What do you do when you're in a city with a population of 8 million people, and you don't have time to visit all the attractions by foot? Obviously, you find some wheels!
Bike tours have taken over every major city as a modern way to see the attractions. Horse and carriage, buses, taxis, rental cars or even mopeds are modes of the past. They may be faster than a two wheeled bike, but you can't get up close and personal on a double decker. A leg powered bicycle, on the other hand, puts you right in the middle of the action.
So why has this modern mode become so popular?
1.) Travelers want more
The thrills of travel have changed from the typical guide standing on a bus, speaking through a microphone, pointing out highlights as they pass by. That static way of travel is still there for those who want it, but the cry for a deeper experience has led to such things as bike tours. The bike gives an independence which a bus, van, or even taxi cannot. Participants are free to wheel up close to a statue or stay back for a distant camera shot. No one is bound by a single vehicle or designated seat which creates a sense of freedom. That freedom alone provides a different experience with the idea of straying tickling the back of your mind at every stop. Of course, most remain true to the guide's path out of respect and curiosity.
The bike is also a crossover between walking and driving when it comes to travel. It is illegal to ride on sidewalks in most cities, so many of them have designated bike paths. These special paths travel faster than a sidewalk, and often faster than the streets. Traffic jams and crowded sidewalks distract from touring the city; a bike path eliminates both and gets on with the tour. Being on bike also eliminates one of the most frustrating problems in big cities, parking. Often vehicle parking will be blocks away from the main attraction, you might as well be touring on foot. Bike parking is generally right up front, or you make your own parking spot around the side of the building. Parking stress eliminated, sightseeing maximized!
2.) Exercise adds to excitement
Have you ever been on a day long tour where they drive you from spot to spot? I have. I fell asleep at least three times in between stops. I wasn't the only one. Granted I wouldn't want to bike as far as I did on that tour, but I've never been on a bike tour that wasn't exciting 99% of the time. Not only would I have never fallen asleep because that would be dangerous; I would have never fallen asleep because the exercise escalated my thrill of touring the city.
It's a proven fact that exercise releases endorphins which in general make you feel happy. So you are traveling in an exciting new city, you are exercising which makes you look better, and you are releasing a chemical that makes you feel happy. Enough said.
3.) Biker Gangs
As kids we all had our little "biker gangs", unless you lived in the country than it was just a brother and sister gang. But now, these bike tours provide the ultimate adult "biker gang." Maturely this translates as meeting new people with similar interests. Not everyone has the tenacity to join a bike tour in a strange city, especially if the native language is foreign to you. In that sense, you already have something in common with these new gang members. More often then not, you will meet someone that speaks your language and probably has other adventure stories to share. The world always seems to be smaller than you think. I've met people in South America with family in South Dakota only a few hours from where I grew up. But, you will never discover these little connections if you don't join the gang.
Taking a tour like this also creates camaraderie. Unlike big bus or shuttle tours, bike tours are kept to minimal numbers. Typically it's unsafe to have a trail of bikers weaving in and out of the city. This means that the tours will always be fairly small, and personal. Small numbers gives the gang members a chance to get to know everyone a little better. Soon you start joking about how the tour guide just led us through the red light district without any fair warning. Connections are made and plans to get beer after start forming. Biker gangs can lead to facebook friends for life; the possibilities are right in front of your.
I have always found my best memories of a place involve some sort of adventure. Bike tours give you a perfect blend of adventure and local landmarks. Next time you find yourself in a big city with limited amount of time, check to see if they have a bike tour. Get more for your time, keep up on your exercise goals, and join a biker gang; why wouldn't you grab the handle bars and enjoy the ride?
Check out a real bike tour story for an inside view. Savage Biking in Bogota