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  1. #1
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Risks of cycle touring?

    This just came up in the other thread, but I thought it could make an interesting discussion.

    What do you perceive the main risks of cycle touring to be? Traffic? Bad people? Animals? Something else?
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    Traffic

  3. #3
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    In the cities or on the open road? Would touring be more risky than commuting? Would it be "safer" if you spent six hours per day riding around your own city or touring in unknown parts? What is it about traffic that makes it risky?
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Traffic---Highest risk to my body

    Thieves---Highest risk to my morale

  5. #5
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robow View Post
    Thieves---Highest risk to my morale
    Love that - very true! Whenever I've been ripped off I feel like I've been raped - like someone violated my innermost being. It's not fun.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  6. #6
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    I have had close calls with traffic just commuting so the problem gets compounded by the multiple hours and days when touring.

  7. #7
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pupuplader View Post
    I have had close calls with traffic just commuting so the problem gets compounded by the multiple hours and days when touring.
    Let me see if I understand this as you say it: Are you saying that you have had X close calls while commuting Y minutes, so you multiply by the number of hours you'll be on the road and come up with the number of close calls you would expect?
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  8. #8
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pupuplader View Post
    I have had close calls with traffic just commuting so the problem gets compounded by the multiple hours and days when touring.
    Well, yes and no. I had fewer "close calls" with traffic in four weeks of touring in Japan than I did in four seconds of riding back on the Gold Coast after my return (that's right, four seconds.). I'd say that most of the time when you're touring, you're probably riding on quieter roads than when you're commuting (or in my case, you're dealing with more competent and considerate drivers when you're touring). When you're touring you also have more leeway to pick the hours you're on the road, which may not be an option when you're commuting, or trying to fit in "training rides" around the rest of your life.

    Personally, I tend to fret more about missing transport connections or flights, and being stranded somewhere. I also worry about being robbed, although it's never actually happened to me. There have been occasions where I've worried about certain types of people visiting my campsite uninvited, but I have to admit that on some of those occasions I was camping in places I probably shouldn't have been. Other times, I guess it's just the usual basic annoyances like getting lost in an unfamilar town or city, or having some idiot in a commerical campground making noise late into the night when I'm trying to sleep.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Sure, things can happen and sometimes problems occur during a tour, but it's easy to compensate for many of the potential risks.

    • Bad traffic — A little planning can usually put me onto a safer route. The traffic problems, with few exceptions, are in urban areas and there are always alternate routes there.

    • Mechanical breakdowns — Most breakdowns are annoyances, nothing more serious than flat tires or the occasional broken spoke or broken chain. All are easily fixed. The most serious mechanical failures I've encountered have been brakes which failed in an urban area and a crank malfunction. The brakes were fixed with a minor adjustment. I managed to cobble the crank together until I reached the nearest bike shop, where I had it fixed quickly.

    • Wildlife — Bears are the most dangerous wildlife I can expect to encounter when I'm touring and yes, I have encountered a few black bears along the way. Common sense is important here.

    • Dehydration — Yes, it's a risk on a hot summer day, but it's also possible to carry a bit of extra water. No problem.

    • Weather-related problems — I can't control the weather, but I can ensure I've got the clothing and camping equipment I need.

    • Thieves and vandals — When I'm on a tour, I spend almost all my time on the bike or close to it, with the bike in sight and locked.
    Life is good.

  10. #10
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    Sure, things can happen and sometimes problems occur during a tour, but it's easy to compensate for many of the potential risks.
    Maybe you just hit on the reason I'm so puzzled by the whole "it's so dangerous" thing! Maybe it's just that I've been bike touring for so long and have encountered so many situations and managed to figure out a way to deal with them, that I no longer see them as a threat.

    Yes, we could get dehydrated, but we know how much water to take with us and we know the questions to ask to figure out where the next possible water supply will be. We know that if it's 110 degrees we'll have to strap on a whole lot more water. We know because we've been there and done that.

    We've dealt with nearly everything Mother Nature can dish out and we know we're prepared for it all - so it's not so scary.

