Touring Options

A Path Forward – Touring Options for Every Rider

The 439th issue of Adventure Cycling’s Bike Bits (a free twice-monthly email newsletter) fires up the adventure spirit with a quote from Thorton Wilder:

“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.”

Think of lung-busting climbs in a cold, hard rain. The desperation of a lonely road, lost, bone-dry water bottles, and no relief in sight. Roads that started as asphalt, then gravel, and finally mud. Long sleepless nights shivering in a tent. Yeah, I’ve had a few rides like that and Wilder’s words rang true.

A blow-by-blow account of a brutal ride does make a great story. But what if you’d rather read about it, but not experience it? You want a challenging and exciting ride that pragmatically avoids the threat of death, or purposely planned deprivation. A trip focused on scenery, rather than survival.

Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent bicycle touring options out there that are both adventurous and fun.

Across the big pond, the EuroVelo routes supply well-posted options to explore some of the best cycling countries in the world. These multi-national routes stitch together regional bicycle paths to create such diverse rides as Norway to Italy. Some of the routes are more developed than others; EuroVelo 15, the Rhine Cycle route stretches from The Netherlands to Switzerland and is probably the best-signed path. Not to say you can’t get lost – I did so several times. Although the Rhine River should make an easy enough landmark to follow.

EuroVelo 15 in Germany, next to the Rhine river. Unless I was lost.

Looking for an epic ride here in the States? The Adventure Cycling Route Network maps over 47,000 miles spanning most of North America. Adventure Cycling calls the 4,253-mile TransAmerica Trail “The classic route to cross America by bicycle”. From Oregon to Virginia, cyclists will experience the great biking states of Oregon, Montana, and Colorado. And Kansas. I’ve spent many years living in the Midwest, and I thought driving through Kansas was brutal. Gotta say they’ll be some tough spots on this route.

Not crazy about covering those few thousand miles alone? Adventure Cycling also offers a self-contained (carry your own gear, cook your own meals), three-month-long guided TransAm Westward tour. A three-month adventure qualifies as a “read-worthy” ride to impress friends and family.

If a well-marked ride with little to no traffic sounds like heaven, then the Rails-to-trails Conservancy has your route. Former rail lines have been repurposed into multi-use trails, with many of them rolling through quiet, secluded landscapes. The 237-mile Katy Trail in Missouri is complete with quaint towns, frequent rest areas, and reasonably priced campgrounds. 

Want more ideas? Check out Adventure Cycling Associations Ten Best Rail Trails For Cyclists.

Autumn on the Katy Trail.

All to say that the road less traveled needn’t be a brutal one.

Get out and ride.