Let me guess: an epic bikepacking route has worked its way under your skin, or you’ve picked out the perfect touring destination. Your thirst for adventure is raging and you can practically taste the wind in your face as you pedal a scenic backroad toward a distant horizon. Let’s do this!
Only one problem: you can’t find anyone to go with. Your friends or partner haven’t caught the bikepacking bug yet, and you don’t want to go alone. So you’re wondering, how do people find companions for bikepacking or touring?
Until recently I was totally unqualified to answer this question. When the bike touring bug first bit me, I couldn’t find ANYone willing to go with me, not even my own husband. So I logged over 10,000 miles solo, on four different continents. I guess I’m stubborn like that.
In hindsight I’m so grateful for all my solo experience. While riding alone in Southeast Asia, South America, Northern Africa, and all over the United States, I learned to trust myself and connect with others in ways that would have been impossible with a riding companion.
But things change, don’t they? It seems I found what I was looking for out there as a lone wolf. These days I find myself craving a new direction in my cycling adventures: companionship and community. Though I adore the autonomy and introspection of traveling alone, I’ve also come to appreciate the value of building relationships, learning from others, and sharing memorable moments with my fellow humans.
So don’t worry, I have some ideas for you. Judging by how often readers ask me about this topic, you’re not as alone as you might think. I can’t promise a match made in heaven, but in this post I’ll offer my best advice for finding a bikepacking or touring partner for your next trip, and beyond.
Before I get into specific ideas and tools for finding bikepacking companions, I have a few general words of wisdom to share.
There’s a reason most long-haul bicycle trips are done solo or as a couple. Coordinating such a long break from “real life” is a challenge for most people, and the chances of someone else’s schedule lining up with yours are small.
Also, traveling long-term with others can be hard! Even the best cycling companion can get on our nerves after a few long days in the saddle, or fail to share the priorities around which we’d like to build our trip.
Though we all love to dream about “the big one” I encourage you to start small when it comes to riding with new companions. It’s far easier to find a bikepacking companion for an overnighter near town than two months on the Great Divide. It’s also a lot easier to tolerate a short trip if an unfamiliar partner turns out to be a bad match. If you really are a bikepacking match made in heaven, your smaller trips will probably lead to longer trips eventually.
Even if you do find someone eager to plan a long trip together right off the bat, try a shorter shakedown ride before committing. Just like you wouldn’t set out on a long tour with a brand new saddle, it’s risky to commit to a long-distance bike trip with an untested companion. Both can be a real pain in the butt!
Be Open to Unlikely Companions
It’s hard enough to find someone with a compatible schedule and riding interests. Don’t limit yourself further by deciding you’re only open to a certain gender, age range, political affiliation, socioeconomic situation, or whatever for your riding companions. There are other much more important factors to consider when determining your riding compatibility, as I’ll get into below.
I’ve shared enjoyable miles with men and women in all stages of life, from 15 years younger than me to 25 years older than me. Bike travel has a beautiful way of connecting people across typical social boundaries, whether it’s the touring companions you ride with or the locals you meet along the way.
As a woman, I understand why many women want to ride with other women. It can be fun and relaxing in a unique way, and most of us were taught from a young age to be wary of heading into the wilderness with a male stranger. You’ll have to decide for yourself and trust your instincts, but I’d urge women to not rule out male riding partners. And to everyone of any gender, you can help by never trying to turn a bikepacking situation into a dating situation. (Unless of course both sides are sending very clear signals, in which case, lucky you!).
Consider Partial Segments
If your heart is set on a long route and you can’t find a companion for the whole thing, consider meeting up with a buddy for a specific segment. By alternating between solitude and company you can experience the best of both worlds with heightened enjoyment.
I’ve done this twice and both times worked out beautifully. In Patagonia I began my trip with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed her company, but also appreciated my newfound autonomy as I continued south alone. On the Great Divide I was excited to have the first five weeks all to myself, and also thrilled to be joined by my husband for the final four weeks; I was starting to get bored with my own company.
This hybrid approach does come with a few challenges. For one, meeting a partner partway into your trip locks you into a fixed schedule. You should also keep in mind that you’ve been getting stronger and fitter on the road, so you may need to slow the pace when your buddy joins. Logistically it’s often easier to start with a partner and finish solo; this also gives you time to build your confidence before striking out on your own.
