This is a guest post from my fabulous husband/bike racer, Joe Partridge, who I’ve convinced to go touring with me over the years.
So, you’re a fit recreational rider or racer. You think nothing of riding a sub-6 hour century or maybe eeking out a win at the local Cat 3 Masters road race. Touring should be a piece of cake for you, right? Well, it might be….but only if you can adjust your gear (but mostly your attitude) for the touring experience.
I myself had a spot of trouble making the adjustment from racer to tourist during my first multi-day trip. My frustration started early; I was used to starting a ride at an easy pace, but after an hour of tootling along I wondered when the ‘real ride’ was going to start.
Then, just as I was starting to get into a groove, we pulled to the side of the road for lunch. I quickly choked down an energy bar and was ready to get back on my bike. Meanwhile, my riding partner had unpacked bread, hummus, mustard and an avocado and was starting to make a sandwich.
Clearly, we were not on the same page.
That entire first day was full of similar challenges. My partner (the author of this book) was an experienced cycle tourist who understood the pleasure of seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle. I was still locked in the racer mindset and in the habit of staring at my heart rate monitor and the rear wheel of the rider in front of me.
The low average speed (10 MPH!) didn’t jibe with how sore I was feeling; pushing 50 pounds of bike and gear up two passes and 5000ft is hard work even at that pace. Over dinner, my partner wanted to talk about the sights we’d seen and the people we’d met. She could recall the feeling of the cool breeze at the top of the long climb; the way the river looked so different from 4000 feet up than it did when we crossed it on a wooden bridge hours earlier; and the funny hat that the store owner tried to sell her at our lunch stop.
It was then that I started to understand that we were having two different experiences. I was having a crappy training ride, and she was having a great touring adventure. I committed to really opening myself to the experience during the next day’s ride. And I have been enjoying touring ever since.
Unlike many other forms of cycling, touring is about the journey more than the destination. A long day of touring might take six hours and only cover 40 miles. Yes, the bike and gear is heavier than a race bike, but that is not why it takes so much time to cover such a short distance.
Instead, it is all the stopping! You might stop to explore an interesting historical landmark. Stopping for lunch at a local diner is a must. Why suck down warm energy drink when you can stop for a hand-made milkshake?
Like road racing, touring is often a group activity. Unlike road racing, groups of cycle tourists can contain riders of differing experience and fitness levels. Racers often have a strong urge to be the first rider to the top of a hill or to “turn the screws” a bit during a tough pull into the wind. Though dropping other riders is fun on the weekly training ride, sticking with the group during a tour pays dividends.
After all, the “winner” in touring is the person that has the most fun, not the person that gets to the hotel first.