Bicycle Touring: Where do you start?
My very first bicycle tour was a one night tour. My husband and I loaded up our bicycles and rode from our house to a campground 9 miles away, and then back the next day. I wasn’t sure I would like it; however, this wound up being a perfect test. We got to try out our tent and cooking gear, and we got to practice packing everything in our panniers. I had a ton of fun, and this little excursion whetted my appetite for much longer tours. If you’re thinking of going on a tour, but are hesitating, here’s my advice to get you over those hurdles.
Start small. The idea of bicycle touring might seem overwhelming at first. Let me just say that it’s not. It is so simple. That first overnight trip for me was an excellent example. We got to test out our gear in a non-threatening way. So, find a place to camp (or even a hotel) a short distance from your house (25 to 40 miles is great beginning distance). Or, drive yourself and your gear to a reasonable distance from a campground, ride to it, and then ride back. You want to challenge yourself, but don’t overdo it. It’s that easy!
Prepare yourself. Once you’ve tried it out touring, start preparing for a longer tour. You want to get started riding longer distances. If you don’t practice riding long distances don’t assume you will be able to do them on your tour! Make sure you get all your gear together before you go and that you try it out; you don’t want to be setting up the tent for the first time on your tour only to find it is missing pieces. Also ride your bicycle loaded, since it feels so much different than unloaded. Ride for multiple days in a row. If you start noticing pain or numbness on your longer ride consider getting a professional fit on your bike. Plan your route. Adventure Cycling Association maps are a great place to start, and they’re adding new routes all the time!
Get out there and do it. Prove to yourself that you are capable of touring. Long distance bicycle touring is simply a series of small day tours. Put them together, and you will find yourself a long ways from home enjoying the freedom of bicycle touring.