sag wagon

Bicycle touring

Bicycle touring is a leisure travel activity which involves touring, exploring or sightseeing by bicycle. Bicycle tourism can be likened to backpacking on a bicycle.

Distances vary considerably. Depending on fitness, speed and the number of stops, the rider usually covers between 50–150 kilometres (30–90 mi) per day. A short tour over a few days may cover as little as 200 kilometres (120 mi) and a long tour may go right across a country or around the world.


There are many different types of bicycle touring:

  • In lightweight touring—informally called credit-card touring among cyclists—the rider carries a minimum of equipment and a lot of money. Overnight accommodation is in youth hostels, hotels, pensions or B&Bs. Food is bought at cafes, restaurants or markets. This type of bicycle touring is common in Europe.
  • In fully loaded touring (also known as self-supported touring) cyclists carry everything they need, including food, cooking equipment, and a tent for camping. Some travelers go "ultralight" with basic supplies, food, and a bivy.
  • Expedition touring means traveling extensively, often through developing nations or remote areas. The bicycle is loaded with food, spares, tools, and camping equipment so that the traveler is largely self-supporting.
  • In supported touring a vehicle such as a van carries most of the rider's equipment. This can be organized by private groups of cyclists or commercial holiday companies. These companies sell places on guided bicycle tours, including booked lodging, luggage transfers, route planning and often meals and rental bikes.
  • In a mass day trip, such as MS Bike Tour and Five Boro Bike Tour hundreds or thousands pay a fee to be conducted, sometimes by representatives of a charitable organization, on a day tour of usually tens of miles or kilometers. Accommodation is provided in the form of rest and refreshment stops, marshalling to aid safety, and SAG service.

Touring bike

Cycle touring beyond the range of a day trip may need a bike capable of carrying heavy loads. Although many different bicycles can be used, most cycle tourists prefer a touring bike built for the loads and which can be ridden more comfortably over long distances. A typical bicycle would have a longer wheelbase for stability and heel clearance, frame fittings for front and rear pannier racks, additional water bottle mounts, frame fittings for front and rear mudguards/fenders, a broader range of gearing to cope with the increased weight, and touring tires which are wider and more puncture-resistant.

"Ultralight tourers" choose traditional road bicycles or "Audax bicycles" for speed and simplicity. However, these bikes are harder to ride on unmade roads, which in extreme cases can mean riding on busy roads. For some, the advantages of a recumbent bicycle are particularly relevant to touring. Other tourists find more comfort and better views riding in the upright position.

Another option is to pull a bicycle trailer. This removes most of the requirements for a touring bike.

Finally, a rider can have his load carried in a following car or van, cyclists call this being "supported". When the cyclist and bicycle are picked up, cyclist call this being "sagged", which comes from the colloquial name of the rescue bus, known as the "SAG Wagon," that follows riders in races and picks up those who have sagged, who don't have the strength to ride further. For this, almost any type of bicycle may be suitable.


Many cycle tourists have published travelogues of their tours in books or magazines or on the Web that are both entertaining and informative. Some notable examples are Thomas Stevens, Alastair Humphreys, Ken Kifer, Dervla Murphy, Josie Dew, Heinz Stücke and Janne Corax.

Bike touring associations

Many associations for cyclists, such as the Cyclists' Touring Club in the UK and Adventure Cycling Association in the US, began as small touring clubs, bringing together enthusiasts and perhaps organizing tours and accommodation. The Adventure Cycling Association (then called Bikecentennial) organised a mass ride in 1976 from one side of the USA to the other to mark the nation's 200th anniversary. The Bikecentennial route is still in use as the TransAmerica Trail. In France, long-distance cyclists belong to the Fédération Française de Cyclo-Tourisme and to the smaller Cyclo-Camping International, which pools members' experiences and holds an annual conference in Paris. The FFCT is the largest cycling organisation in the world; the CTC is the oldest.


From the invention of the bicycle, it has always been a challenge to see how far it could be ridden. When the limits of a day's ride were reached, cyclists began carrying luggage for an overnight stop, thus creating bicycle touring. Since this was impromptu progression, accelerated when the equally-sized wheels of the safety bicycle made it simpler to carry bags, it is impossible to say when it started. By 1878, however, recreational cycling was well enough established in Britain to lead to the formation of the Bicycle Touring Club, later renamed Cyclists' Touring Club. It is the oldest national tourism organisation in the world. Membership of the CTC inspired the Frenchman Paul de Vivie (b. April 29, 1853) to found what became the Fédération Française de Cyclotourisme, the world's largest cycling association, and to coin the French word "cyclo-tourisme".

See also


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