both used folding bikes to cycle 1000km from Ottawa to Quebec City and back over the period of 2 weeks while camping, using Warm Showers, and mostly using a stove to cook our food. You can check out the blog – Tour Along the St. Lawrence River to know more about it.

  • This summer I will be riding some 5000km doing 2 ultra-distance endurance races, which will take me through 13 countries, using an endurance road-bike with a bikepacking setup, sleeping in a bivi bag and eating in restaurant.

All these different types of tours show that the important factor in the tours wasn’t the choice of equipment, but more so the fact that I just got out there for whatever amount of time I could make.

About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.
1 comment on “What is Bike Touring?
  1. Sean Barna says:

    Chris,
    Just found your podcast yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it! I listened to your stove podcast this morning as was totally into every second of it. I have not done any touring “yet” but I am planning to Ride the Natchez Trace in Spring 2021 with 2 of my former roommates from our US Marine Corp days 29 years ago. We are total newbys to this and made the decision to ride the trace 2 months ago when they were at our home for my Sons wedding. We have been devouring everything we can on touring since we made that decision and went and bought a Breezer Gravel Bike for this trip.

    Do you see many people getting started in touring at our age? Tommy and I will be 50 and Nelson is in his mid 50s. I am looking forward to listening to another of your podcasts on my commute home this evening. Thanks for what you are doing to provide us information and motivation. God Bless and take care. Sean Barna

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