Right now there are a lot of people on a lot of bicycles doing lots of trips in various parts of the world, and this has been the case for some time. Cyclists get everywhere - you can pretty much guarantee that no matter where it is you might want to go, an intrepid rider will have been there before you (and probably kept a blog about it.)
Inevitably then, there is a lot of travel writing out there based on these two-wheeled journeys. I've read quite a number of those books. Most of them do a fairly decent job of giving a flavour of the raw, visceral adventure, and most share similar themes - the author is discontent with regular life, curious about the wider world, has lots of time, little money. There are some bike trip books amongst these are truly wonderful and a real joy to read - I'll compile my favourites in a follow-up blog post.
Unfortunately though, I've found that there are also a lot of cycling books that aren't that great at all. Many fall into the trap of giving too much banal information (endless descriptions of kit and routes) while others are poorly written and fail to ever really paint a picture of the adventure or conjure up images of characters and landscapes for the reader. The worst of all these (in my opinion) are those that are full of spilling errors and gramatical typo's.
Everyone has the right to write a book, and I commend all cycling authors for the discipline and desire that it takes to put their story to paper. That said, I think there are a few basic rules I've learned from writing my first book, The Road Headed West, that apply to all travel writing- and especially cycling stories - which make for a better work. If you're going to put time and effort into something as monumental as book writing, then it's definitely worth making it the best that it can be.
Here, then, are the questions I asked myself when I was writing. Perhaps you'll find them useful if you're considering working on your own book. (Note: I'm aware I'm a first time author and still have much to learn myself!)
1. What is the story of your book?
You know what happened on your adventure. You went from X to Y and Z happened (more or less.) Your adventure story and the narrative of your book, however, are not the same thing. If you simply write down everything that happened, as it happened, you'll have a very long, very boring book. Figure out what the story is. What is the 'hook' - what is the event or angle to your trip that made it unique or exciting, and will entice someone to begin (and keep) reading?
2. What are your themes?
Your story will probably focus on a journey or experience in a mostly linear fashion. This is your main narrative, but within that you need a variety of themes to add various dimensions and depth. If your story is about cycling from A to B, then perhaps your major themes could be the spirit of exploration, the rite-of-passage experience you go through, the changing of the landscape or culture around you and so on. I was first given this advice by author/adventurer Rob Lilwall before I began writing The Road Headed West, and it helped immensely to make a list of my major themes really early on. As I progressed through the manuscript I could refer back to my list and see which were working, which weren't, which needed some additional writing and which should be cut down. The end result of this process (when done well) is a story that appeals to the reader on a number of different levels - the mark of a really good book.
3. Who is your audience?
You can't be all things to all people. Your story will inevitably affect some people more than others. Even more amazingly, there will probably be some folk who have absolutely no interest in you or what happened to you on your adventures (I'm still coming to terms with this myself!) Decide on your audience - are you writing for cyclists? Travellers? Historians? Retirees? School kids? Some of these audiences can overlap, of course, but if you come from a road cycling background and want to write for similarly minded people, then you're well within your rights to include lots of details about the mechanics of your bike, your RPM and all other sorts of stuff that would very quickly drive away a reader keen to learn more about the cultural side of your trip. The idea of your audience is ultimately tied into your goals for the book, too. What do you want to achieve by writing it - to change the world? To impress your friends? To inspire others like you? Think hard about who you want to write for, and why you want to write it, and factor this into the next point...
4. What is your voice?
This is essentially another way of describing your writing style. It's crucial to find the best and most natural way for you to tell your story. One thing I found very hard was keeping my voice consistent. One day I'd sit down to write when the sun was shining and I was in a good mood, and light-hearted jolly prose would flow out onto my computer screen. Another day, perhaps in darkest winter and in the middle of all sorts of other stressful life scenarios, I'd begin typing and my stories would come out like storm clouds, reeking of impending doom. Work hard to find out what is natural for you, and try to stick to it. I've heard it said that it helps to imagine you're writing to a good friend - that encourages dropping any assumed augmentations to your style. It's important to read widely within your genre for inspiration, but don't try to imitate anyone. It's much better to be a top-quality version of yourself than a poorly-written carbon copy of one of the greats. Don't try to be Jack Kerouac!
