83 comments


  • Tim Forker

    Great post. As one who forgoes the bike shoes & shorts, I concur with the sentiment. Two things to do “right” though: obey traffic laws and use lights at night!

    November 16, 2011
  • Matt Clarke

    And Adventure Cycling will really tell you how to do it by telling you where to go so throw those maps in the trash.

    December 09, 2011
  • Sometimes it’s goes really wrong. I got my first long trip on near new GT comfort bicycle, with camo pants and cotton T-shirt :) Had to return halfway cause got very bad sunburns, and was dead beat (extiguished myself and bike almost lost ability to move – no front brake, and split rear axle), but it was fun. So some consideration is vital.
    As for fancy parts – one girl from our club got 2006′s bike with heavily abused tourney transmission, and fine with it (beats me how she manages to make this thing shift and brake) – she can give handicap to many men :)
    PS But clipless still very handy.
    PPS If you interested in russian offroad bike touring way – feel free to ask :)

    December 19, 2011
  • Roger Bolden

    Great article. It’s the journey that matters, not the gear. I cycled around the world in 97-98. Sometimes I had ‘white-line fever’ caring more about getting to the destination as fast as I could and my gear reflected this; cut- down toothbrush, the lightest gear etc. Eventually most of my gear broke or went missing and ended up making do. This slowed me down and had a great time. Incidentally, I met a Swiss RTW cyclist who was spending 5 years on a bike. He also had clip less pedals but one of the cleats on his shoe broke in Laos and had to resort to wearing smart shoes instead.

    May 11, 2012
  • I did Manila-Bangkok in 2011 in sandals, no under wears just shorts, because I did do not want to look like a neon biker. For me that was the right way because that way I felt it was easier to meet the locals.
    Next winter I will finish my trip around the Chinese Sea going Bangkok-Hongkong.
    Claus

    June 05, 2012
  • Hallelujah! I am so fed up of the pressure to conform to cycling norms. I love my folding bike, yes for its practicality, but also for its quirkiness. I love people being surprised by how fast it is on “those little wheels” and I’ve given up trying to find a pedal/clip/cleat combination which works on a folding pedal. Flat pedals and trainers all the way for me from now on and I’m much happier. Screw conventional wisdom! :-)

    June 14, 2012
  • Calvin Schaeffer

    Last week I cheerfully threw my toe-clips in the trash.
    If you borrow a little bit from here and a little bit from there and are able to make up your own mind you will find your path.

    June 23, 2012
  • Zorra on a bike

    “At some point in all the failure and the repeated thinking that clipless is what “real cyclists” ride, the person gives up on the dream and misses out on a whole world of wonderful experiences – all because of the stupid pedals.”

    Love the article and comments. True about the pedals, worried so much about my clipless that I lost the excitement to get out and just ride and then I fell! Bought some platform pedals yesterday and a BIG weight is gone. More about the journey and less about the destination and being happy with your bike setup.

    June 28, 2012
  • Kathy

    I agree. After riding several international rides and seeing people from other countries have a whale of a time riding any old bike in any old clothes, I realized Americans are gear crazy and like to buy things. A road bike rider for years, I am now happily using flat pedals for my commute to work, city errands, and fun rides but I got all terrified about a 350 mile ride coming up so I was researching pedals and shoes. I didn’t want to go back to clipless pedals so you helped me decide to stay flat and stop agonizing about it! Thank you very very much.

    July 25, 2012
  • Highwayman

    Wow! That is the best of your blog entries I’ve read so far. And I feel so vindicated! You also gave me a good laugh –thank-you.

    The problem for North America (or more specifically, Anglo-North America) is that, today, bicycling is regarded mostly as a sport rather than as transportation or travel. This is reflected in the majority of bike shops we have in our part of the world: they are geared toward the athletic.

    Then there is the propensity to conform to the latest fad. Americans especially are notorious for that.

    Still there is hope. As more of us tour, more people will look upon the mechanical steeds we ride as the custom jobs they should be for each of us riders. The understanding will grow that each of us has the right to customize our bicycle (or tricycle or any other cycle for that matter) according to our needs, peculiarities, and –dare I say it?– eccentricities.

