Bicycle Touring, Anyone?

With the deep freeze settling over the country, conditions are not suited for bike riding. Even here in Central Texas, we’ve been waking up to temps down around 19 degrees (-7C), and for awhile it was very windy. Biking was the farthest thing from my mind, as I shrugged on an extra layer of clothing, just to stay warm indoors.

So to pass the time, I sat with my iPad and surfed around some cycling sites. One of my favorites to while away the hours is Crazy Guy on a Bike. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a site for touring cyclists to post accounts of their rides. The site has been online since about 2000, and has amassed an amazing amount of touring cyclist journals, as well as articles, reviews, forums and comments.

Some of the journals recount trips I have trouble even imagining — like going around the world by bike, or just biking through exotic locales on the other side of the globe. Others are more mundane — S24O trips to nearby woods (S24O stands for sub-24-hour overnight. Bike somewhere a few hours away, camp for the night, go home the next day). Of course, I wanted to see what people were doing in Texas, and there are plenty of stories of Southern Tier trips across the U.S. that pass through the Lone Star state, as well as others who go from south to north, or who just spend a few days touring a section of the state.

Stopping for the night at a state park campground.
Stopping for the night at a state park campground. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

The same is true of all states. I grew up in Illinois, lived for a long time in Minnesota, and worked for awhile in Wisconsin. All kinds of adventures take place in those areas. I especially enjoyed reading the journal of a fellow who rode around Lake Superior, then back through Wisconsin to Minnesota — a pedaling duplicate of a car trip I took with my son when he was 11 years old. The cyclist took pretty much the same route, and stayed in several of the same places we did. Now, my appetite is whetted to hit the road myself.

Gazing at bluffs along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.
Gazing at bluffs along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.

One thing is holding me back. I don’t have a touring bike. It’s true, you can go cross-country on most anything, but a bike built for the purpose will give the best results. The usual suspects are well-represented in these stories: Surly Long Haul Truckers, Trek 520s, Windsor Tourists — but you’ll also find a lot of hybrid bikes and recumbents. Many of them pull small trailers.

A Surly Long Haul Trucker, fully loaded for a tour.
A Surly Long Haul Trucker, fully loaded for a tour.

I won’t be buying a touring bike any time soon. And frankly, I’ve done my share of camping, and I’m not a fan. But there’s a nice alternative that I might take up without a special bike and a heavy load. It’s called “credit card touring.”

Just hop on your bike, ride to a destination, and instead of camping, stay in a motel. Eat at restaurants, instead of cooking freeze-dried glop over a balky camp stove. The price mounts up fast, but that’s why we create budgets, right?

I don’t know if it will happen. We’re doing a big vacation this summer to celebrate a major anniversary, so all of our discretionary income is spoken for. But toward fall, when things are back to normal, I just might hit the back roads around here, and see sights off the beaten track for a few days.



  1. says

    Lets see, to do things “the cheap way” you’ll need to buy yourself a SLHT or a similar bike plus all the panniers, bags, etc… plus the camping equipment. How many hotels is that? More than a couple, I’m thinking! I like your line of thought on this, probably because I’m thinking the same sort of thing. You reach a point in your life when some convenience is awfully nice and cc touring is a nice compromise to the hardcore stuff many people think of.

  2. john says

    There are some really great overnight trips you can take from Austin. If you don’t like camping that much, some state parks have cabins and shelters you can rent. But, nothing is as cool as an unsupported ride on which you don’t know where you will be staying each night. Also, look into One year my gf and I stayed with a host near Canyon Lake while on a short tour. The house had an incredible Hill Country view that would have cost us at least 200 had it been a hotel.

    Last year I rode from the beach north of Corpus Christi to the Guadalupe Mountains. I met so many helpful people and saw so many interesting things along the way that I never would have seen if I had been in a car. Give touring a try!

  3. Kathleen says

    The middle ground is doing an organized multi-day ride that includes moving your luggage and gear every day and hot showers. Or for those who like even more comfort when they “rough it”, using the services of an outfitter who provides the camping gear as well as setting it and taking it down along with handling your luggage.

    Oklahoma Freewheel is a great option for us Texans! Close and affordable.

  4. says

    Hi Bike Noob.
    It was really easy to start long travelling without any knowledge about special touring bikes. I just was dreaming about cycling accross Laos, so I bought a ticket on airline that handle bike as regular luggage withput extra payment. I took my old mountain bike Norco and bought simple and cheap rear rack. I was so happy when I finally collect it from a bag on China-Laos border and start to cycle in different country. I didn’t know any word on Lao. Just have a lot of joy a happiness.
    Now I’m working in office and as you read a lot of report during winter time. I cycled Laos again with my family and my 12 old son. But it’s truly important to cycle in your own contry. I hope one day I pass through middle America.
    Have a good dreams.

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