Two bicycles lean agains a guardrail on the side of a highway in Texas

Cycle Touring Expenses

When you’re thinking of starting a bicycle tour, one of the things to consider is how much money you want to spend. A bicycle tourist can end up spending as much or as little as he or she wants.  You don’t have to be rich to tour; here are some tips to keep your costs down.

Bicycles. Bicycles come in many shapes and sizes, as well as material type. A great touring bicycle doesn’t have to be brand new or expensive. Check the classifieds or Craigslist to find a new-to-you bicycle. Also, your local bike shop might have the perfect second-hand bicycle. Ask your friends: maybe someone has a bike you can borrow. The bottom line is you need a bicycle to get you down the road, you don’t need anything fancy to get started. A simple bike with rack mounts and plenty of gearing will get you from point A to B as well as a custom built Co-Motion.

Lodging. Camping equipment costs, such as for tents and sleeping bags, can add up. You might think it would be cheaper to forgo camping for staying cheap motels, but going that route (also known as credit-card touring) can get quite expensive. Typical campsites (in the US) range from $5 a night to $25 a night for bicyclists. Hotels in popular tourist destinations can be more costly than you might expect, and can be in the $100s/night during peak tourist season. Be ready to spend some money on a quality tent, since it will shelter you from Mother Nature, and can actually help save you money in the long run.

Gear. In addition to camping gear, there’s clothing, bicycle repair equipment, and technology. Stay tuned for more posts on these!

Food. Before you leave, think about how you plan to eat out there on the road. You’ll be eating. A lot. You’ll need to think of meals as well as snacks. When I’m out there, I like to snack at least once an hour, or every 15 miles or so. I also make sure to have a nourishing breakfast, a hearty lunch, and a filling dinner. Cereal grains for breakfast keep me full until that first morning snack. Snacks tend to be much more expensive at convenience stores. Try to buy them at grocery store if you can and always be on the lookout for sales to stretch every tour dollar further.

My go-to lunch is PB&J (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). It’s difficult to find a more filling, inexpensive meal. Neither jelly nor breads needs to be refrigerated if eaten within a couple days. If you save money on lunch, you may be able to afford to try out that local eatery for dinner without breaking the bank. You should definitely sample the local cuisine, after all, bicycle touring is about experiencing the flavor of an area.

To sum up: The four main things you need to tour are a bicycle, lodging, gear, and food. Touring can be done on any budget. Remember that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great time on your tour. Shop around and find what works for you.


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Pam Emerson

is an avid bicycle tourist who enjoys sharing her love for bicycling with all she meets.

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