If you’re looking for a cheap, fun break which will even keep you fit – why not give a cycling tour a go? Tony Booth of All Terrain Cycles gives some tips to make sure you’re well prepared before you take to two wheels.
With so many more people discovering the pleasures of cycling in recent years, it’s no surprise that there’s been a huge surge in trips planned around being out on your bike. Whether you fancy a few nights away in the UK and are happy to organise your own itinerary or you’d prefer to sign up with a specialist tour company for a cycle holiday here or abroad, there’s something for everyone.
There’s no doubt that a holiday on a bike has a lot going for it. While setting off on a week’s cycling tour may sound a little daunting, it doesn’t have to be gruelling – you can decide on the challenge that suits you and there are always plenty of tempting pubs and tearooms in which to recharge your energy! Breaking up the day by visiting places en route makes a day in the saddle much more manageable. Cycling is a nice, relaxing way to travel without all the usual stresses of getting around, instead you can take time to enjoy discovering new places at your own pace.
Having said that, it’s amazing how you can eat up the miles on a bike and there are some great routes to choose from. In Yorkshire, we’re fortunate to have some of the UK’s best cycling country just a short ride away and there are also an increasing number of self-guided routes you can follow. Starting in Seascale and finishing in Whitby, the 150m Coast to Coast ride remains one of the most popular. The Way of the Roses, a 170 mile route from Morecambe to Bridlington is another fun challenge, as is the more recent 200m Lakes and Dales loop which takes in some of the region’s most stunning scenery as it meanders through Cumbria.
Do make sure that you’ve done some training before you embark on your cycling adventure – even if you’re fairly fit, spending hours in the saddle can be a challenge if your muscles aren’t used to it. Obviously, if you’re planning an independent trip, choose a suitable itinerary for your ability and don’t be too over-ambitious with your distances. Make sure you have a physical map with you (don’t just rely on GPS!) and also that you’ve researched refreshments stops and bike repair shops along the way. If you are staying overnight on your trip, you might want to organise for a taxi company to transport your bags between your hotels so you don’t have to carry all your gear with you in panniers.
Most guided tours offer different levels of rides, so pick an appropriate one for your level of fitness to ensure you get the most out of the experience. You don’t want to feel under pressure to keep up with a fast group of enthusiasts, neither do you want to be frustrated by the more leisurely pace of a less experienced group. Organised trips usually include a support vehicle so you have the comfort of knowing you can get a lift if that final hill proves too much!
Whatever the type of cycle tour, do make sure that you’re confident on a bike and understand road safety and etiquette.
Finally, your cycle challenge is going to be a lot more enjoyable if you are equipped with the right kit. A helmet is, of course, essential and it’s probably better to take your own, even on an organised tour. High performance padded cycle shorts are also a must, as are cycle gloves. Ideally, wear cycle specific shoes – clip in cleats make cycling considerably more efficient. It’s also worth having high-wicking tee-shirts, a good quality, compact waterproof jacket and arm warmers to give you flexibility, whatever the weather. Don’t be tempted to take a rucksack, it will quickly become very uncomfortable. Instead, use a small saddle, frame or handlebar bag for your personal essentials – and don’t forget to include a basic tool kit, including a spare inner tool and tyre repair tools. If you’re embarking on a more strenuous trip, you may well prefer to take your own bike with you rather than hiring a bike even if you’re going abroad; purpose-made bike travel boxes are now readily available to protect your bike in transit.
Whatever type of cycle trip you choose, preparation is key – so make sure you’re ready and then you can enjoy a holiday with a difference.