A common element among people we meet along the way is the feeling that what we are doing is something extraordinary and amazing. While we believe that cycling halfway around the globe is pretty cool, we truly think that it’s not as incredible as many tend to think.
Not long ago, we used our rusty, worn out bikes just to commute to work. So, how did we end up in the other side of our planet?
The answer is simple; we took our time! Time to gradually become better cyclists, time to save money in order to tour for a long time and time to discover all the pleasure that a two-wheeled, human powered vehicle can give you.
We’ve been advocating for the use of the bike for most of our lives and in this post we’d like to show those interested souls that bike touring has many different aspects and that it’s really accessible to everyone. We are 100% convinced that the bicycle can change our planet on many different levels and we would be hypocrites if we didn’t also try to actively promote the use of this wonderful machine!
Anyway, if you’re a cyclist or a sporty person and bike touring is something which has always caught your eye then keep on reading, we’ve got something very interesting that you might want to hear!
Do you have what it takes?
Strength, skill and an infinite bank account. That’s what most people think when we say “2 years on the saddle”, and they’re all wrong! Having ridden almost 30,000 kilometres on this trip alone, we believe that the most important attribute that anyone must possess in order to avoid most hardships is, by far, willpower!
Just as Mary Poppins often said, even the simplest of tasks become a herculean odyssey without love and believe us, while bike touring you are constantly put to the test so, motivation is key.
We have met many travellers (of different genres) who burned out quite quickly simply because they made the simple mistake of thinking that globetrotting is all about great snaps and fun. You learn a lot while out there and your life will inevitably change but one must never forget that reality is not like movies.
Is this for you?
Although we wanted to see the world on a bicycle, it actually took us three years to set off! The first thing for us was to make sure we weren’t making huge, live changing decisions without knowing if that is what we really wanted. Marco had previously done some small tours and he knew that Aurelie might find it hard, so we started with very easy trails and built it up from there. On our first trip together, an easy 7 days scroll along the Loire River in France (EuroVelo Route 6), we were travelling mega light. The trip after that we had a tent and camping material and eventually we had to buy front racks to fit panniers on our forks too!
Another training “tactic” that we adopted, which we are proud of, is to try out several types of small tours before the big one; ride somewhere cold in winter, somewhere hot in summer, across mountain chains and definitely in remote areas where you’ll need to camp and look out for yourself. This will enable you to understand what you really like, it will make planning easier for the future and will also give you the chance to test your gear and work out what your must-haves are… all while having tons of fun and being proud of what you’ve accomplished!
Lastly, we got tons of information and motivation from other cyclists from all walks of life that we met through Warmshowers; a online bike touring community where you can also find accommodation while on the road quite easily.
How long do you need?
As most of you already know, a day on a bike can feel like a week (in the good sense)! We often did weekend trips and felt like we were coming back from a fortnight abroad!
During our previously mentioned training period, we would leave for 2 weeks and cycle every day because we thought that the time would be short and that we wouldn’t get to see everything we had planned to. That was definitely a mistake and if we could go back, we would tell our past selves to take the time to enjoy it as much as possible and not set ourselves any objectives which would get in the way of fully appreciate the moment.
Right now, Aurelie thinks that a perfect long-haul bike trips is 9 months (that’s when you feel that you’ve experienced different terrains, weather and cultures) and Marco seems to think that a little longer is better in order to go a little further and feel totally satisfied with your efforts. But rest assured, no matter how long your trip will be, you’ll come back feeling like you’ve achieved something amazing, you’ll probably regret not having stayed a little longer on the road and your friends will tell you to shut up with all those anecdotes that you’ll bring back! Remember that, in the worse case scenario, if things don’t go as planned, you can always come back home earlier than expected or just park your bike somewhere safe and enjoy your holiday in any other way imaginable.
Pack up and go!
So, ready to leave? You don’t feel prepared? No-one ever does!
Even though you love cycling and spending time on your saddle is what you want to get out of your trip, we do suggest going somewhere which either calls you for some specific reason or it’s been on your bucket list for a while. We had been thinking about Helsinki, Saint Petersburg and the Baltics for years so our beginners sore butts were refreshed on a daily basis by a dose of fulfillment and realisation.
Having said this, every small corner of our globe is worth visiting and has something to offer if you know what you are looking for. Turkmenistan (VIDEO – BLOG), for example, was supposed to have been an enormous and strenuous challenge but, with a bit of philosophy, we managed to walk (not literally) through it and had a blast!
If, by now, you still don’t know where you’d like to cycle, maybe our life lessons will give you some clues;
- we learned that a flat landscape sounds easy but is actually very tiring and rather dull! Climbs are way more rewarding and offer amazing views!
- we hate traffic! It’s dangerous and impossible to talk when you’re always worrying about incoming vehicles, so we always look for places where there are lots of smaller roads to choose from.
- we prefer uncrowded places as to have some access to nature and small villages where people are always genuinely friendly.
Here are 3 suggestions for the above-mentioned examples;
- Estonia; we were there in spring and adored this country for its camping infrastructure and beautiful green countryside. Estonia is very sparsely populated so there’s nature everywhere! It’s also a very flat country with good roads and lots of cycle lanes which make it a safe destination. Top tip; the islands! (LINK)
- Poland; we didn’t know what to expect and had many prejudices, but what we discovered has changed our perspective on a lot of things; people are incredibly friendly, drivers behave well when in presence of cyclists (even truck drivers!), there’s a good mix of pretty towns and villages and green areas, food is cheap and tasty and there’s great beer…need more? (LINK)
- Turkey; we firmly believe that this country is the “almost perfect bike touring destination”. It’s packed with unique and amazing landscapes, the food is simply unbelievable, there are numerous world sites to discover (both natural and man-made),the culture is surprisingly rich and incredibly hospitable and, last but not least, it’s safe. (BLOG – VIDEO)
Please bear in mind that this is just a “unofficial top 3 list”… We still need to finish our trip and then we’ll publish the final one!
So, packed up and ready to take your beloved bike on a well deserved trip? Make sure you know what to bring and check out our Top Tips right here; LINK
What about money?
Depending on your style of travelling (accommodation, food, visits, etc.), bike touring can drill a hole in your wallet… or not! Overall, we’ve been spending about 20€ per day while on this trip (all included) but it must be said that Europe, for example, is a lot more expensive than Central Asia so this average is a bit tricky to interpret. We’ve met very young cyclists who had a much lower budget than us and also short-distance “vacacional” bikers who understandably stayed in hotels every night and spent a lot more. Bottom line? It’s up to you. But once you’ve bought some gear we really believe that bike touring is the means of transportation which allows you to manage your resources in the most efficient way.
Funnily, while on the bike you learn two things about economy; first of all, that you don’t need much to be happy and secondly that, if you let yourself go a little, life will provide everything that you need (you’d be surprised at how generous people are towards cyclists) !
Don’t take our word for it …
There’s a lot to be said about bike touring and frankly, we don’t want to blablabla forever about it so, just in case it’s not clear yet, we’d like to share with you a word of wisdom from Flo, a friend who had never toured on a bicycle before and who joined us for 3 weeks while we were in Thailand;
“I had always backpacked and hiked during my holidays because I love adventure and discovery. However, there are hundreds of things that I found out about Thailand while on the bike that I had never seen on my previous trips there! The bike grants you access to places and experiences like no other means and that experience exceeded my expectations on every level!”