I don’t think you should ever tell someone that bike touring is easy. It’s not only bad advice, but it’s potentially dangerous and does nothing to make the newcomer feel better about his or her bicycle touring plans.
If you’ve ever perused the online forums about bicycle touring, you’re bound to have run into someone telling you to “Just go for it! Get a bike and start riding.” Or possibly, “Don’t worry about the equipment you use. Bicycle touring is easy. Just get on your bike and pedal.”
I’ve seen hundreds of comments like this on the Internet and I cringe every time I see them.
I cringe because this is not only bad advice (although I do recognize that it is often times coming from a good place), but it’s also dangerous and potentially damaging to the individual looking for help with planning or preparing for his or her first bike tour.
There are five main reason why I believe you should be hesitant when listening to anyone who says that bicycle touring is easy:
They Don’t Know What They’re Talking About
Many of the people giving advice in online forums (and even at major bicycle touring organizations, magazines and websites) are inexperienced bicycle tourists or (believe it or not) people who have never even been on a bicycle tour themselves. These people are quick to give advice to others, but have little to no real-world experience when it comes to the various types of bicycle touring.
Another major mistake amongst people both asking for and giving advice on the Internet is failing to understand that there are three main types of bicycle tours with several different sub-types under that. While an individual may be asking for advice about a particular kind of bicycle touring, he or she may receive advice from someone who is familiar with a completely different kind of bicycle travel. Obviously, this is where a lot of confusion can occur… and mistakes can be made.
For example: a 2-day credit card tour on paved roads near your home in a big city is a very different experience than a 3-month-long self-supported camping tour through the Australian Outback or an off-road mountain bike tour in South Africa. If the newcomer doesn’t clearly define the type of bicycle tour he or she is wishing to conduct, the advice he or she gets is likely to be from people with experience in a completely different form of bicycle travel.
They’re Lazy And Don’t Actually Want To Help You
What is the laziest way to give advice to a bicycle touring newcomer? Just tell them that bike touring is easy and that there’s nothing to worry about.
Telling someone that bicycle touring is easy doesn’t help them solve whatever questions they might be having. Instead, it only makes the person giving the advice feel better about themselves and their supposed experience. Rather than take the time to properly answer the newcomer’s question, experienced bicycle tourists will frequently avoid answering the question because they either don’t know the answer or don’t care enough to take the time to answer the newcomer’s question.
They Want To Demonstrate How Experienced They Are
Some people will tell you that bike touring is easy, only to demonstrate that it was easy for them. And it probably was easy for them, only AFTER they completed their bike tour and made a bunch of mistakes along the way. But at the beginning of their tour, I bet they felt just the same way the newcomer is feeling now – scared, worried, anxious and wondering what he or she should expect one they hit the road.
If you were to interview a successful businessman and ask him how he became a success, he might tell you that “It was easy.” But for someone looking from the outside, the actions needed to become a successful businessman are not easy. They are only easy to the person who has already accomplished the intended goal. To everyone else, the steps to success are not so straightforward… and the same is true with bicycle touring.
Yes, there are aspects of bicycle touring that are easy after you have done them one, two or a hundred times. But for someone who is just starting out, the steps that need to be taken for a first-time bicycle tour are not as easy as they might seem to an experienced bicycle traveler.
They Want To Diminish What You Are Doing
The other reason to be cautious when soliciting advice from bicycle tourists on the Internet is that many of these people will tell you that bike touring is easy in an attempt to diminish the newcomer’s experience.
By telling the newcomer that what they are about to do is easy, they are essentially telling the newcomer that if they succeed, they succeeded at something that was easy in the first place. And if they fail (which is something quite common with first-time bicycle tourists), they failed at something others said was simple to do. Neither situation makes the newcomer feel good about themselves. It’s a lose-lose situation as soon as you tell the newcomer that bike touring is easy.
They Secretly Want You To Fail
Finally, there are those individuals who either failed on their own bicycle tours (or had a very hard time completing their intended bike tour) and rather than help you succeed on your own bicycle travels, they secretly want you to fail (or to suffer in the same way they did on their early bicycle tours).
There are a lot of people out there like this. For many of them, suffering is part of what makes the bicycle touring experience a unique and enjoyable act. But there are also plenty of people out there who come to bicycle touring, not because they want to suffer and fail, but because they want to partake in a an enjoyable experience and don’t want to have to struggle along the way or make the same mistakes that those who came before them made. If someone tells you that bike touring is easy, they may be setting you up and secretly hoping that you have a hard time or fail, in an attempt to make them feel better about themselves.
What’s The Answer Then? What Should You Say Instead?
Rather than tell someone that “Bike touring is easy,” I suggest the following:
- Listen to the newcomer’s concerns and do your best to answer his or her questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, either say that you don’t know or find out the answer.
- Understand that there are several different types of bicycle touring and that each individual is going to have needs that are specific to the type of bicycle tour that they have planned. The gear they use, the clothes they wear, the bike they ride, and a whole host of other factors will depend on where they plan to go in the world, what time of year they wish to travel, whether they will be traveling alone or with a partner/group, how many miles/kilometers they wish to travel, what type of roads or trails they wish to cycle on, and a whole lot more.
- No two people are alike. Just because a certain aspect of bicycle touring was easy for you, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy for someone else. Keep that in mind!
I’ve been helping people from all around the world plan, prepare for, and execute their own bicycle tours since 2007. In that time, I’ve seen people both succeed and fail at short and long-distance bike tours in various locations all across the planet. Bicycle touring is indeed a relatively simple act (a working bicycle and a nearby horizon are all you need to get started), but as your bicycle tours become longer, the needs become greater. The further you go, the less easy it becomes.
While there are people who have conducted bicycle tours on five-dollar bicycles and pedaled for days on end without spending any money, this is not the type of bike touring most people will enjoy. If you want to have a successful bicycle tour, but don’t want to go through all the pain and struggles that so many before you have already endured, then it’s best to do your research, learn from the world’s most experienced bicycle travelers, set some goals for yourself, and only then, after you’ve done all that, should you set out on your own bicycle touring adventures.
Bike touring is not always easy. If you do it long enough, there will be moments when you will be tired, hungry and sore. There may even be a time or two when you want to pack it all in, call it quits and go home. But if you continue forward, push past the pain, and cycle through any barriers that stand in your way, you might just reach your destination and feel like you’ve accomplished something truly incredible.
Only then, after you are standing at the top of the mountain, will you be able to look down at the road you’ve just climbed and say to yourself, “That wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. In fact, this whole bicycle touring thing is actually kind of easy.” 😉
What about you? Have you ever heard, read or seen an experienced bicycle tourist telling a newbie that “bike touring is easy?” If so, how did it make you feel? What do you think is the best way to help a bicycle touring newcomer? Leave a comment below and let me know what you have to say.