Today’s Q&A-style guest post comes from Pete Ashford, founder of CyclingTouring.org, a new (free) social networking website aimed at finding cycle touring partners to join your trip wherever and whenever you happen to be riding.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I have been riding bikes all my life – BMXs, mountain bikes, road bikes, single speed, just about anything with two wheels. I dream about bikes, I scan the internet for them, I read cycling books/magazines, I listen to podcasts… at the moment I’m wondering if I need a fold up bike, just because I think they look cool and great fun to ride!
So I’m pretty obsessed with these two wheeled, pedal powered modes of transport. They make me happy. I think everyone should ride them, especially when it comes to travelling and discovering new places.
What is CyclingTouring.org and why did you start it?
The idea came to me whilst cycling alone one morning. It was early in the morning and shortly after packing up camp, I was looking for a bakery to feed me some great pastries.
Leading up to this tour, I had been chatting to a friend about joining me. It seemed like he wanted to come along on his first tour. I talked about not needing all the gear and his old mountain bike would be fine, making the point that cycle touring can be cheap to get started. Not long after, the excuses started to come and I knew that was the end of that. I didn’t push it and went alone.
Anyway, in a space of half an hour, I came across two separate people riding along on their touring bikes, fully laden with all the kit. They were clearly on an adventure, like me, and were also by themselves, like me.
I’m pretty comfortable in my own company for long periods of time. But not everyone is. I thought that there must be plenty of other people who’d had similar experiences to me – people who wanted to go cycle touring, but couldn’t find anyone to go with them. That’s where the initial idea came from.
What’s the goal of CyclingTouring.org and how does it work?
The simple goal is to bring people together to share their cycle touring adventures. It’s free for anyone to use, and it’s fun and engaging.
I haven’t just created a simple forum where people post about their cycle tour, though. That’s been done before. I wanted a social web site that is simple to use. I also wanted a big map of cycle tours, as well as a well formatted list of available tours to join.
These initial ideas turned into two key functions for the site. The first allows people to upload details of their own planned cycling tour. Complete a simple form with some basic details; it is then approved and added to the list of tours which are neatly displayed on a world map and central list that can be filtered. People can register interest in joining you, and exchange messages to sort out the details before meeting up.
The second is for cyclists already out on a tour. Riders log on and pin their current or future location on a map, including details of what they are up to and where they are heading to. These pins are visible on a world map for people to view. Anyone interested in meeting up clicks a ‘Contact’ button, exchanges messages and meets up.
This is great for people who don’t necessarily want to spend a whole tour with one person and maybe fancy some company for part of the trip, or for people who didn’t manage to find someone to join them from the start.
How has the project been received so far?
The site went live 8 weeks ago and since then always has around 20 cycle tours available to join at any given time. The positive feedback from people has been awesome and it is great to see people using the services.
Over the past few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to receive help from some experienced cycle tourists. Positive words on social media is an amazing thing that brings the site to the attention of far more people.
My aim is eventually to bring the site to each and every cycle tourist. We need people to spread the word about what we do; to share it with friends, family, local bike clubs and anyone who likes cycling. It isn’t just about experienced cycle tourists either – if we can engage newly converted cycle tourists too, then that would be great.
Who is the site aimed at?
Anyone! Really, anyone can be involved. You don’t have to be die hard lycra-clad cyclist with a garage full bicycles. All you need is a desire to travel, a bicycle and some basic kit.
Multi month/year adventures are not the only kind of cycle touring, so the site is aimed at all kinds of tour. Even a single ride in a new area could count as a cycle tour. It’s about exploring on your bicycle, not how far you travel, and sometimes that can mean a quick night away cycling somewhere new.
Why should people join?
Anyone with a passion for cycle touring should sign up and give it a go. You’ll make new friends, and it is highly likely you will find someone to share in your next great adventure.
Whether you’re going for a 1-night tour in the local area, stepping out on a year long adventure across a continent, or you have a touring holiday idea that you cannot buy anywhere, being a member of CyclingTouring.org will almost certainly help you connect with like-minded people.
Where is the project going from here?
Promoting what we do is taking much of my time right now. I’m always looking at new areas to encourage people to get into cycle touring – for example, people taking gap years. What a great to spend a year out that would be!
Ultimately, I want the site to become a hub for people to hook up and go cycle touring together, exchange touring photos/videos, talk cycle touring and tell the world about their cycle tours. Cycle touring is cool and I want everyone to share it!