However you do it, mentally prepare yourself for a shift in mood and energy during the transitions. It can take a few days to ease into solitude, or companionship.
Choose a Popular Route
If you like independence but also enjoy community, consider riding solo on a well-traveled route. During peak riding season on routes like the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route or the Pamir Highway, you’ll cross paths with other cyclists every day. You may even find another rider who’s looking for company.
Know Your Reasons
If bike travel is new to you, you might assume it’s unwise to go alone. What happens if you can’t fix a mechanical or something creepy happens while you’re camping? Fair questions, and ones we all face sooner or later. But letting fear lock you into a riding partnership – especially a poor match born from a mentality of “anyone is better than going alone” – isn’t fair to you or your riding partner.
What are you really looking for? Is it protection from people? From animals? From being alone with your own mind? Someone who can initiate a rescue if you crash and injure yourself on a technical trail in the remote backcountry? The experience of co-creating a journey with a unique fellow human? Getting clear about your reasons will help you navigate the entire process of finding and riding with companions.
Consider Going Solo
The rest of this post is about finding bikepacking and touring companions, but first this has to be said: don’t rule out a solo trip. Once you know your reasons (see previous point) you’ll be better equipped to understand how you really feel about this. If your heart is set on a trip and you can’t find a companion, please don’t give up on the idea.
If fear or uncertainty are the primary reasons you want company, I’d encourage you to look closely at your fears. Are they rational? How likely are they to come true? Are your beliefs based on real information, or just cultural programming or fear of the unknown? It’s totally normal to feel nervous about a solo adventure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea.
There are certainly real risks to consider. If your bike repair skills are non-existent, consider riding a well-traveled rail trail where other cyclists can help you out, or stay close to main roads where you could get a ride to a bike shop. If you’re not an experienced outdoorsperson, choose a route that’s not too remote. If you’re concerned about the safety of traveling amongst an unfamiliar culture, choose a destination that’s known for its acceptance of foreigners and low crime rate.
Solo bikepacking and touring offer immense rewards. The people you meet will often open up to you in ways they wouldn’t with a group. You have complete control over every decision, so you can tune into your preferences more deeply. You’ll learn so much about yourself as you navigate unfamiliar situations without anyone around to anchor you in familiar patterns. You might return home feeling freer, bolder, and brimming with a sense of possibility.
But enough about riding solo. Riding with others offers equally valuable rewards, and you’re here because you want to find a bike travel companion. So let’s get to it.
Despite our amazing ability to connect online with cyclists around the world, there’s still no substitute for old-fashioned real life encounters. Local connections are a lower-commitment way to test out a new riding relationship and a great reason to get out on shorter bike adventures more often. If you have your eye on a longer trip, these short local trips may blossom into more epic adventures if you hit it off.
Recently I’ve been trying to bridge the gap between my home life and my bike travel life. Instead of leaving my home and family to get my bike fix, I’m trying to cultivate connections that allow for more frequent shorter local rides. Here are several places I’ve looked for, and in many cases successfully found, riding buddies for shorter local trips.
Local Bike Shop
In time-honored tradition, the local bike shop is often a cycling community hub. Employees are active in the local cycling community and might be able to connect you with local groups. Some shops organize group day rides where you can meet other cyclists, some of whom might be interested in touring. If you’re really lucky, your bike shop might even organize multiday trips.
You could also just loiter in the corner and approach other customers whose vibes you like, or whose bikes look especially adventure-ready. Just kidding. Maybe.
Local Cycling Groups
If your local bike shop doesn’t organize group rides, chances are there’s another local group that does. A majority of the folks will be into single-day rides, but you might get lucky and meet a fellow tourer or bikepacking-curious cyclist.
Cycling clubs or groups are often organized around a theme – road, MTB, gravel, women-specific, etc. – and have rides of varying difficulty on the calendar. You can find them on sites like meetup.com and eventbrite.com, in Facebook groups, or by googling things like “cycling clubs in (your area)” or “mountain bike group rides in (your area).” There are even a few multiday-focused groups out there.
Bike Repair Co-ops and Volunteering
Check to see if your community has a bike co-op, which is a community bike shop where members come to work on their own bikes (example: Boise Bicycle Project). You might also find a volunteer-focused nonprofit (shoutout Silicon Valley Bike Exchange) where you can repair donated bikes that are gifted to people in need of transportation.
