Bicycle Touring Is Hard

Traveling by bike can be difficult, dirty and tough. You get sweaty, sunburnt and tired. Your legs become sore; your mind becomes weak; and the wind is sure to blow in your face at some point in your journey.  While traveling by bike, you will be forced to ride in the street and have cars and trucks pass you by at high speed – mere inches from your side. While on the road, you’ll need to watch out for dangerous animals, insects and human beings wishing to do you harm. You will be forced to ride in the rain, the sun and the snow. You will get lonely, bored and depressed. You’ll miss your train, your flight, your boat. You’ll get countless flat tires, your chain will break and your bike will get stolen. You’ll go for days without a shower, be forced to sleep on the ground for weeks on end, and your clothes will fall apart. People will treat you like a homeless bum; Passing motorists will yell at you; And you’ll be questioned about your religion, political beliefs and nationality over and over again. You’ll lose your wallet and your money. Border officials won’t let you through. You’ll get food poisoning and spend a week in bed. Your riding partner will quit on you. You’ll get bad news from home. And you’ll be hungry for days, weeks and months on end.

Yes, it’s true: Bicycle touring can be difficult!

Okay, maybe all that stuff won’t happen to you on your travels… but some of it actually will.

There is a misconception amongst many that traveling by bike is a stress-free stroll in the park. The images often times used to promote bicycle travel show a young healthy couple slowly coasting down a lonely country road as the sun glistens in the distance and a rainbow beams overhead. The image makes one think that traveling by bike is just about as easy and carefree as life can get.

Unfortunately, self-supported bicycle touring is hardly ever like that. In fact, traveling long distances by bike can be really, really difficult at times.

Over the past ten years I’ve put myself through a lot of pain and misery on my bike trips. I’ve gotten horrible cases of poison oak. I’ve been hospitalized after having a severe allergic reaction to a snake bite. I’ve been present when another cyclist was hit from behind by a passing vehicle going 55 miles per hour. I’ve been forced to sleep in two inches of water. I’ve been hit on my creepy homosexual men. I’ve had batteries thrown at me by passing motorists. I’ve been attacked in my tent at night while I was asleep. I’ve ridden over countless hills and mountains that beat me to my core. I’ve become super depressed and wanted to quit at least a thousand times. And despite all this, I find myself coming back to bicycle travel time and time again.

The reason I bring this up is because I want you to understand that traveling by bike is not always easy. There are times when traveling by bike can be difficult, dirty, dangerous and demoralizing.

I’ve received way too many emails from people who set out on their first bike trip only to turn around after a day or two because they quickly realized just how difficult it can be to travel long distances on a bike. I don’t want that to happen to you!

When I spoke recently about the three major hurdles that the long-distance bicycle traveler needs to overcome, I discussed in great detail some of the common obstacles that bicycle travelers come up against while out on the road… and I gave some advice for overcoming those particular hurdles. If you haven’t already watched the recording of that event, I recommend you do so now.

The reason I bring this up is because I don’t want you to be delusional about the reality of bicycle travel. Yes, you will have some incredible moments on your bike trip. You’ll visit amazing places. You’ll meet incredibly kind people. You’ll make friends that last a lifetime. You’ll learn about yourself, the people you meet and the places you visit. You’ll enjoy time with others… and you’ll enjoy time alone. Heck! You might even see a rainbow.

All of these positive things will happen if you simply give bike travel a try. But you shouldn’t be ignorant to the fact that the bad stuff very often times accompanies the good.

8 thoughts on “Bicycle Touring Is Hard

  1. Rob says:

    You’ve been attacked in your tent while asleep? Whoah. Most of those things can be overcome, and each of them makes a great future article! Typo at “I’ve been hit on my creepy…”

  2. Nigel (Hoffy) says:

    I remember heading out many years ago and at an intersection a guy in a beaten up old Corolla hanging out of the window, oh no I thought not another car jocky about to abuse me or worse throw something at me, but no, in a loud clear happy voice he yelled, you go for it mate and may God bless you, that was a hell trip and I suffered so much but I always remembered that guy and you know what, it was all worth it……….

  3. aniruddha Jain says:

    Yes, bicycle touring is not that much easy..but if you have planned your travel with your friends then definitely you will enjoy your trip inspite of the problems. I also once went on to the long cycling with my friends on my Hero octane spear. My Hero was doing well….while some of my friends were facing problems due to their bicycle.

  4. Frank Parker says:

    I took a year off and travelled around the world by bike. I had so few problems because of the people I met in each countgry. It was the best thing I have done – so far – in my life and I will do it again. You are making it sound way too tuff.

    For example – I started out by flying from the USA to New Zealand. On the second day out of Aukland a guy drove up behind me and asked If I wanted to spend the night with his family? I siad sure. Stayed in a spare bedroom. Got up and had a great breakfast and they called ahead and had another family ready to put me up for the night in the next town. Travelled New Zealand for 3 months and never had to sleep in a tent. As a matter of fact I used the tent 4 times in a year. There are youth hostels every where in the world except the USA. Cost around 3 or 4 dollars a night.

    Did it all alone and never was scared. Made friends quickly. People are great all over the world. The harest part is the first one. Get on that plane and head out. You will never regret it. Am 64 now and getting ready to do it again.

  5. Robert Magier says:

    Thank you man. This is simply comforting. I am on my road for 1.5 years now and sometimes it is hard. I simply thought I don’t like cycling so much.

    There are moments it is great and I enjoy it a lot. There are days when I break my chain breaks, I get flat tires, spokes break and my gearbox hanger breaks too forcing me to stop a truck. In such moments I simply think that enough is enough and I want to quit. However it is difficult to quit as I have to cycle for many kilometers to the nearest airport ;))

    And then I cycle and change my mind 😉

    Thank you for this post.

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