Some would tell you that it’s not really bicycle touring unless you’re riding self-contained and sleeping in a tent on the ground. Others, including Adventure Cycling, take a more inclusive view.
We believe that if you are riding a bicycle for reasons other than training or exercise and leaving home for a night be it to a remote campsite or the Ritz, you are probably bicycle touring.
Bicycle touring may be divided into three primary categories: Supported, Self-Contained, and Hybrid. The first two may sound rather self-explanatory, yet each contains its own subcategories. Hybrid tours include elements of both supported and self-contained.
This style of touring encompasses a range of group sizes and levels of support ranging from organized small-group tours to massive events with thousands of riders. They usually feature some combination (or all!) of SAG (support and gear) wagons, luggage transfer, and catered meals so you can spend the day riding unloaded and unconcerned with logistics.
Whether organized by an outfitter, bicycle club, or individual, these rides can feature camping and meals cooked by pros or sleeping and dining indoors. Either way, a key component is having gear ferried by vehicle during the day so you’re able to ride with only what you’ll need for the day on the bike. A big advantage of this style of riding is that any type of bike can work without modification.
Event rides are where many get their first taste of bicycle touring, after being inspired by a friend and/or by the prospect of riding one’s bicycle to raise funds for a good cause. Event rides can be found throughout North America and beyond. The most common template is 1) riding unloaded, with gear transported from one overnighting town to the next; 2) eating meals provided by the organizers; and 3) sleeping in a tent in a designated camping area (often adjacent to nightly entertainment).
A handful of popular event rides include STP (Seattle to Portland), benefitting the Cascade Bicycle Club; Cycle Greater Yellowstone, a fundraiser for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition; and, in New York, the Empire State Ride to End Cancer. Two of the most famous event rides — RAGBRAI and Ride the Rockies — are organized by the Des Moines and Denver newspapers. See a full list of all the 2019 multiday event rides in the U.S. here.