Something about a bike immediately breaks down social barriers. As more and more people get excited about bicycle travel, setting out for the edge by bicycle becomes less about discovery of unexplored places and more about encounters with exciting stories and like-minded people. Almost every land-filled corner of the world has been traveled by bicycle in the 118 years since since Annie Londonderry set out to circumnavigate the world by bike in 1895. Still, every year more and more people set out with the bicycle as their mode of discovery.
On my own recent bike tour through Montana, I came across a roadside sign that read “Discovery, for all travelers, is a deeply personal and universally human experience. In the larger sense, Montana is continually discovered, its cultures are always transforming, and each of us is explorer, witness, and storyteller.” So it is with all bicycle travel. And it’s only growing…..
The two-wheeled exploratory epidemic is spurred in large part by online communities and organizations. Gold, silver, and bronze medals for helping to expand the pedal-powered network go to the following sites/resources:
GOLD: Adventure Cycling Association:
America’s Bicycle Travel Experts
If you like knowing details of the roads ahead–road shoulder size, campsite location, terrain change, basic geological information–ACA maps are the greatest thing since the rover safety. For the traveling cyclist, these maps are almost fool-proof (almost!). ACA has extensive routes all over the US, so you can retrace history with Lewis and Clark and/or Underground Railroad, move coast to coast, or stick to your favorite land’s edge (Pacific or Atlantic?). AND if you bike to their headquarters in Missoula, Montana, you’ll get to weigh your gear, have your photo taken, get unlimited free ice cream, and dream about your next steps through their networks of maps.
The organization was started after the 1976 BikeCentenniel in which 4,000+ people rode across the US by bike in celebration of our country’s 200th birthday. That ride was conceived by June and Greg Siple, ACA founders who you’ll probably get to meet if you swing by the headquarters. The Siple’s are notably the first people to ever ride their bikes from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in South America, a trip on National Geographic’s list of the 20 most extreme adventures
If you travel along Adventure Cycling routes, you ABSOLUTELY will meet numerous other bicycle travelers along the way.
Free Worldwide Hospitality Exchange for Touring Cyclists
Every little act of kindness makes a world of difference to touring cyclists. Every. Little. Bit. Moving from smallest act to largest (but all incredibly significant), we’ll take: directions, drinking water, a meal, a shower, laundry, a free place to camp, a bed (for some people, a ride up a pass). WarmShowers.org institutionalizes cyclist hospitality. On the road, you hear a million stories of people spontaneously receiving free meals and places to stay, but this makes those instances less serendipitous and more available. This is the CouchSurfing of the cycling community, where travelers bond and trust through their bikes.
BRONZE: Crazy Guy On A Bike:
A Place for Bicycle Tourists and Their Journals
The interface could be a little nicer, but if you want to dream and understand the day by day experience of different routes, this is the site to explore and share on!
Bottom Line: If you ever plan to set out on your own tour (particularly in the US), follow ACA maps, stay with Warm Showers hosts (then pay it forward!), and dream through journals on CrazyGuyOnABike.
A sweet ode to bicycle travel from PathLessPedaled.