An old friend from university sent me an email in mid 2014. He’d got wind I was planning a bike trip from Vancouver to Mexico and put out a feeler to see if he could come along.
So, without wanting to cut him out, I did what any reasonable type A person would do and sent him a three page document titled “How I Like To Roll.” It was a meandering, pretentious string of ideas, entirely void of the easy going lifestyle I believed bicycle touring had endowed me with.
Sadly, yet not unsurprisingly, Pete never did come on that trip. Today I think that whilst I missed out on a great adventure with a friend; when Pete opened that Word doc, he probably felt lucky to have escaped a cross-country nightmare with an anal retentive lunatic.
I’ve long since lost “How I Like To Roll.” But from a little introspection, I’ve shared below my own foibles which have exasperated other friends of mine on previous trips. Hopefully it might provide some practical talking points before you decide to convert your best pal into your Bike Tour Buddy…or before choosing to bike tour with yours truly.
“Come in, the water’s lovely” says a tactful friend…no doubt attempting to improve his own experience for the next day when cycling downwind of me. French wild camp, 2012.
I’m An Infrequent Washer
You wouldn’t go to a friend’s house for dinner without having a shower, let alone get into bed with them. Yet, on cycle trips if you are sharing tents, you sometimes have to let certain smells slide, in a manner of speaking.
It’s not possible to always be clean on bike tours, but after some persuasion I came around to taking a swim when the opportunity presented itself. Canals, lakes, waterfalls are all fair game. If all else fails, a bird bath with spare bottle water heated on a stove can be refreshing. Whilst I would once spend up to seven days in the saddle without washing, I have to admit it does make for a better night’s sleep.
I’m A Late Sleeper
Worse than that actually, I’m the guy who always recommends an early start the night before, then sleeps through several alarms hitting snooze until the sun’s high in the sky.
Whatever your approach, an ideal Bike Tour Buddy will have a similar attitude to getting going in the morning. If you do find you are the morning person in the partnership, invest in a good Italian coffee percolator to daily defibrillate said cycling companion.
I’m A Stop Starter
Some people cycle like a steam train. They take time getting everything ready and working up to it. But once they are off, they’re riding.
I’m more like an annoying puppy who looks puzzled at your meticulousness; gets in the way of your preparation and then once you begin I’m never quite ready. I’ll spend the entire day riding with my cycling shorts back-to-front in my hurry to leave and easily get distracted by a pretty view and want to stop regularly to take a picture.
Sift out such potential Bike Tour Buddies if this isn’t your cup of tea. These friends are easy to spot as they always run late and will most probably want to change the plan when they do turn up.
I’m A Pannier Faffer
“Faffer” is a much loved British name for a time waster who believes he/ she is being productive. I love a good faff in my panniers every half hour or so as I open them all in turn, trying to find a sandwich, multitool or sunglasses.
A good Bike Tour Buddy, however, will have a neat system set up where smaller, regularly used items are kept in the handlebar bag and panniers are packed by category of sleeping, cooking equipment etc. and perhaps labelled as such with gaffer tape.
For meticulous types when auditioning potential partners, simply have a look to see if sandwich pieces are stuck in their multitool.
Thanks to all my long term cycling partners who’ve put up with my failings and pretensions: Kim Jimsong, Justin Kjetsaa, Sofia Fontana, Zack Gorstein, Owen Williams, Danny Walter and Alan Royle. For my part, despite any differences we’ve had, by heading out to find something, and share it, proved definitely worth the effort.
Call for comment
- Ever leave the house with cycling shorts back-to-front?
- What would you want from a Bike Tour Buddy?
Next Month: Touring on a Tandem
Matt Maynard is a British cyclist, writer and environmentalist. With a little help from his friends, he is a little more organised these days and is based in Santiago, Chile. Find more of his adventures on Twitter @MattNMaynard, Facebook and at his website Matt-Maynard.com.