Touring Landscapes: See The World By Bike

Bicycle touring is one of the oldest forms of bicycle travel and presents people with a chance to truly immerse themselves in the environment, landscape and culture of their surroundings. Whether it’s just for a weekend or over several months, bicycle touring is not only a way to see the world, but to explore new places, experience adventure or to simply get from A to B – with a few detours in-between. Read on to find out how different riders have approached bicycle touring and be inspired to plan your own trip.

Reading time: 5 min
Person riding a bike fully packed

 

While bicycle touring and bikepacking might be used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences that set the two apart. Both allow riders the chance to explore the world by simple means, but those who think of themselves as bikepackers might choose a leaner bike setup and pack the bare minimum, while the those who tour might not have a single destination in mind, packing enough to allow them to be flexible and make plans on the fly.

But truth be told, there is no “set” way to go bicycling touring. The most important thing is prioritising pleasure, adventure and exploration over racing, exercise or commuting. The bicycle tourers’ mandate is to enjoy the journey, no matter the destination.

Touring For Adventure

One of the main reasons people are attracted to bicycle touring is simply for adventure; to adventure for adventure’s sake and to experience the world in a different way. On- or off-road, in well trodden places or somewhere off the beaten track.

Being able to escape the confines of everyday life is a common theme when asking bicycle tourers why they set off in the first place. Apidura rider Gonzalo Zamorano found himself craving adventure in his home country of Argentina, where he has toured extensively in the high peaks and valleys of Cordillera de Los Andes.

One particular trip to the Valle Noble and Valle Hermoso afforded Gonzalo the opportunity to fully switch off from modern society, with no particular route in mind.

Gonzalo Zamorano

“The route would change as I rode it, but my primary objective would remain the same: to discover the crossroads between two valleys, Valle Noble and Valle Hermoso, two of the most beautiful places that can be found in these latitudes.

It wasn’t the first time I’d dared to pedal through the mountain range, but it was the first time that the route was not set and decided. Without a doubt, getting lost can often be the best way to find yourself.”

Read about Gonzalo’s adventure in full here

 

Camping

For round-the-world cyclist Jonathan Kambskard-Bennett, what started out as a way to see the world on a budget, became more and more about the journey than the destination.

“The ‘necessary evil’ of getting from A to B wasn’t an inconvenience at all – it was the very reason I started cycling each morning. It wasn’t about saving money anymore, it was about travelling an unbroken line, relying on my own legs – and nothing else – to carry me across continents.”

“There’s no escaping when you travel by bike. You are vulnerable to the elements and there’s no hiding from the people around you. You move at just the right speed; fast enough to pass through countries in a matter of days, but slow enough that you can stop at any moment.”

Read more about Jonathan’s round-the-world adventure here

 

Fully packed bike and a rider

Touring for Exploration

Travelling by bike means you can go to places others might not be able to access by foot or even by car and while a sense adventure is a given on almost all bicycle tours, being able to explore off the beaten track adds an exciting dimension to any trip.

Esplora.cc is a cycling collective based in Italy who make it their mission to push themselves, their bikes, kit and route choices to the limit. At the end of 2023, riders Davide and Marco embarked on a tour of Nepal, starting from Bhimdatta to Kathmandu via Thorong la Pass in the heart of the Himalayas. But even though they had a set route in mind, when they arrived they realised there was an opportunity to explore other places.

“At the start, when we were planning the expedition, we had a specific route in mind that changed the first day, “ explained Davide and Marco.

Cyclist riding on a dirt track

Cyclist riding up a dirt road

“We were planning on heading straight into the mountains when we arrived in Nepal, but as soon as we started the trip we decided to stay in the flatlands where the jungle is. This decision allowed us to see some places and villages that were really off the usual tourist routes.

“And if you can imagine what we looked like to the local people, all set up for touring on our bikes, dressed up in helmets and glasses, we looked like aliens!

“We often found ourselves staying in people’s houses, they would always offer even if they didn’t have much. We would share food and exchange ways of thinking about the life. So it was a really, really unique experience.”

Ulrich Bartholmoes

Touring for Travel

There’s no denying that choosing to travel by bike opens up a number of new opportunities, including being able to travel overland in a way that lessens our impact on the environment. While choosing to completely avoid taking a flight might not be possible for everyone, even just doing one part of a journey by bike creates an opportunity for adventure and exploration by bike.

Well known for his performance in ultra-distance cycling races, Ulrich Bartholmoes isn’t naturally associated with the easy-going pace on bicycle touring. But during one trip to Chile for the Across Andes race, he decided to tour the 900km from Santiago to the start in Melipeuco. After a 14 hour flight, Ulrich wanted to break up his journey and take the opportunity to actually enjoy the landscape – the same one he would be racing in a few days later.

“For me, it’s not the speed that makes the difference [between touring and racing], but the freedom to stop whenever I want and ride only during the day,” says Ulrich. “Whether I arrive at my destination this evening or tomorrow makes no difference – if I fill the time in between with great experiences, it’s worth a lot to me.”

Read more about Ulrich’s adventure in Chile here

 

Marin de Saint Exupery

At the extreme end of the spectrum, Apidura rider Marin de Saint-Exupéry is choosing to traverse continents exclusively by bike this year. Riding from his home in Switzerland, Marin will be riding to the start lines of the Atlas Mountain Race, Hellenic Mountain Race and the Silk Road Mountain Race, then back home, all by bike. Striking the balance between touring and racing, he hopes to be able to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

“Since it first popped up in my mind more than a year ago, I have been obsessed with this project. It embodies everything I ride bikes for. The adventure, the game of racing, the challenge, all of that is thanks to the wonderful machine that is a bicycle, a tool for mobility, whether it’s for my daily job as a messenger or to race across three different continents.”

Read more about Marin’s journey here

 

Bicycle touring can take many forms, united by the desire for simplicity, adventure and exploration. If you’re thinking of planning your own touring trip the best thing to do is just get out there and give it a go.