I recently finished my first bike tour and I have to say I loved it. Cycling is the most healthy, relaxing, and economical way to get around. I ended up riding 250 miles in 9 days on the road. I wild camped every night and cooked all but one of my own meals.
Before starting the tour, I flew from Los Angeles to Seattle with my bike. For more information, check out my article: How to Box a Bike and Fly on Alaska Airlines.
I started at around 10 am in Seattle and took a leisurely ride down the waterfront to the ferry port. I traveled by ferry across the Puget Sound to Bremerton, Washington. From Bremerton, I took highway 3 to Shelton, Wa. From Shelton, I turned off onto Cloquallum road and headed through the forest to highway 12 which I followed to Aberdeen, Wa. Next, I got onto the 101 and turned off on Ocean Beach road. I followed this road to Pacific Beach. I then rode down along the beach back to highway 109 and took a similar route back once I got to Aberdeen. From Bremerton, I took the ferry back to Seattle.
This trip cost next to nothing. The only things I paid for were the ferry and food.
I paid $10 to take the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton with my bike. The ferry back was free.
Mostly I just ate cheap, easy to prepare cold meals during the day and cooked a hot meal at night in camp.
An average breakfast would be peanut butter or Nutella on bread and a piece of fruit. Lunch would be tuna and avocado on a tortilla. For dinner, I would cook rice and beans or ramen. I also was constantly snacking during the day on fruits and cookies and candy. Walmart was good for stocking up on cheap food. I bought other items in small-town grocery stores and gas stations along the way.
I ate one meal out during the trip. A rainy morning was spent charging my electronics and drinking coffee at Denny’s. All other meals I prepared myself. Total food cost was about $60. This could have been lower but I splurged on candy and snacks a few times.
I never paid for water on the trip. I just took my water bottles in stores and bathrooms along the way to refill. A couple of times I boiled water from streams for tea and hot chocolate.
I wild camped every night of the trip. Mostly I just looked for a hidden spot that couldn’t be seen from the road. This was my first experience with wild camping and it went smooth. I was never bothered at camp.
The best spot was a vacant lot just across the street from the beach. The lot was surrounded by trees on three sides with a nice open grassy spot where I pitched my tent and relaxed for the afternoon.
The worst spot was an abandoned weigh station along highway 101. Traffic and noise from heavy equipment operating nearby made for a rough night sleep.
Other camping spots included an open area next to a railroad tracks, and old access road for power line maintenance. Finding a suitable wild camping spot was fairly easy as most of the area I traveled through was rural and covered in trees.
Bike Repairs and Maintenance
Overall the bike performed excellently. Especially for being over 30 years old. I only had two minor problems during the trip.
On the second day, I got a staple in my rear tire. I tried to patch it but the tube still leaked. I later found out that the staple had gone all the way through the tube and made 2 holes. After my patch failed, I just installed another tube and got on with the day.
Another problem I had was when my chain slipped off of my small chainring and got jammed between the frame and chainring. After the chain had slipped off, I made another partial rotation before noticing what had happened. By this time my chainring was slightly bent. Just enough that the chain wouldn’t stay on the ring. To repair this, I flipped the bike upside down and used my needle nose pliers to bend the chainring back the best I could. It worked fine and rode smooth for the rest of the trip.
The only maintenance I did was cleaning and oiling the chain once in the middle of the trip. I also periodically checked that everything was screwed on tight.
Before the trip, I had greased the hubs and bottom bracket and replaced the rear brake pads.
I decided to go with a bikepacking setup for carrying my gear. This setup helped keep everything balanced and more aerodynamic.
I used a handlebar harness to secure a dry bag containing my clothes as well as my tent to my handlebars.
Heavy items were stored in a full frame bag. I bought this Moosetreks Full Frame Bag on Amazon. This bag really impressed me. You can read my review of the frame bag here. In this bag, I stored all tools and spares as well as water and snacks. Also, anything that I needed to access regularly like sunblock was stored in this bag.
On the rear rack, I strapped a backpack. This bag stored mostly food and cooking gear as well as toiletries. I wrapped the backpack in a tarp to waterproof which was also my ground sheet to protect my tent floor.
To avoid traffic, I tried to stay off the main highways as much as possible. It was much more pleasant riding without cars speeding past at six times my speed. In general, people gave me plenty of room when passing and I didn’t really have any close calls but there were a few anti-cycling assholes that honked at me when passing. I’m pretty sure someone even threw a cigarette butt at me.
Aches and Pains
I was completely out of shape when starting this tour but was still able to complete 30-40 miles per day fairly easily. If you want to do a bike tour but aren’t properly conditioned, I wouldn’t worry about it. I went pretty slow for the first couple of days then got stronger every day.
The most annoying problem I had was with saddle sores. I started the trip on a brand new Brooks B17 saddle that hadn’t been broken in yet. This was a mistake. Some pretty gnarly sores started to develop by the third day. I applied some cream and rode standing as much as possible for the next couple of days and luckily they cleared up.
I also had some minor knee pain toward the end. Maybe I just needed a rest day or maybe my bike wasn’t adjusted properly. I’m still trying to figure out a way to remedy this.
This was a perfect first tour. I was nervous about wild camping before the trip but I managed to find a nice spot each night pretty easily. My daily mileage disappointed me somewhat but with some training, I’m confident that I can build that up. I plan to continue riding over the summer and hopefully do an international tour in the near future.
How did your first bike tour go? Comment below with your stories and recommendations.
More from Where The Road Forks
- Planning for My First Bicycle Tour
- Bikepacking Bags Vs. Panniers: My Pros and Cons List
- How to Convert an Old Mountain Bike Into a Touring Bike
- Drop Bars VS. Flat Bars: My Pros and Cons List
- How to Box a Bike and Fly on Alaska Airlines
- How to Build a Low Budget Bikepaking or Bicycle Touring Setup for Less Than $100
- Planning for My First Bicycle Tour