Monday, June 02, 2008

Raising the Bar Revisited

My brother bought the kindle edition of Raising the Bar(dead tree edition) after I told him about the book, so when it showed up on my Kindle (yes, my brothers and I all share the same Kindle account for sharing convenience) I read it again.

I reviewed this book last year, but re-reading it reminds me that it is such a great book and that I really like it. If you're a touring cyclist, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It really highlights the huge difference between the guided tours, the heavily loaded tours, and the spirit of adventure.

I've alluded to all that in the past, but I'll say this for sure: most people, when given the opportunity, will turn down adventure. That's why guided tours and packaged vacations are so popular, even though they cost 3-4 times what a white road adventure tour costs, to use Gary Erickson's terminology. (That's right, for the cost of one of those cycling vacations, I can tour for 3-4 months!) Given the choice between being cocooned in a bubble of America, with other English speakers to talk to, with a cue sheet given to you every morning, and all meals and snacks taken care of, most folks would rather do that. On my tours, I have to pick my own route (with input from others in the group of course), talk to people who don't speak English, buy food, select restaurants, select hotels, all on the fly. But the entire package is what's appealing --- the freedom to go where I please, stay an extra day, and tailor the ride to my needs is worth the effort. And the people you meet know that you're vulnerable, and because of that, go out of their way to help you. If you don't put yourself in that position, you will never really get to know the people of the country you are visiting.

The same thing applies to events like Team-in-training. Most folks would get a much better program by either joining a cycling club or doing their own rides themselves. Both options are much much cheaper than the typical TIT pledge (take the difference and donate all that money to charity, rather than paying for the typical charity ride overhead). But for some reason, to join a cycling club would stretch most people beyond their comfort zone.

Then again, the fact that most of the world is like that means that people like Gary Erickson, Jobst Brandt, and to a lesser extent, myself, get the advantage of doing what we enjoy doing without an avalanche of other cycle tourists descending on our little country hotels driving prices up, so perhaps I should not talk up this way of life too much.

Once again, read Raising the Bar, if you haven't already. (And yes, it's another company that gives employees free massages --- it's not just strange companies like Google that does it)
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