IT is a surprising fact, but for the vast majority of people who decide to book either a guided or self-guided cycling holiday the most difficult task is picking a suitable destination.
With mainstream cycle tour operators offering cycle tours on six of the world’s seven continents (no one is offering any tours in Antarctica just yet, but rest assured that is sure to change one day!) the scope of choice of destinations is nothing short of bewildering.
So how do you go about narrowing your search to find a cycle tour at a destination that ticks all of your boxes?
Frankly it is not an easy task, and is one I must admit to have had much difficulty with over the years.
But if you take a clear-headed approach to your research and gradually narrow your choices by considering the individual merits of each possible destination, the final result is sure to be a cycling holiday to remember.
Where to start
The first step in the process is to Google everything possible about the countries where you think you may like to cycle.
Catalogue as many facts about each country and write an overview of its highlights, culture and suitability for cycling (testimonials on cycle tour websites are a great place to find this information).
Start with a list of your main interests and the most important things you consider imperative to be included in your cycle tour. Strong preferences may guide your tour selection.
- If you are fascinated by medieval castles many European destinations offer tours with stops at castles on the route.
- If you are a history buff most bicycle tours will highlight points of historic interest, but some destinations pack considerably much more historical punch into their tour with a high concentration of significant sites.
- If you are a wine or food connoisseur countries such as France and Italy are the obvious picks, but you will be surprised to discover what countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, South Africa and Australia have to offer.
- If you want add-on activities many destinations also have an abundance of active excursions like hiking, kayaking and mountain biking.
- If you are keen on sleeping in the one bed for the duration of your cycle tour, bike and barge tours – particularly in Europe – are a fantastic option. Such is the appeal of bike and barge tours that they are fast becoming the fastest growing segment of the cycle tour industry.
Culture and language
Some people enjoy immersing themselves into a new culture and trying to speak a new language, others don’t. As a result this should be a major factor in selecting a destination for your bicycle tour.
You may be more relaxed in a more familiar setting, where the culture is much the same as your own, such as an Australian cycle touring in England.
Then again maybe you would prefer to immerse yourself in a totally new culture and are thrilled with the thought of getting out of your comfort zone by visiting a country that is totally foreign to you.
If you are perfectly comfortable with the thought of navigating around a country where English isn't widely spoken and don’t have any worries with the thought of missing a turn and having to ask for local assistance, then this option is definitely for you.
For people hesitant about stepping too far out of their comfort zone guided tours are good choices – regardless of the destination. This way the tour guide smoothes the way for you, deals with all language and cultural issues and generally allows you to enjoying what you are after all there for – to cycle and sightsee.
Terrain and scenery
You might be intrigued by sweeping views of alpine ranges, but if so are you also prepared for the challenging riding that normally accompanies mountain vistas?
If not, maybe a tour that sticks to valleys and the banks of major rivers may be more for you. If you are not interested in the hard slog associated with mountain climbing, forested or urban areas can also offer a very different experience – the choice is yours.
Most importantly be sure to consider both the scenery that appeals to you and your ability level to conquer the terrain.
Also remember that there can be a variety of scenery and terrain within any given destination, so always make sure you read the fine print of all tours you are considering to know what you are in for.
Travelling by bicycle obviously means that you are at the mercy of the weather. As such the expected weather at the destination you are considering should be a major consideration in your final decision.
Do you prefer to cycle in hot weather, or do you want a more temperate climate? A destination's average temperature and rainfall should be considered for the specific season you are looking to book a tour in.
For example, a tour in Europe in summer is a vastly different proposition to a tour in Europe in winter, as is a tour in a country like Thailand during the dry or rainy seasons.
No matter what you personal preferences are, there is a tour out there that is just perfect for you. Take adequate time to do your due diligence and the result is sure to be a cycling holiday to remember for a lifetime.