The real beauty of bicycling is that it can take you to all kinds of spectacular places, and there is absolutely no better way to see a place than from the saddle of a bike. It’s faster than walking, so you can cover dozens of miles, yet you’re still immersed in the elements, so you can feel, hear, see, and smell your surroundings, be they crashing ocean waves, fields of wildflowers, tall pines, or red rock canyons.

How do you get started? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

What Kind Interests You
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What Type of Bike Tour Interests You?
The first thing to consider when deciding to start bike touring is what type you want to take. Bike touring covers a huge spectrum, from the pick-a-route, grab-a-friend-or-two, pack-and-carry-all-your-stuff-and-go variety to the kind where you plunk down your credit card to have everything but the actual pedaling handled for you. You just have to ask yourself a few more key questions.
Willing To Spend
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How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

Fully-guided, supported bike tours range in price from about $900 all the way up to $9,000. As you’d imagine, the tours at the two price extremes put you up in radically different accommodations. On lower-budget tours, you’ll likely camp (which can be quite awesome, depending on where you are) and be responsible for much of your own gear. On the high end, you’ll get laundry service and a chocolate on your pillow at a luxury inn.

If you go fully DIY, you’ll still have some expenses, even if you pitch a tent every night. Factoring in campsite fees and/or motel rooms, meals, and gear, figure on at least a few hundred dollars.

Where To Go
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Where Do You Want to Go?

Want to go somewhere exotic you’ve never been, where nobody speaks your language? Might be better to find a guided, supported tour. Want to explore some popular destinations in the United States? It’s pretty easy to do it yourself or with a small group. The Adventure Cycling Association has established a bike riding network with more than 42,000 miles of routes throughout North America. They sell maps for these routes, which are traveled by thousands of cyclists each year.

 

Willing To Carry
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How Much Gear Are You Willing to Carry?
This is a biggie. If you and your friends are doing this on your own, that means you’ll have to carry everything you need—rain gear, tools for bike repairs, and maybe camping gear. It’s a lot of stuff that all requires packs and panniers. It’s also the type of trip that demands that you perform an extra level of preparation, as you need to practice packing and riding with that much stuff. You can lessen the load by “credit card touring,” which means carrying only what you really need and paying for the rest (i.e. food, lodging, etc.). If you prefer to carry nothing but your phone and maybe a vest, a supported tour is the way to go.
How Far
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How Long and Far Do You Want to Ride?

The longer you want to go, the more you’ll need to take, and the greater the likelihood that you’ll encounter some adversity like bad weather or bike maintenance issues. In those situations, it’s always nice to have a support van that’s not too far away. You’ll also cover more ground in any given amount of time when you’re carrying less.

 

Ultimate Priority
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What’s Your Ultimate Priority?

If you decide on a guided tour, know what your priority is before you pick one. Some focus on low mileage on the bike to give you a chance to do other sightseeing for the bulk of the day. Others are very ride-focused, so you’ll be on the bike the majority of the day. There are culinary tours where eating plays as large a role as bike riding. All types can be amazing. It’s just a matter of picking the one that’s right for your priorities.