7 Awesome Tips for Bike Touring on a Budget

a couple of months ago
Mountain bike tour

Are you totally in love with bike tours? Me too! However, one thing that lets us down when we want to go for long tours with our faithful companions is the expense. Already the process of getting the bike ready can be so expensive. It can even make you think of just letting go off the trip.

But the good news are that you can actually go bike touring on a budget! Initially, I thought the only time to go for a long journey with my bike was when I had huge chunks of money in my savings account. But I have come to realize it doesn’t have to be expensive, and I have learned several tips that I am going to share with you so you can travel on a budget to wherever you want and at any time.

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1. Don’t pay to pitch your tent

Many campsites will require you to pay some amount so you can pitch your tent there. Don’t pay. That money will be used in beautifying the park, not on your journey. Leave that to those lovely retired folks. Instead, plan early. Do your research. Many town parks will allow you to camp there at no cost and the washrooms are normally open during the night. However, beware of sprinklers.

Bike tour camping

You can also try local churches. You can ask them for permission to pitch your tent on their compound. Ensure you have carried enough water for drinking and brushing. It’s hard for churches to deny you shelter even if the shelter is your camping tent. However, be polite when requesting for permission. Nobody, even if they’re good, would allow someone who is rude to take shelter in their compound. The following morning before you leave, remember to say thank you. You can also camp at any national forest. It’s free.

2. Journey with a friend

Two bikers on a forest road

This is a double opportunity. You won’t be all alone on the road plus the cost will be halved. You can share food expenses and even if you choose not to, you can take turns on paying park fee. Additionally, when you are two between you you will know many people you can spend your nights with along the way. Even if you value your alone time so much, just try this. Trust me, traveling with a buddy is even more fun and enjoyable.

3. Adopting a Freegan Diet

Freegans, anyone? These are just dumpster divers. However, you don't have to get your feet into the water so you can eat free food. You can simply ask grocery stores to give you food that is nearing its expiry date. Most often you will be given even more than you can consume at once. It has worked for me, and I am sure it can for you too. If the grocer says no, you can tell them previous grocers have given you food. They might agree. However, you can always offer them a small amount. Most of them will gladly take it.

Bakeries are also great sources of free food. Your day’s cycling will be ending almost the same time bakeries close. Since baked food cannot stay up to the following day's morning, bakers will be willing to give away pastries and bread they didn’t sell. These cheap calories will compensate for the huge amount of energy you need.

Free bread and pastries

Grocery stores in small towns also often have a bargain basket. Since there are not many people to buy all goods, when the expiry date for the unsold goods is close, the grocers normally lower the price. So keep an eye on the bargain basket.

If you are going to be riding through wild areas, you can forage. If your route is along the coast or near several water bodies, you can fish.

4. Be approachable

Many strangers are willing to help you. Start a conversation with people you don’t know and you may be baffled. It can go a long way to making your bike tour very cheap. Tell those people about your journey. Your friends and family members may know everything about bike riding and tours. However in certain areas, probably off the main cycling routes, people may never have heard of bike tours and you could be the person to make them know. Be inspiring, and as you do so, they will most often offer you bags of food, accommodation, coffee etc. in addition to the opportunity to hear from people you wouldn’t have otherwise met.

5. Make use of the app "Warm Showers"

Lodging and food are the biggest expenses you will have on the road. The Warm Showers app can help you eliminate that. If you are not aware, warm showers is a network consisting of individuals who are ready to offer free accommodation to touring cyclists. The most important thing is to look for hosts who will provide food. On the app, look for food. Always volunteer to help with cleaning or cooking. When leaving, also say thanks. Leave a positive review too.

6. Converse with the locals

People who live in a certain area know it better than you could do. So seek advice from them. If you have been given accommodation by a Warm Shower host, there is a likelihood they too ride bikes and if so, they know the area roads better. They will be in a position to tell you which way out of the town is bike friendly. Inform them where you are going to. Could be they know a family member or friend who would be happy to accommodate you even if they are not signed up with Warm Showers.

Talk to other bike riders too. If it’s during the summer and you are cycling on the common cycling routes, you will meet many tourists some of whom will be riding in the opposite direction as you. Ask them concerning the road ahead. It’s better to have information from people than from zooming satellite maps.

Bike Route Sign

7. Create a plan of attack

When you ride into the big cities, you can be caught up by their enticement. You may want to visit each area. However, be aware, your entire budget can be consumed completely before lunchtime. So it’s good to create a plan of attack. Have priorities. You can make an exception for attractions you would really want to see. However, if something is costly, develop the attitude of gratitude. Be happy with the less you are doing. At the local coffee shop, catch up with your journal. Just pretend you are a resident of the city.

As a bonus tip, remember to go for family owned, vintage places for accommodation. Just ensure it has a hot shower and some space to roll your bike. I’ve used most of these places and they’ve always cut a deal with me.

About the author

Paul is an avid cyclist. He's travelled to over 10 countries with his bike. He writes a lot on bikes and biking at his blog. When not attending to his blog he is biking in the neighborhood.

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