Going On A Bicycle Tour Without A Bike

Exactly two months from today I am going to leave on my 11th bike tour. Yes, I said that correctly. This will be my 11th long-distance trip by bike!

But my upcoming trip is going to be a bit different from my previous bicycle tours. In fact, it’s going to be unlike any other bike tour I’ve ventured on in the past.

“Why is that?” you ask.

Well, the reason this trip is going to be so different is because unlike my previous ten bicycle touring adventures where I traveled from one location to the next on my very own bicycle, I am going to conduct this upcoming tour without a bicycle of any kind.

That’s right, I’m traveling to South America without a bicycle of my own… and once I get there I’ll be forced to find a bike that I can ride across the continent.

In most cases, this isn’t the approach you want to take. When you go on a long distance bicycle tour, you usually want to travel on a bike that you are familiar with, comfortable riding, and know that you can depend on to get you from the start of the tour to the finish. In the past, I always used my own bicycle on my cycle touring adventures and there were some definite perks in traveling that way.

But the truth is, I’m a bit bored by traditional bicycle touring tactics. After ten years of long-distance cycling, I’m anxious to do something different, challenging and unique.

That’s why, when I travel to South America is two-month’s time, I’m going to go there with nothing but a backpack and a plan to travel for 6 months straight, from one side of the continent to the other.

At this point in time, I’m still not sure where I will start my South American adventure or where I might end it, but my plan at this point is to land in some South American country (I’m thinking Brazil, but don’t quote me on that) around the beginning of December and then traveling from there in the direction of Peru and Columbia.

Very much like I did last year when traveling with my bicycle through Europe, I plan to rent small apartments along the way, continue working (so I can actually make some money while I’m traveling), and really get to know specific parts of the countries I find myself passing through.

As I travel, I will either look for bicycles to rent and ride for a couple days before returning, or I will look for an inexpensive bicycle to buy and then later sell or give away at the end of my tour.

My ideal situation would be to find an old, rusty, South American junker and ride it across the continent. But until I get down there, it’s almost impossible to tell whether or not I’ll be able to find such a bike. My fingers are crossed.

The reality of the situation is, this is a dangerous move. I could very easily get to South America, find that the bicycles there are ill-equipped for my needs, and never end up buying a bicycle at all. Renting a bicycle might be a horrible idea as well. I really don’t know!

But that’s what makes a trip like this so exciting… and I think it will be fun to spend my first several weeks in South America searching for a bike. At the very least, it will be a good way to meet people and get to know my new surroundings.

At this point in time, two months out from my 11th long-distance bicycle touring adventure, this is what I know:

  • I’ve rented out my home in Park City, Utah for 6 months (from December 1, 2010 – May 1, 2011).
  • I am going to travel to South America during this time.
  • I will go to South America with a backpack, my laptop computer, two cameras, and a change of clothes (no bicycle).
  • Once I get to South America, I will travel about, continue working, and look for a bicycle to either rent or buy.

Everything else is still up in the air at this point in time.

Over the next several weeks I will publish at least one new article per week about the planning process for my upcoming trip to South America (this article will be in addition to all the regular new content featured here on BicycleTouringPro.com). With these new weekly articles, I’ll be sharing with you:

  • Where exactly I plan to go in South America.
  • How I plan out my route.
  • Estimates on how much I plan to spend during my 6-month adventure.
  • A detailed packing list for the trip.
  • And a whole lot more!

My “bicycle tour without a bike” is certainly going to be a challenge, but it’s also going to be a whole lot of fun!

Have you ever gone on a bike tour and rented a bicycle or bought a new bike once you reached the starting location of your tour? If so, how did that turn out? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Photo by Rowen of Ravara


12 thoughts on “Going On A Bicycle Tour Without A Bike

  1. Kyle says:

    We went to Bali without bikes and bought ours outside of Ubud. They were the equivalent of an $80 Walmart bike, but they got us around. It was a fun adventure until the pump we bought couldn’t inflate the tires to proper pressure and started breaking the valve stem. Not to mention the tool we were given by the bike shop wasn’t strong enough to actually remove the nuts holding the wheel on. Luckily you are never far from services in Bali. At least we brought a set of panniers with us otherwise it would have been hell hauling our gear in backpacks. We were able to sell the bikes back to the shop we bought them from which made it easy in the end. I would definitely suggest bringing a bike tool, saddle, and good pump with you. It will make your journey significantly more enjoyable and provide you some peace of mind.

  2. Cal Clift says:

    Well, it could not really be called a “bicycle tour” but in 1969 I hitchhiked around the UK and Ireland. When I found a place that was particularly interesting I would rent a bike to give me low cost, no licenses required, transportation. I would rent the bike by the day and return it before I went to spend the night in a local hostel.

  3. hugo Padilla says:

    Hey My dream has come! when are you going? I need a pal to ride in Ecuador!
    Are you flying there? where are you starting your ride?
    I know the country very well count me in!

