Getting started - my first proper tour!

Thompson Crowley

New Member
Nov 16, 2016

My first proper tour by bicycle started 9 years ago, when I was 22. I’d just returned back to Lincolnshire, the town where I grew up, after a year of travelling around in a campervan. The trip had opened my eyes, and I’d caught the bug of wanderlust. I was just desperate to get back on the road. But the van was broken by then, unable to get through its M.O.T, and me with no cash to try and fix it.

I’ve always loved riding a bike. I’d roamed around my local area all throughout my youth, and continued to ride as an adult; but I never really strayed much further than a few miles. It wasn’t until I got hold of a bike with a back-rack that I started to venture across longer distances. I realised I could strap my tent to it, as well as other necessities; and most importantly, my guitar.

I’d been making a living as a busker for a while by that point, so having some kind transport again really opened up a lot of doors for me. I was able to journey through different towns, earning money for food as I went.

I started off just cycling around the county, investigating some of the other nearby towns; but I soon ran out of places to go, and started going on longer trips into Yorkshire. And then I took to the road full time, spending month after month in the north, camping in woodlands as I went. I had a good routine going: cycle in the morning, busk at lunchtime, kick back with a beer in the afternoon, head back to camp at night. I managed to go far, even reaching Scotland on one occasion.

I tried to keep my luggage down to a minimum. I only had a stove, a tent, a sleeping bag and an airbed; as well some books, and obviously my guitar. And the bicycle wasn’t really designed for its task, it being an old Raleigh shopper, but it did the job.

I learnt many things whilst on these journeys; I was a young man finding myself, on a voyage of discovery. The main thing I learnt about the actual cycling itself was just to enjoy it, to find the rhythm I was most comfortable with and ride it as long as I could. I learnt to pace myself. I also learnt how kind and helpful people are; I met so many generous and friendly people along the way. And I also learnt about nature- my place in it, and the power/relief of its presence.

Advice to beginner tourers would be: Make sure your equipment is all up to scratch and you’ve got spares; find yourself quiet routes, segregated if possible, it’s dangerous and unpleasant riding on busy roads; and just do it! The first push is the hardest, but once you’re out there it’s thrilling to continue.

I did another trip a few years later, on my honeymoon with my wife and dog. We cycled from Scotland, through England, then Holland, Belgium & France; her with bicycle and trailer, me on a trike. You can read short journals about it on my blog.

And if you’d like to read about my first tour, busking, biking & wild-camping, then check out my book, ‘At Home in the Bushes’.