Introduction to adventure cycling

[+] Choosing a bike

[+] Carrying your kit

Camping gear

Spares, repairs & tools

Where to go


Bikes on planes

Enjoying your tour

Safety and security




"The finest mode of transport known to man."
Adam Hart-Davies, on the bicycle.

What is adventure cycling

Adventure cycling is about: The great thing about adventure cycling is that it is an easy way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary adventures. It's cheap, easy to organise and you don't have to be superfit. By far the hardest bit of a 12,000km bike ride is finding the courage to set off.

Meet some adventure cyclists

The Adventure Cycling Guide Marija Kozin This is Marija Kozin, a great adventure cyclist who Rowena and I met in Kyrgyzstan. She was the 26 years old, cycling alone from Slovenia to Bejing via Tibet. When we met here she was approaching her 10,000th kilometre in the saddle. She went on to cycle the Tibet Highway to Lhasa, 2000km of the highest, wildest and most remote roads in the world. After a few weeks rest in Beijing she turned round and is now cycling home on a recumbent. Marija's website is at www.marijakozin.com

Adventure Cycling Guide Mark and Ju MacClean And these two are Ju and Mark MacClean who, over two years, cycled 24,000 km from the UK to New Zealand via Russia, Mongolia and China (they have a great website of their journey at www.mark-ju.net).

Don't get the idea that you need to take two years off work for a cycling tour. People squeeze some great adventures into just four or five weeks holidays.

Top ten reasons to go adventure cycling

At the end of my first tour, despite setting out feeling deeply sceptical, I was convinced cycling was the very best way to travel. Subsequent journeys have only served to confirm this.
Here are the top ten reasons why it's so good:

1. You are more independent

On a bike, carrying a tent, you are wonderfully self-sufficient. Without being tied to public transport or hotels, you can go where you want and stop when and where you want. And, instead of being couped up in a car or a bus, you are out in the fresh air, close to the landscape all day. It's much more fulfilling than backpacking. And a bike is the only transport you can take with you on a plane.

2. You'll see more of the world

Cycling is the perfect pace to see the world. Driving is far too fast to take anything in and walking is a bit too slow unless the scenery is really stunning. But around fifteen kilometers and hour is about right, slow enough to really take in the countryside, but fast enough to feel you are getting somewhere.

3. Cycling gets you further off the beaten track

On a bike it's really easy to get off the beaten track and visit places that few other tourists see. You can cycle or push your bike along tracks that are impassable for 4x4s.

4. You'll meet more people

Adventure Cycling Guide Uzbek Arriving by bike is a great way to meet the locals. It's an instant ice-breaker and seems to bring out the best in people. There's something about your absence of conspicuous wealth that gets you closer to the people of the country you are passing through.

5. It's more exciting

More than other ways of travelling, cycling seems to leave room for the unexpected. Something surprising, wonderful, or touching always seems to be just round the next corner. The days are very full and it's never dull.

6. You can eat as much as you like

Pedalling burns a splendid amount of calories. On a tour of any length you can eat as much as you like and you will still end up losing weight.

7. It's gentler on the planet

There are lots of reasons to feel virtuous about cycling touring. By bike, it's possible to travel through a country with almost zero impact on the environment. And the money you spend goes directly into the local economy.

8. It will restore your faith in humanity

From free cups of tea in Turkey to breakfast with truck drivers at the summit of pass in Kyrgzstan, the spontaneous acts of kindness from complete strangers you experience while cycling leave you feeling amazed and very humble.

9. It will get you fit

On of the things you learn on a cycle tour is that reasonably continuous physical exercise is what the human body is designed for. Cycling for a few hours everyday is very good for you and makes you feel incredibly well.

10. You'll be part of a community

Setting out an cycling tour get you immediate and free membership of the worldwide community of adventure cyclists.

So, what's stopping you?

Here are the most frequent excuses I hear for not setting off.

I'm not fit enough...

You don't have to be very fit to set off on a 12,000km journey. It's true that some long distance cyclists train before setting off, but they are significantly outnumbered by the unfit, couch potatoes like myself, who just get on their bikes and go. You may only do 50km a day in your first week, but who cares? You will have just as much fun as the bloke doing 100km a day.

I'm too old..

Ann Mustoe set off to cycle round the world when she was 54 and she is still doing big trips ten years later. Cycling definitely keeps you young. It guarantees instant rapport and friendship when you meet on the road.

I can't afford a posh bike...

You can sort yourself out with a suitable bike for as little as 300 see- 2nd hand MTBs.

I've got no one to go with...

Go by yourself. It's quite easy to meet and hook up with other cyclists.

I can't get the time off work, I've got a mortgage to pay...

This is more like it - a proper excuse. This really boils down to what your priorities are and how much you want to do something different. It is doable. Companies are becoming more understanding about people taking sabaticals or gap years, houses can rented out, jobs can be found on your return...
Copyright © Tim Barnes 2007