Yesterday I gave a talk on bicycle touring on the Ohio to Erie Trail. Over fifty people came out to Blimp City in Akron on a cold rainy day. The people facing me were diverse but united in enjoying life on a bike. Most were day cyclists exploring their local trails from behind their handlebars.
They wanted to know more about bicycle touring and curious how they could see more of Ohio on their bike. The energy of this audience got me thinking about what bicycle touring means to me. I jotted down some random things that characterize what touring by bike means to me.
- Smiles before miles. I choose taking time to meet people and explore their towns over racking up the miles on my Garmin to make the most of my day.
- The worst can be the best. I find myself in challenging situations questioning, “Why in the hell am I doing this?” Those times linger on to become some of my best memories.
- Grab a stool. The best way to get to know people is to share a meal. Nothing beats taking a seat at a diner’s counter. This communal seating immediately leads to laughs and conversations.
- What’s the hurry? Touring by bike is escaping from life’s responsibilities. I set a target time to cycle, but I am flexible. It’s surprising how relaxed I am at the end of the day.
- Lost can be found. I am certain to be lost some time on a tour. An unintentional turn can lead to some interesting unplanned experiences to an otherwise often over planned route.
- I know where I’m going. This extreme joy of freedom on a bike sours when I am lost. I spend my evenings reviewing the next day’s route and check my map regularly on the bike.
- I am a material girl. I have more possessions than I need in life. I don’t carry that excess baggage on my bike. I have reduced the number of things I carry on the tour to the necessities.
- Most people are good. I cannot emphasize how many good people I encounter on my bike and the generosity and kindness they show me as a bicycle tourist. It’s uplifting and I pay it forward.
- I laugh at myself. Awkward things, mishaps, and mistakes are bound to happen on tour. I don’t have a temper tantrum (maybe sometimes). I keep rolling and think, “Damn that was stupid.”
- Heads up! Never forget you are on a tour. Watch the road but let your eyes explore the scenery unfolding before you. I never answer a call on my bike. I want to be aware of my surroundings.
- If it goes up, it may go down. I hate hills. Hills challenge me. I love hills as I coast down after a climb. Climbs remind me that like life a challenging hill yields rewards on the back end.
- The wind beneath my wings. Wind, I hate wind. Wind, I love wind. Like hills, wind mostly challenges me. Why are there never tailwinds? I just keep moving and cursing it.
- Singing in the rain. Rain is mostly a downside, especially after a soaking day. It’s welcome on a 95-degree humid summer day. Life isn’t always a sunshine day. Sing Raindrops keep falling on my Head.
- About the drink. Be mindful of water. Dehydration is real and can unpleasantly stop your tour. I overcompensate by carrying more water and try to be mindful of staying hydrated.
- Make my own kind of music. There is no single blueprint for bicycle touring. I made my own touring style over the years. I have evolved and continue to evolve as I change and age. Celebrate your flair!
- Embrace being alone. Society celebrates togetherness and looks down on being a loner. Touring solo builds confidence, gives me time to dream, reflect on my life, and sing out of tune.
- Resist killing friends, if possible. Touring with friends is enjoyable and at the same time challenging. Take a deep breath. Embrace differences. Cycle ahead or behind. Chill out. It’s only a ride.
- Trust your instincts. I can find myself in an uncomfortable situation with no clear direction. I find it’s better to trust myself to move forward. If I am wrong, I change course later.
- Hit the brakes. I need to do this more. I often regret not stopping and exploring something interesting I passed. When I turn back, I discover that it enhances my day.
- Sprechen sie Deutsch? I take the time to learn basic vocabulary when traveling in foreign lands. People I encounter appreciate my efforts to greet them in my less than stellar version of their language.
- Be kind. Be considerate. Kindness is a door opener and an eye-opener. Act as a good human and your actions will be returned a thousandfold. Remember and practice this more than any of the above.
An old man on a bike