These community shops often sell used bikes and parts, promise welcoming spaces and unintimidating bike repair instruction, and serve as a social hub for bike enthusiasts in the community. Even if you don’t find a bike touring companion, you’ll still learn about bike repair, which is never a bad thing!
I have yet to find a community more enthusiastically welcoming than endurance bikepack racers. When I ride an event like Smoke ‘n Fire or The Big Lonely, I usually have friends at the start line and even more at the finish line. Sharing a few miles during these events, perhaps late at night in a dark forest, can fast-track a friendship like nothing else.
If you already have a bit of bikepacking experience, you can meet other bikepackers by participating in events both near your home or far away. If you make friends and keep in touch, you might end up with riding companions in all kinds of interesting places. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a race as your very first bikepacking trip, but you don’t need to be fast or super experienced either.
As bikepacking has exploded in popularity, many people have thought about it but are hesitant to take the plunge. You may not realize that some of your friends are already bikepacking-curious. You could be the one to nudge them into action!
If you do invite your friends, it may help to keep things low-effort on their part. Choose a local route suited to the bike they already have. Offer to lend them gear, if you have it, or at least provide guidance (some easy budget-friendly options here). Suggest a route and a couple dates that don’t require much time off work. Leave time for burgers and beer, or whatever. If the first trip is a success, you can plan something more ambitious for next time.
I have to tread gently here, as the trope of a bike-obsessed person (usually a man) complaining about his bike-hating spouse is one of my least favorite things. But as a bike-obsessed wife to a bike-neutral husband, I have some hard-earned experience to share.
If you’ve invited your partner to join you on a bike trip and they don’t want to go, ask and really listen to their answer: Why not? Is there anything that would make the idea more appealing? Be kind and patient, as the answer may be multi-layered or emotionally charged.
Once you understand their reason, assume – or pretend, if you have to – that it’s totally valid. Try to see it from their perspective and without judgement. Sometimes it’s a question of them not knowing what they’re missing, but perhaps they just enjoy spending their time differently.
If you sense room for negotiation, explore the idea of a bike trip that would appeal to your partner’s preferences and assuage their concerns. Maybe it’s a certain location or style of riding, assurances of warm motel rooms or scenic backcountry campsites, delicious food or interesting stops along the way. Perhaps it’s fewer miles per day and more time at camp, or more miles per day and fewer days on the road.
Whatever it is, consider compromising to build a trip they’ll enjoy too. That’s partnership! You’re welcome for the relationship therapy – I’ll send you the bill.
If you’re already plugged into your local bike community and not having much luck, or you’re seeking a companion for a specific trip, you can try connecting with bike touring partners online.
The obvious challenge here is that you might be committing to a LOT of quality time with someone you’ve never met. Pay special attention to the final section of this post where I’ll suggest some conversation starters to help you get on the same page.
Even if you’re not a frequent Facebook user (I personally am not), it’s hard to beat Facebook groups for connecting with other bike travelers and finding up-to-date information about regions and routes.
There are groups for touring and bikepacking in general, for women specifically, specific regions (examples: Africa, Central Asia), and specific routes (examples: GDMBR, Baja Divide, Pacific Coast Bike Route, EuroVelo network). You might also find a group for local cyclists in your community. Try searching and see what you find. There is even a group specifically for partner requests: Cycle Touring Companions.
It’s common to see posts about riding partners in these groups, and they often get responses. To increase your chances of success, post to the most specific group that’s relevant – usually a route or region.
Even if you don’t find a riding partner, these groups can be invaluable sources of up-to-date information about water sources, resupply, closures and detours, trail conditions, or travel logistics. Some are supportive communities for questions about bikes and gear.
For your sanity you might want to avoid the comment wars about mechanical vs. hydraulic brakes, trailers vs. panniers, and 1x vs. 2x drivetrains. But hey, that’s Facebook for you.
Adventure Cycling Association
If you’re in the United States, you may know that the Adventure Cycling Association develops a vast network of routes and advocates for bike travel and cycling infrastructure. They also offer several ways to meet up with riding partners.
Forums: Discussion boards for ACA routes and related topics, with occasional posts for riding companions.
Companions Wanted: Available only to members (membership costs a small fee / donation), this is a very focused way to find riding partners for any route or region. You can respond to others’ listings or post your own.
Bike Overnights: This program is still being developed but looks promising. It would allow experienced bike tourers to lead short bike trips close to home and invite others to join. In 2021 the concept was tested on Bike Your Park Day, which will hopefully happen again in the future.
From time to time an enthusiastic bike traveler with software skills tries to solve this problem by creating a new website. Props to them for the effort. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own bike-related website projects (shameless plug: bikesleepbike.com) it’s that getting a new website in front of the right audience is very difficult!
If you have the budget and personality for it, you might find the companionship you’re looking for on a guided or supported trip. You’ll get to share the ride with others and enjoy the experience without stressing about logistics or mechanicals. Some trips include full SAG support and luggage transfer – all you do is ride from hotel to restaurant to hotel – while others provide “only” an experienced guide, pre-planned itinerary, and emergency help.
Adventure Cycling is a premier trip leader in the US, while TDA Global Cycling guides famous long-haul routes around the world. Backroads is also well-known for their high-end supported bike trips. There are many smaller regionally focused companies all around the world, depending on where you want to ride.
Cost is usually the biggest consideration for guided trips. They can be very pricey! The experience is also fundamentally different from self-supported touring. In my opinion, guided trips can reduce some of the stress and planning work of bike travel but also much of the adventure and interest. It really depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for.
Questions for Potential Partners
If you’ve connected with a potential touring companion, here are some key points to discuss before riding off together into the sunset. Remember, the wrong riding companion can be far worse than no riding companion if your goals and preferences are misaligned.
Pace: How many miles and/or hours of riding per day, and how often will you take rest days?
Lodging: Camping, motels, balance of both?
Budget: If one person wants expensive motels and restaurant meals, and the other wants to camp and eat ramen noodles, you’ll have difficulties.
Mood: Relaxing with plenty of time for snack breaks and pictures? Or ambitious with a focus on covering miles and pushing limits?
Daily rhythm: On the road at sunrise and in camp by mid-afternoon, or leisurely mornings at camp and ride ’til sunset?
Flexibility: Are you both on a fixed schedule, or can you afford to take more time if needed?
Gear style: Light and nimble bikepacking bags or fully loaded panniers? It can be hard to ride together when one person’s setup is twice as heavy.
Level of independence: Stay in sight of each other, regroup at break time, or meet up at camp? If one of you had to stop early or detour to fix a problem, would the other continue alone?
Experience level and bike repair skills: Will one person be depending on the other for help, or will you both bring equal skills to the table?
Tolerance for risk and discomfort: Ride busy highways or avoid them? Stealth camp in dodgy places or stick to official campgrounds and lodging? Brave the storm or hunker down until it passes?
Biggest fears: Maybe one person is worried about personal safety and the other is very open to strangers. One person is afraid of bears and the other wants to sleep with their food in the tent. Differences of opinion about risk can lead to tension very quickly.
Shared gear: Experienced riding partners might share, but the less well you know each other, the more I’d recommend each carrying your own essential gear: stove, water filter, tent, navigation, tools, etc.
If you’ve been putting off looking for a bikepacking or touring companion, you have no excuses now! Hopefully this post has given you a few new avenues to explore and ideas to consider.
I’ll leave you with one last thought from personal experience: if bike travel is a long-term obsession for you, consider taking a long-term approach to finding riding companions.
Sure, you can go online and maybe find a stranger to share a dream trip with. You might get lucky and finish with a new friend. But connecting with other cyclists in more fundamental ways can also be very rewarding.
In my case, bike travel companions didn’t start appearing until I focused my attention closer to home. Ironically, once I started seeking out local bike-related activities like shorter rides and volunteer bike repair events, potential travel companions popped up too.
If you put your bike-loving energy out there and stay patient, you’ll inevitably attract others who share your passion for bikepacking and touring. I wish you many rewarding miles, campfire conversations, and celebratory post-ride feasts with your future riding companions!
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More Bike Travel Resources
Whether you go with a companion or on your own, you might enjoy these other posts about bikepacking and touring:
- Biking Across America: 9 Essential Tips
- Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Planning Guide
- Bikepacking Pre-Trip Checklist: Gear, Bike, and Logistics
You’ll also find much more in the bike travel resources section.
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