by Hilary Oliver
Maybe it was the extended time away from the rat race. Or the newfound friendliness and openness of strangers. Or simply the ability to devour an entire large pizza in one sitting. But everyone who’s packed up their panniers and hit the pavement for a cross-country bike ride has a moment when they realized it was exactly the right thing to do. Here are their reasons why you should do it, too.
It will change you in ways a short vacation just can’t do.
“Riding across the United States taught me the value of taking more than two weeks off of work. If you want to change as a person, you’re not going to do it in seven days away from the office.” —Brendan Leonard, writer
It will reveal the sense of adventure and self-reliance you forgot you had.
“I think we’re all born with a sense of adventure, perseverance, self reliance, and a brain capable of being resourceful and flexible that is stifled by modern life’s constraints and conveniences. Getting on a bike and being pelted by rain, confused by directions, exhausted by mileage, and empowered to eat great sums of food re-awakens your true self. We all need to do that from time to time.” —Maggie Thompson, council aid, City and County of Denver
It will give you the best stories to tell.
“After three or four days of solid downpour in Washington, we decided, ‘let’s get all Kerouacian and just hitch…see where we can end up.’ It didn’t take long, despite the lack of civilization in Raymond. We were picked up by Marty, an all-American dude hailing from Olympia, WA. He was on his way to his family property to camp with his daughter. Marty proceeded to tell us we are his heroes, sandwiched our bikes into his loaded truck, and set out toward Astoria. Moments after getting on the highway, he nonchalantly swigs a gulp of tequila right out of the bottle, assuring us ‘It’s tradition.’ We never saw Marty again, but I sure as hell will never forget him.” —Addie Levinski, writer
It tunes you in to simplicity.
“It’s a chance to get out of the rat race, totally out of a normal routine. Life becomes simple. It’s you, your bike, a couple changes of clothes and really nothing else in the world to worry about except where you’re going to find your next great breakfast.” —Tony Breitbach, chiropractor
You’ll find yourself in places you’d never think to visit in a car.
“We rolled into a hostel on the outskirts of a small Dutch town one afternoon to discover that is was more of a “nature retreat” than an urban hostel. Dinner wasn’t available at the hostel, so we asked for directions into town and to the closest restaurant. Turns out that it was a place called Wok of Fame that shares a warehouse space with an indoor paintball arena. In rural Holland. With really great bike parking. Needless to say, we got the all-you-can-eat buffet.” —Thompson
It connects you with other people in ways you’d never find on a different kind of trip.
“I was surprised at how great some of the people we ran into were. We had dinner bought for us, dry socks offered up to us, and places to stay.” —Breitbach
It will change the way you think about riding your bike—and the world in general.
“Last summer I rode RAGBRAI on my townie bike, which has upright handlebars rather than drop bars, and I think that I’ll always want to ride that way when I tour in the future. I’m more interested in looking around to see the sights and chat with my fellow riders than a super aero position for breaking land-speed records.” —Thompson
It will open your mind to even greater adventures in the future.
“Traveling more than 1,200 miles by bike in just 17 days with little gear and hardly any money is certainly a feat. But it wasn’t until a year or two later that it really came to fruition and I realized what it really did for me. It set the stage for a life built around exploration, travel and movement.” —Levinsky