Touring alone - pros and cons

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Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby martin_b » 11 May 2010, 7:17pm

Hi all,

I've decided to take the plunge and go for a last minute tour in Europe between June and August. I've got a few ideas of destinations and I know I want to camp. Quite a few people have tried to dissuade me from going alone because this is my first proper tour and I'm only 18. I've cycled and camped quite a lot but I'm torn between whether this is a ridiculous idea or if it's the ideal trip of a lifetime.

How dangerous is it to tour alone? Is it actually enjoyable or very lonely? Any pros or cons? How likely would I meet people to ride with on route?



p.s. If you fancy a last minute gallivant around Europe don't be afraid to contact me!

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Barrenfluffit » 11 May 2010, 8:35pm

Danger really depends on what you do. In general bike tours tend to be in rural area's so fairly safe. In terms of meeting people its more sparse. Hostels tend to be more sociable than campsites. Certain bike routes are more popular e.g. the danube in Austria but young people seem to favour backpacking over cycle touring.

Solo touring is easier because there's no consultation but harder because all the responsibility for route finding and accommodation falls on you. If its tough you have no-one to whinge to and all the motivation has to come from you.

If you can come up with a theme of things that interest you to tie it together thats good. Cycling into a festival is rather fun. Also consider using couchsurfing to meet up with people en route. If diversions look cool try them. Allow yourself time to enjoy the places and experiences.

In terms of evidence of a flexible, sensible, capable, determined character I think its a fantastic thing to do. I met a german guy in Istanbul heading home (who was also 18) and having just come through E europe I thought he was on the cusp of an amazing experience. Bikes open doors like nothing else.

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Cunobelin » 11 May 2010, 10:05pm

Common sense and a sixth sense!

I love touring alone and it enables me to explore as I want.

I have been through some dodgy areas and survived.

I think most people have the combination of the above that tells you when it is safe to stop and explore or keep pedalling!

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Basil W Bloke » 11 May 2010, 10:39pm

Touring alone is great.

You don't have to worry about speed. You can change your daily destination on a whim, without discussion. You can change your mind. You can suddenly turn left, wondering what's down that lane there and end up camping outside a town you'd not planned to visit.

You meet people. You talk to people.
Sometimes when touring in a group you find that you ride through the land only talking amongst yourselves.

Go for it. Have an adventure.
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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Barrenfluffit » 11 May 2010, 11:08pm

However it is something that needs preparation and your best reply to doubters is to show that you've thought it through in detail. Doing it abroad is a bit more complicated cos of the language and maps but its also more rewarding.

Try to categorise the unknowns; stuff that you can't do anything about isn't worth worrying about but other things can be sidestepped. Work out how to stay in touch maybe even keep a blog.

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Cunobelin » 12 May 2010, 6:49am

Quite often it is a good idea to have a trial run.

This allows you to make sure your bike is set up properly, you have the right kit, and all the other little things, that after a few tours you do automatically.

Would a UK weekend tour be something that would not only boost your confidence, but give the doubters reassurance?

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby ANTONISH » 12 May 2010, 8:40am

From the other end of the spectrum I'm an elderly old git of 69, enjoy touring on my own, and I would think I am more vulnerable than yourself.
From being your age, when my Mother wrung her hands at the risk I was taking at the hands of "those French fellows" I have now reached the point where my grown up children query "whether you should be doing this at your age".
There is no safe or dangerous age, just take reasonable precautions with money passport etc.
In addition these days there is the mobile phone and internet so getting in touch in an emergency is so much easier than in my youth.
Enjoy your tour.

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby thirdcrank » 12 May 2010, 9:15am

I'm assuming from your username that you are male. It's hard to imagine anthing in Europe that would threaten you more on your own than in a group and a group of young men might even be more likely to provoke trouble than a lone traveller.

It's really a matter of what suits you. Solo touring offers complete independence but needs self-reliance. Riding in company, whether as a duo or in a bigger group gives company, mutual support and a wheel to follow into the wind. Group riding benefits from good compatibility, similar riding ability and targets, with a good leader for a bigger group and good planning.

