Travel Tip: Don't 'Weight' to Go Cross Country
Loaded touring is no doubt the purest form of bike travel; nothing quite matches the sense of liberation and independence one earns by setting out on a self-supported bicycle camping trip. But loaded touring is also slower and more challenging than riding unencumbered -- and heck, there’s nothing in the bike-touring rules book that says you have to carry all of your gear on your bicycle (or behind it, like the Great Divide rider shown above).
A small pickup truck can be used to support a small group of three or four riders.
In the “old days,” Bikecentennial -- the organization that would become Adventure Cycling Association -- operated self-supported tours only. Eventually, however, the organization’s staff and board of directors realized that offering self-supported tours exclusively was excluding hundreds of potential bike travelers who would prefer to ride load-free. Today, 36 years after the Bikecentennial summer of 1976, more than half of the organization’s guided tours are of the supported format.
A supported tour can be a stepping stone or an end unto itself. A lot of individuals who’ve tried one of Adventure Cycling’s van-supported tours, dipping their toes in the bike-travel waters, have gone on to try self-contained travel. Maybe you will, too, after trying a sagged bike overnight. Or, perhaps you’ll be perfectly happy to continue letting the van do the heavy lifting.
It takes something a little larger, such a full-size pickup and a rental moving truck, to support a group of 60, like on Adventure Cycling's C&O Canal/GAP tour.
Moral of the story: Don’t resist trying bicycle travel simply because you’re uncomfortable with the idea of hauling all of your own gear. Get a friend or family member to carry the majority of the weight in a car, van, or truck. They can meet up with you for a couple of snacks en route, and then again at the destination campground, motel, or B&B. One dividend of this mode of travel is that it permits non-bicyclists to be a part of the fun. Another is that it lets you bring along the sorts of food and comfort items that you would never take if you had to bear the weight on your bicycle!
Getting out on the bicycle, and inspiring others to do the same, is what’s important. So don't wait to go cross country. Go overnight -- self-supported or not.
Photos by Michael McCoy.