I've always found there to be something irresistibly appealing about cycle touring, and it's clear that I'm not alone - cycling is fast becoming the new backpacking! But what is it that is so attractive about it? I wrote down a few of my thoughts here, and over the next couple of months this blog will be hosting a number of guest posts on the theme of 'Why travel by bicycle?' in an effort to hear a wide range of perspectives.
First up, we have Tim and Laura Moss, who are on the road as we speak/type/read. Last summer they set off from England, headed for Australia - so far they've cycled across Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and are currently in India. It's a great trip to follow vicariously - they've had some great adventures, and both write wonderfully about the journey on their blog. Below, then, are their thoughts on why they love travelling by bicycle. Or at least, below are Laura's thoughts on that topic. Tim has rather helpfully taken a different approach, and decided to point out why he hates his bicycle...enjoy!
Why do I love travelling by bicycle? (Laura)
There are two simple reasons – you visit the inbetween places and you travel at the perfect speed.
Travel by motorised transport and the world whizzes by. Scenery is a blur as you hop between towns and tourist honeypots. In a car, what reason would you have to stop in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere to spend the night? You can just drive on to the next town and enjoy its conveniences. However, if a country is predominantly rural, this means you miss out on its heart, where farmers plough fields, women bake bread in village ovens and communities buzz with life.
Travel on foot and your progress across the map is agonisingly slow. Carrying a heavy pack for multiple hours a day, your feet throb, your shoulders ache and your lower back stiffens up. Walking across Patagonia, I cried at least once a day, and it wasn't something I was in a hurry to repeat (sorry Leon – I know walking is your thing but hopefully this makes you look even harder).
The humble bicycle offers the perfect compromise. You can move quickly enough to cover significant distances and yet slowly enough to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the places you pass through.
You spend most of your time in the inbetween places: the rural stretches between urban centres where normal life happens. We cycled from Plymouth to Edinburgh in preparation for our current journey and it was a very different England to the one we had previously driven through so often. When night falls and you are nowhere near a town, you are forced to throw yourself on the mercy of local people, often resulting in the most memorable and rewarding encounters.
I love my bike.
Why do I hate travelling by bicycle? (Tim)
It's boring – the moments of romance are only occasional punctuations in the hours and hours of monotonous grinding in the saddle. Podcasts and audiobooks are a god-send for me, distracting me from the odometer and keeping my brain active.
You're always on roads – there are some remote stretches of road in the world (Patagonia or Siberia, perhaps) but for the vast majority of the time, you're always sharing the road and never far away from civilisation. This can be frustrating after spending so long dreaming of wilderness and escape.
You have the same shallow conversations repeatedly - you meet wonderful people when cycling the world but repeating the same information over and over again can be tiring. If you are outside the land of your native tongue then the inability to probe deeper through a language barrier can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Downloading Google Translate dictionaries to use offline really helped us.
I hate my bike.
You can follow Tim and Laura's journeys via their website at thenextchallenge.org. The site is a great resource for adventures in general - check out some of the trips that Tim and Laura have been on in the past, as well as the many articles on there to help facilitate other people's expeditions.
If you'd like to be informed of when the next guest blogs on this theme are posted, or if you are interested in hearing more about my upcoming book about a bicycle ride across North America, then do sign up for my monthly newsletter here: