Cycling trips aren’t just for Lycra clad health freaks. You don’t have to train for weeks on end or splurge on fancy gear to pedal your way round a country. You don’t even need to break a sweat if you don’t want to. Hiring a bike or going on a cycling tour is a great way to enjoy the fresh air, lose the crowds and to see your chosen city or region. However, there are a few things to consider when you are booking your first cycling trip.
I wouldn’t call myself a cyclist. My bike is from my Oxford days and has three gears and more importantly, a cute basket on the front. On sunny English days (few and far between) I dust the cobwebs from it and go for a pootle about in a nearby village. Recently returned from a cycling trip to the Austrian Lakes, friends were shocked when I told them I cycled near 50km in one day. You could do this too, but before you rush off to book your next cycling trip check out my seven pearls of wisdom (#7POW).
Do you want to cycle on dedicated cycle tracks or do you want to be more adventurous and cycle on dirt tracks and roadsides? This will partly depend on how confident you are as a cyclist. What you want to see will also impact on where you choose to cycle. Do you want to see spectacular mountain ranges and sparkling lakes, or do you want to see everyday city life of locals? Also give consideration to humidity. Cycling in India may sound amazing, but could you cope with the temperatures? If you fancy a leisurely ride, perhaps opt for a largely flat region like the Austrian Lakes. You should also consider your navigation skills and whether you want to go for a self-guided or guided trip.
♥ The Bike
If you book through a reputable cycling tour operator, they’ll have staff in place to ensure you get a bike that’s suitable for your journey. So, the right kind of tyres, gears etc. A good operator will ask for your height and weight in advance of the trip so that they can get the right bike, rather than a ‘one bike’ suits all approach. If you can, pick a bike that has a water bottle holder. Don’t try using it whilst you’re cycling (unless you’re a pro and not as clumsy as me). You’ll stop at various points in your journey to take photographs. However, if you’re in a group, sometimes this is only for a few minutes. It takes too much time to get off your bike, unlock your panniers (the two bags that clip to the sides of your bike), and rummage for your bottle. I wish I’d had one.
Bring a small bag with you. A bum bag would be ideal. You want one that can easily be strapped to the handle bars of your bike. Use it for your phone so that you can have easy access to a camera when you have those short two-minute breaks. The iPhone takes great pictures (some of the pictures in this post are with my own one). The bag is also handy for easy access to lip balm (the breeze and sun give you chapped lips) and tissues.
If you don’t want to just rely on your camera phone, bring a lightweight camera with you. Ideally one which has a neck strap so that you can wear it. I had a lovely, but huge Canon with me. Although it had a strap, it was far too heavy to cycle with it dangling from my neck. Cycling in the Austrian Lakes, every corner I turned presented another amazing photo opportunity. After dismounting the bike and digging my camera out of the panniers for the fiftieth time it soon became irritating not being able to wear it.
♥ E Power
Go for an electric bike if you want to keep up with the speed demon cyclists in your group. You still have to cycle, but by pressing a button you’ll get a boost. On the electric bike I recently tested, it had three settings, each of which seemed to give me an extra 4kilometres more speed. This type of bike is also useful if you want to be able to cycle and chat without being really out of breath and to enjoy the beautiful scenery. If you haven’t cycled in a very long time it’s also a great comfort blanket. You don’t have to switch the boost on – you can simply cycle as you would on a normal bike, then if you feel out of your depth just flick it on.
♥ The Kit
If you’ve chosen a sunny destination you might be tempted to cycle in a dress or long skirt. Think again. As you cycle you’ll pick up a bit of a breeze causing you to share perhaps a little more than you’d like. If you really have to wear that new dress, stick a pair of leggings on underneath to protect your modesty. Shorts in a sunny location are great, but don’t wear super short ones unless you’re prepared to deal with them riding up. Three-quarter work out leggings are perfect, especially if you have a pair with a small zip at the back (it’s a safe, easy accessible place to keep your bike lock key).
Without a doubt, wear sunglasses. Even if it’s a bit cloudy, you’ll need them. As soon as you start to cycle you’ll have bugs, flies and insects launching at your face. Use your sunglasses as windscreen too. If you’re prone to a weepy eye from the wind, your sunglasses will be your best friend. A baseball cap will also help with keeping the sun from your eyes, but make sure it’s tightly secured. As soon as you pick up a bit of speed it will go flying. Obviously, a helmet is ideal headwear and a legal requirement in some countries.
I hope you have a lovely cycling adventure. If you opt for the Austrian Lakes region like I did, you can find some recommendations in this post. X
Have you been on a cycling holiday? Do you have tips to add to this list?
A big thanks to the Austrian Tourism Board (as well as the regional ones) and Headwater Holidays for hosting my cycling trip in Austria. To view ready-made cycling packages, just click here for more details.