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 holiday equivalent to being awarded a yellow jersey.
Our cycling holidays 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 Holidays
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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 holiday. 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 holiday, 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 holiday, 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 holiday itineraries and judge wisely. Do seek advice from your holiday company too, but don’t ignore the fact that you will need some level of fitness for your own safety.
Family cycling holidays
A family cycling holiday 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 holiday 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 holiday, as they want to get that sense of freedom and adventure. But they can be a great asset. Some holiday 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 holiday. 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 holiday. 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 holiday types come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, terrains and tracks.
When working out where to go on a cycling holiday, remember to look off the beaten track to the likes of Kerala, Sweden and Cuba. Read our map of wheely wanderlust.
A safari in Tanzania? You got it. Cycle through ancient palaces of Sri Lanka? Yep. Pedal past Petra in Jordan? Oh, yes. Read more about our cycling holiday activities.
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 holidays 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.
You may have a few questions before you feel ready to book a cycling holiday. From fitness issues to wardrobe worries, our cycling holidays FAQs page has the answers.
Read pro cycling holiday tips from our experts, including what to pack, how much to train (or if to train), what type of holiday to choose, and the best time to go.
Our responsible cycling holidays 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.