Exploring the world by bicycle or bike is one of the best ways to travel because you see life around you. When I was riding exploring the cities on a bike in Asia, it was breathtaking, thrilling and it feels like complete freedom, but I have never really gone cycling at longer distances.
There are a couple of considerations and preparations that you’d have to make if you’ve decided to go traveling by bicycle, and it can be even more so for Deaf people and other Disabled people. Many Abled and Hearing people think life is challenging for Deaf people, including other Disabled people. One of the concerns that the loved ones have for Deaf people is “what if they didn’t hear [blank]?” such as alarms, cars passing by, etc. This is also the case for cyclists or even those who use a bicycle to transport locally. However, what people don’t often realize that we are capable to do almost anything, like cycling.
Laura, whom I connected with online, is one of the Deaf people who love to explore via cycling. I’m curious to try cycling for at least once in my life while traveling but I would like to where should I start as a beginner. For Through Their Eyes series, Laura shares her passion and cycling tips for those who would like to go traveling via a bicycle or even cycling locally, but let’s met tell you more about this Deaf female who enjoys traveling via cycling!
Laura is a 35-year-old Deaf Canadian who is also white and of Dutch descent. She knows American Sign Language (ASL), not LSQ (Langue des Signes du Québec). She predominately uses ASL and only uses her voice around people she really trusts. She is voice-off when in public spaces. She is currently residing in the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, in a city called Victoria.
Bicycles dominate her life; She cycled a 1000+km bicycle tour of the Pyrénées and the Costa Brava in France and Catalonia (her packing list here). and some short trips within Quebec. She also recently cycled on Southern Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast (the islands of Vancouver) with her partner.
She identifies as a backpacker and cycle tourist who has no interest in staying at resorts because she believes that the cultural aspect of traveling is lost when one chooses to stay at a resort. She also likes climbing, hiking, and camping. She enjoys both traveling solo and with a partner.
Where has she traveled?
Canada – provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta and Québec.
The US – Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Mexico, Belize, and Patagonia (on Argentinean side).
Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France & Catalonia
Japan and China (Beijing only)
I’m Laura. I’m a very deaf person living in a very hearing world, not by choice, but because of circumstances: I was born into a hearing family. I work in a hearing environment (always have!). My partner is hearing. Most of my local friends are hearing. I always feel like an outsider, yet when I attend a deaf event, it’s quite the culture shock!
Much like Stacey, I enjoy the occasional escape from everyday life to explore the unfamiliar. I started travelling as a classic backpacker in 2008, but in the past five years, I have taken an interest in travelling by bike. As a backpacker, I was exploring major cities and taking a few side trips as long as the place was accessible by train or bus. I was seeing the usual tourist hots spots: eg. the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, Mt. Fuji, and Mannekin Pis. (The last one was by accident, but I did see that little baby pee in the middle of the city of Brussels).
All great, but I was missing out on seeing the in-between things. This is where cycle touring comes in. With travelling by bicycle, it’s more about what you see and experience while on the road. You’ll get to experience the country outside the rail network. Forget about guided tours, which usually aren’t accessible for deaf people anyway. You’d even be able to go places unreachable by car! Freedom!
Is it dangerous? Somewhat.
Is it more dangerous because I’m deaf?
Nah. What hearing people envision is based on how they would cope if their hearing were to disappear overnight. I’ve had nearly my whole life to adapt to a world without sound. Travelling to a place where I do not know the language isn’t much of a shock to me: being totally deaf, I already miss out on any audible conversations or announcements that happen in my proximity. Becoming a cyclist made me realize just how much hearing people rely on their ears.
The one thing that was hammered into our heads as a child, “look both ways before crossing a street,” has been forgotten by hearing adults. For deaf people, this is a rule to live by. While cycling, I’ve had to swerve to avoid hitting pedestrians who’ve stepped off the curb without looking because they didn’t hear a motor vehicle approaching.