5. What is unnecessary?
If you've done well with points 1 + 2, then hopefully there's not too much superfluous material in your finished manuscript. If you're like me, however, you'll have written 160,000 words - about twice the length of a 'normal' travel book (my final draft was just under 80,000 words.) Whatever your situation, you're going to need to edit hard. I recommend getting help with this if you're self-publishing, and if you're lucky enough to have a publisher, then I recommend listening very closely to your editor! You're going to be very attached to certain annecdotes. Maybe they work really well when you tell them down the pub - that doesn't mean they have to stay in your book. Everything that remains should in some way further the narrative or add weight to one of your themes. To overuse an overused phrase that sums this up well, you need to murder your darlings. Slice and dice your precious work until it is a shadow of it's former self. The more you cut and edit, the better it gets (usually!) Get feedback from (honest) friends and colleagues on the work, and see what they think is unnecessary. Finally, don't despair at this stage. Ernest Hemingway has great, if slightly demoralising, advice for anyone at this stage. We're all in the same boat. As far as I'm concerned, if you've made it this far, then you've done incredibly well - you're nearly there! - and it's worth the next stage of painful editing to make your book the best it can be. It's absolutely worth it.
My book, The Road Headed West, was released earlier this month. If you'd like to see how it turned out, you can get a signed copy from my website here. If you'd rather hedge your bets, then why not download the free sample on Kindle via the Amazon store?
There are a lot of reasons to have an adventure. First and foremost, it must be personally satisfying. It must be something that makes you feel fulfilled - something to make you come alive.
I love the self-development, formative side of adventures too - all the journeys I go on change me hugely, and always for the better. The challenges of such an unpredictable, spontaneous existence, with each day a new unknown - it's not always easy, but it is always worth it. I learn much about the world, and even more about myself.
I love the landscapes - the visceral thrill of riding down a new road, smelling the flowers and looking to the horizon. There's something incredibly satisfying about feeling the undulations of the earth passing beneath your wheels or feet, and learning how a country changes through the simple act of traversing it by human power.
There is the social angle too - almost all the adventures I've ever had have been enhanced immensely by the people I've met along the way. If you want to restore your faith in humanity, set out on foot or by bicycle and before too long someone will stop you to chat. Not long after you'll begin to receive the gifts - cold drinks when it's too hot, hot drinks when it's too cold. All over the world I've been the recipient of the most outrageous acts of generosity and kindness. I've met people with incredible stories to tell, and I've made friends that I'll stay in contact with forever. This is one of my favourite justifications for adventure.
In the last few years I've discovered another reason, too. When I first set off to cycle through North America, it was mostly for selfish purposes. I wanted to challenge myself, to see the world and to have the wild experiences along the way. It wasn't long, however, before I began to take just as much joy from a very different part of the trip - that of sharing it. I kept a blog throughout my journey, and it's a combination of those essays and notes from my journals that I used to help write The Road Headed West - my first book. There is a great power in writing about a trip - the power to entertain, educate, inspire. I never thought that I would write a book, but after returning from my trip through North America I couldn't shake the feeling that the stories I had from that journey were worth telling. It's taken me nearly four years to get there, but I've done finally turned them into a book. I'm very proud of it, and mostly I hope that readers can enjoy my travels vicariously in the same way that I have done with so many hundreds of books myself.
If you have been on an adventure - the sort that makes you come alive- you will inevitably have a good story. I'd urge you to tell it. Tell it in a blog post, or write it up and send it to magazines. If it's a really good story with multiple themes and angles, then why not start penning your first book? I wrote my entire book (three times in fact, followed by five drafts of the eventual manuscript) before I got a publisher. I'm delighted with my publisher - they were my first choice and I'm very happy they wanted to take a chance on me - but the fact is that these days you don't necessarily need a publisher to get your book out there. There are a lot of very good self-published books available, especially in the travel-writing genre.
If writing isn't your thing, then try photos - begin with a photo-essay. Give film-making a go. Maybe express yourself through art.
There is a fantastic potential to do great things with storytelling. It can provide a platform for thoughts and ideas that wouldn't otherwise get one. One of my works that I'm most proud of is my film Into The Empty Quarter, because it shows a side to the Middle East that many people don't necessarily know about (Spoiler alert: it's an awesome place.)
You don't have to possess the intimate beauty of John Steinbeck's writing, or the flowing prose of Jack Kerouac. You don't have to have Werner Herzog's eye for a perfect shot (or his weird voice.) Just begin - begin to tell your story in the way that feels most natural. Don't worry if it's not good to begin with (even the best struggle with that.) Re-work it. Re-work it some more. Ask friends for their feedback. Pour passion and energy into it - everything you've got. If you care enough and work enough, you'll be able to produce something you're proud of. Whether you'll get your story out there to the masses via a book deal or TV deal or any other sort of deal...that's another question. But if you tell your story because you really want to tell it, and because it's about something that makes you come alive, then you've already succeeded. Anything else is a bonus.
My first book - The Road Headed West- is out now. It is the story of my journey through North America on bicycle - from New York to Seattle, then down the west coast to the Mexican border. At heart it is a rite-of-passage story about what happens when you take to the open road in search of adventure. It is also a portrait of North America as I experienced it on two wheels - a slow, intimate journey through a fascinating continent. You can read it here.
When I first set off on my big cycling trip, I didn’t know anything about travelling long distances by bike. I didn’t know, for example, that the panniers (saddlebags) versus trailer debate was an ‘either/or’ one. Instead I took both, massively overloading my bicycle to the extent that I could barely go downhill, let alone up.
I knew nothing about bicycle maintenance either. Derailleurs, crank sets, cassettes – all were merely words bandied around by other people. They made me feel uncomfortable. As far as I was concerned my bike was two wheels connected to a bunch of metal. Beyond mending punctures, I was clueless.
For a long time on my trip this lack of knowledge stressed me out hugely. I pedalled along in constant fear of something breaking. The best thing that happened to me, in fact, was when something did actually break. The chain skipped, came off and got caught, and my rear derailleur took a knock. Suddenly faced with a worst-case scenario, it didn’t seem so bad any more. The world didn’t end, I just had a problem that needed solving. That’s what travel is (that’s what a lot of life is) - problems ('challenges', if you're a positive thinker...) that we must overcome. In perspective, it was all okay. I fiddled around (making it worse) and then thought through the other options. I flagged down a car. The driver didn’t know anything about bikes, but poked at it anyway just in case. It got worse yet again. Giving up on that scenario, we loaded my bike in his car, drove to the nearest town and found someone to did know what they were doing. Problem solved.
That scenario was replayed a few times on my adventure, with a slightly different cast of characters and source of issue each time. I know a lot more about how bikes work these days (though I’m still no expert.) The fact of the matter is though, being able to fix everything on your bicycle is not an integral part of being able to tour. Unless you’re going to extremely remote places, totally out of sight of other humans, there will always be someone around to help out. It boils down to this – if your bike breaks, then either you will fix it, or someone else will. So don’t worry about it.
Bike maintenance is one of the main reasons people have for not giving bike touring a go. There are other similarly scary obstacles, too, and as far as I’m convinced, none carry any real weight. My advice goes something like this: set your departure date, then do what preparation you have time and energy for inbetween. When the time comes, just set off. You will pick everything else up en route - I am living proof of that. Nice kit is nice. It's not essential. A bike (any bike) and a way to carry your gear is the baseline. Buy what else you can afford, and use that. Improvise. Try and relax into the notion that something will go wrong at some point (even if have all of the best gear and all of the right knowledge, things will still go wrong) BUT, it will be alright in the long run. You'll figure it out. It's part of the adventure.
