Author Topic: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking  (Read 11274 times)

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Offline oldgroundhog

Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« on: December 07, 2012, 06:39:35 am »
What are your thoughts on the advantages of bicycle touring over backpacking, or vice versa?   I've hiked the Appalachian Trail and made several Pacific-Atlantic cycle tours.  I'm frequently asked which is best and why?  I have my thoughts on the subject, but was wondering yours?  So if you are both a backpacker and a cycle tourist, what do you say?

Offline DaveB

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2012, 09:19:59 am »
I guess I don't understand why one has to be the "best".  They are such different modes of travel and offer such different experiences that they should be treated on their own merits.  The closest comparison to backpacking would be MTB touring and, even that, is very different.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2012, 09:50:01 am »
Backpacking is pretty-much a 100% nature experience. Bicycle touring (on roads) is a mixture of nature and civilization. Backpacking allows you to get away from it all more completely. Bicycle touring allows you to travel greater distances and see more. Backpacking is good if you are nervous about sharing the road with traffic. Bicycle touring is good if you want to meet people and experience rural life.

Do both.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2012, 10:14:14 am »
Backpacking is pretty-much a 100% nature experience. Bicycle touring (on roads) is a mixture of nature and civilization. Backpacking allows you to get away from it all more completely. Bicycle touring allows you to travel greater distances and see more. Backpacking is good if you are nervous about sharing the road with traffic. Bicycle touring is good if you want to meet people and experience rural life.

Do both.

John hit the nail on the head.

I removed my first reply because I misunderstood and read backpacking as bikepacking.

Offline ezdoesit

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2012, 10:14:29 am »
Backpacking is pretty-much a 100% nature experience. Bicycle touring (on roads) is a mixture of nature and civilization. Backpacking allows you to get away from it all more completely. Bicycle touring allows you to travel greater distances and see more. Backpacking is good if you are nervous about sharing the road with traffic. Bicycle touring is good if you want to meet people and experience rural life.

Do both.

+1
Remember it's mind over matter
you don't mind it doesn't matter

Ride more Drive Less

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2012, 03:25:50 pm »
I've done a lot of each, and can't really name a "best". One big advantage to biking is you can get whatever food you want every day.  To me, that's a big plus.  Backpacking, especially combined with scrambling/climbing, offers special thrills that biking can't.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline jamawani

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2012, 01:13:10 am »
Why not both?

I have toured extensively in the West with a moderate weight 2-day pack which allows me to go on extended wilderness hikes of 3 to 4 days by hiking light.  I've had the concession service take my bike up from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows a couple of times and have hiked up the John Muir Trail.  I shuttled my bike at Grand Canyon and have then hiked rim-to-rim a half dozen times - not to mention out-and-back hikes.  I've hiked Bryce Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Robson, North Cascades, Kluane, Wrangell-St Elias, and Denali.  All while on long bike tours.

There is no need to choose.

Pic - Backcountry camping on Upper Athabasca River in Jasper NP

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2012, 09:39:06 am »
I've had the concession service take my bike up from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows a couple of times and have hiked up the John Muir Trail.
Do they officially offer that as a service or is it a matter of asking nicely and hoping for the best?

BTW, that sounds like a great way to enjoy Yosemite.

Offline jamawani

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2012, 09:58:31 am »
At Yosemite there is no shuttle, you have to go by the concessioner's office and beg nicely.  It would be better to go directly to the office of the warehouse manager than the "main" office as each employs persons with different mentalities.  The latter will say "Impossible!" while the former is more likely to say, "Yeah, we can toss it in a truck."

At Grand Canyon these is a shuttle during the summer season, but technically, they don't offer bike shuttle service.  You need to arrange to have your bike stored on the other end and have all the loose ends tied up - then meet the van departing with everything ready to go.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2012, 01:10:52 pm »
At Yosemite there is no shuttle, you have to go by the concessioner's office and beg nicely.  It would be better to go directly to the office of the warehouse manager than the "main" office as each employs persons with different mentalities.  The latter will say "Impossible!" while the former is more likely to say, "Yeah, we can toss it in a truck."

At Grand Canyon these is a shuttle during the summer season, but technically, they don't offer bike shuttle service.  You need to arrange to have your bike stored on the other end and have all the loose ends tied up - then meet the van departing with everything ready to go.

Thanks.

Offline dennityrrell

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2012, 01:01:22 am »
This summer I left my job to do the following:
- Hiked 230ish miles of the John Muir Trail (3 weeks)
- Peddled the 1900ish miles of the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route from Canada to the Boarder of USA/Mexico (6 weeks)

Backpacking rules because there is no noise / light / garbage pollution, your not competing for shoulder space with distracted drivers, your days are simple, you can camp for free almost anywhere youd like, abundant wildlife and mountain scenery and you are surrounded by clean air and water. Although it does require a lot more planning, its hard to cover a lot of ground (10-15 miles is a decent days work) you cant really mail anything home that you dont need, you have to carry everything on your back and your more exposed if something goes wrong.  More experienced is required.

