10 things I hate about bike touring

Do you know the things that make me rage in the saddle? That make me curse the injustice of it all, and wish I was at home driving a desk rather than riding a bike? That are worse than hills, headwinds and flat tyres? You don’t? Well if you want to find out, read on.

1) Bad roads

China: an unfinished vanity project construction, next to a highway that has degraded to gravel.

Are you a country that doesn’t maintain your roads?  Fact of the day: repairing potholes is basically always an economic win.  So go on, stop building a new palace for the president and start laying smooth shiny tarmac.

2) Sore bum

Frequently caused by (1) Bad Roads.  Apart from that, the less said about this the better …

3) Over-officious entry requirements

Seriously guys, the world is globalised.  Stop kidding yourselves that you can keep me out of your crappy little country by asking where I’m going, what hotel I’ll be staying in or when I’m flying out.  It’s not difficult to fake, it’s not going to stop anyone who wants to enter your country illicitly, it’s just a chore.

4) Bike shops that don’t stock puncture repair kits

For this read: most of the shops in East Asia.  Yes really.  They’ll sell you a new bike but if you want even the simplest maintenance part, you’re screwed.

5) People who let their Google get out of date

“This store is closed.”
Oh but it said on Google that it was open?
“Yeah but it closed last year”
What, and the owner didn’t bother to remove their online advertising?  When I rule the world, this crime will be punishable by oooohhhh, life imprisonment.

(As for the motel owner in Alaska who still had a billboard fifteen miles down the road advertising his services after he’d closed it for winter, his prison cell will be filled with icy water – and perhaps some hungry killer whales.)

6) Tuk Tuks

Danger! High Incompetence! (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Danger! High Incompetence! (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

I’m starting to think these are a major source of world evil.  Can we please clone every British driving instructor 10,000 times and send them abroad – equipped with electric cattle prods.

7) International post

How many ways do you think it’s possible to botch a postal delivery?  Guess what, you’re wrong: it’s many times more than that – and twice as many again if you’re sending Poste Restante.  It’s 50 years since we sent men to the moon but we still can’t send a parcel of warm bike clothes to a post office in the Yukon, or a replacement camping stove to a friend in New Delhi.

8) People who don’t realise how hard it is for outsiders

“I don’t recognise that ID, do you have a local ID?” (America, often)

“No, I can’t sell you a SIM without a local address” (thanks India)

“Yes there’s free WiFi here” (but only if you have a local phone number – see above)

“No you can’t stay here, it’s only for locals” (India again)

“You need to pay via WeChat” (China – where to pay via WeChat you need a Chinese work visa, address and bank account.)

“Wait, you need a **visa** to come here?!” (the good ol’ US of A)

9) The day after you run out of clean bike shorts

You might have noticed my derrière is something of a theme here. 

10) Smug cycle touring blogs

Especially ones that give you trite know-it-all clickbait lists of what to love and hate on a bike tour …

And some bonus entries:

“What is your country?!  What is your job?! Are you single?!”

A bit of an India-specific one, this.  In some other countries the questions occasionally got to the level of being mildly wearing, but in India they shot to the level of full-on interrogation by millions.  So if you’re one of the couple of thousand Indians who I determinedly blanked and if you’re still interested, rest assured: you can ask your friend from 100 yards down the road – the answers are still just the same.

The ‘Evil Brits withdrew and now things are much better’ narrative of world events

Image: The Imperial War Museum

… because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things are much, much more complicated than that.