If you’re holed up in an office somewhere crunching numbers, creating a PowerPoint presentation or answering emails, you might find it hard to believe that bike touring can be anything less than mind-blowing fun and adventure.
Reality check. Cycle touring, just like every other activity, can get monotonous. If you let it. It’s all about balance. Here are some ways to keep things fresh when you’re off the bike.
#1 Take a class.
After being on the road for a long time, many cyclists feel the need to switch gears and focus on something entirely different. Forget about the bike for a few days (or weeks, perhaps even months!).
The main advantage to learning stuff while traveling (rather than at home) is that it’s CHEAP!
- Spanish immersion for $10 a day in Guatemala.
- A $25 Thai cooking course in Chiang Mai.
- A complete PADI divemaster course in Honduras for $800.
- An all-inclusive yoga vacation in South India for $15 a day
You just can’t beat those prices.
#2 Get serious about photography.
Many cyclists spend a great deal of time documenting their bike tour. Why not do it well?
For starters, take a look at Grace and Paul’s photography tips for cyclists. You might also want to arm yourself with an e-book about travel photography.
Then you’ll need some inspiration and ideas. Those can be found on Flickr, which is home to dozens of groups featuring bicycle touring photos. Here are just a few:
· Bicycle Touring
· Cycle Touring
· Bicycle Nomads
· Bicycle Touring South America
· Bicycle Touring Africa
· Bicycle Touring Asia
A popular way to improve your photography and get disciplined about shooting each and every day is to start a 365 PROJECT. As the name suggests, you take photos every day of the year and feature one per day on the 365 PROJECT website. Members will give you feedback and offer encouragement.
If you want to see some truly amazing bicycle touring photography, check out Leana Niemand’s 365 PROJECT. That’s what got me inspired to sign up for my own (free) 365 PROJECT.
# 3 Watch films from around the world
After a long day in the saddle, sometimes you just need to zone out. Why not recover from the rigors of the road and feed your wanderlust at the same time?
How to do it? A foreign film, of course. Peru, Rwanda, Uruguay, Serbia, Iran, Morocco, Colombia, Finland–you can find films from just about every nook and cranny on the planet by checking out the Film Movement catalog.
Let your conscience be your guide as to how you get a hold of these films. Downloading the film torrent from a file sharing site such as Pirate Bay is illegal in many places.
# 4 Listen to Podcasts while you Pedal
Have you got the feeling that your brain is slowly rotting away while your body gets stronger? Time to do something about it.
Culture, news, politics, travel, cooking, comedy, storytelling—there are thousands of podcasts to choose from.
Some of my favorites are This American Life, BBC outlook, Risk, APM The Story BBC From our own Correspondant, Q with Jian Ghomeshi, Thinking Allowed, and the Moth. And that’s just a start to all I’m subscribed to. Give podcasts a try and there’s good chance you’ll become as hopelessly addicted as I am.
*WorldBiking recognizes that listening to podcasts while pedaling can be a dangerous activity. Only attempt it on lonely roads with average traffic flow of less than 3 vehicles per hour. A mirror is required gear for use of headphones while operating a bicycle.
# 5 Get Kindled-up
Already been Kindle evangelized from friends and colleagues? Who hasn’t? I finally converted last year and it’s been well, a life changing experience. No joke. Bye-bye best-sellers from the traveler’s book-exchange.
I now read books actually worth reading. For free (and they’re not pirated)! I keep my kindle in the handlebar bag so I can whip it out during cycling breaks.
If you’ve got a library card issued in the US, you can check out e-books online and download them direct to your kindle. Doesn’t matter if you’re in Tehran or Tibet.
If you don’t have a library card from an American library, you can always buy e-books on Amazon (but ouch! They can be pricey) or download the classics for free.
Or you can pay for a membership to a US library.
These libraries currently allow non-residents to obtain cards without appearing in person.
The Free Library of Philadelphia ($35/yr)
Fairfax County, VA ($27/year)
Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, NC ($45/yr)
New Orleans, LA ($50/yr)
Orange County, FL ($125/yr)
Brooklyn Public Library ($50/yr)
Enoch Pratt Free Library ($50/yr)
#6 Share your Story
What made you decide to set off on a bicycle tour? Did you have a friend who’d cycled around the world? Did you read about someone’s adventure on-line? Maybe you attended a talk about a long-distance bicycle tour?
Chances are there was a fellow human being out there who influenced your decision to stop everything and go cycling. Why not return the favor?
Give talks at international schools, organize an event at a local cycling club or contact service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis and see if they’re interested in having you speak at their next event.
Giving presentation about your bicycle tour is not narcissistic (or at least it doesn’t have to be). It’s all about inspiring the next person to live her cycle touring dreams.
2 thoughts on “A well-balanced bike tour: 6 ways to make cycling more fun and rewarding”
For cycle travelers interested in photography – they might also want to read about a bike tour / photo project that Christopher Herwigs undertook. Herwig is a professional photographer who cycled from London to St. Petersburg and forced himself to take at least one picture with every hour on the bike – no matter how boring the area seemed to be.
Also check Christopher’s portfolio at: http://www.herwigphoto.com/
After waiting in vain for our local library to offer e-book loans, I looked at some of the options in your post and went off on a mission. I have discovered that the City of Edinburgh Libraries in Scotland offer non-resident membership FREE to all. There’s an online application, and your card can be sent to any address. Once you have the card (or the number on it), the library will send you a PIN by e-mail, and you’re off. E-books and my current delight, audiobooks, all available for download.
Five and a half weeks, and we’ll be on our way to collect our bikes from their cupboard in Buenos Aires and the start of a new adventure 🙂
Thanks so much for your posts, Amaya – we love them and look forward to them.
Lesley and Chris