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.


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.

Who are bicycle tourists?

“Bicycle touring. That’s something I could never do.”
“ You guys are so lucky that you’re young; it’s a good thing you have no kids.”
“If my life was different, maybe I’d think about it.”

We heard it a thousand times on our recent tour. Whenever we would talk to someone about our journey, the person would tell us that there was no way they could do what we were doing. As if we were some sort of superheroes or something. But that’s just not the truth. The fact is, there’s nothing special about us. We were simply out there riding our bicycles.

Honestly, if you want to tour, you can tour. It may not look exactly the same as the way we tour, and you may not ride as far each day (or you may ride further, we’re kinda slow), but it doesn’t matter. Literally anyone can get out on a bicycle and have a great tour. Our goal is to help you have the most enjoyable tour by passing on some of our knowledge to you.

What does a bicycle tourist look like? We’ve met many bicycle tourists over the years. Old people, young people, and everyone in between. Groups, singles, couples, parents with kids. Super athletic or just beginning a fitness journey. The only thing that seems to matter is motivation. If the person decides to tour, they can tour.

Why would anyone want to tour? Why not? If you’re reading this, you’ve heard about touring somewhere, or you have met someone or know someone who’s done it. Most of them are not certifiably crazy, right? In fact most of the bicycle tourists we’ve met are very grounded in reality. There really is something deeply fulfilling about packing everything you need to live onto your bicycle and using your own muscle power to move it from one place to another. Even if you ride with a partner or in a group, no one can ride those miles for you. You have to do it all yourself. All it takes is determination to keep going, meeting all the challenges and adversity that comes at you day after day.

Bicycle touring is so simple. You get up, eat, ride, eat, ride, and live. It is so rewarding, knowing at the end of the day that you did it. You accomplished something that is solely your own personal accomplishment. Not too long ago (we’re talking just over 100 years) pioneers walked across the United States as they moved west in search of a new life. When you’re on a bicycle tour you are following in the footsteps of those pioneers, forging your own way. You can see the lay of the land as they did, enjoy the wide open spaces and the freedom to go anywhere! So, give it a try. What are you waiting for?

What is Bicycle Touring?

Bicycle touring comes in many shapes and sizes. There is no one definition of touring. Bicycle touring is simply riding your bicycle. Tours typically include an overnight stay, whether it is camping or in a hotel. Many tourists carry supplies with them, either in panniers (saddlebags) attached to the bicycle, or in a trailer. Or their gear may be carried by a support vehicle. Regardless, the only common factor for bicycle touring is a bicycle. Pretty much anything else goes.

Touring is about getting out on the road and seeing the world from the saddle of your bicycle. It is about soaking in the sunshine, having enough time to enjoy the scenery and truly experiencing the power required to propel yourself around this world. You tend to spend more time climbing hills than anything else but when you get those long smooth downgrades good luck wiping that grin off your face.

Hopefully you are picturing the beauty of this endeavor and beginning to think that you can do it (because you can!). Now you need to decide which type of tour is right for you. Consider this:

  • How much money can you budget for this?
  • How much weight are you willing to carry? How much weight can your bicycle SAFELY carry?
  • What do you REALLY need to be comfortable riding a long distance over multiple days?
  • How much time do you have?
  • How far do you want to go?

But the most important question is how soon can you leave? Because, seriously, there are very few places that are off limits to travel by bicycle. And once you’ve been out on a bicycle tour and experienced the complete freedom and independence of the open road, you won’t want to stop.