Lessons Learned From My First Tandem Bicycle Tour

This week I had the opportunity to reflect on my very first tandem bike tour with Felkerino, an eight-day, 775-mile excursion from Rockville, Maryland, to Niagara Falls.

I wrote about our 2005 tour experience on The Bicycle Story (an excellent blog, and not just because I have a guest post on it). You can see my story here.

Checking the map en route to Niagara Falls
Checking the map en route to Niagara Falls

Our Niagara Falls bike tour continues to inform the touring we do today.

Here are just a few of the lessons I learned. Most of these are taken directly from the notes I jotted down immediately after the tour:

  • You do not need four panniers to credit card tour in the middle of summer.
  • Guest laundry at hotels is exciting, and so much better than hand-washing the day’s clothes in the bathroom sink and squeeze-drying it in a hotel towel.
  • When riding loaded, consider shorter days than 100 miles. During our 2005 Niagara Falls tour, we averaged 97 miles per day. In general, when Ed and I now tour we ride a few days that are close to a century, and mix it up with shorter days. I wrote in my notes from 2005, consider two days hard, and one day lighter to recover. Now I would revise that to ride a century one day, and ride the next couple of days at, say, 60-80 miles. It helps keep touring a treat.
  • If you ride long days (100 or more per day) with bags, you will not get to stop very much. (Insert sad face here.)
  • Sleep is bliss on a bike tour.
  • The fourth or fifth day on a tour are emotionally tough as tour legs start to set in. (I wrote that in 2005, but have found that if we keep our mileage less than a century per day, this does not happen to me as intensely.)
  • Plan out lunch and other food stops before leaving on tour.
  • Take photos and notes of the places you’ve been. They are fun to revisit later. In 2005, I took terrible notes and took no photos. While I have no regrets about that, I take notes and photos of our trips. I like seeing where we toured each day and having some photos I took that help capture each day.

So that’s my short list of lessons learned about bike touring. Feel free to add anything I left out or that you’ve learned from your own experiences on the road.

Taking a break to soak in the view.
Taking a break to soak in the view.

Despite our follies, Felkerino and I had an unforgettable adventure in 2005 that made us want to take time every year to bike tour. Bike touring… it’s the best!


    • Vacation and bike touring as educational? Say it isn’t so! I do find that I’m much more relaxed about stopping now when I’m touring. After all, taking breaks is part of the fun.


  1. Good post! I agree on planning ahead your food! I actually made a meal plan for our week long tour last year. We had plan to eat out only dinner & the rest we cooked on the road. We carried 1-2 days worth and when we stopped to restock I knew exactly what to buy rather than wandering grocery store figuring out what I was hungry for!


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