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Chuckling, I read aloud a journal entry to my cycling buddy, Mandy, in which I stated that Iíd finally accepted that I wasnít the slowest rider in the group and I might actually be able to finish the tour. The journal was from my first ever bicycle tour, a 10-day ride through southern Utah. I was reading it six years later during another tour in northern Idaho. Iíd come a long way.

My initiation into bicycle touring was through Mandy and WomanTours. WomanTours is a small company owned and operated by women which specializes in small inn-to-inn road tours for women only. After building my confidence and having a great deal of fun during that first tour in Utah, I embarked on another tour with them in southern Arizona. Iím hoping my next will be in Bhutan!

WomanTours offers tours that will appeal to nearly any woman. A perusal of their 2010 tour catalog shows tours in at least 20 states as well as Bhutan, Argentina and Chile, Italy and Canada. A few tours are flat and beginner friendly, most have varied terrain, and some carry you over high mountain passes. Most tours are about a week long; a few are just four days and others are ten. On the other end of the spectrum are the epic tours on which you can cross the United States, ride the full length of the Mississippi River, pedal around Lake Ontario, or follow the path of the Underground Railroad.

Itís easy to build your touring confidence on a WomanTours trip. The camaraderie and supportive nature of a group of women is very evident, and it is an atmosphere that is led and sustained by the guides (also women). While any group of cyclists will have those members who want to be the first one done every day and those who donít care if they dawdle along, itís nice that it doesnít matter in these groups what your style is. No one cares how fast you go or if you even choose not to ride the whole day (always an option).

Youíll automatically have something in common with the other guests: you all love cycling. Never fear that you wonít fit into a group. Riders range in age from 18 to over 80 and come from all walks of life. Shared meals and accommodations work well to bring the group close together, and many life-long friendships have been born on these tours.

A typical WomanTours trip begins with a pre-ride dinner and orientation meeting. This event provides an opportunity to meet your fellow riders and find out a bit about them. The guides also give an overview of the trip and talk about the first dayís riding. Subsequently, every evening will include a map meeting in which the next dayís route is discussed, a cue sheet is distributed for you to follow as you ride, and any canít-miss tourist opportunities are touted.

While youíre riding, the SAG (support and gear) wagon is available to provide assistance. Where possible, this vehicle drives back and forth along the route with water and basic mechanical equipment, and can be flagged down when needed. If you canít or donít want to finish the dayís ride, you can also hitch a ride with the SAG wagon. (Iíve done this more than once and thereís no dishonor in it!) The SAG wagon also transports everyoneís luggage to the next hotel.

Food and lodging are always wonderful, and can vary depending on the tour location and the creativity of the guides (theyíre responsible for most meals). Information on accommodations is included in the tour descriptions.

Whether youíre a first-timer or a seasoned touring expert, I highly recommend considering WomanTours for your next trip. Their colorful, user-friendly website (www.womantours.com) has all the information you need.

Ride safe and have fun!

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