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Is Bike Touring in Decline?

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Is Bike Touring in Decline?

Old 10-21-23, 08:49 AM
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Is Bike Touring in Decline?

I'm not as young as I used to be.
So, I may not have the most up-to-date viewpoint.
But I have an unmistakable feeling that bike touring is in decline.

When I started cross-country touring in 1987,
hiker-biker campsites at national parks always had other riders.
Even 10 years ago, I started finding myself the only one there.
At places like Yosemite, Glacier, and Yellowstone.
Same goes for the number of riders you see along the way.

Is touring just not sexy enough?
Does "Bikepacking" say, "Gen Z" while "Touring" sez, "Boomer"?
I've noticed for some time now that Adventure Cycling
is offering more supported tours and more short tours.

Add electric bikes to the mix -
and it seems like long, self-contained touring is passe.
Too much work. Too few creature comforts.

I know that blogging is a geezer activity, but it has shrunk. too.
Crazyguy used to have lots of folks and it is pretty thin these days.
Cycleblaze certainly hasn't equaled the drop-off at Crazyguy.
And the Bike Forums Touring thread is slower and slower.

What's your take?
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Old 10-21-23, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Is Bike Touring in Decline?
It seems like it's been in decline for many years already.
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Old 10-21-23, 09:55 AM
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In a sense bike touring is in a perpetual state of decline. I think even when it was more common we were still a curiosity to most people. We have always been a small fish in the cycling sea.
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Old 10-21-23, 10:06 AM
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I should add that bike touring is a luxury
completely out of reach for so many.

It was 40 years ago - and even more so today.
I could sublet my apartment for the summer -
And even if I didn't get the full $250, I could afford to swing it.
Not so when rents are $2000/month.
(Plus, many leases have "No Subletting" clauses, now.)

Or - I could drop my cat off at my parents' place,
put all my stuff in storage, and head out.
I think that is much harder these days.
You can't find a place when you get back -
or the rent is even higher.

But I am saddened how few people are out there any more.
Because it is such a liberating experience.
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Old 10-21-23, 10:24 AM
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Probably, but I don't exclude bikepacking as a subset of touring. So I see less decline since I include bikepacking. I don't really see a clear dividing line between the two any way.

I don't know what to think about ebikes in the mix. Are folks actually ebike touring in any numbers at all?

FWIW, I ride my MTB daily on the trails, but haven't been on a tour in a while so I am a bit out of touch with what is going on in the touring world.
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Old 10-21-23, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
I've noticed for some time now that Adventure Cycling is offering more supported tours and more short tours.
Maybe fewer folks are signing up for long, self-contained tours...but AC is on a big kick to reach the 'untoured', and might be offering a greater mix of short and/or supported tours as a policy. So, dunno.
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Old 10-21-23, 10:40 AM
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Most of the 'fully loaded' tourers I saw this summer looked to have been on the road for a while.
Several entire families, two parents + 2-3 small kids and a ton of gear, with and without trailers.

There weren't that many compared to the number of non-touring cyclists and e-bikers.
Don't recall seeing a single bikepacker, but there isn't really anywhere to bikepack around where I live.
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Old 10-21-23, 10:50 AM
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There's been a veritable explosion in companies offering bags & mounts. Some of the tent companies have (finally) started offering cycletouring versions of their tents (basically shorter pole sections).

Maybe the accouterment & paraphernalia business is mostly a side hustle for folks with day jobs and they don't sell all that many. Seems like lotsa folks in the business, though.
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Old 10-21-23, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
I'm not as young as I used to be.
So, I may not have the most up-to-date viewpoint.
But I have an unmistakable feeling that bike touring is in decline.

I know that blogging is a geezer activity, but it has shrunk. too.
Crazyguy used to have lots of folks and it is pretty thin these days.

What's your take?
I think it is more that things are changing than necessarily in decline. For example, I would equate the blogging/CGOAB to be more that the set of tools have changed; smart phones along with platforms like Instagram make it easier to "micro-blog" adventures than use these dedicated sites. Combinations of social & commentary on everything from Strava to LinkedIn changes patterns. So in the broader field of "communication" (not just bikes), it isn't that we're doing it less but instead that it is different.

I would put the touring in an analogous situation. If you look at very narrow field of self-contained long distance touring - then perhaps less than before ...

