Touring on a road bicycle provides the cyclist a window into the essence of a place. There is no better way to get the true feeling a village or forest then being in the open air traveling along the road at 15 mph. You will see things that a normal traveler never sees. The sights, the smells, provide a connection that is simply impossible from a car or other high speed means of transportation. It is so easy to stop and experience the local culture when riding a bike. In a car you are past those interesting sights before you realize they exist. Today most people drive on the freeways that bypass most of the history and interesting sights that lie in the small towns and back country roads.
There are a great many ways to enjoy touring on a bicycle. One way is to load your bike up with several days supply of clothes and other things and just ride in some interesting direction. This is the way a true touring purists would most likely approach it. However this is akin to going on a camping trip where you backpack your way into the wilderness and rough it for a few days. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and many people love to do it.
However there is another way that will allow you to enjoy riding on new uncharted roads without the need to be a pack horse. Many bicycle touring companies offer very interesting and enjoyable bicycle tour vacations packages where you can ride your high performance road bike without treating it like a pickup truck. These tours are usually conducted in scenic and historic parts of this country and the world. The tours usually start each day at a nice hotel after you have had a great breakfast and are fresh from sleeping in a comfortable bed. The ride each day can be anywhere from 15-20 miles to as long as 75-100 miles depending on the tour you select. At the end of each day you can relax and dine in an upscale restaurant while exchanging conversation with other cyclists about the day’s adventures. Your luggage arrived at your destination before you did and there was a pleasant room waiting for you to cleanup and refresh. While you were riding there was always a support van close by to help with any mechanical difficulties or offer you a lift up the last long steep hill of the day. On this type of bicycle tour you can enjoy yourself without having to worry about lodging, meals or safe routes to ride. The tour operator does this for you.
In some cases the touring companies schedule bicycle tours centered near a single scenic town or village and conduct the rides for each day out from that home base. You stay in the same hotel for the entire vacation. This variation is great for couples where only one person is a gung ho cyclist; as it allows both members to enjoy their vacation together by providing a variety of non-cycling activities in addition to the bicycle riding. Often on these types of tours there are two rides each day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, allowing anyone to ride one or both rides each day. If desired one of the rides can be skipped in favor of doing some other activities such as shopping, sightseeing etc with the significant other. Even if a person doesn't ride at all they could still enjoy the other activities and meet up with their other half in the afternoon for dinner and the social activities of the day.
If you are into road cycling but not into roughing it this is a great way to go. It will allow you to explore the many unique places in the country and the world and leave you with a real connection to the culture and history that exist there.
Paul Upson is the owner and operator of Laurel Highlands Cycling Tours. His company specializes in providing upscale bicycle touring vacations in the Laurel Highlands region of southwestern Pennsylvania. http://www.lhct-cycling.com