When bike tours get combined with something more.

If you’ve read the Urban Adventure League blog (TM) long enough, it should go without saying that I like the whole notion of bicycle touring. And I like it so much that I do such silly things like write a guide on touring or post things to the touring subforum of Bikeforums.net.

And I really like it when people make a bike tour something more than “just a bike tour”. Now don’t get me wrong, I love “just a bike tour” typed bike tours. In fact, I’ve done a lot of them over the years. Nor am I referring to “cause” bike tours, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with bike tours that raise awareness for issues and try to do good in the world. But let’s be honest: there are quite a few of them out there, and while a particular cause may be unique, the whole idea of doing a bike tour in the name of a cause is not unique in itself.

No, I’m talking about when people incorporate something that isn’t generally associated with a “bike tour” into their bike tour. Like incorporating performance into a bike tour. Yes, that’s right, performance touring via bike! Why not?

9334811229_a5a2845a37_kAnd here’s the latest example of this, which I learned courtesy of the CBC Radio “World at Six” program, er, programme:* There is an opera company in Ontario (called, appropriately enough, The Bicycle Opera Project) that has been touring ’round the province by bike! And this is the third year that the’ve done it! I don’t remember all the details of the radio broadcast, but co-founder Larissa Koniuk was a cyclist who was also into long-distance riding, and wanted to combine both of her passions, and found some willing compatriots to go along with her. And three years later, they are still at it!

This year, they’re touring from July 4 to (about) August 10th around southern Ontario. And the whole “touring bike opera” idea is novel and worthy, but what makes me really appreciate what they’re doing is that they are self-supported, meaning: no one is trailing them in a big van with all their gear.

This is a big deal, at least for me, because I don’t get that excited for supported touring, no matter how big or grandiose or interesting the idea of a particular tour may be. For example, there was a bike touring documentary crew out earlier this year that was trailing Oregon’s favorite lone wolf, OR-7, as he (supposedly) rambles across the state. But they had a van for all the gear. And remember back in 2006, when the folky duo The Ditty Bops did a bike tour/performing road show across the US? Well, it was just the two of them on their bikes, the rest of the band, gear, etc. followed in “the van”.**

9334720757_c951db5217_kNow please don’t interpret this as saying that both of the above examples are somehow invalidated by being supported, or that they weren’t worthy in their own right. But to me, it just feels like a bigger deal when folks do something “crazy” like combining performance and bike touring, and do it without the help of a motor vehicle.*** It’s just more impressive watching the performers and musicians of the Bicycle Opera Project haul all their stuff down the rolling Ontario roads, two trailers weighing about 100 lbs each behind them. No roadies needed.

And while The Bicycle Opera Project is the latest example of performance-with-bike touring to catch my eye,**** there have been many other examples over the years. The one that is strongest in my mind is the tour the B:C:Clettes, Vancouver’s bicycle inspired dance troupe, took in the summer of 2008.***** And for good reason: I was on it! The “Wheely Fun Tour” was great fun, but unfortunately not repeated. Of course I documented it in a comic!

6489277739_30ca6d05e9_o 6489278629_84810cd888_o

*This is a habit I picked up from the Cross-Continent tour. Plus, the local NPR affiliate (OPB) simply replays the 4 pm broadcast at 6. Do I really want to hear it again?

**I saw their Portland performance on this tour on the night before I embarked on my tour down the Pacific Coast. And jeez, was it really 8 years ago? Time flies.

***Yes, I realize that motor vehicles deliver the goods that are stocked in the stores along the way, etc. Let’s not go down that road, please.

****Well, in this case, caught my ear.

*****And another Canadian performance tour? Must be all that arts money they got going around there. 😉 (And jeez, was it really 6 years ago?)

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2 thoughts on “When bike tours get combined with something more.

  1. I too get irked with all the supported bike tours – even if they are raising money for a good cause. It’s become so commonplace as to render it un-noteworthy. But perhaps those who do long distance touring, like you and me, yet do not have an agenda other than a distant goal. What then? We aren’t an anomaly anymore. Which, in retrospect, we should be thankful for. Long live touring cyclists.

  2. I remember one year, thirty years ago, I went through Yellowstone and staid at a camp site with a bunch of cyclist that were in several places and learned it was costing them $700+ to be ‘lead’ on tour. Van supported, of course. They asked about my ride and I explained I used a free state highway map and camped wherever I ended up. I couldn’t believe they were paying so much money fore a guided tour. It’s way more these days, I understand. I just thought they were missing out on a lot of fun by not going it on there own. Picking a route isn’t that hard and surprises along the way is all part of the fun. Spreading the word as you do is doing some good. Hope that one guy or gal who is indecisive sees your blog and helps them make a decision to get out there by themselves. M.C.

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