10 life lessons from my solo bicycle tour

Last week I set out on my first solo bike tour. It was a time of apprehension and anticipation. I was uncertain what I would find out about myself and solo touring. It was a wonderful experience, something I will do more of in the future. Here is what I learned about life from my week in the saddle.

  1. Every day is a new adventure. This was a familiar route to me, but there was a sense of adventure. Life at bicycle speed immerses you in your surroundings. I met new people and saw new sights around every turn. Look at each day as a new adventure.
  2. Marvel in the kindness of others. There is a toxic climate in our society. Demonizing others is easy as a few words and a couple of clicks on Facebook. I found myself on the receiving end of generosity and kindness during the week. Spend less time in the virtual world and more time living in the real world. Kindness is out there for the giving and taking.
  3. Strike up a conversation. Traveling solo on a fully loaded bike intrigues people who want to hear your story. I became more at ease putting myself out there and being more open to personal interactions. Talk. Listen. People are unique and have interesting life stories.
  4. The most trying day has rewards. Touring by bicycle subjects you to the elements and many challenges. Your legs, brain, and physical abilities are put to a test. This past week was no exception. I quickly learned that there is great joy in pedaling into my home for the night. Accomplishment is the reward for conquering challenges.
  5. Pat yourself on the back every day. When I was a runner, a running friend assured me that I was faster than everyone that was at home snug in their bed. It is funny but is the truth. I might be slow, but I cycled 50-60 miles a day on a heavy bike with loaded panniers under less than ideal conditions. Never underestimate your abilities and recognize your victories.
  6. Damn, I was hungry. I failed early in the week on being properly nourished and hydrated. It became obvious by the end of day 1 that burning up to 3,000 calories a day required a change in behavior. I fueled myself regularly with a hearty breakfast and fed my engine regularly during the day. I became mindful of packing extra Gatorade and protein-rich snacks. Fuel yourself before your body tells you.
  7. You can truly rely on yourself. My biggest apprehension for the week was being alone on this trip. This apprehension disappeared quickly as I cycled through the week. I am an analytical person who thrives on challenges. This tour fed my desire to break new barriers and discover more. Believing in yourself makes you a self-reliant and confident person.
  8. You can’t tell the book by the cover. I struggle with the preconceptions of people and places. This week blew away many of these misconceptions. I had fun and intriguing talks with people I would have never engaged in conversation. I enjoyed the hospitality of people in remote towns and gained insight into their lives. People who appear different than you are more like you than you imagine.
  9. I’m not too old to do this. Years ago, I never imagined taking a journey like this at this point in my life. I encountered senior cyclists this week on similar adventures. Most people could be described as normal moms, dads, grandfathers, and grandmothers. Baby boomers are owning the label of active seniors.
  10. Bicycle tourists aren’t the stereotypical cyclist. I belong to several Facebook over-50 cycling groups. Most of these groups involve boasting of the miles cycled and costly bikes ridden. I am not into the miles and carbon fiber bikes. I concentrate on people, places, and the experience. My bike is heavy steel and not feather light. I felt very comfortable this week. I saw myself in the cyclists I encountered. Cyclists come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.

I’ll close by sharing an interesting and amusing insight I gained last week from an unexpected source. I checked into my Airbnb in Frostburg, Maryland and connected to the Wi-Fi. The password says it all… getoffthewebandgooutandplay


“Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death!” – Auntie Mame

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  1. Greg October 21, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Love your ten lessons, Tom! As you know, I can relate. I’ll paraphrase a couple of your lessons with a phrase I saw this morning posted outside Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland.

    “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”

    1. Tom Bilcze October 21, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      Greg, I learned several of these from our spring tour.


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