I don’t know where “there” is yet, but at the end of August I will be going somewhere so far, that I’ll need a plane ticket to get there. Once I get there, I will be navigating this undecided location by bicycle for two weeks.
I’ve said since 2013 that I’d like to go cycle touring somewhere overseas. This is a vague, but cool-sounding plan; merely saying you want to explore a faraway land by bike is one of the easiest ways to seem courageous. With a bicycle, I could explore a country at a satisfactory pace, and see all the things in-between point A and B, all while looking super-sleek in spandex.
The year this idea first dropped in my mind, I successfully installed a rear rack on my aluminium city bike, but I was unsuccessful in making the panniers work. My bicycle’s frame was too small, the chainstay too short, and my feet too… long?
This was when I realized how far away I was from my goal. I did, however, do the Whistler Gran Fondo (122km including 1700 vertical metres of hills) that year. I knew I was capable of doing long distances on my city bike, but only if I didn’t need to bring anything that wouldn’t fit in the back pockets of my cycling jersey: I had a three-banana maximum.
My other excuse for not going forward with my bike touring plans was my complete lack of mechanical knowledge. In 2013, I could change a flat, but even then, I had such poor technique that it’d practically take me half a day, hundreds of broken tire levers, a pile of ruined tubes with the telltale “snakebite” found in pinch flats, before I could roll again.
Five years later, I’m getting paid to fix bikes. I can lace a wheel in the time it used to take for me to replace a flat. I’ve replaced my aluminum city bike with a steel frame bike equipped with a rear rack. While my feet are still long, my heels no longer strike the panniers as I pedal. For good measure, I even have a front rack so that I can pack gifts for the locals!
These locals would likely be Portuguese, Spanish, or French. The Spanish edition of the Sierra Nevada range looks like it would be a lot of fun, but super challenging. To play it safe, I could get a sight of one of the Spanish costas with a relatively easy ride from Barcelona to Valencia and back.
The first option would allow me to bring a tent to sleep in somewhere in the mountains, while the second option would likely station me in a resort town for the nights. I’d prefer to sleep inside a mesh shelter somewhere devoid of people, to paying to sleep among the kind of people who go to resorts, but the latter would allow me to enjoy more than just nature.
As for Portugal, I could ride a portion of the Atlantic Coast Route (EuroVelo 1), and the Trans-Pyrenees would take me in and out of France.
My biggest problem with realizing this dream is now deciding where to go! I already know I want to take Yann with me. Yann is such a gifted bike mechanic that I wouldn’t be surprised if he were able to fix a broken chainring with a rock and some twigs. “Laura, I made chain lube out of crushed beetles.” Mainly, I’d like him to come along not because of his bike wizardry, but because he’s a delight to pedal alongside. If only he had any idea where “there” will be.
From now on, whenever someone tells me they did an overseas cycle tour, I am going to mostly be impressed by their decision-making skills. Can somebody please help me decide?!