When I wrote my book about cycling across America, I wanted to show just how clueless and naïve I was at the start. I think this comes through quite clearly in the story (it couldn’t fail to – I made every mistake possible, it seemed.) What I really wanted to show too though that this is something everyone can do. Everyone can. To re-enforce that notion, I’ve written a short ‘How-to’ of bicycle touring at the back of the book. I try and cover all the basics – to raise all the major issues one must consider, and then give my advice (learned the hard way) about how to minimize stress and maximise fun.
Below are a couple of pages from the book. If you’re new to bike touring, or are on the fence, then why not give it a read? I think you’ll find it ultimately encouraging – travel by bicycle can be such a joy, and it’s worth giving it a chance.
You can buy 'The Road Headed West' here, or via Amazon.
For this week only, you can also get a free copy of my film, 'Into The Empty Quarter.' Just email me your receipt once you've purchased and choose DVD or HD download.
The alarm klaxon annihilates the silence of pre-dawn. I roll to my right and paw feebly at the source of the sound. It dies an instant death, and my world is at peace once more. This is the moment of truth right here – it could all fall apart now before it’s even begun. It’s the simplest thing in the world, getting out of bed, but I’ve fallen at this hurdle before.
I edge closer to the outer reaches of the blanket, then place a first exploratory foot out onto the floor below. I’m being a lazy wimp, I know that, but still it's a struggle. The rest of my body eventually follows the foot, reluctantly, and I’m out – vertical, if not yet truly alert. It’s all plain sailing from here. I’ve passed the first major test.
I stumble around and find some shorts, then a shirt. Shoes and a helmet lie on the stairs. That’s it – I’m ready. My bike sits by the door, always ready, eternally eager. We stagger out the door into the cool morning breeze, I hoist a leg over the top tube and instinct takes over as we roll out onto the tarmac. Immediately contentment and familiarity set in. It's an action as familiar as breathing now, and being sat up high on the saddle is comforting. I know this thing, I know it so well. There is satisfaction to be had in having made it out the door, coupled with an impatience for the rewards of the road. This, these feelings, are why I ride.
My watch says 5.03am. Light burns at the edges of the world and I shiver in the dawn chill. My bike glides effortlessly down narrow streets by my house, then right onto the main drag. Edgeware Road, a main London parallel, completely deserted. I’m still waking up, but am just conscious enough to enjoy pretending this is London in the post-zombie apocalypse.
I move faster now as my muscles warm up. The sun makes a first fiery appearance, an orange ball of fury rising up over the walls of ‘Mecca Bingo.’ Three teenagers lie slumped on a wall nearby, empty cans of Fosters by their feet. In the distance, down a side road, I see a white van idling outside a house while three men load it with tools. To my left an elderly Indian lady walks one of those dogs that looks like a fat rat. The drunks, the workmen, the old people – this time of morning is their domain much more than it is mine. They live it regularly; I just visit. This morning I am glad I did – the worries and stresses and duties and chores I bother myself with during regular hours of life seem a million miles away from here. This freedom is why I ride.
I ignore traffic lights, another luxury of the spectral hour. I see details on Edgeware Road that I’ve never noticed before - markings at junctions, shapes on the tarmac. I try to remember the last time I ever saw this place without a queue of traffic on it. I can’t – perhaps I never have. After a few miles I pass the megastores – Ikea, Homebase, Staples. The smell of French pastries from the industrial ovens of the Asda bakery is tempting beyond belief, and it takes everything I’ve got to keep going.
