Do You Have To Be A “Cycling Nut” In Order To Travel By Bike?

People think that just because I’ve ridden my bike across the United States six times and traveled through a dozen different countries on a two-wheeled vehicle, that this somehow translates into me being a bicycling maniac. They think that because I’ve done all these things that I’ve got to be “one of those nuts” they see zipping around their town on Saturday mornings dressed in spandex and a neon pink jersey plastered with logos.

But you know what?


In fact, you want to know something else? Something very few people know? Okay. Here it is:

After almost ten years of long distance biking, I still don’t consider myself to be a cyclist… and frankly I don’t think I ever will.

You’ll hear it again and again. When most people find out that you are cycling for days on end, sleeping in a tent, and relying on the kindness of strangers to get from one place to the next, the most common response you are bound to get goes something like this:

“Are you crazy?”

Most of us take it as a compliment, but it brings up a subject worth discussing.

Many people think you have to be nuts in order to go on a bike tour. And even those that don’t think it’s crazy to travel by bike, many still believe that you have to be a cycling fanatic in order to conduct a long distance bike tour. They think you’ve got to have the latest high-tech gear. They believe you’ve got to be 100% up to date with the latest specs and terminology. And they think that going fast and getting there in record time is what bicycling is all about.


What’s so great about bicycle touring is that it is the un-sport of the cycling world. We aren’t out there to win races. Most of us aren’t licensed bicycle mechanics. And most of us don’t do extensive training before we set out on our rides.

While we all ride for different reasons and enjoy different aspects of the cycling experience, I am here to once and for all to bust the myth that you have to be a “cycling nut” in order to go on a bike tour. It simply isn’t true!

If you are a first time bicycle traveler and you’re stressing out about learning all the terminology, knowing every little detail of your bike, and keeping up with faster riders in your group… don’t worry about all that! Just get on your bike… start riding… and do whatever you can to have fun along the way!

Photos by: Dana Lookadoo

0 thoughts on “Do You Have To Be A “Cycling Nut” In Order To Travel By Bike?

  1. Andy Solaini says:

    Darren how much do you use a bicycle for transport that isn’t touring? I get the impression that a lot of people thing cycle tourers use their bikes to go everywhere and I bet that just isn’t true.

    Another thing that I think a lot of people think that becuase people tour by bike they must be some kind of eco nut and are using a bike because they hate polluting etc. Again I bet this isn’t true at all.

    Andy S

  2. Mike Higgins says:

    [Can’t tell if my last comment got sent….]

    Thought some of you readers might be interested in another group that “toured” back in 1897. Their bikes only had one speed, they didn’t wear spandex, and they didn’t do much training.

    While traveling through Yellowstone Park, their leader referred to their experience as “the poetry of cycling”.

    To learn more go to

  3. Darren Alff says:


    For this trip that I am currently on here in Europe, I’ve been using the bike about 50% of the time. I’ve taken the train a bunch and also spent a lot of time just walking. The rest of the time I use the bike to either get from one city to the next, or I use it simply use it to go on long day rides around the places where I am staying. The type of bicycle touring I am doing now is totally different from the bicycles tours I’ve done in the past where I was riding 50-70 miles every single day. On those old tours, I was your traditional bicycle tourist. But what I’m doing now is a different type of touring.

    And yeah, I think you are correct about people thinking that just because you ride a bike that you are some sort of “eco nut”. I think it’s great to be concerned for the environment and do your best to conserve energy, etc… but just because you ride a bike doesn’t mean you are a hard-core enviromentalist. Some people think that though!

    Like I discuss in this article about the perception of bicyclists (“bicycle-tourists”-are-perceived-by-the-public/), we bicyclists are all grouped into one category…. and I’m not sure how to change the perception the public has of us. We’ve created the monster and now we’re having to live with it. I think that sucks, but I’m not sure what the solution is. Any ideas?

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