Don’t think cycling vacations are just for fitness fanatics where ‘finding the burn’ is an actual thing and being part of a small group pits you against competitive Lycra-wearing athletes whose calves look like they’ve been inflated with a foot pump. Choosing a small group tour will place you amongst like-minded individuals with similar fitness levels, likes and dislikes. Self guided tours provide the cross bar between independence and guided cycling vacations and ensure you won’t get lost and won’t have to worry about carrying heavy bags or stressing about where to sleep. Off road or on; cultural or gastronomic; long distances at altitude or Sunday morning pedals to the bakers; be honest and choose the type of cycle tour that suits you both on and off the gel seat.

Small group

Joining a small group in France, Italy, Spain or even Albania (why not?) is ideal for cyclists who like support vehicles around if something goes wrong or to hitch a cheeky lift if slopes are steeper than anticipated. Small group cycling vacations are not a race, they’re a chance to share cycling experiences as you follow an experienced cycle leader who can assist with languages, accommodation and tickets, and help you cycle off the tourist radar in places like Albania – go on, you know you want to.

Self guided

Self guided cycling gives you the freedom and choice of independence with the extra security of hand-picked accommodation, luggage transfers, detailed notes and a back up service, just in case. This is a great way to take the stress and planning out of independent cycling and also ensure you won’t miss any major or secret sites en route. Everywhere from the Alsace and Andalucia to Sweden, the Swiss Alps and Umbria are covered in self guided cycling routes with plenty more options to be found throughout the rest of Europe.

Road (touring)

Classic road routes include Prague to Budapest, Bolzano to Venice and through the Cilento National Park on the Amalfi Coast, with tarmac and asphalt creating a comfortable cycling surface over a variety of gradients. Support vehicles mean you can dip out of steep climbs if you prefer although a reasonable level of fitness is required to ensure you get the most out of the experience. Another great area for road touring is Portugal’s Alentejo and Algarve regions which feature a great asphalt road system as well as some sublime scenes over cork and coast.

Off road (mountain biking)

Catalonia, Montenegro and the South Downs of Sussex are all splendid locations for mountain biking vacations in Europe as the terrain, the trails and the endurance levels are all perfectly suited for those who favour cycling off road. Portugal’s Costa Vicentina National Park is also an awesome option for MTB enthusiasts, as are the pine forest trails and rocky undulations of the Greek Peloponnese, with luggage transfers and organised accommodation and back up services taking the hassle out of off
road cycling, leaving you free to concentrate on the lumps and bumps.

Combined tours

Although cycling amongst some of Europe’s most amazing countryside is an absolute joy, realistically, it’s not something that you’re going to want to be doing for the entirety of each day. Combining cycling trips with, perhaps, archaeological sites in Greece or Sicily, traditional food and drink producers in France or Italy, or other activities, like kayaking and hiking in Croatia or Montenegro, is certainly a great way to ensure time off the bike is time well spent.

Go electric

If you’re unsure of fitness levels or your partner tends to be a little faster out of the bike blocks then why not consider giving an electric bike a whirl? There are numerous European destinations where the views are fantastic although the climbs are quite a challenge with longer daily distances a lot more achievable on an e-bike. A selection of tours, especially self-guided options, allow you to go electric with luggage transfers and emergency back-up adding to the comfort of fully sustainable pedal power. Get in touch to find out which tours offer electric alternatives.
Photo credits: [Types intro: Dudarev Mikhail] [Self guided: nata lunata] [Off road (mountain biking): dolomite summits] [Combined tours: Mikhail Varentsov] [Helpdesk: lassedesignen] [Go electric: Karlis Dambrans]
Written by Chris Owen
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Tarasenko Nataliia]