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Solo touring + picking up riding companions

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Solo touring + picking up riding companions

Old 12-09-10, 09:42 PM
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mthayer
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Solo touring + picking up riding companions

I have been planning on doing a Cross Country tour probably towards the end of summer next year. It really depends when I can get the money to leave. I am thinking now that may change up a bit or a lot. I typically ride solo, and when touring I have always done it alone.
I am wondering on a trip like a cross country, how often do people pick up a riding companion for a day, or for a few days?
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Old 12-10-10, 04:33 AM
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This is a great idea for a thread -- I've been very curious to hear what others experience in this regard after my first coast-to-coast tour last summer (the link is to a daily blog I kept, if interested).

I followed a well-established route from west to east: Adventure Cycling's Nothern Tier. I started a little later than most and didn't get going until July 8th. That said, I was still surprised by how few cyclists I saw. Over the entire trip I only encountered about twenty (at the most) west-bound cyclists, and I only caught up to about three east-bound cyclists (I averaged 83 miles per day and reached Bar Harbor in 56 days). I thought I'd be seeing someone just about every day, but that was not the case.

Anyway, I spent a night in the city park of Chester, MT (blog post from that day), and just happened to meet another east-bound cyclist there. It turned out that we were pretty well matched in terms of typical distance per day, so we decided to continue on together.

We ended up riding together for two weeks -- all the way to Grand Rapids, MN (blog entry about heading off alone from there). We only parted there because he wanted to go north of the Great Lakes, whereas I wanted to stay on the "official" route because it would bring me close enough to home that I could stop in and see my wife for a few days.

It was great biking with someone, and he turned out to be a perfect companion. We got along very well, and sharing resources for cooking and camping made things much easier. I'm sure we'll remain friends for life. That said, I think I ultimately prefer to tour solo, but that's purely because I like to go my own pace. My riding companion was faster than me, so I was usually playing catch up. He was incredibly patient about waiting, and didn't want to go farther each day -- he'd just get there first. Still, there were times when I felt like I couldn't stop to check things out because I knew he was up ahead.

Ultimately, I felt incredibly fortunate -- just by chance it worked out so that I did most of the tour on my own, but I got a huge mental and practical break by riding with someone for those two weeks. And, as I mentioned, this was a great way to make a new friend.

Last edited by Derailed; 12-10-10 at 06:07 AM.
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Old 12-10-10, 06:05 AM
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It depends on the route and when you go. It is pretty easy to meet other riders on a route like the Pacific Coast, the ACA TransAmerica, and probably some of their other routes. On other tours I have met very few touring cyclists.

Going late in the summer will reduce your chances quite a bit, but you will probably meet folks going the other way who are finishing their tour while you are still early in yours.
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Old 12-10-10, 07:48 AM
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I left very late for my tour of the west coast from Vancouver to Tijuana. I left in early October! I made it to Oregon by Halloween and had already bumped into a few cyclists. The weather was terrible all through Oregon, heavy rain ever day for a solid week, so I only saw one cyclist there. By the time I made it to California there were cyclists all the time and the weather was cold but not bad. I toured with a friend but we frequently picked up solo or other groups of riders for different periods of time. It helps to be social. If I had done that tour solo it would have been easy to pick up a partner for the majority of the trip if I had felt like it.
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Old 12-10-10, 08:59 AM
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It's nice to meet somebody companionable along the way and travel together, but it's not something should be counted on. It may or may not happen. I don't think it is a good idea to head out with the expectation of meeting somebody along the way, as that is a set up for disappointment.

I have been bicycle touring for about 30 years. In all that time, when travelling solo, I have met many cyclists on the road, struck up many conversations, and occasionally, ridden together with somebody for a few hours. But it has never gone beyond that.

On the other hand, a lot will depend on where you go. Crossing the United States, you're likely to meet hundreds of other cyclists. The more people there are, the more likely it is that you will discover a traveling companion.
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Old 12-10-10, 09:02 AM
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I've done the Pacific Coast twice - once from Seattle to Santa Cruz, and once just the Oregon Coast from Astoria to Crescent City. Both times I met many, many tourers and fell in with an impromptu group. I've ridden part of the Northern Tier twice. Both times I met other cyclists but only briefly, and didn't end up riding with anyone. I rode the Lewis and Clark route from Portland to Missoula. I met a whole bunch of cyclists. I ended up staying in a campground with one couple for a couple of nights, and rode one day with another couple, but we never "fell in" together. I think I could have ended up with a companion or two if I had wanted to.
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Old 12-10-10, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Derailed View Post
I followed a well-established route from west to east: Adventure Cycling's Nothern Tier.
The portion of the AC's TransAm route I did (Missoula. MT to Fairplay, CO) was "crowded." I am pretty sure I encountered more people in that stretch than I did when I did the entire Northern Tier (did AC's group tour) west to east the year before. We did pick up a solo cyclist relatively early on and he joined our group for a week, which he was allowed to do under AC's rules as long as he paid the per diem for food and camping. I cannot remember crossing paths with more than maybe a handul of other people. Amazingly, one of them turned out to be a guy with whom I had done a one-day ride to Brooklyn with the year before and had dinner with afterwards. Small world.

The following year I did the NT to Glacier, NP. Same thing. Aside from crossing paths with AC's North Star and Northern Tier tours, I encountered only one person along the way. We never rode together as our schedules and speeds did not match, but we did end up camping at the same place three nights. The lack of people may have been due in part to the fact that both trips started during the 4th week May, when it's still quite cold and wet in the Cascades and you run the risk of Going to the Sun not being open.

On the TransAm, I encountered three people going in my direction on the second day alone. We were on varying schedules and they stayed inside as much as possible, so we never really rode together. In WY I met several going my way and some going in the opposite direction. I ended up riding with a couple on a tandemn off and on for about a week until we went out separate ways in Fairplay. Nice people. They were "modern" Menonites. The husband was keeping a record of all the bird calls he heard during the trip, and they would take turns reading to each other in their tent in the evening.

The refreshing thing was that, of all the people I encountered along the way, only one seemed like an ass.
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Old 12-10-10, 10:11 AM
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On the TA we didn't choose to ride with others much at all, but the opportunity was there with some regularity. We met some super nice folks and made it a point to camp with them when we could, even though we generally didn't ride with them much. I think it really added to the touring experience for us and I kind of missed that on my other tours.
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Old 12-10-10, 12:33 PM
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Going east to west on the TA, I met quite a few folks. I rode for three or four days with a recently graduated college group of four friends and we got along fine. My gal was coming to meet me in Lexington, VA for a couple of days and so they rode on. I then met a fella my own age and we rode together for about four to five days. We got along alright for a while, but our outlooks, expectations, personalities and comfort zones were miles apart and we parted ways just before Berea, KY. We rode together just one day too many. I ran into other folks along the way and kept seeing familiar folks at camping spots, etc., but had no desire or inclination to team up with anyone again, though, I did ride a day with a fella that I had met a couple of states before, but I was where I wanted to be at the end of the day and he was not, which was fine with me.

Over-all, I guess it's who you meet and how like-minded you are as to whether you decide to ride with others. I just took it as it came and things were grand.
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Old 12-10-10, 02:27 PM
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On the Atlantic Coast this summer, I think we saw 5 other tourists, all of them going the other way. We didn't spend more than 5 minutes with any of them.
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