Start local. And start simple. Bike tours don’t have to be long and challenging. Ride from your house to a hotel 15 miles away, stay overnight, and return home the next day. You’re a bike tourist!
In fact, the best way to prepare for and learn more about this wonderful activity is to start local. You’ll quickly counter any perceived hurdles you might have, such as equipment, navigation, or ability.
Here are reasons why starting local can help break you in gently to bike touring.
Bike overnights: your gateway drug. Jim Sayer, executive director of Adventure Cycling Association, has explained that bicycle overnights are the “gateway drug” to more involved bike touring. They turn you from newbie to knowledgeable in just one night (though, the more the better, we think!).
No major mileage required. Starting local and riding around your town or taking a nearby overnight trip doesn’t have to require a lot of miles. Simply plan a short overnight and hop on your bike to go through the logistics of a short bike tour. Get on your bike and learn the logistics of what’s required.
No fancy equipment needed. You don’t need an expensive bike or equipment to explore around town or take an overnight trip. You simply need a bike that you know can carry you safely and comfortably. If you plan to spend one night out, you don’t need fancy saddlebags for your bike. Just wear a backpack. You don’t even need a tent or sleeping bag. It’s perfectly fine to be a “credit card camper” and stay in a nearby hotel.
Leave the car at home. Learn how to use your bike for transportation. Ditch your car. Ride to work, or to the store.
Join a charity ride. These rides are a great way to ride with support and the security of other riders. The logistics are covered for you, and all you have to do is ride. These events are a great way to expand your comfort zone with others by your side, and to join large-scale events where you can network with other cyclists. Find charity rides here to get started.
Join a statewide ride. These are much like charity rides, but are typically a bit longer, giving you the opportunity to take part in an organized, multi-day cycling experience. These all started with the well-known RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) back in 1973 and are now offered all across the United States. See a listing of statewide rides here, or, check with your local bike shop to learn more about what’s happening in your area.
Build from there. Once you’re comfortable with one overnight, extend it to two. Then to three. Before you know it, you’ll be doing weeklong tours like a pro!