Finally the sun breaches rooftops and those first sweet rays of warmth sooth the goosebumps on my arms. The deep blue of the sky fades to a pastel shade, slashed mercilessly by vapour trails from flights going who-knows-where. It's odd, but I feel strongly that I'd rather be here, pedalling past a run-down Cash-and-Carry in North London, than dozing on a trans-Atlantic aircraft at 25,000 feet. The moon appears faint, also high above me, not yet set but still defeated by morning. These small things, they’re mine. I take them in greedily, no-one else around to share with. I think back to all the other mornings I’ve had like this on the road. No cars, few people. Warm air, the uncertain promises of the day ahead. I’ve ridden roads like this thousands of times. It feels like more of a home to me than four walls ever will. This is why I ride.
The concrete fortifications of the city fall alarmingly quickly. There is one roundabout that signals the changing order – on one side a McDonalds, the other green fields. I make the transition and stand up on the pedals to signal acceptance. Suddenly I’m in a very different place. The bowed light of morning projects light shows on the bitumen, dappled and strobed from the overhanging trees. Beyond the hedgerows fields extend to the horizon, rolling gently at will. A rabbit dashes out in front, stops, looks, and dashes back into the thicket from whence he came. Next a fox, then a squirrel. Ubiquitous birdsong is my soundtrack. I ride hard now, wide awake and relishing the movement. Hills come and go and I attack then with all I have. I’m sweating profusely and my legs scream in acidic rage, but I pay them no heed. This is why I’m here. Small towns pass in the blink of an eye – country pubs closed, signs telling yesterday’s news – and always I’m returned back to the greenery of the country. So close to the madness of London life, yet a world away. This is why I ride.
After a couple of hours I reach my destination. The location of no real consequence, and all I do is refill my water bottle and take a picture of the cathedral. Then I turn around and head home. I’m meeting a friend for breakfast at 9am. There’s no time to dawdle. In a few more hours I’ll be gobbling up fried food in a greasy café and watching a million people bustle past the window in one of the liveliest cities on earth. Few will have begun the day like I have. That uniqueness is a comfort and a source of constant encouragement. It is the essence of adventure, the beauty coming from the simplicity, and it’s as easy as getting up early and cycling to somewhere new. This – all of this – is why I ride.
One more thing...
A little while ago I entered a competition run by Discovery Channel UK called 'Make Your World Bigger.' I love the concept - it's exactly the sort of adventurous mindset I champion through my trips. I'm therefore delighted that they chose my photo and caption from the Gobi desert as one of the 25 finalists!
At the risk of sounding like I'm begging (which is exactly what I'm doing...) please would you take thirty seconds to vote for my image? Here's the link -http://mywbcompetition.com/gal.aspx?og=2
All you have to do is click 'Vote' and then also select 2 other images from the 25 (they're all good!) Thank you - it's very much appreciated! #mywb
A year and a half has now passed since Al Humphreys and I walked 1000 miles through the Empty Quarter desert, and it's just over six months since we were finally able to screen the film for the first time at the wonderful Royal Geographical Society. How time flies.
We made that film, on one level, to chart our journey and to improve our skills as filmmakers, but mostly we made it to show the beauty and simplicity of adventure. Al and I are both passionate about encouraging everyone to escape into the wilds as often as possible, and making a film that we could share with a wide audience was a great platform for that message.
We also found, pleasantly, that we really loved travelling in Oman and the U.A.E. The landscapes were stunning, of course, but it was the people we met that made this trip memorable. Oil workers, truck drivers and government officials stopped to chat with us in the sands, some even treating us to ridiculously great gifts of watermelons, Pepsis and even ice-cream (in the desert!) A secondary aim of this project quickly became showing that positive, friendly side of the Middle East, and doing our bit in redressing the majorly negative media coverage the region often receives from the West.
We've been really chuffed with the positive reception to our film. It's played in quite a few festivals already, and sold well on DVD and download. For a bit of fun (and perhaps a bit of self-indulgent ego-building...) Al and I recently began to create a map of all the countries our film had been shown in. Rather annoyingly, it seems that the movie is now much more well-travelled than I am!
