George Byam with new friends in Ecija, Spain
Cycling along the Canal du Midi, France
Passing through the Drau Valley, Austria
Client profile: George Byam set for his 22nd bike tour
The prospect of shipping off to a foreign country for a week to pedal around can seem overwhelming. But take it from George Byam—a bike-touring expert who’s logged hundreds of miles—touring on two wheels is the best way to travel.
Byam, 73, of East Grand Rapids, Mich., a husband and father of three children, is retired from running his business, the Terryberry Company, which specializes in employee recognition programs and jewelry. He’s been on 20 BikeToursDirect tours so far, with two more planned in 2012.
We sat down with Byam to learn about his best touring days, and to get advice for the road.
BikeToursDirect: How would you describe your fitness level?
I think bicycle tours are the ultimate recreation. When I’m touring, I probably go an average of nine miles per hour and I stop about 60 times a day to take photographs, and I like to ride about 35 miles a day. I also enjoy meeting locals on tours and getting in conversations even if I can’t speak the language. One of my mottos is to never take a bike trip in a country where I can speak the language—even English-speaking countries aren’t the same as speaking English in America. It’s always fun to communicate with people when you don’t use the same sayings.
BikeToursDirect: How long have you been taking cycling tours?
Why cycling and not cruising, or traveling by train or bus? Byam: When you travel by train, you’re typically zipping along too quickly to take in the countryside. Walking trips would be too slow. The bike tours allow me to cover a good range of landscape and I can go whatever speed I want.
BikeToursDirect: What makes a bicycle tour great?
What makes a great tour isn’t what’s planned—it’s the unexpected. My rule is that things only become memorable when they don’t go as outlined. When sometimes goes wrong on a tour, if it’s a mechanical problem or poor directions, the trip becomes very memorable. You learn more about yourself and how you cope with problems in those situations than any other time.
BikeToursDirect: Do you have a favorite tour?
BikeToursDirect: What are the advantages to touring alone? The advantages to riding with a companion?
BikeToursDirect: Do you prefer self-guided or guided tours, and why?
BikeToursDirect: How would you advise someone to choose a tour?
BikeToursDirect: What’s your best advice for someone going on a first tour?
Depending on the weather, some cyclists prefer to wear long riding pants for colder rides. I always ride with a handlebar bag or rear rack to carry any essentials. On warmer tours, I’ve found it’s essential to carry plenty of water on your bike. Consider the distance between each town or village and bring enough water for the day. You never know how far it may be till you pass a filling station or convenience store.
BikeToursDirect: Why do you like to work through BikeToursDirect?
Interview by Laura Jane Walker