There’s nothing quite as satisfying as drawing a line between two dots on a map and deciding that you’re going to travel that distance through pure pedal power alone. Sadly this is a feeling that far too few people get to experience, due in part to a lot of misconceptions about cycling holidays.
Are you on the fence about whether a cycling trip is for you? Here are some answers to some of the biggest concerns:
Am I fit enough?
A lot of people’s biggest worry is – obviously – whether or not they are fit enough to take on a cycling holiday. However, there are routes and trips to suit almost every level of fitness and cycling ability, even relative newbies! Remember, it doesn’t have to be the Tour de France, and whether you opt for a challenging route along hilly terrain or a more gentle one with one a few hours of cycling every day or so is completely up to you.
Of course, if you have any medical worries then be sure to run your plans past a doctor before confirming anything.
Do I have to be part of an organised tour?
In a word: no. Many people are attracted to packaged cycling tours due to the benefits they offer, such as the comfort of being part of a group with an professional guide leading you, and not having to carry your luggage on the back of your bike. If you are an inexperienced or nervous cyclist then this might be particularly appealing.
However, it is perfectly acceptable to go it alone. This gives you more freedom and flexibility – but does, of course, leave you without any professional support and guidance. Which brings me to my next point…
How much will I need to prepare for the trip?
Preparation before an extended cycling trip falls into two categories: planning and practicing.
If you are part of a guided tour then your planning responsibilities will of course be much reduced, and probably won’t go much beyond booking your return ticket. If you’re heading off on your own, however, there are a lot of things to consider: Will you take your own bike, or rent a new one? What route are you planning to take? What’s the terrain like? How many hours will you be cycling each day? Will you be passing through places where you can stop and eat? What will you do for accommodation? Will you need a tent? And so on… A guide guidebook will help immensely (or you can just be cheeky and steal a suitable looking route and itinerary published online by a tour operator). Finally, make sure you know how to service and repair your bicycle before you go: if you don’t know how to already then have a handy friend show you, or perhaps even enrol on a bicycle maintenance course.
In terms of physical training, it can be tempting to book an amazing trip far beyond your current abilities and attempt to get yourself up to scratch in time for the trip in advance. For some, this can be a very effective motivation, but it’s certainly a risky strategy, and not one I’d be inclined to recommend. Instead, find a route that is feasible at your current level of ability; go for a few practice day trips to get an idea of the kind of terrain and pace you like, and then look for routes that match this (personally, I hate hills, so am always on the lookout for relatively flat routes, which usually run along rivers). This way, all you have to do in the run-up to the trip is get yourself used to cycling longer distances more regularly than your average daily errands entail.
Will I need specialist equipment?
This really depends on your level as a cyclist and how seriously you take it. That said, it’s amazing how far you can get on a budget set of wheels with a good set of gears; I say this as someone who cycled from Germany to Hungary on a £100 basic bike from Halfords. Likewise, if you’re a layman you’re unlikely to need any specialist clothing either. Keeping it loose and comfortable is key!
The only items you will definitely need include:
- A bicycle
- A sturdy helmet
- A solid lock
- Lights and reflectors
- A pannier
- A repair kit
Will it be expensive?
Like most things, it can pricey, but does not have to be. Things like organised tours, expensive bicycles and equipment, and accommodation can rack up fast, but if you head off on your own there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of the usual budget-friendly mainstays such as CouchSurfing, camping and feasting on DIY packed lunches. Furthermore, if you’re cycling a large distance you won’t have any travel costs beyond those associated with either renting or transporting your bike, and your major holiday activity – cycling! – is absolutely free.
There are some stunning cycling destinations out there just itching to be explored, from the Danube Cycle Path to the Trans-America Trail, and many more. Be warned through – traveling the world by bike can be addictive. You may never look at a map in the same way again!
Have you got any cycling trips or route recommendations? Please share them below.