The map below shows the places where Into The Empty Quarter has been seen. It occurred to us that it would be really fun to try and get it seen in every country on the planet (next stop, world domination?) Aside from giving us a good story at dinner parties, the real reason for this is to spread those same messages that inspired us to create this film in the first place - that adventure is simple and wonderful and accessible, and that the Middle East is not a place to be feared (rather one to be enjoyed and appreciated by all.)
So here's what we're going to do. If you have a friend in any of the countries where our film has NOT been seen yet (the grey spaces on the map - hover the mouse over them to see the name if your geography isn't great!) then send me their email address and I'll send them a free film as a small gift from Al and I. That way, hopefully, everyone is a winner.
So where are your most exotically based friends? Or perhaps you're currently somewhere very exciting yourself? Or maybe there's someone you know that has been exiled somewhere grim and far-flung...in any case, get in touch! Either comment on this post or send me an email and I'll get a free copy of the film sent out straight away.
I love cycling, and I love cycle touring. Riding from New York to Hong Kong was probably the best and most formative experience of my life to date. Now that I have a (semi-)permanent base in London however, for the time being I have to get a lot of my epic touring kicks vicariously from following the trips of others online. Luckily, there is no shortage of seriously cool bicycle journeys going on all over the world. Here are some of my favourite (some ongoing, some recently finished.)
1. Tim and Laura Moss
Tim and Laura set off from England last year and have have ridden through Europe, the Middle East and India. They are currently pedalling across South East Asia (and even managed a quick detour into Japan and South Korea.) Tim grows a wonderful beard and Laura is really clever - their blogs make great reading!
2. Charlie Walker
Charlie starting pedalling in 2010 with a hugely ambitious plan for getting around the world. At this point in 2014 he's still going, and if anything he's managed to make it even more ambitious and exciting as he goes. Highlights from his blog have included his cycling experiences in the Middle East, a bit of horse-powered travel in Mongolia (not to mention walking in the Gobi) and his current adventures in Central Africa.
3. Cycling Cindy
I've only recently come across this site, but Cindy's adventures (alone) around the world make a great read - especially her stuff on the Arabian Peninsula. The blog is an excellent mix of slightly mad and wholly marvellous.
4. Andy Smith, Smudger's Samba Cycle
This is one that's just finished, but Andy's ride around Brazil (between all the World Cup Stadiums, finishing in Manaus for the first England game) was one of the most jealously-enducing rides I've followed for a long time. That's the highest compliment I can pay a journey! His blog is full of great stories, and he's still out there soaking up the football.
5. Tom Allen, #FreeLEJOG
Tom's previous bike trips have taken him to far-flung wild places, but this is one of his best, I think - a trip north through the UK on a recycled bike with a budget of £0.00. After reading this, there are no more excuses left for the procrastinating tourer....
Finally, two special mentions - firstly for Rob Lutter and his Lifecycle project. Another round-the-world-er, Rob's trip is exceptional because of the photos - they're some of the best I've seen from any cycling trips.
Secondly, the Young Philanthropists - three Americans riding across Europe, doing good along the way. Great stuff!
Any that I've missed out? Let me know which cycling trip you're following (or are on yourself, perhaps...)
This week's guest blogger is Sam Mould, an 'artist-adventurer' who regularly combines these two passions to create works of art inspired by and facilitated by the undertaking of long journeys by bicycle. Here she discusses why cycling is such a desirable way to travel:
Why travel by bike?
My first response to this question was ‘it’s obvious isn’t it?’ The pursuit of happiness is on two wheels. My bike is a beautiful thing. In working order it responds to my every whim. It’s an extension of one’s being. But that’s a relatively short and uninformative answer and I began to wonder, why, in fact, I actually choose to travel by bike. It’s a fundamental part of who I am, and cycling as I recall doesn’t always breed happiness, in fact sometimes it feels rather like you’ve shot yourself in the foot and you ask yourself, why? why? why?
