Mike Pesses talks about 'Bike Touring as an Authentic Identity Experience.' From the Geography for Travelers Podcast <http://urltea.com/1sxb> - originally presented at the Association of American Geographers meeting, April 2007..
THE AUTHENTIC SPACES OF
Michael W. Pesses
California State University, Northridge
Examine the phenomenon of bicycle tourism
A fascinating form of tourism with little existing
Inject geography into the “authenticity” debate
Geog. thought valuable; sociologists & anthropologists
have monopolized the debate
Europe since Industrial Revolution
Escape smoggy city; no car
America since 1950s?
TOURING organizations arise in 1950s
Didn’t pick up until Bikecentennial, 1976
American Cycling Association
Make the American landscape accessible
Previous academic deﬁnitions lacking for
A bicycle tourist is one who sets out upon a recreational trip
consisting of multiple days with a bicycle, and with the
intent of using that bicycle for the majority of that trip. e
tourist can travel alone or be part of an organized group, as
long as the use of a bicycle “drives” that trip. e bicycle trip
must cover new ground, i.e. using a “base camp” to which
the tourist returns each night would not be suﬃcient to be
Does not consciously use any
documented bicycle routes.
Rides with the purpose of
seeing landscapes and experi-
encing local cultures. Sleeps Bicycle explorer
where able to, though prefers May use documented bicycle
lodging with local residents. routes, but will deviate to see
No fixed itinerary of any kind. other landscapes and spaces.
May use motels or established
campgrounds, but will also
camp on available empty land.
Relies upon documented
bicycle routes and lodges
primarily in motels or estab-
lished campgrounds. Maintains
an iternary of some sort.
Organized group mass
Signs up for a supported group
tour and does no planning
other than assembling personal
All but abandoned
“ ings appear authentic not because they are in-
herently authentic but because they are constructed
as such in terms of points of view, beliefs, perspec-
tives, or powers (Wang 1999, p. 351).”
rough suﬀering comes authenticity
Logotherapy (Frankl 1984)
“…the true meaning of life is to be discovered in
the world rather than within man or his own
psyche, as though it were a closed system (p. 115,
Auschwitz v. a bike ride?
“To suﬀer unnecessarily is masochistic
rather than heroic (p. 117).”
Bourgeoisie must seek suﬀering for any hope of
Combine existential/constructive with object
e landscape is in constant tension with the exis-
tential to produce an authentic experience.
Evoke the totality of the experience
Lefebvrian space (1991 )
Harvey’s relational space (2006, most recently)
One cannot suﬀer through bicycle touring without
the road or trail as a PLACE and SPACE
A sampling of journals from:
Rich journal text, informative photography
Symbolic interactionist approach
Solo Without Pie: Wandering the Lewis and Clark Trail
by Stuart Black
Rode a portion of the ACA’s Lewis and Clark Trail in 2003
Deviated from trail at times
Rode in spirit of discovery
Authenticity is asserted from the beginning
Now, I don't have anything against organized rides
but, just between you and me, that ain't touring! Sure
you ride a lot and it is tough but in the end you have
someone to take care of you. You are surrounded by
friends and fellow cyclists. You can talk bikes and bike
riding at the end of the day. But at the end of that day
you are still part of the herd.
Real bicycle touring is, ultimately, a very lonely and
enlightening experience especially when you ride
alone (2005, p. 2).
Relational space of monotony
For sixty miles all I got to see was fields of corn and
soybeans. No cows, no wild animals larger than a
squirrel, not even that many houses or dogs, just corn
and soybeans (p. 12).
Change in this space produces authenticity
One of the things that makes bicycling great is a tail-
wind. I've had a few memorable tailwinds and the
one out of Onawa makes the top of the list. Corn and
soy beans look every [sic] so much better when they
are sailing by at 25 to 30 mph. I was rocketing down
I covered 50 miles in 3 hours (p. 14)!
Against capitalistic eﬃciency of travel and transport
And what was even better was that people in their
cars couldn't see them. The only way to see them all
was from the seat of a bike. That's how perfect a day
can be (p. 14)!
Material fetish of the bicycle
Obviously not against materialism, but per-
haps simply modern mobilities?
Long distance bicycle tourism is an untapped
resource for cultural geographers.
We cannot forget/ignore the spatial components
even the mental aspects of tourism.
Copy of paper at: