Thoughts on Bicycle Travel

I had thought about, planned for, and trained for my bicycle tour for at least a year. Last January I went back to the US and returned with the equipment I couldn’t get here, so I was serious about it even back then. Now that my trip is behind me, what do I think?

Am I glad I did it? Yes!

Would I do it again? Yes!

My bike made it to a Costa Rica beach!

My bike made it to a Costa Rica beach!

As I expected, bike travel is very different. You go slower than a vehicle so you see more, experience more of your surroundings, and interact with people along the way more. You can stop where you want, enjoy a view, cool off in a river, break for lunch, and do whatever you wish.

But, it was also challenging. I don’t usually bike 50 miles, so doing that distance every day was hard especially in the heat, and worse if there were a lot of hills. Aside from being tired I felt well except for my sore seat. Thankfully though I didn’t have any sore muscles or joints. I usually woke up at first light and was anxious to take advantage of the cooler morning, but by mid day it was hot enough to drain your energy. In the evening I was usually tired enough to only want to shower and fall in bed. I heard as the trip goes on you get more used to covering longer distances and this was indeed true for me. I think if I was going to do it again though, I might save more energy to enjoy the places along the way and take more time. Of course, this time, I was also motivated to get there because I had left Joel at home and didn’t want to be away any longer than necessary.

After a while, the trip felt surprisingly normal. I biked with Elza only for three days and then I set off on my own, something that I am very used to from biking around David. The scenery was different, and the experience was different but ultimately, it was just riding your bike down the road which, for me, is not new at all.

Pretty as a postcard

Jaco, Costa Rica, pretty as a postcard

I think I packed well. I took as little as possible to keep weight down. There was a beach towel that I never used, and I should have taken another t-shirt for evenings so I could wear one and wash another. I should have taken more inner tubes. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to buy another, but thankfully I finally found some and never needed them, nor did I need some of the other tools and spare parts I brought along. In general though I felt I had everything I needed and nothing (except the towel) I should have left behind.

Why do we take bicycle trips? Why do we look for new and interesting things? Why do we seek adventure? I think this guy summed it up very well. Check out this National Geographic Video.

Life Lessons from a 7-Thousand-Mile Bike Ride

I don’t plan to bike for 7 thousand miles! But, I can certainly relate to what he says. Maybe that is why I love living in a different country, and why I want to travel more. It’s exciting, challenging, and makes you feel so alive and out of any routines.

would like to travel more and I would consider doing it on the bike. I came back on the bus and it was very frustrating. You have to wait for the next scheduled bus, and you sit there and go where they take you, and stop where they make a stop. I so wanted to just get back on the bike and go now, and go where I wanted to go! I had to keep reminding myself that it would take me five days to do the distance the bus could do in one.

The bus from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama was very interesting though. They came down from the city to the beach road, and drove along the very same road I had traveled on my bike. I saw so many familiar places where I had ridden, taken photos, taken breaks, and wandered off the main road. It was really fun to relive it all over again.

So what now? I have spent the first week back home just resting, settling back in, goofing off, and catching up on things. I don’t have the same training motivation to spend a lot of time on the bike. I sure feel strong now though. I went downtown for some errands and coming home felt like nothing, and I remember in the past how the long gentle uphill could be a challenge. And, I was coming home loaded with art supplies and four pineapples.

I still haven’t biked up the mountain to Boquete. This is my main unmet goal right now. That should keep me busy for a while and help me keep my conditioning. It’s only a 1166 meter (3825 feet) climb in 37 kilometers (23 miles) per Wish me luck 😀



About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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14 Responses to Thoughts on Bicycle Travel

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great post, you’re awesome Mom! It’s very inspiring to see you take total control of your life and pursuit of happiness. –Elizabeth


  2. kjscapper says:

    A terrific accomplishment, and one well worth acknowledging. You serve as an inspiration to those who think they may want to, but don’t believe they can. That alone earns a chapter all by itself in your book of life. Salude!


  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    Traveling slow has a special kind of pleasure as you described it. I never much cared for flying. It’s not that I’m afraid of flying. I do, though, have a fear of crashing. I know when it’s your turn to go it’s your turn to go. I just don’t want to be on a plane when it’s THAT GUY’S turn to go and he takes me with him. And how do they manage to get several people whose turn it is to go all on the same plane at the same time, anyway? But the worst part of flying, as opposed to riding a bike to Nicaragua or transiting the Panama Canal at 8 knots (9.2 mph), is that you go to an airport where they stuff you into an aluminum tube and then some hours later you get out into a building very similar to the one you recently left and you’ve seen NOTHING at all of what was between the two structures.


    • You always seem to know exactly what I am talking about. Flying is necessary at times, but it’s definitely not about the journey where bike travel is quite the opposite. Maybe that’s why I feel I have to have a window seat on the plane. At least I can see a little bit from up there, and sometimes the clouds can be really awesome.


  4. mcmoller says:

    We are Costa Rica for a week and enjoying some of the same beauty that you wrote about and took pictures of, including the ferry over to the Nacoya pennisula, but to the south end to Tambor. Most of the travel is by bus, though, which doesn’t allow us luxury of stopping to take pictures and side trips. I must agree is is very green here. I think it is awesome that you rode your bike through this beautiful country and to Nicaragua.


  5. Carole says:

    Glad to see you made it home safely. Now you need to relax a little to plan your next trip. Keep sending the posts, I love to read them.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Ya know Kris. We do what we do. I love biking around my “little city” of Charleston S.C. I look forward to the day I can bike say from Chitre to Pedasi. ( As you have already done) Just live it, enjoy it, and count the blessings. Take it slow. David.


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