Why travel by bike?

So you might have asked yourself why one would want to bicycle tour. Maybe you are even curious and think that one day you might want to give it a try...

 So why on earth are you traveling by bike? Why not take a bus? ...why would I do that?

    I decided on bicycle travel for budgetary purposes, but also because I liked the idea of moving slow enough to really get to know the people between the tourist destinations that most backpackers and tourists visit. I had just finished University study and was hoping to get an authentic look at a piece of my country and those countries I had chosen to visit in Latin America. I have a friend named Quinn Baumberger who had done a tour like this, but from Alaska, and he had a ton of good things to say about his adventure. With his help and a little online research I was convinced. I think it was the best decision and path I could have taken at the right time of my life.

     I have now finished my tour, have reached Ushuaia, ridden over 688 days, and I can say that I don´t want or look forward to travel by land any other way. Listed below are just some of the reasons why:

  1. Economical way to travel: You can really travel on the cheap with a bike and a tent. I have slept at police stations (even in a jail cell!), fire stations, at military control posts, farms, with families (tons of them, especially in Colombia), behind gas stations, in the woods, on the beach, and even in front of a supermarket! Honestly you can spend as much or as little as you want in many cases. Every country has something cheap to eat and you really never need to pay for accommodation unless you want to. Then there is the fact that you don’t need to use buses, planes, or other forms of travel if you don’t want to. You can just take a bike ride!
  2. Authentic: You basically are living with the people who call the country, city, or little village their home. Your bike is basically a magnet for attention. It is unbelievable how many opportunities that come up after somebody asks you what you are doing. I have been taken on hikes, gone fishing, been to family reunions, played baseball, driven around in a friend’s truck, visited waterfalls, and have participated in countless other activities with people I have met due to their curiosity about the loaded bike. People respect the mode of travel and love that you want to know their country. When they find out what you are up to many love to take you in and give you a glimpse into what their lives are like. It is beautiful.
  3. Healthy mode of transportation: You are riding your bike. Biking is great exercise and doing such a large amount of physical activity, your body begs for good food. It is true that you may drink a little more soda, and maybe gorge on some munchies now and then, but I have found that most of the time I am eating much healthier than when I was living the lifestyle of a student or working full-time.
  4. Freedom: You don’t need to check bus schedules and you can choose when you want to leave a place, for you have your own wheels. I have been in a couple uncomfortable situations, but it was easy to leave because I had my trusty bicycle. There are restrictions as to how far and fast you can go, but the sensation of freedom you have when you roll out every morning with the sun is great. You can stop and take breaks whenever you want to munch, check out a view, or have a beer. You haul it all on those two wheels, so whenever you tire of something or some place, you just hop on the old steel-framed horsy and get moving.
  5. Off the ‘gringo trail’: You can choose whether to follow it or not, but if you want a true and authentic experience like I do, you can find it easy by bike. From the Panama coast (where Matt and I caught a cargo boat which would lead us to Turbo, Colombia) to Mancora, Peru (a popular backpacking beach destination in Peru) we did not see more than 5 or 6 other tourists on our route! Yeah, you can ride however you like and dive into the culture as much as you want, but once you get comfortable in this form of travel, it is great to jump in head first. On a bike you can go where you want when you want!
  6. Environmentally responsible mode of transportation: You aren’t burning gas and you are really pretty well contained. Your fuel is whatever it takes to get those feet mashing the pedals. For me I can live on coffee, oatmeal, sugar, tortilla chips, and whatever my touring partner and I can find at the street food carts. Honestly, street meat is where it is at in Latin America. Cheap, a little dirty, but mostly satisfying. Also, there is such a nice little environment around the little food carts. How I miss those carts!!!!
