Sponsored —- “You should consider biking,” the doctor said to me, as my hopeful look deflated. This wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, and this wasn’t the first time I had heard this. In fact, many doctors told me the exact same thing – biking and swimming – that is what would solve my problem and lead me into the future.
My problem started over 2 years ago when I contracted tendonitis in my right foot likely from running too hard and fast too early on in my training. Without great insurance and a completely nomadic lifestyle, an injury was one of the worst things that could happen. I made it worse when I hiked the Camino Ronda in Costa Brava for 100 miles. I could barely walk afterward. After that, even though I didn’t want to, I slowed down. Over the next year and a half, I had to accept a few things – like the fact that I was 47, had shitty insurance, was gaining weight, and the tendonitis was not going away. In fact, that pesky tendonitis had wreaked havoc with my body. Brand new back problems and a pesky left knee problem had popped up.
Not only was my body falling apart, but my mental state was going right along with it. I pride myself on being active. I defined myself as a runner and hiker. I make a living doing active travel and writing about it. I was staring at the future wondering how I was going to get better, and also how I was going to make a living. Things were pretty dire; I had lost my identity and the work I loved.
I stopped running altogether. I stopped doing hikes. I decided to get a home which led to proper insurance, and doctors. I knew I had to turn things around now, else this train was headed to Old-ville really fast.
I went to doctors, physical therapy, and did an MRI. The MRI for my foot came back ok due to the fact I wasn’t running or hiking any longer; however, my pesky knee problem was a torn meniscus.
Fast forward to more physical therapy, and lot of yoga. And finally me breaking down in my doctor’s office trying to explain how much this injury was ruining my life and career. We decided to do the meniscus surgery with the hope that I could rehab it and get back to doing more active things.
Biking My Way to Recovery
“You should consider biking” was the answer everyone wanted to give me when I asked how I could stay in shape without running. I didn’t want to hear it. Every time I heard this I thought…but I want to run and hike. I am pretty stubborn, but finally after the 7th medical professional told me I should take up biking, I decided maybe I could look into this biking thing.
It turns out biking is the perfect road to recovery for knee and foot issues of a arthritic 48 year old. And once I had loosened my grip on defining myself as a runner, I sort of got excited about the prospect of biking. My physical therapist had me on a bike (very slowly) within a week after surgery, and helped me chart a path from biking to hiking this summer as I continued my travels and work.
After all, biking tours are a great way to travel and I had never done one before. This could catapult me into learning about a new way to travel the world, which suddenly excited me. This was the mental boost I needed. It was time to throw my hat into the biking tour ring!
Why Travel By Bike
As I researched biking tours and learned more about the various ways to travel by bike, I realized there are many good reasons that resonated with me personally on why a biking tour was a great way to travel.
I love road trips, but I really love slow travel. Traveling slow allows to you actually get to know a place and a culture. So many of my trips I’m racing around from activity to activity, it’s exhausting and not very immersive. The thought of focusing on just one thing – pedaling – while slowly watching the landscape go by felt completely calming to me. On most trips you are only traveling 25 to 40 miles each day which means you will really get to know the region’s landscape, people, food, and traditions; something you can only really achieve through slow travel.
“Cycling to your destination each day creates the best kind of souvenir, a lasting sense of the road you traveled and the places you visited. A way to capture the spirit of your destination rather than pay attention to your watch.—Biketours.com”
Active Travel and Why I Love It
I’m one of these people that believe you need to sweat and struggle to know that you are getting the most out of something. I’m not saying this is the right perspective to have, it’s my perspective I’ve inherited. I sort of blame it on my Midwest upbringing plus all of the high school coaches I had. If I wasn’t sweating, then I wasn’t working. And a work ethic was the most important thing you could have – at least according to my father.
That has bled over into my adult life and it’s still sort of how I look at any activity. So the reason why I’ve always gravitated toward hiking around the world, was because it was a way to strangely ‘earn my destination’. Not to mention that it also allows you to eat and drink without guilt!
These were my main reasons I was getting excited to do a biking tour, but there are many more great reasons out there. Check out these ‘why take a bike tour’ reasons for more inspiration.
But wait…Enter Biking Fear
I was starting to get really excited about the prospect of a biking tour. I began searching the internet to find cool looking tours. But then the one thing that happens whenever you are going to try something new happened. Fear started creeping in.
Queue daunting music…
Even though I’m a seasoned traveler, I’m not a seasoned biker. In fact, I’ve never really been a biker. Besides riding my cute little pink banana-seat bike with tassels around my neighborhood, and a few short day bike tours, my biking experience has been little. Sure, I know how to ride a bike (you never forget that – right), but I’m older now that brought with it a number of concerns. Just as I’d call the ghost busters if I saw a ghost, I went to BikeTours.com for some heavy duty fear busting.
Am I in shape to do this?
This is the biggest concern. Biking tours cover 25 to 50 miles a day…for a whole week. How was I going to do that day after day coming off of a knee surgery?
Fear busting: Biking tours are for almost everyone, but not all tours are right for everyone. Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, so do bicycle tours, including plenty that are flat and cover short distances. Some even build in rest days. You can also try a tour with electric pedal-assist bikes—e-bikes. Sure, you still have to pedal, but e-bikes put more power behind each pedal stroke. They make distances feel shorter and hills feel flatter!
Do I have to bike in crazy foreign traffic?
I’ve driven in some of the craziest traffic in the world on my travels. The thought of biking in a foreign country suddenly seemed like a death wish!
Fear Busting: Most tour routes are chosen carefully along quiet back roads and low-traffic routes. Some are along dedicated car-free bike paths. Even when there are cars, cyclists are common in Europe, and drivers are generally accustomed to them and courteous toward them.
What if I get a flat or my bike breaks down?
I suddenly imagined myself out in a beautiful countryside with a flat tire, or broken chain…now what?
Fear busting: If you’re on a guided tour, the guide or support van will take care of things. Even on a self-guided tour, you can call a service hotline for assistance.
Note to self: take guided tour!
Will I be able to stop and take pictures?
Obviously this is really important to me – photography is my hobby and one of my favorite things about travel. I hate the feeling of having not time to stop to take photos – it can actually ruin a trip for me!
Fear Busting: Bicycle tours are not about speed. They are about going slowly and savoring your surroundings. In fact, bicycle tours are a key part of the slow travel movement. You ride at your own pace. Enjoy the scenery. Smell the flowers. And take photos if you want to.
Biking Trip Fear
I’m not alone, many people are fearful of their first biking trip…but they all survive! Read my recent guest post from Jennifer about Facing Fears on a Bike
Choices Choices… What Biking Tour Is Right For Me?
My first big choice was where in the world should I try my first biking tour? I settled in on Europe. Summer temperatures aren’t as hot as SE Asia, and biking is pretty common around there which means there are many good biking paths.
I also knew I wanted to do a guided tour for my first time. I thought it would be a good way to build confidence with a little support.
When I talked to the customer service agents at BikeTours.com who specialize in biking in Europe, they said they have a list of things they consider when helping choose a trip for beginning bikers.
• Shorter average daily distances
• Some days with lower distances
• Flat to lightly rolling hills
• Dedicated bike paths or quiet back roads with low traffic
• Opportunity for rest days with optional riding
After going through some of the options they recommended for me, I was ready to make a decision!
And the Biking Tour I Chose Was….
I like to be a little dramatic, so give me a drum roll please…
First off, I had never been to this part of Spain, and I had always wanted to go there. Second, the distances seemed reasonable. Third, they had electric bikes available if I wanted one. Fourth, it’s supposed to be incredibly picturesque and I was excited to photograph it! Fifth, San Sebastian is one of the best food capitals in Europe and I would definitely ‘earn my overindulging rights’ if I did this biking trip!
Will Bike for Food
You can bet I’m going to stay a few extra days in San Sebastian and check out these recommendations from the San Sebastian Food Travel Guide!
Here’s what Jim at BikeTours.com had to say about it – “We thought the Basque tour would be a superb option for you as nearly all cycling is outside the cities in sparsely populated landscapes with little traffic. The terrain is mainly downhill or on flat terrain. Daily distances average 25 miles with a couple days at 20 or fewer miles. We also thought this would be a good tour for you to experience as it features some upscale hotels and top-line equipment—so you’ll have an experience similar to what other travelers have who spend twice the money with the larger North American companies.”
The team at Biketours.com has worked with ‘novice biking tour’ type customers before. They are pros at helping you figure out what bike tour is right for you. They spent time listening to my torrid injury story and why I wanted to try out biking, and then helped me narrow down the many choices in Europe based on their expertise.
I’m signed up for the trip in June! I’m super excited about trying something new that is actually going to be good for my body! I’ve started to do some spinning classes, I took a bike maintenance class, and I’m hoping to get a bike in Denver to just start getting used to the idea.
I hope this is just the beginning of finding a new, active way to travel that doesn’t wreck my body! However, this doesn’t mean I’m no longer hiking. I have a bunch of hiking holidays also planned this year, but I’m trying to ease into it wisely while adding a new way to do active travel to my list!
Of course you’ll be able to follow along in June and see how this new mode of travel goes for me! And if you have any advice for me, please share it!
Interested in Trying a Biking Tour in Europe?
Check out BikeTours.com and see their beginner to advanced trips.
And make sure you talk to them to help narrow down your choices and make sure you have chosen a bike tour that is right for your needs!
This post was done in partnership with BikeTours.com, and I will be a guest of their on this upcoming bike trip. However all opinions expressed here are my own.