So what are you going to do with all the money you saved by riding your bike to work everyday? A bicycle tour is a great way to spend a vacation. The slower meandering through towns or wilderness allows you to interact with your surroundings. You get to experience other cultures on a more personal level, and you become involved in a multi-dimensional world of nature.
For some people, bicycle touring could be one of the most fun and exciting things to happen to them. The question then becomes "how do I make that happen for me?" Well- it's not rocket science but there are many things to consider; but the short answer is that you choose a bicycle tour that works for your interests and abilities.
As little as 20 years ago bicycling in the US was pretty much considered to be a mode of transport limited to kids and those who could not afford a car. But since then the popularity of cycling has increased phenomenally: recreation, racing, mountain biking, commuting- the list goes on. People of all ages are cycling leisurely, recreational, and even competitively. Even people in their later years are avidly cycling to maintain a competitive edge in their age category, so they can compete in local races.
There is a certain type of person that prefers to enjoy cycling, taking in the scenery, rather than competing. Such a person may find enjoyment in cycling different routes in their area- the quieter and more scenic, the better. Then maybe stretching out the territory to find even more interesting and scenic routes, evolving to maybe even a willingness to explore new territory outside of their local area. That kind of person is ripe for bicycle touring!
There are many options for bicycles tours today. Many cities provide bike lanes on their main streets. Urban buses, many times have bike racks on the front of the buses. Commuter trains will sometimes designate a special car, with minimal seats to accommodate bicycles. The barriers to bicycle travel are very low and the rewards are very high.
You can travel year around by bicycle. Some of the warm places in the world are very popular for bicycle travel during the winter, such as Viet Nam, Costa Rica, and the Philippines. Places like these are very friendly towards westerners because they are trying to boost their tourism industry.
Choosing the right bicycle tour for you may fall into several different considerations: the difficulty of the riding required- not only distance but climbing; the location or area, along with its climate; the time of year and thus, the weather you might expect; the size of the bicycle tour group; whether it is camping or hotels; and of course, the cost of the bicycle tour.
The reason for this consideration is obvious: you want to be on the right bicycle tour! There's nothing worse than being in the wrong place, especially if it's the wrong place for a week or two, far from home! Be realistic with this consideration- are you up for a challenge, or do you just want to take it easy and have fun? Remember- you only have to please yourself. The distance and climbing required by the bicycle tour should approximate what you can and do ride locally and currently. If you want to accept the challenge of preparing for a more challenging bicycle tour- great! But make sure you take the challenge seriously and train accordingly. Typical bicycle tours can range from 25 miles/day at the bottom end to 100 miles/day at the top. If you ride long and hard, you won't be happy with just an hour or two of cycling, and- you may be the only serious cyclist on the bicycle tour. On the other hand if you see yourself a mellow cyclist, being stuck with a bunch of hammerheads for a week may result in a vacation that you would like to forget.
Distance is not the only consideration for evaluating the difficulty of a bicycle tour. Riding 50 flat miles in a day will seem easy compared to a leg of 50 miles with some big hills to climb. Question the bicycle tour operator to find out. If they have a website, you may be able to download a profile for each day's ride to see how much climbing is required. If the profile looks like a scary roller coaster, you will have plenty of hard work to climb those hills.
If you are a connoisseur of scenery while riding your bike, you won't be happy just clicking off miles through some cornfields. Choose a bicycle tour that offers the right kind of scenery for you! It does not matter what you like, just make sure the bicycle tour offers what you like. Whether it be seacoast, forest, warm desert, or picturesque countryside- find it! You may want to also include related considerations such as the kind of weather the location offers, as well as the time of year the bicycle tour is offered and what the weather is likely to be. Some people are sapped by heat, some melt in the rain, while most people who live in a warm climate are not fond of cold weather.
Some cyclists take the view that a bicycle tour is much more than just a bike ride. Riding every day is a given, but what about other things that are important too such as cuisine and culinary delights, history, culture, architecture, too name just a few? If you like some of these, you may want to consider a European bicycle tour. There are plenty of them out there that will provide you with a course that winds through lavender fields, vineyards, olive groves, by castles, and through quaint villages with delicious dining opportunities. A bike tour may be the one time you can justify gorging yourself on delicious cuisine, because you will burn it off the next day on the ride.
Also- find out if the bicycle tour requires riding through some urban areas that will probably not only have traffic, but will require navigational skills. If the bicycle tour is mountainous and you live at sea level, you may want to arrive a few days early to condition yourself to the oxygen deficiency that you may experience. Realize that the weather on a high mountain pass may be much cooler than you are used to. Always carry extra clothing layers when riding in the mountains or when the weather forecast is iffy.
If you are thinking about a challenging bicycle tour, but have some reservation about whether you can ride it, ask the bicycle tour operator if sag service is offered. Sagging means that you ride in a vehicle if you are tired or not feeling well. Many bicycle tours offer sag service to riders for this purpose that provides a safety net for you in case you can't ride the distance. In fact in it's not unusual for some of the bicycle tour participants to register for the bicycle tour with the perspective that they will ride all they can, but realistically, plan on doing some sagging.
If you are considering a bike tour in Europe, a good bicycle tour organizer will already have done the work for you by planning the route and arranging the accommodations, usually with some meals included. Arrangements can be very difficult from thousands of miles away and a language barrier to deal with. A good quality bicycle tour in Europe will provide detailed maps so you can ride the quiet white or "D" roads (as shown on the Michelin maps), in the beautiful countryside.
