I get asked a lot how to start a bike?
A few years ago, if you asked me about travelling around the world on a bicycle, I would laugh at you.
I was at the end of the travel spectrum having exhausted all options and had no inkling at that time about the wonders of taking a bicycle halfway around the world.
I’ll be honest, I did not even know how to ride a bike — it was a very sad and unfortunate discovery the day I realised I was missing out on years of pedalling fun!
Growing up is part of life but missing out on a vehicle that is more than just any ride in the park, but an experience on its own that can give you an enormous sense of freedom is not to be taken lightly or to be missed for anything else in the world.
I tinkered with trying to learn how to ride a motorbike before deciding that a bicycle may be a better option because it saves me money and I am able to use my strength to visit different parts of the world which is an achievement on its own.
The simplicity of all of it, that’s what makes bicycle touring a sport that is addictive, fun and a big boost on your life experience!
Why You Should Travel By Bike?
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Other than friends and family asking me the long-dreaded question of why I travel by bike, I’ll explain how I did to the rest.
For me taking trips is about finding that sweet spot of challenging myself, seeing beautiful landscapes and eating awesome meals and meeting new people.
Sure, you can do all of that via walking or backpacking but the bicycle is often a great conversation starter — the stickers, mud, bags are all little things that may make other people want to come forward and interact with you.
Other than the pure exhilaration of seeing new landscapes, the natural environment has changed drastically due to the ravages of global warming.
I have seen what climate change looks like upfront and it makes you think about your choices, the more you explore on a two-wheeler!
The places that we want to see or have been written about are often packed to the brim with tourists.
Post-pandemic, you’ll see people being a lot more conscious with their travel choices, slower journeys will take centre stage with the train, cycling, walking being the favoured choice of transportation over tourist packages!
Bicycle touring offers a chance to enjoy the undiscovered discoveries by coincidence, and a natural inclination to pause and see beauty in the ordinary.
It is a different kind of feeling to be able to pedal with some miles to nowhere, seeing flowers bloom at the right time and soaking in beauty in remote corners of the world!
How to travel by bike
Travelling by your bike is not as complicated as some people make it out to be. The annoying part is probably trying to sort bike logistics when making your way to the airport or railway station.
Another consideration is also weight limits — you’d need to check this beforehand and understand which is the best way.
- By flight
If you’re taking your bicycle by plane, you’d need a bike box or a bike bag to pack your bike beforehand.
The easiest way to sort this is to take it to the bicycle shop for them to wrap it up for you. It should cost approximately 10-12 USD.
You’ll also need to be driven to the airport and get a bigger car where the back seats can be folded for your bike bag or box to fit.
But thankfully, that’s all made easier with dedicated companies like BikeFlights where they literally take care of the nitty-gritty and have been hugely supportive with their advocacy work and grassroots community programs!
- By bus/train
There’s no real packing method to sort here other than enquiries from your local station if you can carry your bicycle on board.
Most stations do have a separate bike compartment and some have certain hours where bicycles are allowed. Buying a separate ticket for your bicycle is also common.
If you’re using the bus, this is largely dependent on your negotiating skills. You’d need to negotiate with the bus driver and ensure there’s enough space for them to put your bike.
In Laos, my bicycle was on the roof and they tied it properly but in Kygyrzstan I got them to stuff my bike in marshrutka (van) which made it really cramped and not the best way to place your bicycle but I made sure the front wheel was taken out and rest was inserted properly.
How to budget for a bicycle tour
It is quite cheap to cycle on a bicycle tour — at most I spend less than US$29 per day and this was while staying in a hotel. If you’re camping, it’s way cheaper than this.
The most you’ll end up splurging on is on food and occasionally your accommodation.
I know some extreme bicycle tourers who keep it to US$10 a day — I think this is possible if you’re cycling in Asia or camping but the budget varies depending on your comfort and bicycle travelling setup.