Cycling Tours Vs Your Daily Commute

Brad Davis is a Melbourne-based copywriter with a background in journalism and commercial web content. He has worked on TDA tours in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Tell someone you’re travelling from one end of the country to the other by campervan, and they might be impressed. Tell someone you did four laps of the 20km bike path around the bay on the weekend, and they’ll congratulate you on your fitness. But tell them you’re travelling from one end of a continent to the other by bicycle, and people often balk at the idea. “You rode from where?” … “No way, I could never ride that far on a push bike!” … “120km a day is ridiculous!” … “I can’t understand how you guys can do that.”

I think the aspect of long-distance cycling tours that gets lost in translation is that people often imagine it in the context of their day-to-day lives. They think of their 10km bike ride from home to work, and they multiply it by 10 or 20 in their minds. But along with multiplying the distance, they also multiply every familiar hill, tedious intersection, dangerous crack in the pavement by 10, they multiply their lack of desire to go to work today by 10, and they multiply their daily physical and mental exhaustion by 10.

What’s ironic is that on a cycling tour, you actually leave all that stuff behind. You’re not cycling in the context of commuting, transit, getting from A to B… you’re just cycling. You’re exploring new territory for the sole purpose of leisure, recreation, pushing your limits and broadening your horizons. I’m not denying that it’s often exhausting, but it’s also energizing and revitalizing. The more often you ride, the more energy you have.

Most people have been commuting to work by bike or going on regular weekend bike rides for years before they show up at the starting line of a TDA tour. For me, it was the other way around. The first time I rode a bike purely for the sake of commuting to work, it was after working on five TDA tours. Having spent months cycling 100km from camp to camp every few days, it was a weird sensation riding 5km from my house to work and back, seeing the same scenery every single time.

And while I thoroughly enjoyed my daily bike-ride commute, I realized something – you really can’t compare recreational cycling to commuting, no matter how much you enjoy the ride. It’s apples and oranges. It’s chalk and cheese. It’s waiting at traffic lights while pondering your day’s to do list vs. racing through a foreign countryside pondering other cultures and lifestyles.

Obviously cycling to work through Melbourne, London or Toronto is different to cycling through East Africa or South America… I get that. But I’m not talking about the landscape – I’m talking about your own headspace. When your to-do list for the day is simply “Ride 140km”, it’s not daunting. It’s the best thing ever. Travelling across continents by bicycle isn’t impressive because of the distance… it’s impressive because of the experience.

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