However, looking at adjacent areas like supported touring or supported bicycle tourism, I'm less certain. Here is a spot where I think e-bikes can influence things because it can make supported situations more accessible to more people [ anecdotally I also saw commuting changed with e-bikes in some cities I came through ]. Similarly I would wonder how e-bikes affect the high cost tours like back roads or foreign rides.

So I'm less sure that it is a situation of our narrow niche shrinking as much as being part of a changed landscape.

I also put anecdotes related to bikeforums posts as being more about ""communication" than about bike touring per se....
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Old 10-21-23, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
I should add that bike touring is a luxury
completely out of reach for so many.
.
Not necessarily. I remember the first one I did was an overnighter with a friend on our old Schwinn Varsity & Continental bikes using duffel bags and backpacks. IT was about 30 miles one way to a campground in a local national forest with some uphill along the way. Tough going, but it was a cheap way for us 16 y.o.'s to experience it. You really don't need all that much to try it out, make do with what you have. I just think a lot of people have gotten pretty paranoid these days and don't have a high threshold of vulnerability to the whims of nature and mankind.
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Old 10-21-23, 12:02 PM
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Cannondale used to offer a nice touring bike but stopped several years ago because there was insufficient demand for that category of bike. In this case the manufacturer was seeing decline in the category.
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Old 10-21-23, 12:24 PM
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Until my kids were grown, touring for more than a day or two was a time luxury that was near impossible, especially when their mother didn't share the same level interest in cycle touring.. I think that there's plenty of touring happening though touring has always been a smaller segment of the overall cycling world. As mentioned by others, there are plenty of sources for touring bikes / gear and bikepacking, which is a type of bike touring, gets lots of exposure. Popular multi-day routes in the United States, like the Great Allegheny Passage and the Katy Trail, have lots of tourers. With regard to e-bikes, I suspect that will bring some folks into the touring fold once they are confident they can charge their bikes along their chosen routes. I encountered my first e-bike touring cyclist along the Oregon Coast in 2016. I can only imagine that there are many more tourists on e-bikes on that route now.
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Old 10-21-23, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by skidder
I just think a lot of people have gotten pretty paranoid these days and don't have a high threshold of vulnerability to the whims of nature and mankind.
I've also noticed that we're all sliding towards more and more fear of everything. Just the idea of bike touring can invoke all sorts of fears : getting hit by a car, getting eaten by a bear, getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, getting robbed... the list is endless. To someone with no experience in cycling, hiking or car camping the prospect of bike touring must be pretty daunting.

I think a lot of us have been trained over the years to fear more and more, and that generalized fear ends up manifesting itself in what used to be ordinary activities. I know it gets in my way often enough.
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Old 10-21-23, 12:28 PM
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I live in California. My first trips touring were on the coast. It was cheap and fun. My first trip was between 3 and 4 days and I traveled pretty light. No camp stove. A loaf of bread,a jar of Peanut Butter and raspberry jam. Now it is expensive and dangerous. Unless you are willing to camp away from civilization I wouldn't go touring in California. Out of country looks better.
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Old 10-21-23, 01:45 PM
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Is this a continuation of this thread several months ago?
Is The Touring Bike Slowly Dying Out?
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Old 10-21-23, 01:48 PM
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Not in my experience, lots of uphills on my last tour.
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Old 10-21-23, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Is this a continuation of this thread several months ago?
Is The Touring Bike Slowly Dying Out?
I'd have to say yes.

It seems at least threads about a decline in touring isn't in decline.
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Old 10-21-23, 03:05 PM
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V-blogging and off-pavement touring.

Most people nowadays can't do anything without a camera in their face. They vlog and make videos. Check out youtube and you'll see. Might be why Crazyguy is down.

With the rise of bikepacking and bigger tires lots of folks want to tour off-road or on trails. Plus a lot of people don't want to tour on pavement given the modern problem of distracted drivers. But ask anyone who's toured the GDMBR lately if bike touring is in decline, pretty sure they'll say no.
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Old 10-21-23, 03:08 PM
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I don't care how many people are on the road touring or bike packing. ))

I love it, thats more important.


P.S. and, touring on pavement is boring most of the time, riding bikes in-between cars? no thanks.
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Old 10-21-23, 03:23 PM
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Yes. Bike touring is in decline, and the reason is pure economics.

The standard of living as dropped dramatically in the last few decades. People today are far poorer than they were in the boomer generation. Most people under 35 are struggling to save even a single dollar by the end of the month, let alone consider home ownership which past generations took for granted in their 30s. If you cannot afford to take care of your basic expenses, then you definitely cannot afford to take time off work to tour.

There are still plenty of people doing short rides, but taking multiple weeks or months off to bike across the country or abroad has become nearly impossible for today's generation.

To be clear it's not the expense of the trip itself. Bike touring is cheap. It's the lost wage due to not working. This isn't Europe where even minimum wage workers have 6 weeks guaranteed paid vacation time.

Last edited by Yan; 10-21-23 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 10-21-23, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Rick
I live in California. My first trips touring were on the coast. It was cheap and fun. My first trip was between 3 and 4 days and I traveled pretty light. No camp stove. A loaf of bread,a jar of Peanut Butter and raspberry jam. Now it is expensive and dangerous. Unless you are willing to camp away from civilization I wouldn't go touring in California. Out of country looks better.
When I was last in Oregon and California it was great for touring and suitable even for a modest budget.Are there no longer inexpensive hiker biker sites? Food varied in price depending on where you were, but tou could get by without breaking the bank with some care. Hard to imagine it has changed all that much in the few years since I have been there.
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Old 10-21-23, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Crazyguy used to have lots of folks and it is pretty thin these days.
Cycleblaze certainly hasn't equaled the drop-off at Crazyguy.
What's your take?
If I visit a touring / bike packing site I want to see something attractive, places, people, nature, beautiful roads, rural roads, I like to get inspired by what I see, I want to see stuff that motivates me to ride my bike. I have no time to read for hours about a tour from Barcelona to Lisbon, filled with concrete city scapes, cars and 10m wide roads. I am not interested in what tires, battery packs, or tents people use, same for gearing, or what bike lock to buy. my eyes want food, see beautiful places. put the ""bike-touring"" or ""bike-packing"" tag into instagram, you will see that traveling with bikes is hip.
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Old 10-21-23, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by str
I love it, thats more important.
P.S. and, touring on pavement is boring most of the time, riding bikes in-between cars? no thanks.
I can show you oodles of miles of paved back roads with almost zero traffic.
Here's one in northern Indiana - Old Trail Road.
The main highway is 4-lane US 30. Big, fast, and ugly.
The previous road, Old US 30, was the Lincoln Highway. Somewhat busy.
Old Trail Road was the main highway before 1930.
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Old 10-21-23, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
There are still plenty of people doing short rides, but taking multiple weeks or months off to bike across the country or abroad has become nearly impossible for today's generation.

To be clear it's not the expense of the trip itself. Bike touring is cheap. It's the lost wage due to not working. This isn't Europe where even minimum wage workers have 6 weeks guaranteed paid vacation time.
I don't think this has changed as much as you think. In my perception there have always been barriers to people taking off in prime working ages for an extended tour. More barriers than those either at start of career (e g. gap year) or at end (e g. retirement). Some of those are very real in terms of $$ but there are also family, career considerations and sometimes an extended tour isn't a priority compared to everything else.

Twenty years ago I spent eight months cycling around Australia. I saw very different nationalities depending on where I went (and not just for cycling):
- Americans doing a "three weeks to see Australia with stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Uluru, Great Barrier Reef and one more stop"
- Japanese and others spending 36 hours to visit Uluru with one sunrise and one sunset
- Australian "grey nomads" pulling caravans for multiple weeks to cross the north during the winter
- German speaking folks renting Britz camper vans to travel through outback areas
- Etc...

Nobody expected me to be American (they guessed Canadian more often) because I was spending too much time on my holiday...

Not sure it has changed as much as you think in the last twenty years...
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Old 10-21-23, 06:16 PM
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Never have toured but would like to next year. It does appeal to me to try at least a few times.
Looking at SoCal mountain routes starting from home that I could make a mostly road 4-5 day loop out of.
Biggest issue is caring for elderly parents in poor health and a needy pup.
I would be solo and likely spend a night in Wrightwood, one at my sister's in Lucerne Valley, one in Big Bear and another near Mount Baldy.
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