  4. chris colman says:

    rented a bike in newzeland for 5 weeks for 150 bucks it got me over the mountians and all around the south island just fine,i just got back from ireland it cost me 400 to fly my bike there and back i could have rented one there for 80 eor a day brand new,i think with all the incress in flying with a bike i to will start renting where ever i go. good luck, i think you are on to somthing.

  5. Jimbo says:

    I don’t think I do this, particularly if I had a folding bike, so I’m kind of surprised that you’ll be renting, but my sister pulled it off in Italy this summer. I think her tour was successful, but not sure how her rental panned out and why she did it. I suppose it’s very possible to arrange a deal in advance via the Internet.

  6. Maria Elena Price says:

    Hi Darren,

    we know folks who can help you rent bikes in Argentinian Patagonia, Costa Rica and possibly even Chile so let us know!

    Have a great trip – and it is because of the difficulty of traveling by bike that now we rent quality bicycles to bike travelers like you.

    happy cycling – M.E.

  7. stuart johnson says:

    Well, first of all it was not a bicycle trip. My sister paid for the trip. There was 5 of us, me, my wife, my sister, her son and his wife. We flew into Lima and the next day flew to Cusco. We were there 1 day and then took a train to Machupicchu. It was there that the signs of the “Montezumas revenge’ started. We did the usual site seeing. Two days later we took the train back to Cusco and then flew to Iquitos. There we took a 6 day boat ride on the Amazon river. By now all 5 of us had the ‘hershey squirts’. This boat was a 100 years old, it had NO navigation, no compass, no radio. On the third day out the generator stopped working, so we had NO electrical power for the rest of the trip. The boat had a steel roof and our cabin was right under the top where there were seats people could sit on. But every time they walked on it, the steel would bend and pop up and make a sound like a gun shooting. Each room had a shower which used the Amazon river as it’s source, unfiltered naturally, the water was brown. There was NO fresh water so we drank Coke-a-cola. By the time we got back home all of us were sick. I was so sick i passed out while sitting on the pot, my wife could not open the bathroom door. Went to the doctor and it took a month before i was well. After I was getting better my wife also had to go to the doctor. However, i did get to swim in the Amazon river, fished for Piranha (caught one – small so they put it back), visited a lepper colony, Columbia, Brazil, a native village.
    The poverity is so bad you can not believe it. In Lima there were tanks with water guns and soldiers with automatic rifles everywhere.
    If you make it to Iquitos be sure to visit ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’. It is owned by a guy from Texas (of course) and is a bar, restaurant.

  8. martin fano says:

    I wish you well. But I also think you are crazy and that we may never here of you again…..You need to be very careful down in South America…bandits, desease, corruption..you name it. No place for a fair skinned “gringo” I strongly suggest you get all the needed vaccinations before you go. Plus tremember to only drink bottled water, wash everything before you eat it..in bottled water..even the ice will give you the “hirshy squirts” I have lived in Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela…visited brasil. Chile. Plus I speak the language and I would not do what you are doing. I would stay away from Brasil, Colmbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venzuela. Argentina and Urugauay are the most “European” of the all the S.American countries. Have fun..be safe..and hopefully you will live to tell us your story.

  9. Wendy says:

    Hi Darren – how did it go getting a bike once you arrived? My husband and I would like to rent bikes (and possibly a bike trailer too to put our baby in) in Chile or Argentina to bike for a week or two in Chilean Patagonia. We will be in Mendoza for a week visiting friends and would rather not lug our bikes and gear all around for the other parts of our trip. Do you know if we might be able to rent bikes anywhere near the Careterra Austral or Futaleufu for a week or so, one way would be ideal or maybe put them on a bus for the way back up? We are headed down there in November. Thanks for your help!

    • Bicycle Touring Pro says:

      Well, I have to say that I was in Peru only on this trip, so I’m not exactly sure how renting bicycles in Chile in Argentina will compare. But in Peru it was really difficult to find any kind of quality bicycle for rent. The quality bikes were found only in the major tourist cities – Lima, Cuzco, and Huaraz. Everywhere else the only thing I could really find were junky old “Walmart” type bikes. And finding a trailer to rent for your bike, I imagine, would be almost impossible.

      My advice for your trip to Chile and Argentina is to 1) focus on finding your rental bikes in a major city, because the chances of finding a decent set of bikes (and especially a trailer) in any smaller city is probably very unlikely. 2) Secondly, do what you can to try and find a set of bikes to rent there before you even arrive. Use the web to locate bike shops in the major cities and call via Skype or some other inexpensive phone service to ask about the bikes they have available, whether they have any trailers available, whether you can rent the bikes and trailer for your desired period, and place a reservation if so desired. Don’t just show up in South America and hope that you are going to be able to find something for your trip.

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