bike touring resources:: touring fatigue

3 Quick Cures for Touring Fatigue

I've had enough!  Cycling in Kenya.You’re exhausted.  You’ve been climbing hills, fighting headwinds and bravely forging on through pounding rain, scorching sun and blinding sandstorms. 

Maybe it’s only been a week, perhaps you’ve been on the road for months.  But you’ve had it.  Sliding on to the saddle to face another day on the ‘road to adventure’ sounds about as enticing as spending your next holiday crammed into a windowless cubicle hunched over a computer screen.

You’ve come down with a case of Touring Fatigue.

It happens to the most adventurous of us.  We find ourselves fed up with gazing out over pretty Andean vistas.  Pedaling into a jaw-droppingly beautiful sunset in the Sahara leaves us cold.    Our adventure has been reduced to counting kilometers.  Only 25 torturous kilometers to go, we tell ourselves, and we can pull over and pitch the tent for the night.

I’ve been struck by this energy-sapping illness.  Maybe you have, too.

Fortunately, Touring Fatigue is rarely fatal to the true adventurer. 

Try these 3 quick cures if you think touring fatigue has struck.

Stop cycling. 

the curing effects of yoga5Alright, we’re starting with the obvious.  But trust me, it works.  One sweltering day not long after we’d reached Cape Town (which was supposed to be the end of our bike tour) I threw down my bike, burst into tears and announced to my flabbergasted husband that I hated bike touring.  That was it.  Basta.  THE END to our cycling adventure around the world.

Eventually Eric calmed me down, brought me back to my senses, reminded me of everything I love about bike touring.  Then we flew off to India (with bikes in tow) and spent six months doing yoga and some easy touring. 

When we got back to Africa, I was completely re-energized and the next six months pedaling through East Africa were some of the most rewarding of the entire tour.   Without that India break (and yes, I do know that India’s an odd place for a rest) I’m certain I would have never had the drive and energy to pedal all the way to Cairo. 

Lesson learned:  Pay attention to that little voice that’s whispering, ‘I need a break.’

Do things differently.

Even the hardiest of bicycle adventurers can get stuck in a rut.  Sometimes you’ve just got to shake things up again to remind yourself why you’re out touring in the first place.

If you’re a die-hard wild camper, check into a hostel for a night and hang out with some other travelers.  Maybe you’re in need of company.

Are you into taking it easy, not pushing yourself, stopping at the 50 kilometer mark?   Why not see if you can break your personal best for most kilometers cycled in a day?  See how fast you can conquer the next mountain pass. 

And if you’re a Type A Cyclist, just sloooowww yourself down.  Chat with the guy who sold you that refreshing coke.   Knock off before sunset.  Hang out with locals.  Find out what people are thinking.

Are you always playing it safe?  Sticking to the main roads?  Following somebody else’s route?  Then it’s time to inject a little risk into your tour.

Take that shortcut, follow a dusty track, see where it takes you.  Get off the highway and find out what awaits you on the backroads.  What’s the worst that can happen?  You get hopelessly lost, there’s nothing to eat, you run out of water, there’s no living soul to hear your cries for help.  Makes for a great blog post.

You get the idea.  Routines are dangerous.  Monotony creeps in and strangles the life out of even the most exciting activities.  Do things differently and drive away Touring Fatigue.

Build a life on the road--beyond pedaling.

You pedal, you eat, you sleep. You pedal, you eat, you sleep.  You pedal, you eat, you sleep.  

Not much of a life, is it?  No wonder you’re ready to throw in the towel after three weeks on the road.  Pedaling from dawn to dusk might be okay for a short tour.  But months and months of that sort of boot camp routine and you’ll burn out quicker than a first year teacher in a Los Angeles Middle School. 

If you’re into touring for the long haul, then you’ll want to develop some portable activities to keep your brain functioning and your spirit awakened. 

Yoga is what saves me from tour tedium.  And it just happens to be the perfect physical activity to complement biking.  I’ve also got a selection of aerobics and kick-boxing CDs on the computer and when we’ve got an extended break I stay in shape with the crew from P90X.

Now for the intellect.  Podcasts are the ideal way to stay in touch with world events--NPR’s got a host of stimulating podcasts from which to choose.

You can even learn something new or catch up on everything you missed in history class--for that I suggest the HowStuffWorks podcasts.

And why not add a little laugh to your day—try the podcasts from Comedy Central.  Podcasts while pedaling are not just a distraction from pedaling past uninspiring scenery, they’re great for the brain.

If you’ve got a creative streak, then an extended bike tour is your chance to pursue your interest in art or music.  Make jewelry by the campfire, sketch one of those charming villages you pass, learn a tune on the harmonica and charm the locals.  Even a guitar can be strapped on to the back of a bike.

And then there are the old standby activities, perfecting photography and blogging about your adventures.  Instead of trying to ride 150 kilometers every single day and beat the latest RTW cycling record, take time out to jot down your impressions in a journal or capture the perfect photo.

Preventive medicine

Touring Fatigue isn’t fatal, but it could bring your cycling adventure to a pre-mature end.  The key is to not let touring fatigue sneak up on you in the first place.  Don’t exhaust yourself by biking too far, too fast, with hardly a chance to take in the change of scenery. 

It’s your life, it‘s your tour, make the most of it!

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