A beginner’s guide to cycle touring – Cycle Savvy

A beginner's guide to cycle touring - Cycle Savvy

Anyone can get involved with cycle touring, no matter what level you’re currently at. But booking a trip on a whim without planning or preparation isn’t the best idea if you’re new to traveling by bike.

We’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to cycle touring, including the types of trips available to cyclists and common mistakes to avoid, so you can hit the ground pedaling on your first tour.

Table of contents:

What is cycle touring?

what is cycle touring

‘Cycle touring’ describes traveling via bike across different towns, cities, and countries for a set time, using only your own power to get around. You’ll typically travel on paved roads and stay in accommodation.

Touring is often confused with ‘bike-packing’, which involves more off-road riding and wild camping. You may want to look into this if you’re after a wild adventure, but it’s a good idea to get a taste of cycle touring first if you’re a beginner.

The benefits of cycle touring

1. You’ll learn to slow down

Holidays are the perfect way to let go of the pressures of daily life and slow down.

Cycling tours are no different, especially since riding slowly through beautiful scenery forces you to admire what’s around you.

Feeling the wind through your hair and the sunshine on your face as you take in sweeping vistas and new communities will heighten your senses, help you reconnect with nature, and give you an appreciation for the things you’d usually miss in a fast-paced life.

2. You’ll improve your health and well-being

Traveling via car or public transport is more of a means to an end and can get mundane after a while. Packed buses or trains and petrol fumes can kill that dream of escaping your life back home.

However, cycling over long distances is much more rewarding. It reduces your carbon footprint and improves your health rather than hindering it, as you’ll gain physical strength and fitness with each kilometer you complete.

You’ll have fresh air in your lungs and get to see places in a different light, which is great for your overall well-being and another benefit of cycle touring over traditional transport.

Meeting other cyclists on the road is great for your mental health if you travel solo, bringing us to our next point.

3. You’ll meet interesting people along the way

Making great memories whilst cycle touring is as much about the people you meet and the experiences you share along the way as it is about the goals you achieve.

The cycling community comprises people from all walks of life who spur each other on and exchange tips and advice.

By immersing yourself in this community, you could learn from more experienced riders, build confidence by meeting other beginners, and make long-lasting connections and friendships.

There’s no better way to meet like-minded cyclists and broaden your horizons—you could even learn about future cycling events or groups you wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

Aside from this, meeting other people outside of cycling is also rewarding. You could even pick up a new hobby or two while on the road!

4. It’s an eco-friendly way to travel

Apart from the plane journey you may have to make when cycle touring abroad, you can travel guilt-free in the knowledge that riding isn’t increasing your carbon footprint.

You might even decide to travel mostly by bike in the future once you learn how feasible it is.

Since you’re only traveling with your essential gear, you’ll also be living a minimalist lifestyle as you travel, which could help you learn to live with less when you return home.

5. You’ll face new mental and physical challenges

It takes courage to set off on a cycling tour, let alone to complete one.

Facing the mental and physical challenges of this experience won’t be easy, but pushing through them will bring a great sense of achievement.

Harvard Health says challenging yourself is a healthy way to sharpen your thinking skills and prevent cognitive decline, while BetterUp says it boosts your confidence and personal growth.

If you want to reap these benefits through cycling, then a bike tour could be the challenge you need.

Just think about how it will feel to cross the finish line after reaching your final destination, especially after all the amazing and unexpected memories you’ll make. Visualizing this can give you a reason to push on when things get tough.

Different types of cycle tours

cycle touring beginner's guide

Feeling ready to give cycle touring a go? Here are the main types of tours, so you can get a head start on planning your trip.

1. Guided tours

If you’re new to cycling or traveling (or both), a guided trip may be the best way to experience cycle touring.

Guided tour operators plan and organize your trip and provide full-time guides to support you. This often includes support vehicles that carry your equipment and even you and your bike if you need a break.

Naturally, they’re the most expensive option due to the support you receive throughout the tour and the equipment hire cost. But they’re a good idea if you have the spare cash and want a gentle push into bike travel.

You’ll also meet other like-minded riders, as they usually take around 10-20 cyclists at a time, so they’re a great option if you’re worried about feeling lonely on the road.

Recommended guided tour operators:

2. Self-guided tours

Do you like the sound of guided tours but wish there was more autonomy? You’ll be glad to know there’s an option that sits somewhere between guided tours and bike-packing.

You won’t be completely alone, as you’ll have your route, accommodation, and meals arranged for you, and usually, the option to hire equipment. But you’ll be following the route alone (or as part of a group if you wish), with a greater sense of freedom.

This option is less costly than guided tours, but there are some things to consider before making the switch.

For example, you should know basic first aid, bike maintenance, and be comfortable navigating different cultures without a guide. If you’re unsure about these things, maybe consider gaining more experience beforehand.

Recommended self-guided tour operators:

3. Bikepacking

As we mentioned earlier, bike-packing isn’t necessarily classed as cycle touring, as it’s a more extreme form of bike travel involving a lot of off-road riding.

But, if you’re already a confident solo traveler and cyclist, you should have no trouble combining your hobbies and diving into a bike-packing adventure.

You can book self-guided bike-packing tours and races if you need guidance, but you can plan your own route if you’re confident. Just ensure you research wild camping and cycling rules in the area you’re visiting.

Recommended destinations:

common cycling tour mistakes

cycle touring mistakes

We couldn’t write a guide on cycle touring for beginners without including the common pitfalls to avoid. They may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook these things with the stress of planning a trip:

  • forgetting to get your bike fitted—avoid nasty aches and pains by getting your bike properly fitted at a bike shop
  • taking too much gear—travel light to make your rides as comfortable and enjoyable as possible
  • cycling too far—you should challenge yourself, but avoid overstraining as this will hinder your overall progress
  • planning too meticulously—it’s good to have an itinerary but leave some room for spontaneity!
  • not learning basic bike maintenance—knowing the basics could get you out of many sticky situations whilst on the road, especially if you’re out in the middle of nowhere with no guide
  • not fueling your body enough—make sure you pack enough food and water for each ride

Related: Essential gear for bicycle touring and bikepacking

How to know if cycle touring is for you

While there’s no clear way to know this without diving into the experience, there are a few indicators you can look at to gauge whether you’ll enjoy it. Ask yourself:

  • do I enjoy a challenge?—this is the most important question to consider, as it’s certainly no walk in the park
  • am I comfortable with risk?—if the idea of ​​sleeping in quiet areas or rising on busy roads makes you overly anxious, you might not enjoy cycle touring
  • do I enjoy being outdoors?—if this is a ‘no’, then it’s a safe bet you’re going to despise being in nature for large portions of the trip
  • am I happy to step outside my comfort zone?—cycle touring isn’t your typical holiday abroad; it’s a physically demanding adventure that will push you to your limit

There’s only one real way to find out—try it! As a beginner, planning a shorter trip with easy rides is a good idea to introduce yourself to cycle touring and evaluate whether you’re ready for a longer adventure.

Jetting off on a cycling tour this year? You may want to consider specialist cycle insurance for peace of mind in the worst-case scenarios.

At Cycleplan, we provide European and Worldwide cover that protects your bike against theft on the road, as long as it’s secured correctly with an approved lock.

You can opt for Public Liability cover up to £5m to protect you against third-party claims and Personal Accident cover for death or permanent disablement should you fall off your bike and seriously injure yourself.

Learn more about how we can help here or get an instant online quote today.

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