All this is to say that I understand why hearing people would assume it’s more dangerous for deaf people to ride a bicycle on the roads, or drive. So far, I’ve found myself in more sketchy situations as a backpacker than a cycle tourist. Risk is always involved with travelling, but we do it anyway for the rewards. Imagine finding yourself pedaling along on a gently winding road in a valley almost free of cars, before getting squeezed out between two mountains:
You could find yourself riding through a cave. Maybe on a descent, after a hard day of climbing in the saddle, a medieval castle will all of suddenly come into view. You wouldn’t even have to keep rolling past it: you could drop in for a visit.
Want to get a tan? Try cycle touring! Sure, you’d end up with a goofy tan:
Cycling can make travelling in more expensive places such as western Europe and Australia more affordable. You’ll save on transportation costs within the country(ies) you’re visiting, and you can even take it further by bringing a tent.
You don’t even have to leave your own country to tour by bike! The distance you want to cover is up to you. You can start your adventure right from your doorstep. Even if you only manage to do 20 miles per day, you’ll still see plenty:
Cycle touring is possible with E-bikes, recumbent bikes, and handbikes for some who are unable to ride a standard bicycle.
Now, this is where I’ll tell you about an advantage I have over most cycle tourists, deaf or hearing: I am a bike mechanic. Many industry discounts exist, and I do all the labour on my own bike. I am not worried about mechanical issues while on the road, because my bike wizardry will get me out of trouble. This should not discourage you: five years ago I could barely change a flat. The level of knowledge I have now is not required to get into cycle touring.
You can start with shorter trips while you gain basic bike mechanic skills before tackling something epic such as The Baja Divide! I have not personally done any of the routes on the EuroVelo network, but they’re supposedly well-marked routes with gradients under 6%, which is great for beginners. You can always keep this in mind when choosing a destination. At the very minimum, you’ll need to get comfortable with using a 4mm and 5mm allen key wrench, a tire lever, and a mini pump.
The initial cost of a bike purchase can be steep. $500 USD would buy you a basic hybrid bicycle suited for light touring. If you plan on making this a long-term hobby, a good quality steel touring bike starts at $1,200 USD; however, it can become your main mode of transportation and save you money over time. I spend very little money on public transportation and gas (my partner and I share a car).
One of my goals is to create bike repair video tutorials aimed at deaf folks (updated: it’s now here!!!) There are already SO MANY tutorials, yet almost none of them are captioned! I’ve also had to develop my own diagnostic methods since most mechanics do this by ear. I feel like I have some knowledge that people could benefit from. I could write about bicycles and bike touring forever, but I hope I’ve written just enough to spark an interest.
I want to thank Stacey for giving me space on her website to share my passion. If you have any questions, please feel free to connect with me through my website (squaremeat.com) and Instagram: @lkvy. Help our community grow by using the hashtag #deafcyclist on your posts!
Resources for cyclists who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, etc.
@thelittlebearpedaler – A POC gay couple who loves cycling together.
@edscoble – a White Deaf male who loves traveling and cycling. He’s also a bicycle mechanic. A friend of Laura’s.
@ewilliam – a Deaf Black male who cycled Vancouver -Tijuana Bike Tour & more.
@groovyriderbikeninja – a deaf female cyclist from London who cycle around some of the globe
@adventuredeafcyclist – an avid White Deaf male cyclist with a fancy ‘statche. He shares his experiences and sometimes tips!
*If you anyone else, leave a comment down below!*
Cycling Tour de Formosa Tournament of the Deaf was recently held in Taiwan during fall 2018. Watch a video here.
*I do not know more about this, so contact them directly if you have questions*
You’ve heard about Olympics but what about Deaflympics? Yes, it’s legit. Cycling road & mountain biking are included:
**I do not know more about this, so contact them directly if you have questions* *
This seems to be a general worldwide updates & announcements relating to Deaf cycling.
Paul Wood, is an ICSD Technical Director for road cycling and mountain bike for both men and women. And he works with Deaflympics, World Cycling Championships or any other international event.
**I do not know more about this, so contact them directly if you have questions* *
Since our community is pretty small, several of these are not specifically travel-related, think outside of the box! These can give you different experiences: meeting international people who share the same passion as you, networking, being involved in the community, etc.
Share Laura’s story by repinning this on Pinterest! 🙂