Bike touring rules because you can cover so much more distance in a day (50-70 miles is a decent days work), you can eat/drink whatever you want (ice cream x3 a day, why not? Or how about some espresso?) and you hardly need to pack anything in your panniers. If you have a rainy day - you can hole up in a hotel or just brunt riding in the storm knowing that you plan to stay in a hotel with a hot tub later that night.  Touring is more social and you get to have a lot more conversations with random people and hopefully inspire people to get back on their bikes.  Mechanical breakdowns suck, paying for hotels / camp grounds can add up pretty quickly and people giving you the finger for taking up a bit of space on the road sometimes can rub me the wrong way.  Really not much prior experience needed ... just get up and go.

Overall ... I wouldn't choose one over the other. Thats why in the near future I plan to bike 20 miles to a local backcountry trailhead, stash the bike and trailer and hike a few miles into the woods. Might even bring the dog along ...

 

« Last Edit: December 12, 2012, 12:07:45 pm by dennityrrell »

Offline gubbool

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Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2012, 10:15:40 pm »
From my experience, which is just under 20,000 miles total, in its simplest form the answer is:

thru-Hiking - meet some people; can carry nothing extra, dream about sitting in a chair; camp most anywhere you want, any time you want, for as long as you want; breakfast not so good; cheap

thru-padding - meet nobody; carry everything you want including a chair, none of it on your back; camp IF you can reach land that's not guarded by soft mud or oyster beds; cold breakfast in da boat or you'll miss the morning's calm water; so much food = so much money

bike-touring - meets lots of people; carry most of what you want, no need for a chair, for every 20 minutes spent pushing your gear up a hill you get a 20 second free ride on the other side; camp at walmart  - if you are brave enough; AND breakfast at McD's - budget for it.

AL-Me '08 Hike
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Offline oldgroundhog

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 02:40:10 pm »
It's been interesting to read these replies.  Thanks to all who's posted.  I've found in the last decade a marked distinction between the two travels.  I prefer cycling, but places to camp now are becoming increasingly more difficult to find.  School grounds and ball fields once welcomed touring cyclists.  Now I'm called a 'potential terrorist' and turned away.  Churches once welcomed touring cyclists also.  Now I am a 'liability issue' and turned away. 

There are exceptions, but from my experience, policemen also have a negative view of touring cyclists.  I've been called a 'vagrant' and 'homeless' simply because I ride a loaded bicycle.  This is obviously a topic for another post, but I hope there becomes more trust in the bicycle non-community towards us who travel on two wheels.

So for awhile, I'll just keep the boots laced up and hike the Appalachian Trail.  Thanks again for all your inputs.


Offline staehpj1

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2012, 07:17:13 am »
It's been interesting to read these replies.  Thanks to all who's posted.  I've found in the last decade a marked distinction between the two travels.  I prefer cycling, but places to camp now are becoming increasingly more difficult to find.  School grounds and ball fields once welcomed touring cyclists.  Now I'm called a 'potential terrorist' and turned away.  Churches once welcomed touring cyclists also.  Now I am a 'liability issue' and turned away. 

There are exceptions, but from my experience, policemen also have a negative view of touring cyclists.  I've been called a 'vagrant' and 'homeless' simply because I ride a loaded bicycle.  This is obviously a topic for another post, but I hope there becomes more trust in the bicycle non-community towards us who travel on two wheels.

So for awhile, I'll just keep the boots laced up and hike the Appalachian Trail.  Thanks again for all your inputs.

That doesn't match my experiences.  The nice folks I meet along the way and the ease of finding places to camp are a big part of what I like about touring.  I guess it depends on where you tour, but I have seldom had trouble finding places to camp often for free in the West, in the plains, and in the South West.  Local folks have generally been hospitable and the interactions I have had with the police were rare, but positive.  The police have been extremely helpful on a number of occasions and even the one time I was pulled over for riding where I shouldn't have been they were respectful and courteous.  In the 5 years I have been touring I have done several long tours and have noticed no decline in the warmth and kindness of strangers met along the way.

Also I have heard plenty of laments about how the AT experience just isn't what it used to be.  I do not know how much that is really the case, but it is enough to have put me off of wanting to thru hike it.  I think I'd rather hike less used trails and am considering the Allegheny Trail for later in 2013.

Bike touring, backpacking, and wilderness canoe tripping all are equally great experiences with their own pluses and minuses in my opinion.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2012, 01:04:49 pm »
I agree with Staehpj1.  In over 30 years of touring, the only negative interactions I have experienced have been with motorists driving by, you know, the finger, the yell, etc.  With people I actually meet, it's all been positive, even to the point of going up to the cash register to pay the bill for breakfast and being told it was already taken care of buy an anonymous person in the cafe.

A little off topic, but one of the strangest things I've noticed about the people I meet is that locals often know nothing about local geography, roads, etc.  They can't tell you which road to take, where a particlar road goes, etc, even when I'm asking in a small town where a road leaving is going or which way to another nearby town or how far it is or especially if a road is hilly or  not.  I think I often leave a town I've never been to before knowing more about the area than the people living there!
May the wind be at your back!