Monday, October 30, 2017

Cycling For The Adventure

A fuzzy photograph of a friend from 1994 when I went on a cross country, self supported bike tour.
Bicycling was taken up by most of us when we were children. We did it because the bicycle could carry us to places to do things, see people, and, of course, to "get in trouble". That last thing is code for "adventure" when you stop to think about it. That was the main reason I was into cycling. I was in it for the adventure.

Of course, it was a different day and age when I came up. There were no media blitzes going on every second to distract me. We were not bombarded with social media, the world, life...... We set out to discover the "unknown" which may have been the next neighborhood, the next farm down the road, or the next city down the blacktop. If we weren't going to school, visiting friends, or going to Little League practice, we were having an adventure by bicycle, or "getting in trouble", as I mentioned already.

I saw a great story about the days when people, grown up people, would go looking for this so called trouble on purpose. It was called "touring" back then. The story by Peter Flax on can be read HERE. In the story, Mr. Flax recounts his journey in 1992 with a friend across America and parts of Canada by bicycle. It is a story that resonated with my own experiences on tours just a couple of years after the experiences recounted by Mr. Flax. My tours happened in 1994 and 1995. While they were not across the U.S.A tours, they were filled with adventure none the less.

Much of what I do today was informed by my experiences cycling on those early loaded tours.
If you read the linked article, you will note that Mr. Flax equates the loaded cyclo-touring of the 90's with today's craze called "bikepacking". He's right, you know. There is no difference but the name. Well, as far as the basic, simple activity of being self-sufficient on an overland tour goes. The day and age we live in now is completely different, and what we think we "need", or must have, to go on an overland cycling tour nowadays is radically different than it was back in the 90's.

I don't want to judge anyone, but I am glad that I got to experience cyclo-touring pre-social media and before cell phones. There's something about a memory when you are miles from the nearest house or business, out of water, and it is over 100°F and you have absolutely no way to communicate that outside of the two guys along with you on the ride. That changes the playing field.

Mr. Flax wrote about how he and his partner would stop at bars and motels to get a heads up on the world's cycling news, (and news in general, most likely). Can you imagine setting out for a 100 mile day without knowing the weather forecast for the day? We did that back then. I'm not saying we were better for it, but it was sooooo different then and I am saying I am glad I experienced it that way. We were oblivious to so many things that are fretted over in the minutest of detail today. 

Of course, you could recreate the 80's/90's type of touring experience if you dare to. Leave the smart phone at home, stay off the devices, and just keep your head down and ride. But can anyone actually manage to tear themselves away from this culture? Could you ride without GPS, a rear radar detector, or a freaking phalanx of flashing red lights? Could you simply ride off a map and just trust that you will have a most excellent journey? Nowadays it seems that we cannot do that. We have to have "routes". Someone else has to do the discovering for us, and only then will we go out and try to ride the route already mapped out for us. We have to post to social media, we have to have a track of our route to upload to Strava, we have to be connected 24-7.

Maybe I am wrong, but "adventure" seems to be a different flavor these days, and I wish I, and the rest of us, could taste it like it used to be again. But I'm just as guilty as many others.

Maybe it is time turn off, tune out and drop in.........


Phillip Cowan said...

I really enjoy reading the tour reports on However it seems to me that many people just follow the ACA routes. You often see photos of the same buildings and places in different journals. Please don't misunderstand, I think the Adventure Cycling Association is a wonderful organization staffed by some really cool folks, but following a prescribed path that hundreds or even thousands have already been down seems a little boring. If I ever get around to crossing the country (bucket list item alert) I would probably make it a point NOT to follow the ACA routes. Maybe that's just general cussedness on my part.

Rydn9ers said...

Have you ever tried to get Garmin Connect, Instagram, Facebook and Relieve to all link to Strava and each other to simultaneously cross post your most awesome riding adventure with just a few clicks in one app? Now that sir is an adventure if there ever was one!

All kidding aside, great post... this summer or next I want to get out to western Nebraska and try my hand at a few sections of the Cowboy Trail.

Michael said...

Since I'm on computers all the time, I tend t treat my "bike time" as tech free time. I do pull out the phone to check my directions or take the occasional photo, but that's about it.