February 14, 2014
More often than not, when you look for bicycle touring photos, you see smiling happy people. Don't let this fool you into thinking that bike travel is entirely stress free. We experience the full range of emotions on the open road, and choose to photograph and talk about the positive end of the spectrum.
When you're touring with your special man or lady friend, it's pivotal to setup a damage control plan, as relationships can be made or broken when you spend an extended amount of time in close quarters in adverse conditions. Here are five touring tips for couples that have managed to keep me together with my lovely wife.
Bicycle touring is all about choices. There's the decision of where you are going to tour, what gear you're going to bring, what you're going to eat, where you're going to stay, whether or not that log bridge will hold your weight, etc. If your partner feels strongly about a certain choice, trust their judgment and go with it. Even if it's the wrong choice, it can lead to an exciting experience you didn't expect.
On the road, you're bound to meet a lot of interesting people. When you do, be sure to speak of your partner in the highest regard. You would appreciate the same courtesy from your partner, and as a bicycle touring team, anything negative you say reflects back onto you, so pour on the compliments!
Everyone loves surprises, especially when they are feeling down. If you've gone through a couple rough patches on your trip, pick the mood back up with a fun surprise. It doesn't have to anything fancy, and certainly not large since your carrying space is limited. It can be as simple as a secret detour to an ice cream shop, or hauling around a two liter bottle of grape Fanta on a hot day.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so keep those in mind when you're planning out your daily tasks. For instance, if you're a poor cook, you can always pitch in by cleaning up after meals. If you would rather not set up the tent, you could scavenge for wood and get a fire started.
Depending on how long your tour is, you'll want to have some zero days built into your itinerary. These are days with zero miles, where you just kick back and relax. It's a great opportunity to collect your composure, take in some alone time if you need it, and prepare to hit the road anew. If you can, try and plan your zero days somewhere exciting. If you're in Mexico, I highly recommend Puerto Vallarta!
Photos by team Josh Tack and Sarah Raz
TOURING GEAR & TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead. Look for Josh's "Fine Tuned" column in Adventure Cyclist magazine as well.
Your ideal life partner might not be your ideal ride partner-- and that's okay, you can still ride and adventure together, but know and be honest about your differences and needs going in to the ride. My husband likes to get into a rhythm and then just bust out a tough climb. I like to take some breaks and attack again on refreshed legs. The first few times he crushed a climb while I soldiered on well behind, my feelings were hurt. But I've learned it's not personal-- so he can go ahead and then set up lunch or something while he waits for me to come along.
When we ride together, I think of him first as my ride partner and second as my spouse. That keeps things in perspective for me and I ask myself, "What would I expect from this person on this trip/route if they weren't my spouse?" If I am being unfair to him just because he's my spouse, that sets us up for a fight.
These are some great tips. You're right: it's important to make sure that you're able to trust your touring partner. It's much more fun that way! When you know where you're going and you trust your abilities, the experience as a whole gets much more enjoyable. Thanks for sharing!
Also remember to eat a solid meal before diving into any argument/conversation/ or even looking at each other for too long. How did 'eat more' not make it on to this list? H-Anger is a real threat to love on the road!
Remember that is a cycle ride and not the end of the world. You can always stop and take a break, a day off, a week off, a train ride home. There will always be another bike ride.
Good tips for any time -- not just bike tours.
You have some interesting thoughts here, Josh. When Debbie and I embarked on a coast-to-coast tour just after our first ever marriage at age 52, we had no clue what we'd be getting into...from the daily routine and risks of bicycle touring to marital conflicts! As you allude to in your open, we found that the pre-trip fantasy did not meet the traveling reality, although we wouldn't trade the experience in for anything. Our remedy for the stresses was to come back to what brought us together in the first place: our love of bicycling, our appreciation for spontaneity, and building our relationship on a firm foundation greater than ourselves. A genuine appreciation to and acknowledgement of what God had done in our lives took the form of daily prayer and Scripture reading. These disciplines and the tour itself provided a bonding experience second to none, one we will certainly cherish for a lifetime. We highly recommend it!
Coming up on our 50th anniversary, we can tell you that these tips are tips for a happy ride and a happy marriage.
Having done a cross country tour with my then-boyfriend-now-husband (we got engaged during the trip), I would add:
If either of you is feeling particularly cranky, take a break and have a snack. Most of our major tiffs were resolved easily with some food and/or a cold drink.
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I wrote a blog post about this too. Riding with hubby has, surprisingly, been one of the hardest things of bike touring :)