I went on a long cycle tour before and I found myself getting bored whilst I was riding at some points. E.g. on monotonous main roads, and areas with not much scenery or people to stop and talk to, or when I got bored of music I was listening to. Does anyone have any advice about how to cope with boredom and in general improve the experience whilst touring.. I like to meet as many people as possible, because I found before that it was the people that made my journey interesting.
As I may have given away in the comments, I'm not a fan of sensory deprivation when you're as vulnerable as you are when you're on a bike. I don't think there are many scenarios where not being able to hear as good as you possibly can is safe on a bike — but you may not agree and safety really isn't the point of this answer.
My belief is that when you listen to music, you are isolating yourself. Same applies to an audiobook or a podcast. You may as well go the whole hog and watch a movie while cycling on a turbo trainer. The moment you ride with music, the music has become your concentration. You're only going to enjoy the ride as much as you enjoy the music.
Throw the music away and engage with your scenery. Listen to birds, weave potholes, count squirrels... Whatever you do, just enjoy the majesty, the unimaginable effort that went into creating what you're cycling past.
If you can't do that (and can't swap squirrels for the homeless, potholes for bullets — I have no idea what your area is like!) change your route so you're going somewhere that does interest you. Otherwise, as I said before, you might as well be on a trainer doing something that does entertain you.
This may depend on what you enjoy doing. For me, the very act of exercise will stop me being bored, and cycling wins on so many fronts. But if you need to actively do stuff, how about:
- focus on the weather, on a good day
- feel the breeze
- watch the scenery
- talk to others in your group (I'm less keen on this, as I like a quiet cycle)
- give yourself challenges, for example x minutes for each of the next 10 miles, or stay at this speed but focus on reducing heart rate
- use counts - if you simultaneously count down miles to next stop, number of pedal rotations and number of breaths you will find it very hard to think of anything else - you can't get bored while focusing like that
- think on challenges at work, and possible solutions
- compose songs - I do a lot of this, using my cadence rate as a beat
If you already have an earpiece (or headphones) or are comfortable with such a device, you could try listening to some podcasts, talk radio, or audiobooks. When I'm on my trainer, I like to watch TV shows and movies. However, I think this wouldn't work so well on the road. Also, some TV shows, like certain sitcoms, work well with the audio only. You miss some of the visual jokes, but if you've seen the episode before, those can be ok as well.
Try doing some intervals. Example: try doing 3 x 5 min efforts each hour. (Or 4 x 5 min, 3 x 10 min etc.) Don't go too hard though -- just enough to liven things up -- you need to conserve your energy when touring.
You say you like to meet people....so there's your start point.
Plan a route where you have a village every four or five miles if possible, and be prepared to stop. When you feel like it, stop for some food or a drink, visit a museum, a church or something.
The four or five mile gap is long enough to have a decent ride too, especially if you can pick a scenic, traffic-free route.
Don't budget to ride too far each day - if you end up thinking "I've got 20 miles to go and only an hour of daylight left" then that will force you to concentrate on the riding and not on the experience. But by the same token its worth having some places "in reserve" too - if you're going well so have time for a detour. (For my visit over to France I left myself with only about 50km on my last half-day, so visited the museum at Arromanches, plus the one at Pegasus Bridge, before I hopped on the ferry. Great visits the both if you like your history.)
You're going to China aren't you? There must be a million things to see there, the opportunity of a lifetime if you ask me. Get yourself onto Google and make a list of things to visit.
Incidentally the last thing I would do is to wear earphones etc. unless you're confident you're not going to meet any traffic. Its just a safety thing for me. But to each their own...