In London I ride to work, to the studio, from work, from the studio, sometimes for work, sometimes for art, to the lido, to keep fit, to bathe in the air and frolic in the sunshine, to get to the foot of a hill, to go climbing, to freewheel, to see the sights, to smell the sea, to escape, to forget, to remember, to quench my restlessness, to get home, to stay sane. Travelling by bicycle in London represents life beyond my physiotherapist’s tunic, life beyond who people think I am. It’s a way of being outside the daily grind.
But there is more to travelling by bike. Last year I made a promise to a kiwi friend of mine. She wanted to see more of Europe before returning home to New Zealand and after devising numerous ridiculous ways of seeing more of Europe, the sanest way seemed to be to cycle the length of the continent. That promise, made on a whim, led to a two month, self supported cycling adventure from Nordkapp in northern Norway, to Tarifa in southern Spain.
This week's guest writer on the topic of 'Why travel by bicycle' is Tom Allen - an adventure cyclist, blogger and filmmaker. His bike trips have taken him thousands of miles through tens and tens of countries around the world, including the sorts of places that many travellers would desperately seek to avoid (think Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Ethiopia.)
Tom's inaugural years of bicycle travel were subsequently made into a feature film, Janapar, which is simply a must-watch for anyone with even the slightest interest in adventure. Most recently, of course, his 'career' hit a new high point when he had the great honour of going on an a trip with one of his all-time heroes...
Below Tom shares his thoughts on why he so often chooses bicycles for his particular brand of adventurous travel.
Oh boy. Have I got a tough job ahead of me. How is it possible to provide a satisfactory answer to a question saddled from the word go with so many possible distortions of meaning?
Perhaps I should first explain all the things that "travel by bicycle" does not mean.
In fact, no. Let's go even further back to basics and deal with what is meant by "travel", seeing as almost everyone gets this wrong.
When you get into a car, onto a train or plane or bus, or even when you leave the house on foot, you do so almost exclusively with the intention of going somewhere. You have a destination in mind, and your chosen mode of transport is the means of reaching it.
Every time you pack a suitcase, buy a ticket, plan an itinerary or open a guidebook, you are participating in a particular kind of travel - one that casts experiences as concrete, consumable lists of things, and places as things to go to and return from.
This sounds so stupidly, stupidly obvious. And that's exactly why I need to bring it up. Because in order to see the point of travelling by bicycle - and thus to answer the question of "why" one might travel by bicycle - you must first abandon entirely your traditional understanding of why you'd choose to travel in the first place.
There are many great ways to travel - ways which offer a wonderful perspective for seeing the world and for exploring landscapes and cultures and everything inbetween. My pick has always been for the non-motorised ways; for the slower, more intimate journeys that occur when the power to move forward must be generated by one's own body. Over the last few years I've developed a love of walking, the slowest and most natural method of all, and most recently I also experimented with travelling by packraft (an inflatable boat that folds down to the size of a two-man tent.) My first ever adventures, however, all took place on bicycles and as I found on a recent trip by bike in Iran, it is still hard to beat the joys of cycling.
When I was 15 I set off to cycle around the UK with a couple of friends. I remember buying my first ever bike less than a week before we left. It took us four days to get out of Northern Ireland (we'd figured on one) and we spent much of that first trip making terrible navigational errors, complaining about how big the (small) hills were and apologising to policemen for accidentally cycling on motorways. It was brilliant! I loved it so much that the next summer I cycled with a friend from Northern Ireland to Germany for the football World Cup. It was another poorly planned escapade with more wrong turns than right, and in the end we only got there because Germany is so big that we couldn't help but run into it eventually. Needless to say, that adventure was also life-enhancingly wonderful. It didn't matter that we got lost, or weren't sure how to fix our bikes, or that we didn't speak any German (or French or Dutch) - all of our shortcomings seemed to add to the fun.
Some alternative, tough-love style inspiration for walking, from Henry David Thoreau's essay, 'Walking' (It is a wonderful piece of writing, and I strongly recommend you to read it in full here)
It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearthside from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps.
We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return, prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.
If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk.