In the past, this blog focused a lot on bicycle touring from a self-supported perspective. It’s true that I’ve even started a MeetUp just for the self-supporting bicycle tours. I know part of the draw of being a self-supported bicyclist is that you do everything on your own. You plan and travel the routes with all your equipment. You go from point A to point B all by yourself without the help of anyone else. Every mile of your trip, you are burning your own calories, breaking your sweat, and overcoming your own struggles, alone. You are having your adventure. And somehow, when we look at people who say they are bicycle touring either with a fully supported company or with a support vehicle, we perceive it as cheating in some way.
Where does this animosity come from? Why do some of the self-supported bicyclists look down on people who ride their road bikes and have their equipment transported by support vehicles? Here are 4 reasons that you shouldn’t think any less of people on supported tours.
1. Not Everyone Is The Same
People come from various backgrounds with varying degrees of challenges and opportunities. What one person thinks is utterly impossible, another person would scoff. In the beginning, I used to think and announce to the world every single mileage milestone I reached on social media. Now, that isn’t important anymore. I’m sure those accomplishments are something many people would glance over and say to themselves, “I do these miles on my commute one way.”
When a person tells you that they’ve traveled from San Francisco down to Los Angeles with a charity ride, it shouldn’t make you discount their accomplishment because they didn’t do this on their own. We need to stop judging other people. Their journey and accomplishment is a big deal to them. Perhaps they’ve overcome something huge in their life, like doing it with arthritis. If giving them the opportunity to do this in a supported way is available, then I say their adventure is as big as anybody else’s adventure, whether we choose to haul our own gear or have a support vehicle to help. Like many things in life, your journey has significance in your own life and nobody elses.
2. People Need to Start Somewhere
There are those who decide to go on their first bicycle tour and just take the leap of faith and go naively with everything they own strapped to their bike. Majority of people, including myself, did not get our start at long distance bicycle touring that way. We actually wanted the help of an organization to haul our things from campsite to campsite for a week, so we can enjoy our rides without much worry. That’s not a bad thing. This is a perfect opportunity for someone to explore the possibility of doing something much bigger by themselves later on. This gives them the opportunity to learn more about this way to travel without much stress. We are still having the same amount of adventure, but with the added benefit of friends around.
Using fully supported tours as a springboard, something much bigger, is a good way to go. You’re giving people the opportunity to see if they even like being out on the road for consecutive days on the saddle for several hours at a time. They get to taste what all this means in terms of setting up and breaking down camp. You give them a chance to compromise their comforts with the challenges of being on the road. You don’t want to scare them away. You want them to understand the challenges and work through them on their own terms. Things can be learned through constant testing and retesting. In my old world of IT project management, we iterate through a product until the product is perfected. This idea can be translated in bicycle touring where we start with a baseline, fully supported tours, and iterate until you get to doing your own self-supported tour flawlessly.
3. People Just Don’t Care
At the end of the day, people who are doing supported or fully supported tours just don’t care to get into self supported tours. They don’t want to put their body through rigorous workout routines in which you’re constantly pushing your weight +70 lbs of stuff for long distances and travel consecutive days over and over again. For them, they just want to be out on the road and enjoy the moment and see what mother nature has to offer. They’re just not interested in the way self-supported bicycle tourists operate, and that’s okay. To them bicycle touring is exactly how they want to see it and they don’t care what you believe or have to say about it.
4. Build Allies On The Road
Whether they’re fully-supported or self-supported, bicycle tourists are necessary to you. They are your allies whether they are your future hosts on Warmshowers or the drivers that share the same road as you when you’re out there on your bike. Just remember that we are all the same. We are human beings with different stories and different adventures. Your adventure is not any better or worse than someone else’s. Let’s just listen to each other and care for each other on road and off-road. Being each other’s allies is a good thing.
Try Something New
So let’s just save our energy and let them enjoy their fun. It’s no sense in convincing someone to go on a self-supported tour when that’s never been on their plan. You may change a few people here and there, but don’t expect everyone to want to do what you’re doing.
I encourage those who are strictly self-supported on their bicycle tours to try going on a fully supported ride. You’ll get to see and experience a whole new perspective of a bicycle tour this way. You get to know what’s important to you. Perhaps it is not as rigid as you once thought it was because you haven’t seen it from a different perspective. You may like the speed that you’re going or the relationships you build on these rides. Being open-minded and willing to do new things is also an adventure!