Cycling travel guide
The bike is an icon. We all remember the first one we got and that feeling when we pedalled off into the distance, free of stabilisers. And that is what so many people associate with cycling. Freedom. It's ingrained in our psyches, which is why films have used the bike as an expression of freedom over the years too. Think ET, 127 Hours, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sound of Music and Il Postino. All cycling through different environs, but each evoking a sense of discovery with a hint of daredevil thrown in.
The first gulp of a cold beer at the end of the day after a sunny ride is the cycling vacation equivalent to being awarded a yellow jersey.
Our cycling vacations travel guide hopes to reawaken that childhood sense of discovery. To have you cycling along Italian coastlines, around Austrian lakes or along dramatic canyons. Or, if you have kept up the cycling bug into adulthood, inspire you to find a bit more of the daredevil within, pedalling through Jordanian wadis, up into the spectacular mountain ranges of South Africa or the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Emulating ET is, sadly, a somewhat bigger ask.
What we rate & what we don't
Padded protection for your vital bits is the best bit of packing you can do, even if you are not on a hardcore cycling vacation. There are two schools of thought as to whether to go commando underneath or not, but the majority say do. Because they are designed without seams and with breathable fabric to prevent chafing. And underwear isnít.
Jeeps, move aside: the bikes are coming. Cycling is a wonderful way to see African countries like Kenya and Tanzania, and makes for a completely different experience. As well as getting the chance to see wildlife without the rumble of engines, you'll visit lots of small communities off the beaten track. In Morocco, you can opt to swap the cycle for a camel or horse for a day or two.
Itís not that we all need to be Chris Hoy on vacation, but cycling shoes do make a huge difference. Trainers are too soft, and can put more pressure on your legs than necessary. Cycling shoes are more rigid, giving you a more stable footing. You will notice the difference on long distances, as your legs tire a lot less with cycling shoes.
The pros wouldnít wear them as theyíd slow them down, but they are fab if you want constant access to water through the tube that is close to your mouth as you pedal. They also usually have a couple of pockets if you want to keep your phone or keys nearby. Children love these, and you donít need to worry about them becoming dehydrated.
Knowing your fitness level
Itís a vacation, so donít feel like you need to conquer every col in the Alps. If you have trained and are ready then go for it, but otherwise, look at the daily distances to be covered in the vacation itineraries and judge wisely. Do seek advice from your vacation company too, but donít ignore the fact that you will need some level of fitness for your own safety.
Family cycling vacations
A family cycling vacation is a double whammy of wondrousness. First of all, everything is organised for you, so you donít need to spend hours taking bikes on and off bike carriers, or finding the safest route from A to B without heading into a load of trucks. Second, the joy that you get watching your children gain that sense of freedom is second to none.
Knowing how to fix a flat
If booking a cycling vacation is the one incentive you need to learn how to fix a flat, so be it. Just look it up online, and practise at home. And teach the children too, as it is a great skill to learn early on. And always have a repair kit on the road, of course, with the correct inner tube, tools and maybe even a gas canister for easy inflation.
Not that they should ever replace maps, but GPS is a wonderful invention. Some cyclists pooh-pooh them on vacation, as they want to get that sense of freedom and adventure. But they can be a great asset. Some vacation companies offer them as an extra and, if they are very clever, pre-programmed with local restaurants, bars and market stops marked en route.
One size fits all
You might be tempted to jump on the bike that the tour company has given you and get going the minute you arrive on vacation. But itís very important to make sure your bike fits you properly. The smallest adjustment can make all the difference to energy levels, knees and back. This bike is going to be like a lover for the next few days: up close and personal, so the fewer tiffs the better.
Racing to the finishing line
The clue is in the name: cycling vacation. Itís not always about getting to the top first, or rounding that distant headland before everyone else. They are for people who want to explore other natural landscapes, explore culture in remote places and pass the time of day with people they meet en route. Who needs the top? Thereíll be plenty of highs along the way.
It is devastating to see mountain roadsides with energy drinks and water bottles strewn in the hedgerows, bushes or sandy shores. Sadly cyclists are often the culprits, so think before you drink. And after. Also recycling plastic isnít always easy in remote parts of the world, so carrying refillable water bottles, using purification tablets and powder energy drinks are the ways to go.
Just as running red lights, cycling on footpaths and swearing at other road users isnít acceptable at home, nor is it abroad. In some parts of the world you will be considered alien-like with your cycling gear and flashy bike. So go gently. Take off your helmet, sunglasses and smile. Donít just fly through like a bat out of hell, sticking your Go Pro in peopleís faces as you go.
Our Cycling Vacations
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