  7. Food (and a lot of it!): On your bike you get invited for many meals, at least when I was riding with Matt we received tons. Not only that, you are usually a pretty hungry bugger after riding your 30-60 miles per day (or 10 miles sometimes as was our average in Colombia). I had learned to cook some pretty good dishes, but living so close to the people, there are many chances to eat all kinds of nice dishes. From 25-cent pupusas in El Salvador, to the papa rellena of Colombia, the flavors and varieties of food are great reasons to bike tour. You burn so many calories every day that you don’t need to feel bad drinking a couple sodas, destroying a handful of fried potatoes, killing a pound or two of cheese, and then washing it all down with a nice Pilsner. As a food lover it is nice having a big appetite down here. Food is cheap, plentiful, and delicious.
  8. Biking is fun: haha. Bike touring rocks. It is not always easy, but nothing good ever is. I will tell you what. I will avoid buses and taxis whenever I can from here on out. If it can be done on a bike, that is how I would like to do it. It may appear difficult, but honestly, anybody with some free time can do it. We have seen men and women from the young age of 15 (cycle20ten tour) to people in their 60’s touring by bicycle. Age, sex, and even resources are not real restrictions. We have also met people cycle touring without money! It might sound unbelievable, but with an iron will, determination, and the kindness of those around you, it can be done.
  9. Bike travel is safe: Don’t listen to the nonsense or to those who say you are crazy or will die. In the U.S. I heard this garbage over and over again about Mexico and Colombia. I spent 3 ½ months in Mexico and a little over 2 months in Colombia. Mexico has been my favorite country for countless reasons and Colombia rests up there amongst one of the best as well. True, there are a few bad eggs out there, but people are pretty damned good wherever you go. If you use your head, listen to advice from GOOD SOURCES (other bicycle tourists, and those who aren’t afraid of everything) you will be fine. I have now completed my tour and had nothing stolen, never was robbed or mugged, and have had countless hundreds of great experiences with people on the route. There are no guarantees in life, but I don’t feel like this is any more risky than living in Minneapolis where I had spent the previous 8 years of my life before this ride.
  10. Bike travel is cool: Bike riding and bicycle travelers are cool, but don’t take it from me, ask the countless cycle tourists that can be found with blogs scattered on the internet. There are tons of sources and people to ask if you want to ride somewhere. If you want to ride it, somebody has probably done it, and most likely they would love to help you. Cycle tourists are a special community and you would be hard-pressed to find one who would be bothered giving you a little advice or help. (Here are a couple good sources if you are curious about bicycle touring. Everybody has different styles of riding and maybe somebody else does it closer to how you would like to do it than the way in which I ride. Check it out: www.crazyguyonabike.com, www.warmshowers.org, www.bicycletouringpro.com). Really, just look on youtube or type in bicycle touring and the location you are interested in and you will probably find a blog or something about the route. Most of the time these people have their contact information up and I bet they would help. If not, you can always ask me and I will do what I can to help you out.
  11. I have hitchhiked and taken buses before: and I have found that there are bigger pitfalls than the ones found on a bike. On a bus you shut off your brain, there is really no sense of adventure (after touring especially), and you miss out on really feeling the nature and real culture of the areas you are traveling. The good thing about the bus can be exactly these things and also that it is rapid, but I prefer to avoid this route. Hitching can be great. I have had wonderful experiences, hitching from Villa Manihuales, Chile to Buenos Aires once with cars and truckers. Then I also hitched with a dude from Ushuaia up to Buenos Aires (Thanks Carlos!). The pitfall to hitching can be the range of drivers, continuous conversation can be tough or tiring, and there are sometimes huge wait times between one ride and the other. I am a little impatient and most times would rather be moving even if it does get me along slower. Also, with these two forms of travel you are not exercising. I definitely notice when I have been moving from seat to seat and have realized I am not a sedentary creature. 

    Bike touring is super-sweet. If you have any questions or need any more reasons to get on your bike, shoot me a message. I am not swamped with time, but I will respond with what I can. Hope this has been helpful.

    

    Also, if you have any ideas on how to improve the site or if there is anything else you would like me to cover, please let me know. You can reach me through the Guestbook on this site, my email: mgorzlancyk@gmail.com, or facebook. Thanks!

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