Cycling vacations FAQs

from puncture repairs to packing your own helmet

How do I know if I’m fit enough?

Biking distances, terrain and weather conditions vary from cycling vacation to cycling vacation, but there will be lots of information in the trip notes about all this and you can find out even more by chatting to the tour operator.
Many cycling vacations are pitched at people with a decent level of fitness who simply want to explore on two wheels – no Lycra, no rush and plenty of time out of the saddle. On this kind of vacation you might be riding on sealed roads, covering no more than 50km a day. More challenging cycling vacations will include longer distances, big ascents, fast roads or dirt tracks and mountain trails, so do your research and be honest about how fit you feel and how much you enjoy being on a bike. It’s better to overestimate the demands of a cycling trip than underestimate.
If you’re relatively new to cycling, you can get a realistic idea of your fitness by doing some practise rides on two or more consecutive days. Saddle fatigue is more likely to set in on the second or third day of cycling, so simply enjoying day rides is not always an accurate indicator of your fitness and stamina.

Most cycling trips include rest days or afternoons, but if a straight cycling vacation sounds just too bikey, choose a multi activity trip, with the option to cycle for a day or two mixed in. Family cycling vacations also exist, carefully tailored to young people’s needs, with shorter distances and quiet routes.

What happens if I run out of steam, get injured or pop a tyre?

Small group cycling vacations, particularly in more ‘exotic’ locations beyond Europe, tend to include a support vehicle which accompanies the group. This carries food and water, a first aid kit and bike maintenance equipment, so any flat tyres or grazed knees can be fixed on the spot (the tour leader should be trained in first aid, too). You can also ride in the support vehicle if you get tired, fancy skipping a steep hill or don’t feel like negotiating a tangle of tuk tuks in rush hour traffic. On some itineraries, the support vehicle will be used to transport the entire group and bikes to your next cycling destination.

On a self guided vacation, when you’re cycling independently, you will have back up from the tour operator, who can be reached by mobile 24/7. They can offer advice over the phone, come and fix the bike or rescue you if necessary.

Can I skip a day’s cycling?

There’s usually flexibility built into every kind of cycling vacation. On a simple center based vacation, where you ride out each day, it’s completely straightforward to skip a day’s cycling – just don’t go! If you’re on a self guided vacation that’s traveling point to point, you need to make it to your next accommodation for the night, but your tour operator can usually arrange transport for you and if your luggage is being transferred, then you can be, too. On a small group cycling vacation, you can simply hop in the support vehicle and let horse power rather than pedal power get you to your next destination – no sweat, literally.

How will I find my way?

Some cycling vacations are guided, so you’ll have a group leader with you, who has cycled the route before and can brief you on each section. On self guided cycling trips, you’ll be provided with a map, route notes and sometimes a GPS tracker. You may be following established roads or cycle paths, with clear signposting, and your tour operator should be just a phone call away, too, if you get lost. Responsible operators will have run a risk assessment of the route, too, looking out for potential black spots, traffic levels and road conditions – it will be designed with your safety and enjoyment in mind.

Are bikes included?

It depends on the trip – do check. Sometimes bikes are available to hire, and sometimes bikes are included in the vacation cost. In both instances, the bikes will be well maintained and specifically chosen to suit the terrain you’ll be cycling on. When you book, the tour operator will usually ask your height, and can then arrange a bike to suit you. It’s sometimes possible to hire electric bikes, too.

You may prefer to fly your own bike out for the vacation at your own expense, but do check that you bike is appropriate for that particular tour. Alternatively, you might like to just bring your own saddle and pedals.

If you’re using a bike hired from your vacation operator, have a decent cycle around on it before setting off properly, so any adjustments can be made at the bike hire place before the vacation starts.

What about other cycling kit?

Helmets are usually compulsory on cycling tours and even if not, you should wear one. Bring your own or buy one in the country, to save luggage space. Closed shoes and a water bottle are also a good idea, and cycling gloves if you like to use them. If you’re new to cycling, you might want to pack a gel seat that fits over the bike saddle and makes it more comfortable. Consider packing cycling shorts, too, but check about dress codes in the country you’re visiting – cycling shorts may be too revealing, and loose, longer shorts might be the more appropriate choice. Ditto vest tops.

What do I have to carry while cycling?

One of the benefits of booking a cycling vacation, rather than just showing up with a bike, is that all your accommodation is pre-booked and your luggage is transferred from one point to the next. It means all you have to carry is water, snacks and a phone and, depending on where you are in the world, a few layers to keep you dry and warm. A small, lightweight backpack is usually enough but some bikes are fitted with panniers. If you’re cycling in a group, everything can be transported by the support vehicle, so you can cycle completely unburdened.

Where will I be staying?

Again, this depends on the trip, but rest assured that accommodation will be organised as part of the vacation. Adventurous trips in sparsely populated countries (Kyrgyzstan anyone?) might rely on camping, homestays and yurts, but a leisurely cycle tour through Portugal, say, is more likely to feature welcoming, family run hotels with swimming pools, air conditioning and comfy en suite rooms.

Do I need special insurance?

On most cycling vacations, insurance is compulsory, but comprehensive travel insurance, rather than specialist insurance, is usually sufficient – read the small print to be sure.
Written by Joanna Simmons
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Photo credits: [Page banner: eGuide Travel] [Injury: Sanio LaMarr] [Rest day: Steve C] [Find your way: Elliott Brown] [Cycling kit: Bad Kleinkirchheim] [Accommodation: William Warby]
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