Mancation, All I Ever Wanted

Quickbeam on Hains Point. No mancation here.

Quickbeam on Hains Point. No mancation here.

I overhear our friend talking to Felkerino about his upcoming bike trip, a multi-day self-guided tour in Europe.

“Mancation,” he tells Felkerino. I turn my head at that.

“Just me and my bike,” he adds.

Surprised, I say, “Wait, you’re going by yourself?”

“Good job, Mary. You got it on the first try.”

If he only knew, I think. Until his clarification, I had imagined our friend pedaling and guffawing with his manly cycling bros, no women allowed, having the mancation of his life.

This was different. This was like nothing I would ever plan, and not just because of the “man” in mancation.

“But who will you talk to about your ride? How long will it take for you to become lonely? I would get lonely.” This whole mancation thing was causing some conceptual distress.

Loneliness did not appear to worry our friend. He expressed more concern about how much his off-the-bike clothes weighed. The plan to be a solitary cowboy on two wheels delighted him.

In a strange coincidence, the following day one of my colleagues and cycling friends who is leaving on his own solo bike trip this week (mancation, if you will) stopped by to discuss the differences in our approaches to bike touring.

“Mary, I cannot wait to go and spend a few days on the road by myself. You, however, have a different view of bicycling. I can see that in your blog posts. You like your bicycling to be social. It’s not something you frequently do alone.”

I agreed. A mancation (womancation?) does not hold much appeal. The occasional solo century? That can be fun. Generally, though, I prefer to share the miles and memories. That’s one of many reasons I like tandem bike touring with Felkerino.

I don’t care much for group tours, but day after day of riding in my own company and no one else’s is not something I would seek out.

I imagine a multi-day solo bike tour morphing into a forlorn adventure where I sadly contemplate my insignificance. I prefer to do that kind of contemplation in the kitchen while I cook dinner.

In addition, there is also a small fear I have for my own safety as a solo woman on the road. I have been conditioned to think about this in a way I suspect may be different from men.

However, even with safety as a consideration, I do not crave a mancation. I want to hang out, see the sights with my partner, share meals and coffee, and chat along the way.

Obviously, not everybody feels that way. For others, solo bike touring may be a welcome break from social interactions and I’m not sure what else. Perhaps it allows one to relax in the comfort of his or her own company as they become one with the bike. Mancation, all I ever wanted…

22 responses to “Mancation, All I Ever Wanted

  1. Mary, all my bike tours are solo and I never have a plan other than transit options at the beginning/end of tours. I live for chance encounters and happenstance. I am meant to meet the people I meet…not by choice but by serendipity. I’m amazed by what I have experienced and it makes my life full of great stories. I have no fear and have never been lonely. There are so many other cyclists out there that make solo touring a wonderful experience. I understand why, as a woman, you are apprehensive about solo riding. I, too, have those moments of worry, but they quickly disappear. The big disadvantage to solo touring is that you have to carry ALL your own geat. As an ultralight backpacker, my experience on the trail transfers well into biketouring. I have become quite the expert on packing my bike bags with minimal lightweight gear. Happy trails! Jo

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    • Thanks, Jo! I did not realize your tours were all solo. You do make it sound so much different than I imagined it! In considering it in the abstract, I do like the idea of being on your own timetable and how it opens you to the people around you in a new way.

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  2. Deacon Patrick

    You extraverts are so weird! Grin. Nearly all my rides are solo and I either bike pack solo or with family. But I am very introverted. It’s a question of what refuels us: being with others or being on our own. Either way, what matters is that we enjoy the ride!

    With abandon,
    Patrick

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  3. Both ways have their rewards.

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  4. The first tour I took by myself I came back realizing that I had been lonely at times. Then I was reminded of one of my favorite books, “Blue Highways”, where the author takes a soul searching trip around the country by himself, but the beauty of the book is in the people he meets. Since then this introvert has been far more receptive to answering questions and striking up conversations.

