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.
Our Cycling Vacations
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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 isn’t.
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.
It’s 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 wouldn’t wear them as they’d 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 don’t need to worry about them becoming dehydrated.
Knowing your fitness level
It’s a vacation, so don’t 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 it’s 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. It’s 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? There’ll 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 isn’t 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 isn’t 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. Don’t just fly through like a bat out of hell, sticking your Go Pro in people’s faces as you go.
More about Cycling
You don’t have to love Lycra to be a cyclist... but it helps. Having said that, cycling vacation types come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, terrains and tracks.
Cycling vacations are so popular now, it is almost easier to tell you where you can’t go on a bike.
Our cycling vacations are not like the Tour de France.
We’ve interviewed three top cyclists, including a Paralympian, a cyclist who covered six continents, and another who pedalled across all 50 US states. Read their tips.
The best family cycling vacations are ones where you travel in a small group, with bags transported for you from place to place, and nothing to worry about. Read more.
Find out how you can discover the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Asia by bike. Our top 10 is all about exploring off the beaten track and making the most of each day – both on and off the bike.
If you’re more familiar with pedalling to the shops than cycling around a foreign country, you may have a few questions before you feel ready to book a biking vacation.
If your top question is ‘should I invest in padded shorts?’, the answer is yes.
Our responsible cycling vacations are all about doing the right thing. And that doesn’t just mean getting a ticking off for throwing your drink carton in the hedge.
All our cycling guides.