Photo: Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

6 Reasons to Go by Bike

by John Fairhurst May 4, 2009
Travel by foot, sailboat or bush plane is hard to beat. But it’s the bicycle that gives you the best combination of long-distance, alternative travel and true roadway connection. Here are 6 reasons why.
You Can Move Fast. . .

Somewhere in the transfer of power a slow, burdened hiker becomes inhumanly fast. Credit the gearing. Whatever the magic, the typical traveler can expect to cover four or five times more ground aboard a bike.

Destinations once inconceivable without bus or train assistance are now in the day’s scope.

A hostel bed waiting eighty miles away in Buenos Aires? Go for it.

The quaint Swiss town with everything but a train station? Not a problem. Few immediate destinations are outside the range of the average cyclist.

…Or Slow

While surprisingly vast stretches of mileage may be traversed, the best way to cover ground is to mimic the tortoise: slow and steady. Frequent resting points and long lunches are both necessary and appreciated.

It’s also difficult to miss those tiny roadside diners or mountain ledge viewpoints while wheeling at ten miles an hour: the type of stops a bullet train can’t offer.

Sun and Rain

If the entire trip were perfect, would any moments stand out? This is especially appropriate for alternative travel. The traveling cyclist can expect to encounter brilliant sunrises, cooling winds, cleansing mists, but also furious rains, vicious gusts, and hail that falls like a load of pebbles.

Huddling beneath a bridge is as much a part of distance cycling as a riverside nap. Ideal shelter is often nonexistent, especially in rural areas. But you always sleep more comfortably after a three-day stretch of pounding rains.

An Instant Icebreaker

Spotting a traveling cyclist is never a problem. They’re the guys in neon jerseys and tight spandex whose steel steeds carry loaded panniers along their flanks.

Whether rolling to a stop alongside a gas station, cafe, or big city pub, a fully-loaded cyclist will find no shortage of curious locals and travelers alike. Offers of meals, hot showers, or cold beers are not uncommon.

More importantly, the instant connection provides an opportunity to learn about the local people and culture.

Everything Tastes Better

Why is hot chocolate always silkier, hotter, and creamier, after three hours of sledding in fifteen degree temperatures? In a word: extremes. The extremes of cold and fatigue are blindsided by the extremes of heat and deliciousness, resulting in a heightened experience.

Travel by bike creates experiences in the same manner. An Italian cappuccino becomes the pinnacle of Florentine achievement, and not simply a “must-do”. The Eiffel Tower, Australian coastline, and forests of Oregon are likewise appreciated from a level heightened by sweat, exhaustion, and adverse weather.


Like any method of travel, a distance ride can be expensive or reasonable. Planes, trains, and buses will likely be sliced entirely from the itinerary—and budget—except to start and finish destinations. The money saved on transportation is typically diverted to the bike and gear—which can be as basic or as luxurious as your tastes dictate.

A bright truth: the longer the trip, the more money saved. To significantly decrease cost, consider a tent and camp stove. After a long day in the saddle, Ramen covered with chili and a starlight sleep fall under the category of the hot chocolate phenomenon.

Community Connection

Alright, stoked to go on a long tour? This Spring / Summer we’re recommending Montana where you can take part in some of the classic Big Sky Rides, or plan out your own unique tour.

If you’re just getting started with planning a bike tour, Matador contributing editor Hal Amen has a step by step guide for you: 8 steps for successful self supported bicycle tours.

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