Bicycle touring, long-distance cycling, mixed-terrain bicycle touring or expedition touring (bicycle trekking) are different types of cycling, nevertheless, they represent the original form of cycling tourism, i.e., cycling without a specific purpose where movement is the purpose in itself.
Neither the feeling of speed, strength, stamina or daunting mountain climbs are the challenge but the pure enjoyment of mobility, nomadic life on two wheels. Surely, we look for beautiful landscapes that enhance the cycling experience, but often we also seek the feeling of simplicity and want to be close to nature as the French philosopher Rousseau said.
Long-distance cycling routes
This can already be observed when we do a simple day tour. In Germany and Central Europe, many cycling paths follow along the rivers: the Mosel cycling path, the Danube cycling path, and the Main cycling path, the Fulda cycling route, the Elbe cycling path, the Weser cycling path, the Baltic Sea Cycling Route, the Lake Constance cycling route and many more. In Switzerland (Rhein and Aare cycling path), France (Loire), Italy (Po), Austria (Salzach, Drau), Czech Republic (Moldova), Hungary, Poland (Oder-Neisse), Belgium and Holland, the cycling paths connect to a continental network of cycling paths. The long-term goal is Eurovelo – a project of the European Cyclists’ Federation – and the installation of 12 long-distance cycling routes through Europe from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and from the North Cape to Gibraltar, some of which have already been realized.
On bicycle tours, we want to keep away from busy roads, but also don’t want to ride on walking trails. Therefore, we use a touring bike, which has a robust build (Sinn dem Deutschen angepasst), wider tires, and a broader range of gearing to cope with the increased weight, a few are even equipped with an electric motor to allow older people to travel longer distances comfortably. The appetite for healthy, environmentally friendly traveling and consciously experiencing nature, culture and landscape make bicycle touring so attractive for many people.
Once caught by the virus, you might turn into an adventurer and showcase nomad like Tilman Waldthaler, who has traveled around the world many times on his bicycle. The German Walter Stolle left his home in Britain in 1959 to cycle around the world for 18 years, through 159 countries where he was robbed 231 times and went through six bicycles.
This type of cycling tourism is not only environmentally friendly but sustainable. On longer bicycle tours, many people experience the slowing down of life. No wonder that cycling and hiking on the Camino de Santiago experienced a huge boom in recent years. People, who are on the search and the journey to themselves, find in cycling an ideal way of literally slow down and perceive other people, nature and oneself more consciously and intensely.
Depending on how long you design your cycling holiday, it may become a small or big get-away from everyday life. At first glance, it may seem like a big difference, but whether you pitch your tent in the wilderness on a cycling expedition or simply check into a hotel on a multi-day bicycle trip, both offer identical cycling qualities.
Being one with nature
Enjoying the wind, breathing fresh air in the woods, off the main roads, absorbing a brief downpour, watching the sun breaking through the clouds, admiring the sun setting on the river or the view over endless fields. For many, it is like reliving childhood experiences, marveling at and enjoying simple things as only children do. This is exactly what bicycle touring is about, the simplicity and beauty of small things that mother nature offers us. For many, these cycling experiences bring moments of true happiness. If there is a goal in bicycle touring, then it is being united with nature.
Intensive preparation is not as necessary as it is for a transalpine crossing in eight days or a road cycling tour from London to Rome in ten days. Your body adapts slowly to the stress, and we eventually enjoy life from day to day. Sometimes we cover more, sometimes less distance. “Anything is possible, without any obligations”, is the motto of bicycle touring.