    Yep - I think that's the issue here. Once you've faced all those things and you know how to prepare for them, they lose their fear factor. But for the people back home, they're SCARY!!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  11. #11
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    Love that - very true! Whenever I've been ripped off I feel like I've been raped - like someone violated my innermost being. It's not fun.
    "Ma'am what was is like being raped?"
    "...<sniff><sniff> Have you ever had a bike stolen? IT was almost that bad!"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    Love that - very true! Whenever I've been ripped off I feel like I've been raped - like someone violated my innermost being. It's not fun.
    No, I'm pretty sure that if you were raped, you'd feel far, far worse. More hyperbole.

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    Touring forces one to take roads of a sort that can be avoided if cycling around home. Also, one can avoid riding in inclement weather if one isn't compelled to keep moving. Mud besmerched windshields, fog, and low light; narrow winding roads populated with poorly maintained vehicles driven by the drink-addled and reckless. Trucks bearing down in both directions. Thats what's dangerous about cycle touring. There doesn't need to be a long list of "scary" things - this suffices. I rather doubt if any experienced person would dispute this. We've all been there - many times.

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    Since I live in a crime-infested city with some bad drivers and mosty tour in less populated areas with less dangerous people and less traffic, I probably face less risk while touring. Indeed, the only place I have ever had a bike stolen is from my house when I was home.

    Only once did someone try to steal anyhing from me on tour. In Dubois, WY I left my stove out near my tent, which was pitched in an area of a campground that bordered a dirt road leading to a trailer park so something like that. Two kids driving a beater stationwagon saw the stove, stopped and were eyeing it up. I was sitting outside the laundy room reading about 50 yards away. The passenger opened his door, got out and started walking to the low fence that bordered the campground. I sprung up and started jogging towards my site. The kid jumped back in the car and the two sped off.

    Still, I refuse to live my life with the irrational fear that everyone is out to steal something of mine or harm me.

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    Depending on the road-I feel far safer riding out in the middle of nowhere than I do riding in city traffic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Touring forces one to take roads of a sort that can be avoided if cycling around home. Also, one can avoid riding in inclement weather if one isn't compelled to keep moving. Mud besmerched windshields, fog, and low light; narrow winding roads populated with poorly maintained vehicles driven by the drink-addled and reckless. Trucks bearing down in both directions. Thats what's dangerous about cycle touring. There doesn't need to be a long list of "scary" things - this suffices. I rather doubt if any experienced person would dispute this. We've all been there - many times.
    I'm experienced and I dispute what you wrote. My close calls have typically been within an hour's cycling distance from my home. I've found that there are a lot more aggressive drivers in my own urban backyard than in the typically quiet rural roads I deliberately seek out when touring.

  17. #17
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c3hamby View Post
    Depending on the road-I feel far safer riding out in the middle of nowhere than I do riding in city traffic.
    Agreed. And I think most of us as cycle tourists spend way more time out on the open road in the middle of nowhere than we do battling city traffic. We try to time our entries and exits from big cities to happen on Sundays - way less traffic on Sunday than any other day of the week.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
    I'm experienced and I dispute what you wrote. My close calls have typically been within an hour's cycling distance from my home. I've found that there are a lot more aggressive drivers in my own urban backyard than in the typically quiet rural roads I deliberately seek out when touring.
    How can you dispute what I wrote when choose to miss the obvious point of my post. Touring forces one to take roads of a sort that can be avoided around home. If you disagree with that, then you don't have as much experience as you think you do...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    How can you dispute what I wrote when choose to miss the obvious point of my post. Touring forces one to take roads of a sort that can be avoided around home. If you disagree with that, then you don't have as much experience as you think you do...
    IMO, if you choose your touring regions and roads intelligently, you greatly reduce your risk. I have found that in urban areas, you are much more exposed to aggressive drivers, people talking on cell phones, clueless teenagers, and the like. As for experience, I've toured in over 30 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. Collectively, my tours have added up to several years of my life, including one tour which lasted 14 months. My close calls have mostly come on the urban roads near my home on the east coast of the US. FWIW, when I lived in northern California I found that drivers there are both more competent and more polite than drivers on the east coast.

