Updated 12/10/2006
©2005 Ridge Rollers Velo Club

Touring by Bicycle

by Roger Morrison

Bicycle touring (my definition) is the traveling of long distances by bicycle and spending at least one night at a location other than the starting point. The seat of a bicyle offers a vantage point and pace to really see, feel and smell the country yet it's never as slow as to be boring.

There are so many variations to this theme that it is hard to categorize them all. Rather, imagine a spectrum of styles and methods that can be varied and mixed to suit the goals, needs and desires of the specific tour and touring cyclist. Tours can be overnights to local parks such as Pilot Mountain State Park, Hanging Rock State Park, New River Trail State Park, Rocky Knob Campground, etc. Or they can be extended two-week long tours in wilderness areas or year-long 'round the world expeditions. Tours can be solo, group, guided or whatever.


CREDIT CARD TOUR: At the extreme light and fast end of the spectrum, the tourer takes advantage of services along the route, sleeping in motels and eating in restaurants. All that is needed is a bike and a credit card. From a practical standpoint, credit card tourers will also carry tools, spares and a change of clothes. For the latest in light, fast travel, see Sheldon Brown's FasterCard (humor).

SELF-SUPPORTED TOUR: Also called self-contained or fully-loaded. In this touring mode, the cyclist carries their own camping and cooking gear and a supply of food. Camping may be in parks, campgrounds or in a roadside woods (commonly referred to as guerrilla or stealth camping). Many tourers prefer self-supported touring for the low cost and independence it offers. Others go self-supported because services along the tour route may be sporadic or absent. Self-supported cyclists may carry 60+ lb. of equipment (exclusive of the bike) in panniers or a trailer. Three of my own self-supported tours were in Alaska in 2003, around Lake Ontario in 2005 and a Yellowstone Loop in 2006.

My self-supported touring gear

EVENT TOUR: Participating in a fully supported event is an easy, fun way to tour. The event sponsors will transport equipment from site to site, provide routing, support services and (usually) food. A great example of an event tour is Cycle North Carolina.

Cycle North Carolina 2004


Navigation is both fun and challenging. The ideal route is flat (or otherwise if that's what your into); has wide, paved shoulders; has low traffic; lots of convenient services, sights and scenery; and always has a tail wind. Finding such a route from maps or from chance would be lucky. Fortunately, there are resources to help. Perhaps the greatest is Adventure Cycling Association, which provides cycling specific maps for several routes cross-country, north-south, and variations in between. Lots of touring cyclists keep journals with routing information and share these at Crazy Guy on a Bike.

Other great touring websites include: