Perhaps, I have not been bicycle riding around the world. In fact, I have not crossed a single continent with my bicycle. Perhaps, the closest to bicycle riding on a long period will be only the people I host via WarmShowers. Perhaps, I’m confined in my small, adjacent world, where I take my short distance bicycle rides. But I am very much angered by bicycle riders that show disgusting level of arrogance when they present their long distance bicycle tours as if they are taking their bike for a ride to Jupiter, and planning to educate the Martians along the way.
When I come to think about it, there are two types of cyclists I find disgusting.
The first are the missionaries on bicycles that want to preach to people from other countries. I really do not like that superiority approach that some people have, just because they never herd anything about those people they want to preach to (this goes double for my professional occupation). I have seen cyclists that start their tours with an idea that they will go to some country and that along the way they will change the regime in the countries or bring democracy in those countries, or whatever sort of super change they will provoke. And especially I am aggravated when it is very obvious that such change will never happen. I do not like this, because it is disrespectful to the people that these cyclists visit, some even eat on their table or sleep in their houses. Please, do some research about the countries you want to visit first, and then, if you really want to help out, ask what kind of help it is needed.
I really like the approach of one Carlos. He has an education and professional experience as a veterinary. So he figures that he can ride his bicycle for a year and perhaps help some people with his knowledge and skills, and even earn some food or bed for a day. And he does this with no arrogance, but a very simple servile even approach. I strongly believe that this Carlos will make a greater impact than any Mars missionary cyclist. If you do want to make a difference, do exactly that: ride your bicycle! The mere bicycle riding will make you meet people, make friends and inspire some to do something alike.
The other kinds of cyclists that I do not like are the ‘first time touring - never seen before events’. I have seen cyclists that promote their first long bicycle tours as a never seen before activity. It is never seen, all right. But it is never seen only by the people that do it for the first time in their life. There are so many people on this world that went out and toured the whole world, and back, with their bicycles. And the funny thing is that they never asked any credit for anything. So please, be mindful that bicycle touring is just simple activity that though may seem completely crazy to some, it is also a very common activity.
However, I do agree that you may want to exaggerate some aspects of your tour if you are aiming for sponsors and any other kind of funding. But do be innovative on that issue. Pick some topic, do it for some noble cause that is not disrespectful to the people that you are going to visit. And be aware that you will be an inspiration or a mind trigger to some, even without any patronising or preaching. Don't do the bicycle ride for the ‘hungry in Africa’, make that bicycle ride for your self. And if the people in Africa do ask for help, then, by all means, do help.
I understand that these kind of cyclists are rare. And for the sole purpose of keeping them rare I put this note. I hope that the potential 'cycling missionary' may start to think, and open to the incredible discoveries that bicycle touring brings.