A friend asked me that question last week. I'm planning a big trip and he suddenly asked me why I was doing it or better, why I was touring. That question surprised me a lot. Of all the questions I ever asked myself, that one never came up ! I have no particular reason for doing it, no records, no trying to understand myself deeper, not running away from anything. I just like to hit the road and the perspective of doing it for two years in a row is enchanting me. But he wouldn't buy it. He's totally convinced there's another reason for it. So I'm asking you... why do you tour ?
At the same time, on the touring mailing list (great) the same thread was discussed. If there's no real answer to the question, here is a compilation of great thoughts :
Me thinks the bike is a time machine, a pedal powered device that one can use to slow time, which will, if used correctly, allow one to journey a wee bit closer toward that ever elusive 'now'. I prefer to think of my solo tours as opportunities for contemplative meditation: some call it 'cycle-therapy'.
Carl Barrentine , on the touring mailing list
Even for people touring without a cause, one may tour for speed, the scenery, meeting people, or as part of a post-depression or post-alcohol programme, to refocus on their life, etc.
Some people won't ever understand why anyone would travel at slow speed -- some won't even understand why people travel by car instead of by plane. But most do understand, even though they don't feel prepared to do anything like that.
Michel Gagnon ,on the touring mailing list
When I first read this I thought hooley dooley, that's a weighty question, I'd better shoot through for a few days and do some research. Winchelsea to Warnambool via Forest, Turtons Track, Beech Forest, Lavers Hill and the Great Ocean Road seemed to be a pretty good area to do the researh in. A few bits and pieces of fresh fuit and veg (dehyd. at home), some pasta, some rice, some damper mix, rolled oats and, of course, good coffee and various other stuff for snacks and lunch and supper seemed like just the stuff to fuel the research. Stacked the fuel and the normal camping gear on the bike and off I went off on a field trip..:-) And a bloody good one it was too. It was cold and wet and FOGGY along Turtons to Beech Forest, but what a way to see cool temperate rain forest. Great, towering old growth forest with the tree crowns invisible from the ground. The squadrons of small birds chattering after all the bugs that come out when it's wet. Arvo smoko along Turtons is a must have. A quiet, hot cuppa while sitting quietly under an umbrella (I ALWAYS pack a compact fold up job) and you get to see all sorts of small forest life. You also get a nice hot drink and a bit of cake or damper. That nights camp at my favourorite spot was great. Sitting in my tent reading and cooking the next days lunch damper and listening to the wind lashing the trees and the other night sounds of the forest. Sailed on to Lavers Hill and stopped at the shop (the one with the good coffee at the east end of the town) for coffee and cake. Well you have to, don't you ? It had stopped raining during the night and it was really nice just cruising along to the wicked, white knuckled, screaming descent. From there along to another favourite bush camp. The GOR is brilliant riding with the ocean out on the left with the Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps etc. Lotsa time wasted just sitting looking at the views. At my little camp I did much the same as the previous night. ie. Cooked up a feast, went for a bit of stroll and sat and read and listened to the bush till I dozed off. Next morning, after the mandatory 3 LARGE mugs of coffee and pretty large pot of porridge and dates it was off alnog the rest of the GOR to Warnambool with much to look and wonder at along the way. Of course there's a bakery in Peterborough that was just begging to be checked out, so I did. (Acceptable coffee, good pasties and passable apple danish) When I got to Warnambool there was a bit of time to idle away while the train came along so I ducked into the Guiness selling pub for a couple of long cans before catching the train home.
Well, as a field trip it was great. As a research trip it was a dud. Results inconclusive, the research needs to be repeated. Maybe we don't ever find out why we do it, maybe we do it in order to find out. Maybe I'm raving and should just bugger off...:-)
Mark Forsyth ,on the touring mailing list
I thought the reason we tour was that it feels good when we stop!
BicyclingBob , on the touring mailing list
I was lucky enough to find my answer the first day of my first tour.
After a day of riding the train to Montreal I was in no mood to look for a motel for the night, I wanted to ride! so I unboxed the bike, put things together and at 5:45 pm off I went over the Jaques Cartier bridge, heading south for Rouses Point NY.
Halfway there sunset found me riding along silent, untravelled roads crossing the table flat countryside. It was a balmy, cloudless night, the air was crystal clear and still. I rode for hours in the warm darkness, just myself, the pool of light from my headlights and millions of fireflies. It felt like I could ride forever.
