Learn the lay of the land and sample all the food and wine you want – on cycling vacations, you earn it, along with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, start your planning with these four tips.
1. Find your own pace.
You’ll fit in, no matter how experienced a rider you are. “On any trip, you will find at least three distinct groups,” says Simon Elliott of Butterfield & Robinson, a leading tour operator for walking and cycling vacations throughout the world. “There are super-advanced riders killing it miles ahead of everyone else, the core group of riders slowing down to see the world, and the final group of people really slowing down.” Tour companies create itineraries with varying elevation gains, mileage, and activity levels, making it easy to choose your best option.
2. Take advantage of the e-bike.
E-bikes bring electric power to the pedals, allowing riders to cover more miles at a faster pace, with less effort. It feels like riding a normal bike, with a little extra assistance for climbing hills, headwinds, or general cruising. They’re a great option for varying fitness and experience levels, and especially for multigenerational family vacations.
“E-bikes help level the playing field,” says Liz Einbinder of Backroads, which specializes in international biking vacations. “For example, couples who ride at different levels can ride together more. Riders can finish routes sooner, with more energy to enjoy the next town or hotel.”
3. Know you can stop when you want.
It doesn’t matter if you committed to a four- or six-hour ride. If you’re ready to rest an hour into it, you can. You can also skip a day entirely if you want by taking advantage of the support vehicles. “Stop when you want to,” says Elliott. “No problem if you decide you’d like that second glass of wine at lunch and then a nap. Your bike goes on the roof of the van, and we get you back to the hotel.”
If you’re just not a cyclist but your travel companion is, take advantage of non-rider options on bike trips. “You can still enjoy all the local experiences that come with cycling,” says Phoenix-based Virtuoso advisor Chad Clark.
4. Pick a place, any place.
Backroads has nearly doubled their number of biking guests in the last five years, says Einbinder. And you can bike all over the world, at whatever level you prefer. Among new itineraries this year: Chile, Cuba, and Portugal from Backroads, and trips through South Africa and Quebec and from Berlin to Prague with Butterfield & Robinson.
For first-timers, Einbinder suggests Holland for its “beautiful, flat bike paths,” the northern Italian countryside of Parma and Verona for its quiet, one-lane roads, and the wine country near Sonoma for its meandering, peaceful rides.
Elliott suggests a bike trip in Japan for more advanced riders, where you cover anywhere from 16 to 31 or more miles a day. “Most rides have several climbs – some gradual and some steep – but the van is there if you need a little boost,” he says.
A European river cruise-biking vacation is another option, where guests travel by Uniworld cruise ship up the river and cycle anywhere from 18 to 43 miles a day. “On day seven, there’s even an opportunity to ride 106 kilometers [65 miles] along the Rhine River. The boat meets you to pick you up,” says Elliott.
Top Photo: Backroads/Brenda Ernst