I am planning my next bicycle touring journey, this time to Europe for several weeks, and I have to now make what is perhaps the most important decision which will impact the success of the trip, picking my traveling companions.
Your destination is important but there are plenty of great cycling destinations. And yes, your bicycle is important but for overall trip enjoyment your trip companions are often what makes the trip.
Many cyclists when planning a bicycle touring experience do travel alone or as a couple. While cycling alone does give you freedom and you are more likely to meet people it can be lonely especially while dining or while in your tent or hotel room. For myself I have found that riding with two to a maximum of six people works best.
Why I don’t cycle solo
- Travel is more fun when you have someone to share the experiences, people to talk to over dinner.
- On several bicycle touring journeys we have run into mechanical issues where having another people helped as they rode to the bike store for a part we needed.
- Can share carrying common issues such as first aid, tools, etc. so everyone has a lighter load.
- For safety as groups of cyclists tend to stand out when on roads or watching the bikes when head into a store for a moment.
When choosing your trip companion look for someone who:
- Has similar cycling skills and fitness level
- Is available for the dates of your planned trip
- Has similar trip style expectations such as the level of accommodation, daily distances to be covered and sightseeing
- And most important is someone you feel will be a good fit
For my first bicycle touring trip to Europe ten years ago someone I knew would fit with our group well wanted to go but I had not seen this person on a bicycle. Well, we gave him a bicycle test or interview, he passed and the trip was a success. It is also important they feel comfortable with the group too.
You may have some of the finest cyclists in town who wish to join you bicycle touring but you cannot get along or have different riding styles you will find over a few weeks of bicycle touring it will not be an enjoyable experience for either of you. I do not concern myself with the age of the cyclist with even a 20 year difference as long as they meet my rules above it seems to work.
Finding cyclists for your trip:
Be clear about itinerary, dates, costs and what to expect.
- Ask cycling friends
- Send out a notice to your cycling club members. This year I got a immediate response perhaps as I am a well-known trip leader having often cycled in Europe. The only issue is that I sometimes have to tell people they can’t get on the trip as its full or I don’t feel they are a fit (handle this with car).
- Others post on a forum although I never do
If you cannot find a companion for your bicycle touring consider joining a trip organized by a tour operator. You will meet cyclists from around the world and enjoying meals and evening activities with others does increase the fun. They frequently have a large number of singles on these tours and can sometimes arrange shared rooms if you wish to reduce the cost.
Although recently, while on a local training ride I stopped at a coffee shop and met a man who was bike touring. His loaded bike included front panniers, rear panniers topped with a tent and sleeping bag plus he was pulling a trailer. The only passenger in the trailer was his traveling companion, his golden retriever. Click here to read about some of my previous European cycling trips.
Remember that choosing your bicycle touring companions with care may be the most important task you have.