Tuesday, December 29, 2015

7 Good Reasons For A Cycling Holiday.

I was asked recently to do an article listing my top 7 reasons for going on a cycling holiday. Since my primary impulse in putting together my own cycling touring operation came from a personal passion for bicycle touring, I really enjoyed the process of distilling those 7 major urges. In the end, the article never got used, so I'm posting it myself now.

This is what came out:

1. Discovery.

I think this is at the core of the true cyclist’s soul. The sheer joy of propelling yourself through a completely new environment, using your own legs and energy. This is undoubtedly my number one reason for my obsession with bicycles, and comes from my first discovery of the joys of self-propelled freedom as a child.

It is my passion for this simple pleasure that gets me scouring the planet for new places to cycle, and it’s the inspiration that started me running my own bicycle tours in Malaysia a few years back. We have a fantastic environment for cycling here, with a year-round climate, and an infrastructure, to perfectly support touring cyclists. I take great pleasure in introducing visitors to this incredible environment, as I can so easily relate to their joy in discovery.

2. A sense of personal achievement.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a competitive racer, or a bicycle commuter, we all enjoy the feeling of having taken on something beyond our normal scope. It can be consecutive days of riding that complete a goal distance, or something more extreme like a revered climb of challenging distance or gradient. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t present some sort of a challenge, it doesn’t have quite the same allure.

3. Develop some serious fitness

If you’re a cyclist, then the chances are that you’re keen on improving your fitness. Doing a cycling tour of several days in a row can really boost your fitness in ways you won’t know until you’ve done it. You can’t ramp up the distances like that with most other sports you might do. Increasing running, rowing, swimming, kayaking, or even hiking distances has to be gradual to avoid injury. Cycling, since it’s not weight-bearing, and involves gears to keep the load light, is one of the few things you can suddenly do a lot of in a short space of time, as long as you are relatively comfortable with your riding position.

4. Get a real sense of distance.

Transportation has got to the level where we’re no longer really aware of the land distance between places anymore. Even just 100 years ago, most people didn’t stray far from the town they were born in. Go back 500 and even people in the next village were foreigners. Now people can circumnavigate most of the globe in a day. We can have face-to-face Skype chats with people thousands of miles away like they’re in the room, and commute daily to work on trains crossing hundreds of kilometers.

The bicycle reconnects us with the human reality of distance that is a lost part of our heritage. We can get a real sense of our smallness against the elements of planet Earth, and connect every tree or blade of grass between cities, mountains, states, countries, and even continents.

5. Up close and personal with nature - and culture.

The sounds, sights, smells and sensations of our environment are acutely present when you’re on a bicycle. Even places you’re familiar with by car become entirely new when you’re out in the environment. You hear every bird, monkey and insect, feel every breath of wind or drop of rain. You notice things around you that would be unnoticeable from the inside of a vehicle. You connect with nature in a real way. I can cover hundreds of kilometers on a bicycle without a moment of boredom, but put me in a car doing the same roads and I’d quickly be looking for something to keep my mind alert.

You are also forced to interact with your environment, since you're right there in it. This means meeting locals along the way, trying road-side stall food, and stopping in places far off the usual tourist routes. You get an insight into the real, unadorned culture of a place, largely untainted by the cultural dilution of global commercialism.

6. Meet kindred spirits in your co-travelers.

Another great bonus with organized cycling tours is that it’s guaranteed that there will be other fellow travelers on the journey, with whom you’re very likely to have a lot in common. It’s one of the most rewarding ways of meeting people, precisely because they’re probably there for very similar reasons to you, and share many of the same passions. Recipe for cementing life-long friendships perhaps? At the very least it widens your community of like-minded souls who may then be able to introduce you to other great cycling experiences.

7. Endorphins

Oh yes - the endurance athlete’s drug - the natural high. These little babies are released into our blood stream whenever we exercise. All runners and cyclists are endorphin junkies. It’s the healthiest addiction possible, and possibly explains why it’s easy to keep going happily for hours without any real sense of urgency to arrive anywhere. It’s also amazing how a bad day can become a good day after as little as 15 minutes of pedaling, so if you factor in several consecutive days of a few hours of cycling daily, you’re talking about some serious euphoria!

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