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To most of us who have toured previously, the why of it is can be summed up in a single word - its fun!

And its fun for most of the same reasons we enjoyed riding as kids; wind in the face, the feeling of speed, the sense of independence, and the ability to go relatively long distances under your own power. But for the touring bicyclist the list of reasons gets a little longer.

It demands that we travel at a rate of speed that allows us to see, smell and really feel the countryside as it goes by. The bicycle tourist is a part of the area that is being ridden through instead of being simply an observer. You have time to explore, to take side trips down roads that look interesting, or to stop and simply relax under the road side tree that beckons. Simply put, unlike when traveling by motor vehicle, most of us who tour by bicycle are not in a hurry to get there. Touring is all about the journey, not the final destination.

As with any form of travel some of the fondest memories come from the personnel connections made along the way. Bicyclists are more approachable than the common traveler and inspire many memorable encounters. For example, in 1982 while riding Transamerica with a friend we stopped in Saratoga Springs, Colorado for a stack of pancakes. While in the café some folks at the next table started to ask us questions about our journey. They wanted to know how many flats we’d had, where we slept each night and how could be possibly ride all day with such a heavy bike? They left the café before us but were waiting in the parking lot with a load of fresh peaches that they had bought at the local fruit stand. Another fond memory was a time near Carbondale, Ill when a local invited us to pitch our tents in his front yard and then proceeded to entertain us for most of the evening with his guitar and unusual vocal style. He asked only that we kept the Wild Turkey flowing. Unforgettable.

High on the list of reasons why many tour are the challenges it presents. Most tours consist of times of extreme highs and extreme lows that tax us both physically and mentally. One of the great things about touring is that the route can be adjusted to meet the needs, desires and ability of each individual. For some, riding 30 – 40 miles a day from one B&B to another is the perfect tour. They are not interested in carrying all the gear for camping and cooking nor do they want to explore their physical limits.

By contrast, most “purists” prefer to be fully self contained and consider the perfect day on the road to be 80 miles completed, a remote campsite and sleeping under the stars. Oh yeah, throw in a hot shower and you have nirvana! It is these folks that are attracted by the challenges of touring. They revel in the distances traveled, the # mountain passes traversed and the deep satisfaction that self reliance brings.

Adventure is a word that often crops up when I talk to people about why they tour. The fascination of feeling a place for the first time and experiencing different cultures and cuisines are a strong draw for many. And as with the challenges of touring, the level of adventure you will experience is for you to choose. Whether it be riding through the Gobi Desert in China, along the Mississippi river delta, or in your own backyard, you decide what best fits your needs and desires.

A relatively new twist to touring is the low carbon aspect of bicycle transportation. Most of us who are looking for outdoor adventure want to lower their carbon footprint and bicycle touring is a great was to satisfy that need. This can be taken to an extreme by starting your tour from your home and avoiding motor vehicular travel altogether. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but can result in an inexpensive vacation as well!

Low cost travel is one of the reasons why I began touring. I already had a bike with a rack, camping equipment and just needed a pair of panniers and a handlebar bag to hit the road. With this basic equipment you can live relatively cheaply on the road if you camp and prepare your own meals. You can easily stay under $20/day if you are careful and do not have esoteric food needs. You can also spend a lot more if you demand a daily hot shower, meals in cafés and regular stays in a motel.

There is no single “right” way to tour, only the way that meets your individual needs and desires. Regardless of the type of tour you choose I guarantee that at the end you will have satiated your need for adventure, will have improved your physical conditioning, will know yourself better and better understand your potential and limitations.