Bicycle touring is a recreational activity, which involves touring and exploration or sightseeing with the use of a bicycle. Although some sporting events like the Tour de France are called "tours," true bicycle touring is non-competitive, and done for leisure rather than sport. Bicycle touring is a little bit like backpacking with the use of a bicycle.
A bicycle tour can be anything from a day ride, to a ride which takes many days, weeks or months. Some people have ridden across continents, and some people have ridden all around the world. An average person of reasonable fitness and at moderate speed, is able to comfortably ride (depending on terrain and weather) 30–80 miles (50–130 km) in a day.
There are many different styles of bicycle touring. Experiences are rich in varity. Some tourists prefer to take all their equipment with them on their bikes including food, cooking equipment, and a tent to go camping during nights. This type of touring is known as "loaded touring." Others prefer to take less equipment with them, and stay in hotels and hostels, and eat in restaurants, etc. This is known as "credit card touring". However, most popular are the large organized tours. There are many companies who organize tours and transport the cyclists' luggage in a van to the cyclists' destination each day. Some are non-profit organizations, such as Oklahoma Freewheel, and Iowa's RAGBRAI. There are also many companies that arrange smaller tours in favorable locations worldwide.
To go loaded touring (also called self supporting / self contained) you will need to have a bike that can carry luggage, and is equipped with a carrier rack and panniers. Many (not most) cycle tourists prefer to use special touring bikes which are specially built to carry large amounts of luggage, and can be ridden comfortably over long distances, although many different types of bicycle can be used. A typical characteristic of a touring bicycle is a longer wheelbase, which increases stability at the cost of quick response. Other characteristics include tires with larger widths and a tread pattern for greater durability and control over a wider variety of terrain.
As it is more customary to have the luggage transported by a van, then the most important bicycle equipment is simply a bicycle that fits well to your body. It isn't necessary to use a rack and panniers when luggage is transported by van. Instead, you may wish for a large under-saddle pack and a small handlebar bag, because that is sufficient luggage for tube, patch kit, tools, mini-pump, extra hydration, camera, telephone, first-aid, sunblock lotion, and with plenty of room left over for snacks.
The simplest criteria for the type of bike to use is one that fits and is also reliable. Almost all bikes from a bike store are suitable / workable; however, "toy department" bicycles are both risky and difficult at distance. Tires are also quite important. A road racing tire may provide a temporary boost of speed; however, the time wasted fixing flats should be considered. Instead of fixing flats, there are velotouring sport specific tires. One prevalent example is Panaracer's Pasela Tourguard, especially designed for touring, with a modicum of tread, a vast array of sizes, and decent flat protection. These can be fitted to mountain bikes, hybrid city bikes, cyclocross bikes, beach cruisers, recumbents, and road bikes. For enhanced enjoyment, one needs sport specific equipment.
The touring bicycle needs greater strength and greater comfort than the typical racing bicycle. One example of a modern fast touring bicycle is Giant's OCR, which is suitable for touring because of its long-reach brakes that allow larger tires, its slightly more upright geometry, and because of its factory-standard front and rear rack mounts. A fast touring bicycle is different than a "far" touring bicycle. The bicycle capable of the greatest distance over unexpected terrain, and with the capability to overcome adversity, is a steel framed model with an relaxed riding position and larger tires. A cyclocross or a well-done hybrid bicycle may also be used. Prices vary from the deluxe Rivendell touring bicycles to the Schwinn Super-Sport or Raleigh hybrid. Although the longevity is quite different between those examples, the important consideration is that a good bike is available to fit a wide array of budgets. To solve the question of distance versus speed, a visit with the local touring club can yield much more specific and localized information. A visit with the local touring club can also provide much greater opportunities for touring.
Many commercial companies also offer guided bicycle tours or "self-guided," which include pre-booked and pre-paid lodging, luggage transfers, route planning and often some meals and rental bike.
Many long-distance self-supported cycle tourists have published (either formally or in magazines and on the web) accounts of their tours that are both entertaining and informative. Some notable examples are Thomas Stevens, Ken Kifer, Dervla Murphy, Josie Dew, Heinz Stücke and Ian Hibell.
Many associations for cyclists, such as CTC in the UK, began as cycle touring clubs, organizing tours and accommodation. These clubs gradually evolved into advocacy bodies campaigning on behalf of cyclists.
- BikeToursDirect Company represents European bike tour companies. Site contains information on 150 guided and self-guided tours in 27 European countries plus helpful information on planning (a commercial site)
- GreatCycling Bike tours in Italy & Portugal, a great resource for cyclists (this is a commercial site)
- El Tour Guided, self-supported bicycle tours in Mexico, good pictures, informative FAQ and good links including some trip reports (this is a commercial site)
- Adventure Cycling Association
- Ken Kifers bicycle touring pages
- Cycling Belgium On this website you will find detailed descriptions of bike routes in Belgium, as well as points of interest along routes of other regions.
- A bicycle touring FAQ website
- UK's Cyclists' Touring Club
- Bicycle Safety for commuting, touring, camping
- Article on Heinz Stücke, the cyclist on what is likely the world's longest bicycle tour.
- Velocio, early advocate of cycle tourism
- Adrian Hands bicycle touring pages
- Bicycle Touring Resources Including packing lists, bibliography, third-world touring notes, travelogues, photographs and more.
- Claude Marthaler world cyclonaut extraordinaire.
- Down Mountain Cycle touring travels, information and reviews.
- http://www.biketrip.org/ Cyclists tales.
- Hobobiker.comBicycle tours in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico
- Breakaway Adventures Specializes in walking & cycling Tours in Europe