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.

Is a cycling vacation for you?

Do go on a cycling vacation if…

...life has become too much of a rush. Unless you are going for hardcore distance vacations, cycling from hotel to hotel is slow travel at its slickest. ...you enjoy the company of an expert, local guide. Not all cycling vacations are guided, but good ones take you, and your vacation, to another level. ...you enjoy chatting with other people on your travels. Arriving into town on a bike is always a good ice-breaker. ...you are open to the unpredictable. From a flat tyre to a busload of school children mooning at you out the back window.

Don't  go on a cycling vacation if...

...you don’t have some level of fitness. It isn’t always just like riding a bike. ...you like a lie in every day. Early starts are important to avoid the hottest part of the day. But every place becomes more special in the morning anyway. ...you mind getting a cyclists’ tan. Mind you, it’s always a conversation starter. ...the word ‘chafing’ upsets you.

Our top Cycling Vacation

Porto to Lisbon cycling holiday, self guided

Porto to Lisbon cycling vacation, self guided

Family Cycling Vacations in Portugal | Self-Guided

From 845 to1068 8 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What we rate & what we don't

Underrated

Cycling shorts

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.

Africa

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.

Cycling shorts

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.

Hydration backpacks

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.
Rated

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.

GPS

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.
Overrated

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.

Plastic bottles

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.

Rude riding

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.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: eGuide Travel] [Is a cycling vacation for you?: Exodus Travels] [Underrated: Donald Lee Pardue] [Rated: andy carter] [Overrated: Markus Spiske]