Plan a Cycle Tour in 5 Simple Steps
A cycling tour is the perfect way to see an area. You’re not in a car, travelling so fast you miss any splendour; you’re also not walking, travelling so slow you barely see a few miles. It’s the perfect middle ground for exploring places, whilst exercising, being social and having fun. So yeah, cycling tours are pretty great!
But, planning anything can be daunting – this is especially true for a cycle tour. Getting people together, planning a route, picking the right time to go; it all becomes difficult enough for you to ‘just put it off until next summer’.
That’s why we have you covered. In this article we have everything you need to know before you plan your cycle tour.
Cycle tours are easy to over plan. It is possible just to go out on your bike and just cycle. That’s a doable thing that people do, and you could be one of those people. All you really need is a bike, a bag for stuff and the ability to pedal. So, at its core cycle tours are incredibly simple.
Many a grand expedition began with a ‘gentle ride’ that got a little bit carried away. And that could be the start of your adventure too if you’re so inclined and don’t really mind where you go.
This, of course, can be done on any bike. You don’t need to get the highest tech, latest new equipment – although it can make cycling easier. All of this can be done with a second-hand bike or, better yet, a rather successful trip to the skip.
So, a cycle tour can be cheap and incredibly easy on one level.
However, some – or most – of you won’t want to do the ‘get out and ride’ style. You’ll want to know where you’re going, make sure it is worthy of an adventure whilst being physically attainable. If that’s the case, your first step should be to pick the cycle tour’s style.
By style, we mean the things you will not budge on. The tour must contain a waterfall! Or the tour must go through historic landmarks! Or the tour must be at a time where most people can go!
Whatever the matter is, the imperative things you want from the tour will make the tour almost plan itself. Do you want a roof over your head, or to camp? Do you want to make your own food, or visit local restaurants?
By picking a few important aspects of the tour, it does become so much easier. Although picking too many non-negotiables can instead make the trip impossible to plan, so occasionally it is best to remain somewhat adaptable.
As a rule of thumb, pick three or four different things that will make the trip, the trip. This could be particular times of year, accommodation style, time taken on the trip, certain landmarks, difficulty of tour or type of terrain. Whatever is key to you, write down and then we can get more specific.
CYCLE TOUR ROUTE PLANNING
Cycle tour routes exist wherever a bike can go, provided you are comfortable off road. The sea is probably too much of a stretch, although someone, somewhere will no doubt be trying to put that logic to the test.
But, for us mere mortals, anywhere on land that is legally accessible is a potential cycling adventure. Consequently, you can plan your route across any area you particularly desire. Just think ‘legal and logistical’ as you do.
Local research into where you’re going is important, and this research needs to be centred around whether it is legal and logistical. If it is not legal to cycle in a particular place, you can’t go – well legally that is. If it is not logistical then there will be difficulties with the route. These difficulties may be that the terrain is too hard for a bike; the route is too physically demanding, or it is just uncomfortable with long parts on busy and dangerous roads.
If the scale of this particular and specific research seems too much, plenty of cycle tours before you have laid the groundwork of successful routes.
The EuroVelo network is a great resource for cycle tours in Europe. The routes vary from the ice of Norway to the sun of Greece. With 19 routes across 42 countries, there will certainly be one that matches your desired cycling tour style. These routes have an added benefit in the fact they are well signposted which can save an embarrassing and time-wasting detour through a Slovakian factory car park…
For the UK, a helpful planner is the Sustrans Network, which gives you tonnes of information on which routes will be right for you.
In the US, Adventure Cycling is often the go-to resource.
For other parts of the globe, simply googling the area you intent to tour is an easy way to get started. Local information is vital to ensure the route is perfect for what you want.
With any route planner, once you have your cycling style simply match which tours most suit it. The routes have varied lengths, difficulty, times it is best to do them and level of ‘wildness’ so, it is quick to narrow down.
So now you have your route, be it a pre-planned one, or more of a freestyle. A big question is now, how long it will take to do the route. However, as you can imagine this really depends on context. Cycling in difficult and steep terrain will make you slower, if there is less daylight you will be slower, if you stop to visit landmarks you’ll be slower; and that is only the tip of the iceberg.
On average, a cyclist can go about 60km a day whilst also having room to explore, find a place to sleep, have time to spare and to eat. Of course, if you are solely about going as fast as possible, people have gone over 1,000km in a single day. But that is ill advised.
Taking a tent just in case gives your itinerary flexibility in case you need to speed up or slow down in any given day. It is also possible to pre-book all accommodation to save time and stress while giving you a daily deadline to get you across the line. However, when pre-booking you need to know your cycling capacity, you don’t want the distances to be too far… or too short.
If you need to gain fitness, a good guide to starting that journey can be found here.
As we all know, you don’t need the best bike to go on a tour. As long as you can manage fixing the bike should anything go wrong, any old one will do.
The ability to fix a bike is imperative here. Not all places have bike shops, or they could be some distance away if you are cycling in remote areas. So, to avoid any stress and panic, you must be able to fix your bike. Take the correct amount of spare equipment and learn the necessary skills. It really is best to turn the bike breaking into a nuisance, not a disaster.
Also, while any bike will do, the terrain you intend to ride on may disrupt this rule of thumb. If you are going on gravel tracks, muddy areas of on mountain bike trails, thicker and gripper tyres become very important. So, having a suitable bike for more extreme routes can become vital.
For carrying kit, there is a wide variety of options. From rucksacks to bikepacking bags, whatever you decide to use is probably okay as long as they can fit your things and attach to the bike. As cycle tours have increased in popularity, purpose built bags are now available should you choose to use them.