bike touring, ponderings

Have I lost my bike touring mojo?

Smith Rock

Fall is here. The past weekend definitely had that “change is in the air” feel, it got cold, at least cold for September in Portland. On Sunday, September 29th the high crested at 52F/11C, the first time the high hadn’t hit 60F or above in four months. I rode around with long wool socks, flannel, sweater. I wore a scarf on Saturday, after a pretty strong little thunderstorm dropped the temperature from 58F to 48F.

Bike touring season in these parts is pretty much over. Sure, there’s still some possibilities in October. There will be some nice days of 60F, enough to sneak away for an overnight or so. But the days are quickly growing shorter, nights longer and colder. Unless I aim for a southern trip, or do an inn-to-inn tour where I’m guaranteed a warm, dry place every night, I don’t think I’ll be doing anything major for the rest of 2019.

So as per tradition, it’s time to reflect on my Touring Year. Damn, it’s pretty slight this year.

  • My Central Oregon Tour in late May. What was to be a four-day adventure got shortened to two.
  • My San Juans Tour with Emee in early July. While we were gone for about a week, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of biking or camping involved with this trip.
  • Besides that, I had two separate overnights to Ainsworth in the Columbia Gorge, one in March, the other in June during Pedalpalooza. Plus I camped at my friend’s wedding out by Beacon Rock by the Gorge.

Looking at that list, I’m like: Wow, I didn’t do much this year. Why? I thought “working for myself” would mean more bike touring and camping trips in for 2019. I thought I might go for at least a repeat of 2012, which found myself in a similar situation. That year, I spent 49 nights bike camping or touring, a month and a half! This year: I camped a week. Barely. Okay, the year isn’t over, but I’d camp maybe one or two more nights before it’s done.

And I’m sure I could have done more bike camping and touring if I really tried. But, I just haven’t been that inspired this year. For example, when I tagged along to Bend last weekend, I initially thought about doing a little tour from there, ride over the Cascades via McKenzie Pass and into Eugene where I could take the train home. But as the date closed in, my enthusiasm waned. I didn’t feel like dealing with logistics, so I stayed in Bend and just explored the woods around there. And that was fun.

But I wonder: Have I lost my bike touring mojo?

From about 2006 to around 2017, bike touring was my default get out of town and travel option during the warmer months of the year. It just felt natural to me. It became part of my identity. And like how zines was integral to who I was for a good long time, it doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal as it used to be. And I worry about that.

There are some definite reasons why 2019 has been shaping up to be my lightest bike camping and touring year this decade:

  • Decision Paralysis. I’ve explored much of the area around me. There are places I like going to frequently. But I’m more intrigued by the new or lightly explored. So, I’ll get ideas about Gifford Pinchot, Central Oregon, Southern Oregon, etc. Then I spend a lot of time agonizing over deciding where to go. The destination had to be “right”. I’d worry about it so much that I’d end up not doing anything, waiting until the time is “right”.
  • Loss of confidence. I have this weird counter-productive character trait where I doubt my ability to do something, even after I have proven that I can do said thing. This thing has been coming into play with Bike Touring: Even though I was on a four-month tour, I now worry that I don’t have “what it takes” to pull off a couple days of riding at 50 miles a day. And this kind of self-doubt festers upon itself, making it harder for me to take that first step. Deep down I know I can do it, it’s just getting over the hurdle.
  • Feelings of inadequacy. This ties into loss of confidence. I see so many reports and Instagram posts of people doing “super gnar” bikepacking trips. I haven’t really truly bikepacked. While I’d like to do some, I also like doing “trad” bike touring, too. And trad bike touring has been made to feel uncool. I know I shouldn’t care, but it still affects me. It’d be nice to do some more touring with others, but most of the folks I know are “done” with those trad bike tours and only want to do adventure tours. Part of me feels like going with them on one of their bikepacking adventures, but most of me worries that I’ll be left for dead on Day One, not able to keep up with them.
  • More other travel. Since I’ve been going out with Emee, we’ve done a lot of travels. Some times we bring bikes, sometimes we don’t. On average, we go out of town once a month. So, there’s not a heck of a lot of time or energy to try to pull off bike travel on top of it.

But I don’t think I’m going to give up on bike touring anytime soon. I still want to do it. I still have ideas and inspiration. For instance, when I was out in Bend, I definitely got ideas about coming out that way again to do a bike tour. Hopefully something that wouldn’t end up like the one in May. And I’d really like to do something longer out that way, in the neighborhood of a couple weeks. Something that feels like a real tour. Maybe that would give me more motivation. And more motivation hopefully means more follow-through.

And I know that I have to get over my other hang-ups. Realizing the problem is one thing, changing is another, especially as we age. All I know is: I don’t want to give up on bike touring. It’s brought me joy. It’s shown me places I didn’t know existed. And it’s given me pride–pride knowing that I can travel under my own steam.

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2 thoughts on “Have I lost my bike touring mojo?”

  1. The last of the four “reasons” makes sense, but the first three are surprising. Level of interest/motivation probably varies in all of us. But decisiveness, confidence, and adequacy are what I remember from our rides. I’d enjoy the opportunity to do it again.

  2. Don’t forget that the dirty secret if Instagram is you only see the great stuff happening to others, so take all those Gnar tours with a grain of salt or 5. Do what you can do and revel in the fact you got a week in this year and you are still way ahead folks, like me, who have trouble getting off the couch for a group ride.

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