Mental Toughness

May 7, 2011

Your pack list is dialed in, the route is carefully plotted out on the map, and your bike is tuned up and ready to roll. This all sounds pretty good, and if you see a lot of photos that people post from their own tours, you might think that experience and a solid plan leads to pure enjoyment from start to finish.

The reality is that it is a lot easier to pull out the camera on a sunny day when spirits are high, than it is when your touring partner is coming after you with a frame pump with a look of fury in her eyes because the weather isn't cooperating and the campsite you planned on staying at is temporarily closed for maintenance.

The point is, even the best of plans can break down, and you have to be mentally tough to not only adjust to the unforeseen, but to stay calm and collected before you wreak havoc on relationships and the overall mood of your tour.

To help with staying calm and collected in the face of adversity, it can help to tell yourself ahead of time that you will forget something at home (likely nothing you can't pick up along the way), and you will encounter rain and wind. Your travel partners will get on your nerves at some point, and you will get on their nerves. Accept these facts, so that when problems do occur, you won't be shocked.

When things do go wrong, take a deep breath before reacting. It is so easy to get wrapped up in being angry at yourself or someone else for getting into the mess you're in, that you fail to focus on how to get out of the predicament. Forward thinking is key, and once you're in the clear, the issue often seems minor and even comical.

Bicycle touring can be incredibly humbling, and you will always come back from it a little bit stronger physically and mentally. In my experience, it also brings in new ideas for making the next trip go more smoothly... even though it probably won't.

Photo by Sarah Raz, when things weren't going so hot.


TOURING GEAR AND 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.


The Velo Hobo May 8, 2011, 9:06 AM

The problem(s) can be compounded when your touring partner is your spouse or someone you live with “back in the real world”. I’m not speaking from experience, my wife never gets on my nerves, but I’ve heard other husbands talking and it seems to be a common problem among men not married to my wife (she reads this blog too). We, (again people in general, not us) can bring emotional baggage along on a trip that can weigh a tour down more that anything we pack in panniers. When my wife and I go out, if there is a pressing issue we’ve been dealing with, we both agree to leave it waiting for us at home. Often when we’ve put a problem on hold, gone out and enjoyed a week or two on the road, the problem just doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal when we get back.

Any type of adventure travel involves some amount of adversity and challenge. I think that’s what draws us to it. Adventure travel helps us grow physically, mentally and emotionally tougher.

Great post and an important topic, Jack

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