Cary Weitzman , on the touring mailing list
Bike touring is a sequence of agonies that we might call "torture" if it were forced on us by police. ;-)
Dep , on the touring mailing list
I was touring through South Australia earlier this year, having just biked 80km on a rather hot day, thinking I had done quite well ... later that evening a mid 70 year old man came into camp, he walked like a half open pocket knife and we got chatting ... he described the route he had biked in the heat that day ... I measured it on a map at around 130km... I was humbled to say the least ... I am a 40yo reasonably fit operational firefighter... I caught up with him the next day as he got off his bike to push it up the hills...
Why do we do it???? Why do we suffer heat, cold, wind, idiots in cars and other hardships to tour??
Because we can???
The Hoogenraad Family ,on the touring mailing list
Because it reminds us that we are alive. That sounds trite, but after my trip across a chunk of Nevada this summer, my knees and ankles were killing me from pushing against a stiff headwind for 400+ miles. At one point during the trip I was bonking so much that I didn't think I could handle the last 10 miles to my destination for the night.
I still felt more alive and satisfied with myself than I have in a long time. People who don't ride long distances may not understand the "why" and think that we are nuts, but that's OK. We get to see the glories of a desert flower by the side of the road, or thrill in watching a couple of hawks playing tag and not miss everything in an air-conditioned, cruise-controlled blur.
Gimme a slow bike any day.
Dwight Tovey , on the touring mailing list
I tour because it was the only way I could think of to be totally unreachable from work for four months.
The true reason for my TransAm. : )
But seriously. For me that question was answered the first time I went out self supported. It was terrible and it was amazing. The terrible part was the fact that I bit off far to much for me to chew. I had all my camping gear and cooking gear for me to stop anytime. But I was driving for that one day trip. I didn't eat enough, so I bonked hard. I had to reroute, because all the time routing is useless when that road that looks like it connects is actually disjointed for trees and a stream. At some point during that trip, is was slowly pedaling through some corn fields and having just left a small town (population < 100). I just though to myself, "I got here under my own power. I have everything along I need to survive the night. I can stop anywhere I want. How cool is that." I wound up not making my goal, so I asked a farmer if I could crash in a side field. Then I pulled out my stove, cooked up a rice dish and fell asleep smiling.
It has only gotten better. Still getting amused when someone things you are crazy for having ridden 20 miles... So, you don't mention that the 20 miles were since lunch. The joy of finding a small store for a coke or fruit juice after drinking hot water for the last two hours.
I'm not sure exactly why I like it, but I do.
Joe Sacher , on the touring mailing list
During my summer tour, most people I bumped into were impressed with the journey I was taking. Yet, when I rejoined the Adventure Cycling route in Indiana, people would just ask "going west or east?" - as if everybody and his brother did this sort of thing.
Brian DeSousa , on the touring mailing list
My first "tour" was strictly utilitarian: I wanted to get out of the city of Boston and move to California. I reduced my possessions to what I could carry on my bicycle and pedaled away. That was in 1973. I never made it to California. A bearing in the front axle broke when I got to a friend's place in Hopewell, NJ; it took the LBS two weeks to get parts and in that time I'd acquired a job and a girlfriend (whom I later married). It was about ten years before I went on another bike tour.
Bob Morgan , on the touring mailing list
Why do I tour...interesting question really.
My first "tour" was a whole 80 KM and it was from Adelaide my home town to Goolwa, where my parents had a holiday house on the river Murray. Thinking back the main reason for the trip was that a cousin had done it when I was small and every one made a great fuss over his achievement (no one even commented when I did it 6 years later..!!)
I enjoyed the ride and immediately made plans for a longer trip (perhaps to get the attention that I failed to get the first time) this trip was 110 Km over 2 days with an overnight stay on the banks of the River Murray. Again no one seemed to notice.
Then I bought a book on cycle touring and saw the sorts of tours other people had done here in Australia..then the bug bit. I rode from Adelaide to Mt Gambier - covering 1000 Km in 12 days, then a year later from Perth to Albany (both in southern Western Australia (800 Km in 3 weeks). then I did my first solo ride 500Km in far North Queensland.
I enjoy the camping, I enjoy the look on peoples faces when you tell them how you spent your holidays, but mostly I think it is the freedom you get on a self sufficient tour that attracts me, with all my gear on board I can go where I want when I want. The only deadline is being some where to pick up transport home at the end of the holiday.
Also there is a tremendous feeling of achievement at the end of a tour.
Robert Duncan , on the touring mailing list
Many people on cross-country tours are dedicating the effort to a specific cause - a breast cancer cure or world peace, say. I think that's what this question is about, a lot of times. If you're not one of those, then I suspect that even those who don't see the point will nonetheless remember you. Riding across the continent is a courageous act; it takes determination and persistence, and it impresses people for that reason. Someday they may understand it.
Mark , on the touring mailing list
By Alexandre Lagache .