Do you like lots of people around, maybe a bit on the informal side, but plenty of opportunities to meet a variety of people? Or are you intimidated by large groups, and thus prefer a small group of people that you will come to know well before the bicycle tour is over? Bike tours can be fewer than dozen participants or number into the thousands. Some of the big bicycle tours are annual events with lots of repeat customers; they can be big and noisy and fun, but it maybe more difficult to meet people. And even if you do meet someone, it may be hard to find that person due to the sheer size of the bicycle tour. Maybe going on a large bicycle tour with a friend or a group from home would be fun to be a part of a larger group, without the threat of being alone.
Bicycle Tours that involve camping can provide a lot of group camaraderie and help you to save money. Camping bicycle tours should be priced significantly less than those that include hotel or lodging. Many camping bicycle tours also either include meals or provide the meal option- which is very convenient to a tired cyclist that does not want to go roaming for dinner. Registering for a camping bicycle tour means that you provide your own gear- tent, sleeping bag, padding, etc., and that you are prepared to set up your tent and take it down when moving on. It also means that you deal with the elements- wind, rain, cold, etc., and are willing to use the facilities that are provided such as portable toilets and mobile showers. So camping is camping. Some like it, others avoid it. If you are one to avoid it and are willing to pay the extra cost of a hotel room, this may be the answer for you.
Every night a hot shower, warm bed, TV, who cares about the weather? You may have to make your own hotel reservations and get yourself to the hotel. Some bicycle tour operators provide shuttle service to the hotel from the campground, or maybe even the hotel would pick you up and haul your bags, as typically your bags are dropped at the campground. Some hotel staying riders have said they feel disconnecting from the bicycle tour by staying in a hotel, as they may miss any entertainment or activities that are held at the camp at night.
Many of the smaller size bicycle tours, say less than 30 riders, are strictly hotel- no camping is involved. Those bicycle tour operators should provide luggage transport straight to the hotel every night. Simpler, but you have to be willing to pay for the luxury of a hotel. Usually the cost of a bike tour exclusively using hotels is about twice the price of a camping bicycle tour. If you can afford it, this can be a very nice experience.
Cost is important but should not be the most important factor in choosing a bike tour, unless you just simply can not afford your ideal trip. As mentioned above- camping bicycle tours will be the most economical, and if you enjoy the camping experience, will be the perfect choice.
If not, prepare to pony up the bucks to pay for the hotel. But if you have the bucks, you may find that luxury makes all the difference. You may find that some bicycle tours will even cater to your wildest dreams, such as luxury accommodations at resorts. Some luxury European trips will provide accommodation in castles and estates with fabulous cuisine to add flair. Some people may find that the actual cycling part of the bicycle tour is secondary to the accommodations and entertainment that may be offered by the higher priced bicycle tours.
Be sure to make the effort to understand just exactly what is provided in the cost of the bicycle tour. You don't want to find out when you get there that it's not a good deal.
If you are interested in a European or other foreign bike tour, be advised that airlines are no longer friendly toward passengers travelling with bicycles. Some pretty stiff fees are now charged to transport bikes. Also if you are making connections within Europe, think about the effort it takes to lug around your bike- train stations, taxis, etc. Because of this, the bicycle rental business in Europe is booming: some of them even providing decent quality carbon frame bikes. You may find that the convenience of renting is well worth it. Just make sure they have the bike you want in your size frame for the time of your bicycle tour. Nothing worse than showing up for a bike trip without a bike.
Bicycle tour operators have been expanding their selection to include exotic locales such as Asia, Indonesia and other tropical islands, and Eastern Europe, to name a few. Taking your skinny tire bike to ride on rough or even unpaved roads may be a big problem. Be sure to find out from the operator what the trip entails and what kind of roads you will be riding. Expect rough roads to be safe and thus, a hybrid bike would probably be the right choice, as the tires are fatter and the bike will be more comfortable to ride on bumpy terrain.
Because of the mountainous terrain of Colorado, this is an annual tour that is challenging, but fun, well organized and well supported. If you are a fit cyclist who is looking to raise the bar, but maybe concerned about the support level provided by the tour operator, have no fear about the latter- this may be the tour for you. Find out more about how to prepare, how to shop camping tour operators, what it's like on one of these tours.
Europe is one of the best places for a bicycle tour because bicycles are already embedded in the culture. The bicycle infrastructure is already built. The villages are very receptive to foreign bikers touring their areas. In some countries, such as Holland and Denmark, most roads have dedicated bike lanes. In other countries such as France, many low car traffic roads and pathways can be found. Throughout Europe, there are many bicycle tour services that offer full package trips, including tour guide, bicycles, meals and rooms. Here are some suggested Europe Bicycle Tours.
Includes Salzburg, Tyrol, Mittersill, Zell an See, Werfen.
Includes Mont-St. Michel, the Bayeaux tapestry, and the D-Day beaches.
Includes Azay, Tours, Amboise, Blais, Loches, Versailles, and Paris.
Includes Uzes, Avignon, Aries, St. Remy
Includes Luxemburg, Trier, Neumagen, Zeltingen, Beilstein, and Koblenz. Germany's wine country.
Includes Frankfurt, Wertheim, Bad Mergentheim, Rothenburg, Dinkelsbuhl, Nordlingen, and Munich.
Includes The Hague, Noorwiik, Haarlem, Leiden, and Aalsmeer.
Includes Haarlem, Enkhuizen, Lemmer, Staphorst, and Odoom.
Includes Florence, Castellina, Siena, Montenggiani, San Gimignano, and Artimino. Very hilly trip, but electric bicycles are available.
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