Modes of Transport (Part I)


I like being a cycle tourist. Its the right way around, I'm a tourist who happens to get about on a bike. There are many great reasons to travel by bike but perhaps it would be of more use to examine the "competition".


I guess you could think we're pretty similar. We're all bikers, right? We can both squeeze between the lines of cars stuck in traffic.But adding the engine seems to change things a bit. Firstly, lets face it, a motorbiker has a certain cool. If Peter Fonda had been riding a ten-speed in Easy Rider it would have been like replacing the rock music soundtrack with something by Hans Zimmer. As well, the Hell's Angels have done wonders for lending an edge of danger and rebellion to this method of transport. I doubt they'd of been so scary on beach cruisers. I think motorbikes are probably more efficient than cars and buses. Plus, bikers have their own pubs and their magazines have semi-clad women on the covers.

On the otherside, of course, the vibration from the Captain America bike was so bad Mr Fonda could only sit on it for half an hour at a time. Even in the hottest weather, bikers have to wear heavy leathers and a helmet. Frankly, its lazier than cycling. And surgeons are famous for waiting for rainy days so that they will have some dead bikers come in to use for donated organs. But for me all these drawbacks would be ok if it wasn't for one other thing that makes motorbiking just seem wet and dull. And that other thing is Ewan McGregor.


Let's get this straight. I'm not talking about long-distance hikers. They are a kind of backpacker I have pleanty of respect for. I'm talking about the traveller who gets about largely by bus, train or a well directed thumb. They are easily spotted carrying an enormous rucksack which they only ever carry around the corner from the bus terminal to their hostal. I have a certain respect for this type of traveller. Indeed, I have travelled like this before myself. At one stage I was carrying around 30 short sleeved shirts, a pair of morrocan bongos, a 3 man tent, a Greek hammock with huge wooden spreaders and a guitar in a hardcase. But in hindsight I can look back and see how much of a burden that lot was.

The downsides of backpacking vs biking are numerous and have been well described by another cyclist called Tom. See here.

Huge Vehicles

The classic Volkswagen camper van is a decidedly cool thing. Sadly, they are super unreliable these days because they are just too old. Other vehicles designed for living and travelling in just seem to have got a bit out of hand. Especially out on the dirt roads, the "adventuous" petrol-head seems to choose something resembling a small lorry to live in. Goodness knows how much deisel these monstrosities burn through. Some even hoist a quad bike on the back so they can nip around in town while their house-sized car waits for them wherever they managed to park it. How garish to travel in something so overtly costly (especially if you ship it overseas), large enough to carry 50 passengers but just used for one middle-aged couple. It smacks of being unwilling to compromise on loosing even the smallest luxury. This mode of transport, I suspect, leads to the type of tourist who is rather inward looking and lacking in empathy.

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  1. Yeah couldn't believe my eyes when I got back & checked out the waypoints site! That thing was INSANE but made utterly ridiculous when you discover it's not some geological expedition but Edy & Brigitte off on their holidays! One of the best things I reckon about a bike is how many modes of transport can you put inside another mode of transport if it all goes wrong?!

    'Things that you own end up owning you'


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