Cycling tours in Europe travel guide

Less about getting from point to point and all about enjoying the scenery, the long distance bike journey is an antidote to fast-paced modern life. The beauty of bike travel is being able to turn off the well trodden tourist trail and roam through rural landscapes and communities. It’s immersive, slow – a great way to discover Europe. Rather than relying on towns already overstretched by tourism, you can shop in small villages, sleep in family-run hotels and eat home-cooked dishes sourced from the farm just down the road.
Great journeys are about the route, not the destination, so slow down and enjoy the ride.
In much of Europe, cycling is integral to everyday life, not confined to Lycra-clad Sunday mornings. The land here lends itself to two-wheeled travel; the bike culture makes for safer cycling, city infrastructure is intact and a network of cycle paths runs like arteries through the countryside. Quit the confines of car travel and live like a local for a week. You’ll soon find the humble bicycle makes you more approachable, and your surroundings more accessible, than as a tourist looking through a window.

What do cycling tours
in Europe entail?

Not a circular route nor centre-based, cycling tours are point-to-point journeys. Distance and terrain vary from one tour to the next. You can cross an entire continent, cycle from coast to coast or from one city to the next. The challenge is as great as you make it. Typically, the terrain will be tarmac, easy gravel roads, cycle paths and dirt trails, with some harder mountains routes. Tours include an appropriate bike and full vehicle support, but if in doubt of your cycling stamina you can choose a holiday with an optional e-bike upgrade. You will be staying in intimate, locally owned and staffed hotels, providing a financial benefit to smaller communities, and enjoying the freshest, and tastiest, regional food at nearby restaurants.

Who are cycling tours of Europe for?

In another universe, bike seats are made of marshmallow-stuffed clouds, but in this one, you’ll need to put your trust in a good pair of cycling shorts. In a nutshell, cycling tours are better suited to people who have already spent some time in the saddle. Most tours require a reasonable level of fitness, even casual coastal rides clock up the miles, but put in a bit of practice before you kick off and you’ll be cruising along. Most cycling tours last for eight days, with at least six days on the road and daily distances of around 56km. Flatter, car-free routes are ideal for families, but you will need to check minimum age restrictions, which vary from tour to tour.

Small group or self-guided?

If the only cycle touring you’ve come across is the Tour de France then fear not, holiday cycling tours are not a race. Small group tours are aimed at social cycling, with an experienced guide who will monitor the speed to suit the slowest. Groups are kept small to minimise disruption to the small towns and peaceful countryside you’ll pass through, and to give you more face to face time with your knowledgeable guide.

If the thought of peloton pedalling puts you in a cold sweat, then a self-guided tour offers the freedom of independent travel with the support of a guided holiday. Your time on the road can be tailored made, for flexible days of cycling, sometimes with the option to choose a longer or shorter route. Self-guided cycling is a more suitable option for families as there’s no need to keep pace with the group and, if little legs get tired, you have more freedom to stop and rest.

Our top Cycling Tours in Europe Holiday

Amsterdam to Bruges bike and barge holiday

Amsterdam to Bruges bike and barge holiday

Bike and barge from Amsterdam to beautiful Bruges

From £920 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Cycling Tours in Europe or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go on a cycling
tour in Europe

Spring is best for cities and southern Europe, head north for cool summer rides in the sun.
The best time to go on a cycling tour of Europe is spring, summer and early autumn, from April to October, although winter in southern Europe is an option for the hardiest of cyclists. City cycling in central Europe is also more enjoyable in cooler temperatures, when the streets are quieter and fewer visitors mean more opportunities for sightseeing and less time spent in crowds. If you’re limited to the school holidays then a spring cycling tour over Easter will be better for the kids, as summers can be scorching. Autumn is a colourful time for forest trails and warm afternoons breezing through vineyards.

Amsterdam, Netherlands Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
0
5
67
FEB
0
5
46
MAR
2
8
60
APR
4
12
48
MAY
7
16
52
JUN
10
19
61
JUL
12
21
71
AUG
12
21
70
SEP
10
18
75
OCT
7
14
82
NOV
4
9
88
DEC
1
6
80

Cycling tours in Europe,
month by month

March but especially April and May are the best time to see fields of flowers in bloom, tulips in the Netherlands, orange blossom and spring fiestas in Spain. Central European cities like Vienna, Budapest and Prague are also more peaceful than in the peak summer months. June, July and August are best suited to the cooler summers in Northern Europe, although the lowlands of Belgium and the Netherlands are ideal for lazy summer cycling. Portugal’s roasting summer heat is tempered by welcome winds along the Atlantic coast, but temperatures can still reach the low 30°Cs. September and October are still pleasantly warm in Southern Europe, averaging 20°C in Spain, Italy and Croatia, but be sure to have a lightweight waterproof with you just in case. The winter months of November, December and January aren’t best suited to cycling in Europe, which is often wet and usually cold, especially in the northern countries. If your availability is limited, your best option would be southern Italy, Spain or southern Portugal, where temperatures only drop as low as 7°C.
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jeff Holker Photography] [What do cycling tours in Europe entail?: Alexander Ishchenko] [Best time to go: Pixabay]
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