THE TOUR EXPERIENCE
First and foremost, an Adventure Cycling tour is a group experience. Although this may appear obvious, it’s hard to overstate its importance – especially on a tour of this length. For me and for most bicycle tourists, a shared experience is a better experience, but it does involve some trade-offs: as with most things in life, you have to give to get.
- You’ll all share the rotation of shopping/cooking/clean-up duties.
- You’ll each carry part of the group’s shared gear and supplies.
- You’ll have one another to share your best and worst moments with.
- You’ll all participate in decisions about how to spend your time and money.
- You’ll become acquainted so closely with some members of your group that you will remain friends for the rest of your lives
Everyone on the tour, including the leader, participates in the shared group duties. Every “x” number of days (depending on the size of your group, but usually 5 or 6 days), you will be paired with another member to plan, purchase, prepare, and clean up for an evening’s dinner and the following day’s breakfast and lunch. Breakfast seldom involves cooking anything other than hot water. Lunch makings are laid out at breakfast for each person to assemble their own lunch, which they will eat somewhere on the road that day.
So, yes – this means that you will cook, which means that you should come to the tour with a recipe or two for mostly one-pot meals that will fill and nourish up to 16 hungry adults for dinner. In addition, your tour leader also will have a booklet of road-tested recipes, and Adventure Cycling also will provide the group with two 10-qt. pots, a 2-qt. pot, a large skillet, two one-burner stoves, and a complete set of knives, cutting boards, and utensils. You must bring your own eating utensils and bowls.
Wally says: Here’s one of my favorite recipes. Cook one pound of curly noodles and drain them. Immediately add one pound of cubed cheddar cheese and a 16 ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Stir together well and toss with one 16 ounce bottle of Italian salad dressing (shake the dressing first). The heat from the noodles will thaw the vegetables, and the cold from the vegetables will cool the noodles. This can be served as-is, or you can add cooked or canned chicken.
THIS IS A CAMPING TOUR
This is a camping tour. We will be camping nearly every night – mostly outside, but also occasionally in a church hall or a community center. If it is raining during the day when we’re out on our bikes, we’ll be getting wet. If it is raining in the evening, we’ll be getting wet. Therefore, you should bring dependable rain gear and a waterproof tent. The law of averages says that it will rain on any tour on at least one nights.
The quality of the overnight locations may vary widely. Outdoor campsites will be in both private, commercial campgrounds and in the public campgrounds of national parks and national forests, and they may be in city parks. Most overnight locations will have showers, but some of those in the city parks may not have hot water.
A major credit card is a good emergency backup, but cold, hard cash should be your primary means of finance. A budget of $10.00 to $15.00 a day is typical for incidentals such as postage, snacks, souvenirs and beverages.
The rule regarding weather is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. In western states, be prepared for any kind of weather including hot days (100 F), rain, snow and cold nights (below freezing is possible) any time of the year. Weather in mountainous areas is particularly varied and unpredictable. Although humidity is often lower, dehydration can be a concern. Drink plenty of fluids even when you don’t feel thirsty.
In the Midwest and East, humidity can rise above 90% and when combined with high temperatures, can be draining. A rule of thumb for avoiding dehydration and low energy levels is to drink before you are thirsty and eat before you are hungry. Some groups opt for early departures to avoid midday heat.
People vary in their ability to adapt to heat or high altitudes. Being in good physical condition seems to help, and participants may wish to arrive early to acclimate themselves to higher altitudes.
Adventure Cycling provides each group with two stoves, fuel bottles, cookbook and group cooking gear (pots and lids, skillets, knives, spatula, spoons, ladle, can opener, and cutting board). A basic tool kit and first aid kit are also supplied. Please note that your bike may require unique tools. Please review the Tool Kit list on the “Equipment List” page; please bring along any tools you need that are not on the list. All group equipment must be returned to Adventure Cycling after the tour.
You provide your own eating utensils (plate, bowl, knife, spoon, fork, etc.) and some personal tools and first aid supplies. You are also responsible for your own bicycle, panniers or trailer, tent, sleeping bag, pad and ground cloth.
On Self Contained tours, you’ll carry all your gear — and a portion of the group gear — in panniers or on a trailer. You will need a good free-standing tent with a ground cloth, a sleeping bag rated for the kind of temperatures you expect on the tour, and most of us enjoy a sleeping pad.
I’ve written some about our leaders on the “Your Group and Leader” page, and wanted to provide a little more information here.
Group members and the leader, working in pairs, share in food purchasing, cooking and cleanup on a rotating schedule.
