Perhaps the one thing that might enhance the experience of a bike tour in a new area or even overseas, is to be riding your own bike you are familiar with. However there are a number of things to take into consideration.
Does the tour include use or hire of a bike?
Many tours will include a bike that is suitable for the ride. Sometimes there also a mechanic along to look after the bike - it may even be the guide. However if you bring your own bike you may be responsible for any maintenance (the tour or bike company's insurance normally only covers their own equipment).
If a bike is provided you obviously don't need to bring your own although quite often you can if you choose to - you may even get a discount for doing so.
If not included, is bike hire available as an option?
This means you need to weigh up these factors more closely and make a call:
- Cost of bike hire
- Cost of bringing your own bike (eg airline baggage)
- Custody and carriage of your bike while you're not riding (before, during and after the tour)
- Security and insurance of your bike
- Bike maintenance or support
- Additional enjoyment of the tour by having your own bike!
How do you feel about using someone else's bike?
This is very much personal preference. Some people may not be confident with riding a bike they are not used to. And at the other end there are those who have put a lot of time and money into buying or building their perfect bike and won't settle for (or enjoy) anything less. Your preference will undoubtedly also be influenced or even determined by responsibility, convenience and the other factors listed above.
Is the hired bike suitable?
Often overlooked, this is an important consideration. However generally if the tour company hires out or recommends a bike it should be certainly be up to the job - but do double check in advance so you won't be disappointed when you turn up. If you are arranging your own hire make sure you know the model and specifications of what you are ordering, particularly if you are doing this in an unfamiliar language and by phone or email. Your holiday could start and continue to go badly if you have a terrific mountain bike but the tour is on good roads - keeping up with the group could be exhausting for you and frustrating for everyone else. Taking a road bike on an off-road tour could be even worse!
The tour itself (or the tour operator) will often be the best guide but if the option is there to take your own bike then just make sure you have all the facts and eliminate as far as possible the chance of an unwelcome surprise.
Have a great tour - life's better on a bike!