Ride Velo always suspected that cyclists were very lovely people but now we have the evidence to prove it. Did you know that there is a worldwide network of cyclists offering showers, a bed for the night, laundry, food and more to their cycling sisters and brothers - and all for free?
It was Super Cycling Man who introduced us to the wonderful organisation that is Warm Showers - a community of more than 70,000 cycling superheroes in every country around the globe. Will Hodson plans to stay with as many hosts as possible during his round the world trip in order to save money on his very limited budget. He told us about one fantastic host who looked after him so well in Paris, and she was just the first in a long line of cycle enthusiasts who will warmly welcome Will and his superman costume into their own homes.
Basically, the Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. All members agree to host others either now or in the future, but for some members hosting may be in years or even decades in their future. Ride Velo has signed up and we will be looking forward to meeting our first guests in 2016.
Warm Showers started in America back in 1993 when two friends, Terry Zmrhal and Geoff Cashman had the idea to set up a hosting service for travelling cyclists. In 1996, Roger Gravel began updating and managing the Warm Showers user list and later, in 2005 Randy Fay turned the list into a database-and-map enabled website. Now a small, but dedicated, group of volunteers manage the site and communication with its members.
Most members still live in the US and Canada, but the number of Europeans getting involved is growing fast, with Warm Showers having over 8,000 hosts in France alone, and almost 5,000 in the UK.
If you worry that Warm Showers sounds slightly dodgy, we agree that the name could possibly be improved! But amazingly, year after year, the feedback from guests and hosts is over 99% positive, and there are plenty of security and safeguarding precautions on the website too. One woman who contacted us via the Forum was Siraphon Soinak, from Thailand, who has toured extensively, and alone, around the Americas, Europe and Asia. She gives a very positive message about overcoming your fear of the unknown and just getting out there on your bike.
Ken Francis from Los Angeles hosted no less than 62 people in 2015, as well as fitting in a Pacific Highway tour of his own. Annika and Roberto from Germany were just one of his many guests who gave him positive feedback, saying:
Watch a video Ken made about his experiences here (maybe with the volume down...!):
So if, during this dank, dark time of year, you fancy renting out your home, packing up your cycling kit and heading out into the unknown in a sunny clime on your new tourer, this is what to do: Register with Warm Showers then start planning your route - it's a simple as that. It's easy to draw up an itinerary using the map-based home search tool, and you can research your hosts and look at the feedback they've been given by other users too. Choose the most hospitable, set up your website and blog (selecting a charity to ride for is optional) and off you go! All that Warm Showers ask is that when you get home again, you give a bed and a hot shower to other like-minded cycle explorers. What's not to like?