Cyclist Tara Weir Shares Her Solo Biking Tour Around Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand

Who would have thought that just reading a book about cycling in West Africa will influence someone to go on a world bike tour?

This happened to Tara Weir – and she believes that with enough will power, anyone can do the same!

In this interview, Tara shares her best bike-solo recommendations, tips on how to handle difficulties on the road, her favorite gear, and her future plans!

Cyclist Tara Weir

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hey, I’m Tara. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, but I have spent the last 12 years living and working (on and off) out of the province of British Columbia. I am currently in Northern British Columbia (Chetwynd and Dawson Creek) working in forestry to prepare for my next bike tour.

I would say that I am a pretty easy going person. I definitely don’t take myself too seriously. Humour is a big part of my every day life and I use it to help me get through tough situations. Even though I love solo travel, I draw energy from being around people. I guess this is a classic extroverted trait, but then I can also be quite shy at times especially in a big group of people.

I am a big fan of cycling, distance running, drawing and singing. I spend the majority of my time outside through work and play. I always go back to my favourite music: the old school gospel, blues. Lately, I have been listening to electronic/DJ type stuff and I really like Phaeleh in particular. I do detailed drawings with a black marker, usually on white paper, usually random patterns and designs. They are a bit surrealist in nature. I guess the style can kind of resemble the stuff you see in adult colouring books.

Cyclist Tara Weir

How and why did you get into cycling?

I started long distance cycling with my dad around the age of 12. I didn’t get into bike touring until my early 20s. It all started with a book called, The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa by a Canadian rock drummer, Neil Peart. I had just started travelling abroad at this point and this book opened me up to the possibilities of exploring the world by bike.

I started touring in 2011, this began with a group ride in Tibet followed by a three-month solo stint in Southeast Asia. I have also cycled in Patagonia and recently completed a two-year solo trip all around Asia, bits of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I often don’t train before the start of these tours – I stay fit year round through running, the occasional ride and my physical outdoor forestry job.

I have also run a few marathons.

Cyclist Tara Weir

Why is cycling important for you?

Cycling has always been a great emotional release for me. When I am riding distance, I fall into a bit of meditative trance. Bicycle touring merged my two favourite things together: Long distance cycling and travel.

In “The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa” Neil Peart described bike touring as travel at “people speed.” I couldn’t agree more. Travel on a bicycle really takes you to those places in between where the tourist buses don’t stop. I developed amazing relationships with local people despite the fleeting nature of these encounters.

It is also important for me to continue my lifestyle outdoors when I am not working at home in forestry. I think that a life spent outside is key to long term physical and emotional well being.

What has been the best and most difficult parts of your cycling adventures?

Some highlights for me have been Mongolia, the Carretera Austral in Chile, The Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan, Chin State in Myanmar, the Great Central Road in the Australian Outback, Pakistan’s Karakoram Highway, the Indian Himalaya and the Friendship Highway in Tibet. I really love remote, off-road riding and adventures at high altitude.

I really enjoy solo travel, however, I can sometimes find it very difficult to cope when I am sick. I like having the emotional support of another person in these situations.

Working in forestry, mainly as a tree planter has helped me developed a lot of will power to cope in tough situations. This can be terrible weather, physical fatigue, emotional stress, etc. Even though I have had some tough days on the bike, nothing will ever compare in difficulty to tree planting in Canada!

I am no longer a tree planter, but through other forestry field work at home, I can make enough in 4-6 months to travel long term. This could be up to 2 years or more.

Cyclist Tara Weir

How do you eat and sleep, and how do you handle dangers on the road?

Nutrition is a constant issue on the road. In some remote areas, it is tough to find fresh produce, for example. It is difficult to replace the amount of calories that you are burning. In developed countries, I eat a lot of pasta, bread canned beans, tuna, oats — the usual staples of many cyclists. At the end of a day of riding, I am usually pretty tired, so sleep is rarely an issue! I can also sleep very well in a tent.

I would say that the biggest danger I have encountered is erratic driving. I really, really hate cycling in densely populated areas. I don’t worry about my safety that much. I wild camp a lot without issues. I can only think of one time while travelling when I really felt threatened. I was cycling in Mongolia and was groped by a man on the side of the road. I was able to get away from him quickly, while yelling at him repeatedly. But this is one bad encounter out of thousands, so I will say that the world is generally a very good place.

While cycling I haven’t encountered any dangerous animals. At work, I have probably seen hundreds of black bears and a few grizzlies over my 12- year “career” in forestry. I have only had one aggressive encounter, when I was bluff charged by a black bear. We are trained on how to handle bear encounters and I carry bear spray. Generally, they are afraid of us and run away. It is just a part of the job!

Cyclist Tara Weir

What are your best advice people new to bike touring?

Before I started touring, I had a background in endurance cycling (recreational, not racing) but the majority of long term bike tourists I met had no previous experience at all. Some merely set off from home to cycle tens of thousands of kilometres and got fit as they went. I think that with enough will power, anyone can tour. The youngest cyclist I met was 19, the oldest 72. Couples, families, students, divorcees, solo men, solo women, couples with a dog — it’s quite a diverse bunch out there!

Basically, all you have to do is set your priorities: Own a house, car or sell those things and spend years on the road. There is no right/wrong way to live your life, you just have to sometimes make the choice and sacrifice.

It is important to note though that many bike tourists come from a life of privilege. I am from a wealthy country with access to a good income. As a Western woman, I can also experience freedom of choice that others around the world just don’t have. So while I can argue that bike touring is relatively cheap, not just anyone can take off for years at a time.

How do you plan and finance your bike touring?

All of my travels have been entirely self-supported through seasonal forestry work in Canada and recently Australia. I don’t have any sponsors.

I actually really enjoy the planning phase of my trips – I love reading about places and routes. I also leave a lot of room for spontaneous detours though. I started off planning too much and I got stressed out when things didn’t always work out as I thought they would. I am much, much more relaxed now.

Cyclist Tara Weir

What has been your best cycling-related purchase below $100, and what other favorite gear do you have?

I really liked my Click Stand, which is a fold out kick stand to support a heavy touring bike, made in the USA. Unfortunately, I lost it in Mongolia and I am in the processing of ordering a new one.

My other favorite gear would be my down sleeping bag called, Go Lite Adrenaline 0F (-18C). I think that this brand no longer exists though.

I also love my MSR Hubba Hubba tent, Specialized Body Geometry gel gloves, Showers Pass Elite rain jacket, everything Merino wool, and Camelback All Clear UV water purifier.

How do you balance normal life with cycling?

I guess that you can say that bike touring has become a part of my “normal life.” I work so that I can continue to travel by bike. I am constantly physically active.

Cyclist Tara Weir

What will the future bring?

For my next trip, I am cycling from Dawson Creek, BC Canada (where I am working) and heading south. Dawson Creek is a “Mile 0” town – it is the start of the Alaska Highway. So, going the opposite way, I guess, I am starting at 0 and going backwards… haha.

I am not sure how long I will be gone this time – at least to Mexico, maybe to Chile. This could be six months to one year. I am going with a lighter setup: A sort of hybrid between touring and the latest fad, bike packing. My goal is to be off road as much as possible. I am really looking forward to the Great Divide Route in the USA, the Baja Divide in Mexico and if I go that far, the high dirt roads of the Andes.

When I am done, I will return to Northern BC to do more forestry work to replenish my funds again. Then, who knows what the future will bring!


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2 Comments

  1. Your are my hero Tara!

  2. Ruth Dixon says:

    Hey Tara, you are my hero too! xx

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