    You seem to have a serious issue if someone reaches a different conclusion from your own.

  20. #20
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Touring forces one to take roads of a sort that can be avoided around home.
    I agree. At home I know about the roads - width of shoulder, amount of traffic, etc. - and I chose my routes accordingly. On a tour I either look at a road map or use some sort of guide. This is one reason I like Adventure Cycling Maps. Their routes take you on nice roads whenever possible. They're not perfect - I've had some days when I strongly questioned their choice. I've also had some times when I missed one of their turns and ended up on a busy highway with no shoulder (my error - I should have paid more attention to mileage for turns. You have to do a little math, because their mileages are from their matchlines, not from the campground where you start your ride in the morning. On my last tour I was more diligent and didn't miss a turn.)

    I had good luck, twice, following the route outlined in "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Kirkendall/Spring. Granted, it's mostly on Highway 101 and Highway 1, but there were a few places where it took us off the highway onto bucolic backroads - nice.

    There are lots of touring books that have routes outlined. I've only used a couple.

  21. #21
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Still, I refuse to live my life with the irrational fear that everyone is out to steal something of mine or harm me.
    Amen to that.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Touring forces one to take roads of a sort that can be avoided if cycling around home. Also, one can avoid riding in inclement weather if one isn't compelled to keep moving. Mud besmerched windshields, fog, and low light; narrow winding roads populated with poorly maintained vehicles driven by the drink-addled and reckless. Trucks bearing down in both directions. Thats what's dangerous about cycle touring. There doesn't need to be a long list of "scary" things - this suffices. I rather doubt if any experienced person would dispute this. We've all been there - many times.
    I've toured in four countries, in many weather conditions and on roads which range from immaculate to brutal.

    The inclement weather isn't a problem if you dress for it. In fact, some of my happiest memories touring have been when I've been caught in heavy rains. At those times, I'm happy not to be in a car.

    The bad motorists might exist, but so far I haven't encountered them. In my experiences, the worst have been the seniors in motorhomes. Their driving skills are not all that great anymore, but they are far from reckless.

    And as far as riding on roads that can be avoided at home, well, that's part of the charm of touring. If I didn't want to experience those roads, I'd either stay home or I'd drive or fly to vacation spots.
    Life is good.

  23. #23
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    spending time in a country that has it's citizens better taken care of ,
    like many European ones ,do, then back to the one I was born in.

    which cannot stop starting wars. and hating their citizens that are not rich.

  24. #24
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
    My close calls have typically been within an hour's cycling distance from my home.
    I wonder if our familiarity with those roads close to home isn't part of the problem? I've been hit once by a car - only once in all the miles I've cycled through a whole lot of countries - and it was four miles from my home. I attribute it to the very fact that I knew that particular corner very well.

    That day I was on my way home from work. This particular corner is one of those older roads that was built for two lanes, but they squeezed a third turn lane in there. That left ZERO space on the right side of the road - no shoulder whatsoever. The cars get right up next to the edge of the road and not even a cyclist can get through.

    That day the interstate had closed down (turned out a bank robber ran out into the interstate and ended up shooting himself) so traffic was backed up. Had I been touring and not known the layout of the corner, I would have simply stayed behind the cars in the flow of traffic once I figured out I couldn't get by on the right. But - I knew this intersection well and knew there was no way I was going to get through on the right, so I pulled out into the turn lane to go around the cars. Just then a woman decided she would pull out into the turn lane too - and hit me.

    So - in my case anyway - my familiarity with the local roads was what led to my accident. In other places I am much more cautious and don't take shortcuts. They always say that the vast majority of accidents happen within a few miles of your own home. I always thought that made sense seeing as how the vast majority of our miles will be within those few miles. But maybe the whole familiarity thing has something to do with it??
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  25. #25
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I have to ride some pretty bad roads to get out of my neighborhood. I seldom ride anything that bad when on tour. The good news is that once I have gone a few miles on those bad roads there are some great rural roads near home.

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