Originally Posted by *Touring Ted*
I'm planning to swap an engine for muscle power on my next trip too....
Did you find it an easy transition ? Ever frustrated with lack of progress ??
I did about a year or two ago, gradually doing more bicycle and less motorbike. all the clichés that motorbikers claim, "...part of the scene..", "maps becoming 3-dimensional", etc, apply even more so to cycle touring.
my motorbike touring seemed to have evolved into a long list of goals, and I just rode around ticking them off. it seemed a bit, disconnected with where I was.
as to lack of progress, it's exactly the opposite. my motorbike touring is measured in 'fuel tanks'. you look at the map, and think, "that's one and a half tanks away, I can make that today." but on the bicycle, even touring at home, the slower you go the more that seems to happen. on the bicycle I measure progress in terms of how little I think about the next place on the map.
for example, I've just been doing some touring at home; over the last few weeks. I took 7 days to cycle Inverness to Orkney. the time it took was neither intentional or unintentional, it was just how long it took. but those 7 days were packed full of all the stuff touring is supposed to be about.
I could ride (and have ridden much further) that on a motorbike in a couple of hours. I would have missed out on so much.
I think what killed, or seriously wounded, motorbike travel for me was taking that GS back from Bamako to London. I did the Bamako to Barcelona in 8 days or something. to me these big bikes rob any sense of achievement because they are so damn easy to ride. even the enfield across west africa proved to be a pretty straight forward experience. I was just whizzing past so much stuff, because I had this idea that I have to so see some 'progress' on the map.
don't get me wrong, there are people doing exceptionally adventurous things on motorbikes, and there are others who are doing less exceptional things and thoroughly enjoying themselves. but I think the days of romanticising about Ted Simon's first trip, for example, are over for most of us. Simply because we're not able to conjure up the same state of mind that was possible back then. these days we are people who seem to want to pre-plan, have insurance, have bomb-proof equipment, have instant communications back home, etc, etc.
I have a sense I'm now on the lunatic fringe of things. I want to break that cord with home, when I'm away. I don't want continual contact with the familiar things. Even if I'm only in Inverness I can feel free by doing away with phone, internet, plans, etc. a lot of people seem to be heading towards the commercialisation of touring, and I'm running away from it :-)
two books I've read in the past year or so sum up what I'm thinking. A Time Of Gifts, Tim Fermor Leigh. And, Full Tilt, Dervla Murphy.
I don't think we can ever get back to that form of travel, we seem to know too much these days. but the bicycle, I think, makes it easier to travel more naively in today's world.