The Allure of Travel and Adventure BikesFor cycling enthusiasts, travel and adventure bikes open up doors to exploring on two wheels – on and off-road. Blending attributes of mountain, cyclocross, and touring bikes, these rugged and versatile rides strike optimal balances between stability, capability, and long-haul comfort. This deep dive explores the expanding world of adventure cycling and bikepacking.
Introducing Adventure Bikes
Adventure bikes typically sport:
- Durable steel or aluminum frames for shock absorption
- Wide 700c or 26″/27.5” tires with all-terrain treads
- Stable geometry for bike handling with load
- Mounting points for racks and gear
- Disc brakes for positive stopping power
Compared to pure road bikes, adventure bikes trade ultimate speed for added strength, comfort, and flexibility enabling cycling adventures beyond paved paths.
Subcategories further differentiate bike options:
Touring bikes provide optimal stability and comfort for heavily loaded self-supported multi-day rides. Front and rear rack mounts and wide gearing cater to long miles fully equipped with camping supplies.
Using bikepacking bags instead of racks, these focus on off-road capability. Frames accommodate suspension forks, bigger tire clearance, and sometimes even dropper posts.
Gravel grinder racing and riding on variable backcountry roads means medium tire clearance, performance geometry, and a balance of low weight plus flexibility to handle rugged terrain at speed.
The Expanding World of Bikepacking
Bikepacking combines off-road cycling with backcountry camping:
- Riders carry lightweight gear in the frame, handlebar and seat bags
- Following backroads and trails avoids vehicle traffic
- Adventures connect with nature away from cities
- Trailside campsites pre-arranged or more remote dispersed camping
Appealing to the human quest for exploration, bike-packing marries physical journeys through sweeping landscapes with self-reliance.
Motivations for Travel by Bicycle
Seeking escape, challenge, and awe – travel by bike attracts as a metaphor for freedom. Pedal-powered reasons include:
Pure Adventure Off-grid tours guided by maps, gears, and grit yield journey immersion, adrenaline, and realization of bold dreams.
Fitness Cycling miles with a load stresses strength and endurance while inhaling vistas stimulates.
Eco-Connection Human power immersed in nature re-aligns perspectives and rhythms to cycles beyond city clocks.
Bohemian camaraderie stitches together far-flung spirits traversing lands linked only by skinny tires and panniers.
For these reasons and more, bicycle travel captures imaginations with the promise of liberation. Turning each crank marks a mindful celebration of the self-propelled sojourn.
Selecting an Adventure Bike
Key considerations when choosing a bike for loaded travel include:
- Frame material – Steel allows mounting points with shock absorption. Partners well with rigid forks.
- Tire Clearance – 50-60 mm enables stability control and traction without excess rolling resistance.
- Gearing Range – Crucial for hauling weight up steep pitches. Look for granny gears under 30 gear inches.
- Handling – Test handling with load weight to gauge slow speed stability and cornering lean.
- Brakes – Hydraulic disc brakes provide power and modulation to control momentum on downhills.
- Mounts + Eyelets -mounts for racks, fenders and bottles + eyelets for bags enable self-sufficiency.
While many bikes work for credit card tours, fully loaded off-grid adventures demand stability, capability, and robustness purpose-built for the application.
Risk and Reward: Adventure Cycling
The allure of discovery by human power unavoidably courts risk:
Self-reliance repair know-how, contingency plans, and fitness to manage remote mechanicals or physical issues raise confidence for independence.
Weather Storms bring frigid cold or lightning danger. Carrying adequate protective layers and emergency shelter is vital.
Trails Riding fully loaded demands technical bike handling skills. Walking bikes is perfectly wise.
Traffic Most tours involve some road sections without shoulders. Caution, visibility, and planning can avoid calamity.
Wildlife Animal conflicts, snake bites, or bee stings are rare but real dangers. Travel with awareness and first aid capacity.
The hazards of backcountry bicycle adventures instill preparations enabling prudent risk management. With competence and care the joys outweigh the perils of passage.
Epic Rides – Long Distance Bicycle Routes
Several iconic long-distance cycling routes offer milestone multi-week tests of endurance and self-support:
- Tour Divide – 4,418 km on the Continental Divide from Banff, Canada to the US-Mexico border
- Colorado Trail Race – 722 km high alpine route with epic climbs
- Arizona Trail Race – 1,252 km across the state with multiple bio-zones including ponderosa forests, deserts, and mountains
- Baja Divide – 1633 km the length of the Baja Peninsula on a network of dirt roads and trails
- TransAm Bike Race – 6,895 km crossing the USA from Oregon to Virginia
These grueling journey events draw two-wheeled ultra-athletes chasing adventure and personal limits in the wilderness. For mere mortals, they supply inspiration and hard-won wisdom.
Budgeting for Bicycle Journeys
Travel by bike need not break the bank. Considerable trip costs include:
- Gear – Bags, tools, camping equipment
- Route Supplies + Food
- Bike Shipping (if flying)
- Lodging (camping saves substantially)
- Bike Repair + Replacement Parts
- Medical Insurance Cover
Sponsorship funding in exchange for photography and trip reports defray expenses for some adventurers. Otherwise keeping daily budgets small while embracing a minimalist mindset lets the world unfold richly.
Preparing Mind and Body
Embarking long miles from home demands holistic readiness:
- Physical Training – Cycle weight/distance building endurance
- Bike Maintenance Skills + Spares = self-sufficiency
- Wilderness First Aid Knowledge – address unexpected
- Gear Shakedowns – test and tweak systems
- Mental Focus Strategies – meditation and visualization
- Contingency Funds + Support Network as a backup plan
Thorough preparations transform daunting journeys into pilgrimages of personal growth rather than pain.
The Allure of the Horizon
What draws people to leaving behind the familiar for months slung upon the back of a bicycle? Perhaps in part…
The Blank Page Formless possibility dwells beyond ridges we’ve yet to ride down or crest. The unknown awaits.
Living Deliberately Pedal strokes mark progress measured not in busy minutes but by valleys traversed, friends discovered, and stars that shine from camp.
The Cycle In circle fashion what once loomed impossibly remote along the route ultimately still returns again by cadence home to origins forgotten but transformed.
For these reasons and more, bicycle travel retains its siren song of liberation spelled out mile by mile chasing the always receding and ever-promising horizon.