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  5. Most of my cycling is commuting – or the ‘long way’ home, in a rural setting on back roads where to see another cyclist is rare. I rather enjoy the solitude. Watching, feeling and smelling seasons pass. It would be difficult other wise. A tandem! Never! My partner and I use 2 kayaks and NOT 1 canoe. Some day I will do some longer distance solo stuff.

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    • Sounds lovely! On my commutes, sometimes I find myself wishing I was in a more peaceful place with fewer people. But for a multi-day tour, the idea intimidates, at least for now.

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  6. I’m with you. I don’t think that is plan a solo trip, both for social and safety issues. Well, safety plus my lack of bike maintenance skills!

    I don’t mind riding organized events alone because I always meet and talk to great people during the ride, but a multi-day solo trip might be a different story.

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    • I feel the same about an event. You may show up by yourself, but there are people about doing the same thing you are. Oh, by the way, I meant to comment about your latest adventure race– sounded like a really fun challenge, and so cool it was close to your hometown!

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  7. Like your friend, I am a solo touring kinda guy. Whether it’s a cycle tour or a motorbike tour or a long hike … I like to travel alone. It’s refreshing, new people will talk to me because I am alone and therefore fair game for a chat, and I can do whatever I want.

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    • Wow, refreshing, huh? People have offered such great comments about the positives of the solo tour that now I am intrigued by it… still intimidated, but also intrigued!

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  8. I never would’ve bike toured alone because I didn’t know how and at any rate it wasn’t on my radar. Now, with months of tours behind me with my husband, I don’t think anything of going off by myself for a short tour. And yes, I would go to Europe by myself. In fact, It’s freeing to be alone. I ride my own pace, plan my own day, change my own flat tires. But, I realize it’s not for everyone.

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    • I would be up for an overnight. It would be interesting to see how I experience it. Don’t think I could camp yet, though. I need practice with that…

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  9. I’m a solo-tourer for the most part – including trips to Scotland, Nova Scotia, Boston->DC, etc… but I did enjoy the weekend trips I’ve done with my wife. At the moment, as I picture an undetermined, future cross-country ride I picture most of it solo, but leaving open the ability to link up with fellow tourers and friends along the way. When you’re alone you can discover things about yourself like self-reliance and strength and you have a little more freedom. At the same time there can be lots of boredom and problems can be magnified by being alone. Both solo and non-solo tours have their time and place I think. For a non-solo tour my first question has to be – will we get along? The wrong partner could ruin a good vacation.

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    • Totally agree w/ you about the touring partner. Given that touring can be so physically intense and you are often exploring new places, it’s critical to have good rapport with the other person.

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  10. I’ve done both, and there are definite pros and cons about either. Right now due to life circumstances, my tours are mostly solo, unless I can get a friend or three to come along for a section.

    On solo tours, I have felt lonely from time to time, but never enough to overwhelm me or change my mind. I think one of the good things about doing things solo–whether touring or other activities–is to see what you are truly capable of, when you don’t have another person (or persons) to fall back on. All of the triumphs and failures are yours alone.

    It sounds like you’re not really interested in trying a solo outing at some point, but I think it would be a worthy endeavor if you did!

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  11. I think safety is something men do not consider, but it is a big factor for women. With cycling you can at least ride away from danger, and keep moving if a camp ground etc seems unsafe. I used to wander all over the place by myself, travel alone, hike into back country. I was lucky, but did have a few scary encounters. I was used to commuting alone, going for long bike rides alone, biking out to mountain biking trails alone. Even in previous relationships I would still do all of that alone. My husband of 8 years has always gone hiking, biking etc with me. I had some scary experiences with bears that make me a bit nervous to be alone in the forest, and more aware of what could happen with strange mens especially in remote areas. I understand why single women have dogs to walk with them(I live in the country too, so lots of wild spaces and parks). I do not know if I would be up for a solo tour anymore, might get lonely, or if there is a malfunction beyond my abilities I might cry… but I miss riding alone, I love getting lost in thought, being self reliant. I do think people should go on solo tours if they want and need the break and time alone.

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  12. My daughter rode from Santa Cruz, CA to New Orleans, SOLO, this last Jan. carrying all life’s necessities. She was awesome!

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