Do you get lonely on those long bike tours?

I meet lots of people on the way.  A touring bike becomes a welcome mat bringing out many questions.  In small towns, especially where bikes are not as common, people often invite me to come join their table in restaurants.  They see the bike and realize that this could be the "tour of a life time."  Someone on a bike tends to be less threatening. 

Hot springs where people sit around, often in the nude, are great places for conversation.  YMCA Saunas can be good also.  Memberships in places like the Y are often good at out of town locations.  Remember to bring along your "away card," or the equivalent, for what ever your source of "community" is back home. 
 


Reader comment
Pluses and minuses of bike touring in a group or alone

Comments by Richard M. Shearer, a reader of my web site

I may be waaaaaaay late, but I just found your site and was reading the
FAQ section.  Re: whether to go alone cross-country or sign on with an
organized tour.  I rode across country (Livermore CA to Washington DC)
with a friend as far as Yellowstone (when the friend had to return home
for a family wedding) and by myself the rest of the way.  I have since
toured in the Sierra Nevadas alone, from Mount Shasta to Yosemite with a
group of friends, and in southern France with a commercial group.  I
enjoyed them all, and I the variety of experiences has left me with some
thoughts on the differences.  The bottom line is the trade off between
freedom and company.  If you travel with others, you have to take other
people's traits into account, everything from food preferences to
snoring to riding styles.  For example, on tour I like to get up when it
gets light, eat, pack and hit the road, while others like to laze around
longer and not start out until late morning.  It helps if you know the
people you are traveling with (my cross-country partner and the friends
along on the Shasta-Yosemite ride were and remain friends of many years
standing).  You also have to be prepared to be flexible. The up-side is
companionship.  You have a support system in case you get hurt or if you
just hit a rough patch (and on a cross country trip, you will hit some
rough patches).  You have someone to help with camp chores ("I'll start
dinner if you set up the tent").  But be brutally honest with yourself
about both yourself and what you can put up with in a traveling
companion.  Just because another person can ride doesn't mean you want
to spend two months riding with them.

Riding solo presents just the opposite in trade-offs.  You have to be
prepared to be totally self-sufficient, physically and emotionally.  It
has been my experience that if you want human contact on tour, it is not
hard to find.  Once you tool into a campground with a fully loaded
touring rig and start setting up camp, more often than not someone will
approach you to ask about your trip (kids especially are drawn to loaded
bikes), which often leads to invitations to dinner.  But you can never
just assume this will happen, and there will be stretches where you
really are on your own.  Again, you have to be brutally honest with
yourself in determining if you are really up to doing that.  I would
never have started my cross country trip alone, and as we got closer to
the point where my friend would have to head home, I got somewhat
anxious.  As it turned out, I am glad I had the chance to do the rest of
the trip alone, not because I was tired of my friend (we had one or two
very minor flare-ups, but 99% of the time got along beautifully) but
because it left me more open to meeting people I otherwise might have
missed.

The commercial trip in Provence was a 40th birthday present from my
wife.  I had a great time, and it was awfully nice to have the gear
carried, the cooking done, etc.  Again, it was also nice to have the
built-in human contact, especially since my knowledge of French is
"oui," "non," and counting to five. But as the questioner pointed out,
the cost quickly becomes prohibitive.  Don't get me wrong, it was a
great trip and I don't for a moment think the company overcharged.  But
if you are prepared for the logistics of carrying your own gear (and
yes, you can do it as long as you remember that you do not have to get
there fast, you just have to get there, and prepared to be flexible
about what "getting there" means on any given day), I think you get far
more bang for your buck if you do it on your own, either alone or with
others.

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