Combining sight-seeing with an activity you enjoy is a great way to vacation. This is one of the reasons cycling vacations are popular, with a growing number of operators now providing guided and self-guided tours. But do you need to be exceptionally fit to enjoy, as opposed to just endure, this type of vacation?
When planning a cycling vacation your destination takes on a whole new importance. Whereas with previous vacations you may not have given much consideration to the types of roads you would be traveling on, with a cycling vacation it’s always best not to leave this to chance. But aside from the terrain, what else do you need to think about when planning your trip?
Type of Tour
While some people create their own cycling tour, many leave it to the professionals. If you’re in the latter camp, then you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to cycling tour operators. Most of these outfits offer two types of tour: a guided group tour where you join a group that’s led by one or two guides, or a self-guided tour where you go it alone with a helping hand from the tour operator.
The guided tour is a good choice if you’re taking this trip alone and want company with the possibility of making new friends. The self-guided tour generally offers the same routes as the guided tour, but there are no guides – that’s you. The self-guided tour includes route details (map and cycling directions), while both tours typically include accommodation reservations at stops along the route, transportation of luggage from stop to stop, and any roadside assistance you might need during the tour. Some tour companies can provide a rental bike if you don’t want to use your own (if you do want to take your own bike, however, you will almost certainly be responsible for transporting it to and from the start of the tour).
Most cycling tour companies offer a selection of destinations in countries all over the world. When deciding where to go, your level of fitness, how long you want to spend in the saddle daily, and the cycling route will all dictate your choice of destination. If you want to spend most of your day cycling, avoid choosing a destination where you are likely to be tempted to lock the bike and meander around taking in the local attractions; save that vacation for another time. However, if you feel you want only a few hours cycling each day so you’ll get to see what’s on offer, choose a destination where there will be plenty for you to see and do during your free time.
The route is integral to your cycling vacation and can be the difference between a great vacation and one you will never want to repeat. Read any route description carefully, as this will tell you, among other things, whether it’s off- or on-road, the type of scenery you’ll encounter, and whether you will be cycling on dedicated cycle paths. It’s important to spend time thinking about these aspects, as boring scenery can make for a long day’s cycling, while cycling for miles alongside fast-moving traffic may be far from your idea of a relaxing vacation. While it’s unlikely that a tour company would include an unappealing route in its repertoire, if you have any doubts about the route, contact the tour company to discuss these before booking, Remember that what’s considered enjoyable cycling for an experienced road cycling enthusiast may not be so for someone who cycles only during the summer months on local, quiet country trails.
When considering your fitness for this type of vacation, you also need to take into account your cycling experience. Do your cycle regularly, or is it a while since you were last on a bike? If you’re a little concerned about your fitness levels or cycling proficiency, get some riding time in before the trip. This is more important than simply being fit. If you’re going to be riding on roads and in the elements, you need to have experience of this type of riding, as it’s different from riding on a stationary bike indoors. When you’re faced with riding 20 miles in the wind and rain, if you’ve done it before, you will at least know how to tackle it on the day.
Pack light! The tour company may have a limit on the number and weight of bags it will transport for you on the route. Remember you will be spending a lot of time cycling, so comfort is paramount. Don’t take anything new that you haven’t cycled in before just in case it’s not up to the job and you’re left having to wear the same pair of shorts for the entire trip. Road test any new cycling clothes and accessories beforehand.
Check if there’s any dress code in restaurants you might be eating in. This could be the case in some parts of Europe. If so, pack suitable clothing including footwear.
Even if rain isn’t forecast during your trip, it’s still a good idea to take a lightweight waterproof jacket just in case. If you are renting a bike from the tour company, you won’t need to take a great deal of cycling equipment, as the rental bike will probably be equipped with panniers, a lock, a pump, and odometer (although check to be sure).
Check whether wearing a cycle helmet is a legal requirement in the country you’ll be visiting. If it is and you don’t have one, ask the tour company if they can provide one Any contract you sign with the tour company may also require you to wear a helmet while cycling.
Wll organized Vacation is a wonderful way to see the world, but cycling vacation is one where a little research will help. Spend time to ensure you’re signing up for the right trip and you’ll return from your vacation eager to do it all over again.