Bicycle Touring Primer

Cachuma Lake Campsite

Bicycle Touring Primer

Cachuma Lake Campsite

Let us start from the top and explain to you what bicycle touring is for those who are new to this.  As the name implies, bicycle touring is traveling and vacationing, using bicycle as a form of transportation to get from one place to another.  As you can imagine, bicycle touring takes much more physical effort and time to get to your destination, so let’s explore why we bring this upon ourselves.

What is the appeal of traveling by bicycle?

Every individual has their own reasons why he or she loves bicycle touring, but one of the main reasons why we love bicycle touring is the personal challenge. We take on the challenge of self-propelling across long distances to get to destinations, in which we would have once believed impossible.  In other words, it is our own cheap thrill of knowing that we can make it to a particular place on our own power.  It is very empowering to have the freedom to travel this way.

Burn calories, not fuel

We burn well over 2,000 calories a day pedaling.  What that means is that we get to eat more delicious foods to help us fuel our bodies.  I used to be very haphazard about what I eat, but noticed that we have to be deliberate with what we put in our bodies to help it produce more energy and fuel recovery when necessary.  I’d like to explore this topic in greater detail in a future blog entry.  Ultimately, the best part is that we are not dependent on burning fossil fuel on our trips.

It’s the journey, not the destination

The journey is always the best part about bicycle touring for us.  The things that we look back and remember most are the things that happen to us on our journey and rarely about the destination.  I enjoy each uphill climb and speedy downhill descent.  It reminds me of the challenges in life where there are also ups and downs, so you should enjoy the moments along the way.  For Sang Hyun, the ride is a great time to gather one’s thoughts and reflect on the things that really matter in life.  We also love finding out different ways of getting to our destinations.  We are still amazed when we discover a new bicycle route or a dedicated bicycle lane wherever we travel.

Types of bicycle touring

There are 3 types of bicycle touring on the road.

  1. A fully supported bicycle tour is when you have a support team, usually an organization, provide all the logistics of planning and carrying your equipment and luggage to each destination.  All you need to do is ride according to the directions they give you on your route sheet.  The organizations will provide you many amenities for your tour, such as planned meals, lodging, and sometimes massages for those sore muscles.  Both Sang Hyun and I participated in the California Coast Classic  in which we were part of a fully supported tour down from San Francisco to Santa Monica to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation.

  2. A self-supported bicycle tour is when you carry everything you need during your time away.  This would include a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food, etc. You will also need to determine the route with some pre-planning at various camp locations, hostels, or hotels. This type of tour can be planned by an organization, but for the most part, they are usually determined by bicyclist.  This will be the type of touring that we will be doing when we ride across the country.

  3. A self-guided bicycle tour is a tour in which an organization may be able to help you plan your meals or lodging, but would leave it up to you to determine the route.  Hence, that is why this is self-guided.  We personally have never tried this form of touring, but it sounds appealing in its own way.

For further information about the types of touring, check out this cool video made by Darren Alff of


Note that there are off-road touring as well, but I am not going to go into detail about that since our rides at the moment are on-road adventures.

Bicycle touring equipment

For a fully supported tour, you will need a comfortable bike.  There are bikes built just for the purpose of touring.  You will need some racks and panniers, or a backpack, to carry your things.  You will need a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat for overnight camping. You will need food preparation items, like a stove, cup, or pan to cook your food in.  You will need a change of clothing for your time off the bike, as well as for the next day along with your general hygiene items, like toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap for showers.  Most people carry food to prepare and eat meals on the trip.  We will go over the type of foods in a separate post.  Finally, some people bring items like a laptop or book to kill time.  This is just an initial introduction to bicycle touring, so I have left out many details, but I hope that we can dive deeper into each of these topics as time goes on, so that you have a better idea of what they all entail.

For those who are seasoned bicycle tourists, what else can I include as a general primer for new adventurers?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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