Due to limitations imposed by time and equipment, simple, nourishing one-pot dinners with lots of carbohydrates are the norm, supplemented with salads, vegetables, bread and dessert. Lunches usually consist of sandwiches, cookies, drink mixes, fruit, etc. Breakfasts often consist of dry cereal and/or oatmeal, fruit, bread and hot or cold beverages.
Grocery stores in smaller towns often have limited stock; because of this, and since food is purchased for the entire group, you’ll need to be flexible about your diet. It is common to have people who choose not to eat red meat; in such cases, meat can be cooked and served separately or mixed into only a portion of the main dish. It is not possible to cater completely to any one type of food preference, be it vegetarian, macrobiotic, junk food, or whatever. There will, however, be sufficient and nourishing food for everyone.
You may be wondering what sort of group gear we carry and use to cook our meals. Below is an exploded diagram – click the image to see a larger version.
Most days of our tour will have some structure, which will be like this:
- Up at 6 am
- Cooks have breakfast and lunch prepared and ready by 7 am
- Depart after breakfast and cleanup
- Ride, ride, ride!
- Regroup at food store to share carrying groceries (if necessary)
- Ride some more!
- Arrive at campground no later than 4 pm
- Cooks have dinner ready to eat at 6 pm
- Map meeting at 7 pm (10 minutes)
All of these times can flex a little, but we really want to try to hit the mark for dinner at 6pm. That’s the perfect time to eat and have some time to relax in the evening before sleep and finding more adventures along the road tomorrow.
DAILY CYCLING DISTANCE AND CONDITIONS
Adventure Cycling cross-country camping tours are not on fixed itineraries, though we provide a suggested itinerary to the group. Your group will adapt its daily riding distances to members’ needs and desires, and to the weather, terrain, and attractions along the route. This daily flexibility is one of the joys of self-contained bicycle travel.
Shorter tours, including all one- or two-week tours, are on a fixed itinerary.
On long trips, most groups ride between 50 and 70 miles a day. On trips shorter than three weeks, riding distances are generally lower— about 40 to 60 miles a day depending on surface and terrain. Tours on gravel roads and or trails have lower daily miles but 35-50 miles on rough surfaces is equivalent in difficulty to approximately 50-70 miles on pavement. And on our Introduction to Bicycle Touring trips, we generally plan for about 40 miles per day.
For any tour, it is important to train prior to leaving; even with preparation, it is challenging to pedal a loaded bicycle day in and day out. Weather is unpredictable—you may find yourself riding through rainstorms, fighting headwinds, or cycling in oppressive heat. You may also be climbing passes or sharing the road with coal, logging, or freight trucks, depending on the tour you choose.
The challenges of touring with Adventure Cycling are balanced by the fact that you meet them at your own pace. There is a lot of freedom on Adventure Cycling trips, with groups normally splitting into groups of two to four during the riding day to allow for varying interests and cycling speeds.
Groups are encouraged to ride in sub-groups of four or fewer individuals. Most participants end up riding with others who ride at a similar pace. The leader outlines each day’s ride, but each cyclist is responsible for finding his/her way during the day. The leader or other designated person is normally at the rear of the group “riding sweep” and carrying the tool and first aid kits.
On trips longer than two weeks, side trips are a possibility. Each side trip can be no longer than three days, with a total of ten side-trip days per tour. All side trips require the consent of the leader. During the side trip, your portion of group funds is surrendered to the group. You are responsible for arrangements to leave and rejoin the group.
The time allotted for each tour includes a layover day every seven to ten days, taken at the group’s discretion. Layover days may be taken in larger towns that have bicycle services and recreation facilities, or at points of special attraction such as national or state parks.
LATE ARRIVAL AND EARLY TOUR TERMINATION
Sorry, but there will be no refunds for arriving late to a tour or for leaving the tour early.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT MOUNTAIN BIKE TOURS
If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a mountain bike. To best prepare yourself physically for your tour, ride your mountain bike as much as possible. If you have hills nearby, seek them out to prepare yourself for the ascents found on many mountain-bike routes.
We have a wide variety of mountain bike trips. Some are on dirt roads and others are on single track. Please read the tour description thoroughly or call the office if you are unsure what type of mountain bike trip you are signing up for.
Because of the upright positioning and the need to occasionally “hop” your front tire around in rough terrain, mountain-bike riding requires a bit more upper body strength than does road touring. You would be wise to include some upper-body work in your training program: push-ups, pull-ups, workouts on a rowing machine or with weights— or anything else that gives your arms and upper torso a good workout.
Opportunities to refill water bottles are very limited along mountain bike routes. It is best to carry 2-3 large water bottles or a large hydration pack.
Participants who live at low altitudes may want to arrive a couple of days early to adjust to the altitude. Steep climbs at high elevations can cause shortness of breath and general fatigue. Be prepared to climb more slowly as you adapt to higher altitudes.