I understand you are planning on a two or three months trip. That's a long time for a bike tour and plenty of scope for either the possible loneliness of a solo ride, or the disharmony of a badly matched group to set in. I think that everything I've said is pretty obvious and stuff you had in mind when you posted. Unless you've already got some good cycling friends who will be free for the same period as you, I'm not sure where you would recruit anybody; a couple of months touring with a stranger might work, but it might not.

I went touring alone from my early teens and never understood what my parents were worrying about. I understand it now. Whatever you do, 'phone home'.

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby simonineaston » 12 May 2010, 9:34am

I'd have thought that so long as you 'use your common-sense', and 'mind your own business' and 'keep your head down' (there you go , 3 cliches in a row!), you'll be fine. In my humble experience, you can enjoy travelling more on your own than in a group 'cos somehow, you end up having more interaction with the locals than if you're in a group. Depends on a) how well you speak the languages I s'pose, and b) how out-going you are - I wasn't very outgoing when I was 18, although am more so now...
The only advice I would give is: Every town of any size has its very own version of the 'wrong side of the tracks' i.e. the part of town that's more dangerous than the rest; move on through as soon as poss., 'specially after dark. You'll soon work out what the tell-tale signs of these less-than-choice neighbourhoods are... Apart from that, Enjoy (I'm envious - sounds like Great Fun :)
ttfn, Simon in Easton
(currently enjoying a Moulton TSR & a nano Brompton...)

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby matt2matt2002 » 12 May 2010, 1:51pm

I just finished a 3 day tour of the Scottish Highlands and enjoyed being alone and not having to worry about anyone else - speed or punctures etc.
The only hassle I had was verbal, from a couple of young idiots I held eye contact with for slightly too long.
It was in a town and they were hanging around drinking.
So, my own fault for 'being there' !

As someone above said - keep your head down and trouble is unlikely
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2018 Marrakech 2 weeks.
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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby brianleach » 12 May 2010, 1:59pm

I agree with everything that's been said. I'm nearly 61 and have toured, admiitedly just in France for a week, for the last three or four years and have had a great time.

I'm going again on 26th May and in September am taking the ferry to Santander to see what Spain is like.

Are you happy on your own at home? If you are not and need company then you might want to reduce the length of the tour a bit or perhaps split it into two.


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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Millhouse » 12 May 2010, 5:03pm

Go for it, you will have an amazing time. On a slightly different tack from some other replies I wouldn't plan every fine detail, just go with the flow, do what you feel like doing at that time. It's Europe not a third world country. If you start to feel a bit down, phone home, use Skype. text etc etc.
I think an old fashioned term is 'character building', you will look back on your adventure, with pride, for the rest of your life.
Life is too short, enjoy yourself.
PS I've toured alone a few times and like many others who have also commented I have found that people are more ready to strike up a conversation/assist a single cyclist rather than a group.There are loads of kind friendly people out there.

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby Edvardus » 12 May 2010, 5:30pm

I would definitely recommend touring alone. You can be so much more flexible about things and also ride at your own pace. There's nothing worse than having to adjust your pace to suit someone elses - either way! Having (in the past now) worked in a busy office environment with loads of folk around me, I really appreciated getting away on my bike on me tod. There is nothing to beat that fantastic feeling when you set off cycle camping, in the knowledge that you're virtually self-sufficient. I could cheerfully flog the house and most of its contents and become a cycling tramp; my wife might have something to say about it though! And I don't think that it's any more dangerous to travel alone - have a read of A Bike Ride by Anne Mustoe who cycled around the world on her own.
Many of the things you can count, don't count. Many of the things you can't count, really count. - Albert Einstein

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby BARRACH » 12 May 2010, 6:50pm

I would also recommend any of Josie Dew's books. She travelled alone at various times through Europe, Japan, New Zealand, America and Canada. Her books should be available on Amazon . She also has a website

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Re: Touring alone - pros and cons

Postby AMC » 13 May 2010, 1:36am

I love touring alone, you can do what you like & meet so many more people. I've found it to be very safe, even when I was your age, but do listen to your instincts, especially the ones that you find you try to put aside as unreasonable - they're usually pretty reliable I find. I suspect you're most vulnerable when you're very hungry, or ill; in my experience the need for food, water or even accommodation can override your better judgement & natural caution, so try to keep stocked up! Anyway, it's hardly ever been a problem in years of travelling so don't let it worry you. In my experience seemingly sticky situations have worked out just fine.