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Self-Contained Bicycle Touring


A cycling adventure full of freedom and flexibility -

Self-contained or fully loaded touring allows one to jump on a bike and yield to the call of the open road. You can either follow an itinerary with a planned destination or let wanderlust take you off the beaten path. Who knows where you will end up or what you will discover? If you find a small town to stay in for the night, you may be able to camp in the town park or someone's back yard. You may decide to stay there an extra day to take in the area sights or attend the town fair. Flexibility is the key... follow your heart! Go at your own pace and enjoy the journey.

You tour self-contained with all of your gear on your bike or you can pull it behind you in a trailer. The gear carried on a bike is stored in panniers or saddlebags affixed to the bike using lightweight racks. Items like clothing, cooking equipment, bike repair tools, maps, and food are stuffed into front and rear panniers. Larger items like a tent, mattress pad and sleeping bag can be lashed to the bike's rear rack with bungee cords. Items like a camera, sunglasses, wallet, sunscreen, snacks, a tire patch kit etc. can be stored in a handlebar bag. A fully loaded bike can weigh 50 pounds or more. Weight is a factor, so travel light and take only what you need.

You have the flexibility to camp or stay in a motel. You can camp in national parks, state parks, national forests, private campgrounds, fairgrounds, town parks, school gyms, or churches. Once I slept in a campground Laundromat. Therefore, the possibilities are endless. On more trying days due to inclement weather or intense physical exertion, you can't beat the comfort of a motel bed. You may even have friendly town folk invite you into their homes for the night.

Whether you cook your meal in a campground or dine in a friendly cafe you have to fuel yourself with food to ride. A hearty pancake breakfast in the morning or a one-pot meal full of pasta and vegetables at night will help you carbo-load. Plenty of snacks, bananas, fruit and energy bars will be consumed along the way. All of this will be washed down with water or a sports drink. It is important to keep hydrated and nibble snacks along the way to replenish your carbohydrate reserves.

Be ready to change your flat tires on the road. A tire patch kit and extra tubes are a necessity. If you have 700 mm tires on your bike, it is important to bring a spare, because it is very hard to find them in bike shops. If you have a major problem with your bike, it's time to locate a bike shop.

Self-contained bicycle touring can be less expensive because you have camping options and can make your own meals.


Adventure Cycling Association -

Adventure Cycling - is the premier bicycle touring organization in North America and has a wealth of information for self-contained touring.

They have researched and mapped out thousands of miles of cross-country routes across the United States. The maps steer you mile by mile along the route, have contour lines, and show the locations of bike shops, campsites, hostels, and general stores.

Adventure Cycling organizes self-contained trips and leads supported tours. They also work on bicycle advocacy projects, sell bike travel gear, and provide planning resources for bicycle travelers.