    Let each of us ride our own journey and allow ourselves to truly have our own bikes.

    Again, truly the best post I’ve read! Thank-you!

    October 19, 2012
  • God I loved this post… right from the beginning. I tried clip/clipless pedals for a year just so I could say I gave it a shot. They didn’t work for me. I much prefer regular flat pedals or the old fashioned bear traps.

    The other thing I apparently do wrong is forsake roads. I drive my car on the roads way too much. When I bike, I want to be safe and see different scenery. Give me a rail-trail, canal trail or river trail over a road any time. Now that’s my kind of biking. Beautiful, relaxing & safe trails are the way to go for this bike traveler.

    January 11, 2013
  • Amen to that, Highwayman. It’s nice to hear from a fellow bike traveler. It’s not always about competition. Bikes are pretty darned great for recreation, transportation & touring, too!!

    January 11, 2013
  • Eileen

    Yea yea! Make your own rules! Just go!

    January 29, 2013
  • Linny

    Yes…..there are alot of “Legends In Their Own Minds”..
    out there. As has been said before….Go out there… however it works for U… and have a Great Time…..:)

    February 02, 2013
  • alf

    If you are having fun, then by all means you are doing it right.

    I am leaving Bulgaria next month with a regular backpack (thinking of getting a flatbed trailer), and a second hand mountain bike. I don’t care if it takes three months to reach UK at 20km a day. I plan to have a blast doing it wrong, and tweaking the bike, setup and gear as I go if something is not going well.

    February 02, 2013
  • Russ, you nailed it again. Be comfortable, ride within yourself, rest when you need to and have fun.

    February 02, 2013
  • Guess I’m doing it wrong too. I have nice WellGo flat mountain bike pedals on my Road bike, a Kona Dew Drop. LOL!

    February 02, 2013
  • Sharon McN

    Great points. You tempt me to get the Trek 520 out of the garage and go bike camping, something I’ve never had the nerve to do. Of course, I’d wear my clippy shoes because that’s how I roll.

    February 02, 2013
  • Loneviking

    Hooray! There’s others doing it wrong! I wheel along on a 40 year old Schwinn Varsity with clip less pedals, saddlebags from an Army surplus store and enough add ons to make most bike mechanics laugh. I don’t wear Spandex, and I usually wear clogs. And yes, I’ve been told I’m doing it wrong!

    February 02, 2013
  • Couldn’t agree more!

    February 02, 2013
  • John Donahue

    I fell and broke my hip 16 years ago, partly because I couldn’t get out of a clipless pedal.
    I went back to an inexpensive cruiser style platform pedal for my touring, etc. and been Very happy.
    I actually believe it has helped me improve my symmetry and muscle tone throughout the complete arc of repeated pedal strokes.
    Clipless pedal benefit is one of the Great urban myths of bicycling.

    February 02, 2013
  • arnel

    It is not the bike and its components, for me, its the biker that counts the most. This ain,t Tour D France, its just plain touring. If your happy and comfortable with your set up. GO !

    February 02, 2013
  • dave

    Good comments. I too love Rail Trails, Canal Trails and dedicated bike paths. I ride a recumbent and love my clip-less peddles but I can understand the convenience of not having them too. And sometimes I wish I could leave them at home. But I just can’t.

    February 02, 2013
  • Doug

    I used clips and straps for many years. It was always fine. Early last year, though, I decided to switch to clipless. I very much prefer it for all riding, including touring.

    1. More comfortable
    2. I wear out fewer shoes
    3. More secure, especially in rain or on rough roads
    4. Steep hills are a bit easier, though there’s no real difference in speed most of the time
    5. Clipless shoe plus pedal is lighter overall

    I find walking in MTB shoes is fine.

    Each to his or her own, of course.

