Is Cycle Touring For You?
If you are new to cycle touring you might like to try it out locally before going to the expense of arranging a tour in another country. Many countries have a variety of cycle touring companies that offer 2, 3 and 7 day cycle tours involving cycle paths or quiet country roads with quality accommodation and good meals included. Usually you have the choice of hiring bikes or bringing your own. The latter can bring the price down and is often feasible if you can drive to the starting point. Once you have determined that cycle touring is for you, it's time to start thinking about where, when, how and the cost you can afford. (Riding Experience 1 or 2).
How to get started:
Read blogs like this one. Talk to others in your riding community who have already joined cycle tours and get their ideas and recommendations. Search the web and look at providers that are well established and offer a range of tours as they are more likely to be able to provide a guarantee that your chosen tour will occur.
Review your cycling strengths and weaknesses:
Many providers offer a scale to help you decide the type of cycle tour that will suit you. The scales are not universal, so you may need to do some additional research to help you decide whether a tour is for you. For example, when we were considering which road bike tour we would join with Road Bike Tours Italy, we needed to get a better handle on just how difficult the 'Three Lakes Tour' would be. As this was a small, family run, business we were easily able to communicate with the owner Luca and provide him with details of a ride we had done with another company that we thought was comparable. Luca examined the ride and was able to assure us that it was comparable and within our scope and this turned out to be the case. (Riding Experience 5 or 6).
We also know our weaknesses and while we would love to be able to turn the clock back 20 years and ride like the younger riders, we know that this is not the case and we have to be careful to avoid tours that involve several days of riding 100 plus kms per day and/or doing lots of big climbs. It was this recognition that lead us to moving to E Road Bikes that will enable us to join more interesting tours and match the younger, fitter, lighter riders. For us there is nothing worse than knowing that you will always be a long way behind the rest of the tour group due to steep climbs, really hot days and/or very strong head winds.
Decide what you would like to do and where:
As this blog has described, there are lots of options for cycle touring and there is no hard and fast rule about what is the best one for you. Look at the options, possibly try out short versions of the ones that interest you and take it from there. We started with a bike and barge tour in the Loire region in France and it was the perfect introduction. The barge was small, but nicely set out and with very small cabins.
However, it was a great starting tour and provided us with the base line for the next tour. Our philosophy has been to make sure that our 'next' tour will be better both in terms of the set up and in terms of the quality of the ride. After more than 10 years we are pleased to report that we have mostly, but not always, been able to achieve this outcome.
Communicate with the provider(s) to ensure that the tour is suitable for you:
We decided many years ago that airlines and travel agents can be handy for arranging your principle flights, but we need to find and arrange our internal travel, accommodation and tours. Once we find a tour that looks good, we commence communicating with the operator if possible or else the company through whom you will need to make the booking. In this regard, be aware that many cycle tours are offered by multiple providers and it pays to compare as the costs can vary between providers. We have found that by communicating with operators or providers at an early stage you can not only decide on whether a tour is suitable for you, but also you can find out things like the probability that the tour will occur, the number of participants, where to stay before and after the tour, etc.