    February 02, 2013
  • Ten years ago on the East coast of Sweden we encountered a young couple who were going the same way, so we rode along for a day or two. They were touring. On Dutch bikes. Without gears. With a cotton tent and heavy army sleeping bags, sealed in dustbin liners and belted down on their racks. Without any consideration for their gear, they had simply picked what they had and started off. Their stuff was so heavy and unsuitable as if it were picked for parody. Well, they were in love, and happy, and boy did they have legs.

    February 02, 2013
  • Ken

    I know and old gent in his 80′s, in 1949 he and his friend set off on their Raleigh sit up & beg 3 speed tourers to camp in Scotland. They set off from Newcastle at the beginning of the school holidays and six weeks later had gotten as far a the Isle of Skye – from there they caught the train back so as to start teaching in the new term. They had wooden tent poles tied to the crossbar with string (as you did)everything in a large saddlebag and the tents on top. They stopped in farmers fields and bought bacon, eggs & milk fresh from the nearest farm every morning.

    How I wish I could recreate that trip…. and all without clipless pedals, lycra or any of the modern “necessities”

    February 02, 2013
  • More than years ago I biked down the West Coast from Portland to San Francisco. I’ll never the cowboy we met. He was riding from Montana to SoCal. He wore cowboy boots, jeans, and a cowboy hat. He had his blanket roll around the top tube of his bike. It taught me you can keep who you are and still get there.

    February 02, 2013
  • Otis

    I’m a “gear freak” myself, but this is a great article. Get out and do it.

    Love my SPD pedals, but you’ll never see this body in full lycra.

    February 02, 2013
  • paul

    Currently in Japan, riding a Bike Friday Pocket Llama (for the second time) I have MKS removable pedals with good old S/Steel MKS toe clips, two rear panniers, an Ortleib duffle strapped on the rack. Carry a laptop,iPad, camera and phone with all the requisite gear.Ride in a pair of Keen walking boots, wool socks, wool jumpers/jerseys,other assorted items of clothes to keep me warm and dry in a Japanese winter. I also have mudguards/fenders , a bell,lights and a leather saddle. Pretty much the same sort of gear I had when I was 10 or 11 and ventured out onto the roads for 1 or 2 day trips depending on Dad. All of this started around 1960-62 so I am buggered if I’ll change for someones else’s idea of cycling correctness. I still get a sore butt, push my bike when I feel like it and don’t mind having a hot coffee container instead of an extra electrolyte/stamina drink bottle. Oh ! I forgot the bar bag has a supply of nuts , dried fruit and fresh, and indulgence ,a Snickers bar or two. It’s day 20 and I have covered 615 klms through rain , snow and bloody head winds and enjoyed every bit of it at 62 years young.

    February 03, 2013
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    February 07, 2013
  • Ken B

    Great story Russ and Lora thankz for sharing

    May 26, 2013
  • The trick is, making the bike fit you. If you try to make you fit the bike, it will seem like a torture machine.

    Ride what you have. If you sit at home because you don’t have the ideal equipment, then you’ll never go anywhere.

    June 05, 2013
  • Max Schneider

    I think I’m doing it wrong too. Last month I finished a two month cycle trip from Germany to Istanbul (via Albania because neither I nor anyone I met had ever been there).

    Flat pedals, internal hub, borrowed panniers, a 99 Euro tent, no detailed map (I did get maps on the way – love those Serbian tourist offices).

    I did hardly any research before I left on a whim (I knew it was possible because otheres had done it before but no detailed route planning other than “I guess I will follow the Danube and see where it goes), no GPS (one of the first questions I was always asked was: Do you have a GPS? I always knew where I was, the main question was which road to take next…), no smartphone either.

    Regular shorts/pants and no cycling shorts either, which is more comfortable for me than these cycling shorts.

    Oh yeah, and I was going alone (remember, I left on a whim) which seemed to confuse everybody.

    It was very exhausting but very great and next time I will only tweak a few details.

    The good thing about cycling is that everybody can do it _their_ style and be happy with it.I think this applies to life as well…(which I must be doing wrong too because I have neither a car nor a TV…)

    January 07, 2014

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