Cycle Holiday Destinations:

With a little internet browsing, it's usually possible to find a range of tour providers in just about every country. As we wanted to cycle in Europe when we first started touring, I found that the Viennese travel firm, Rad & Reisen, had an outstanding range of touring options across Europe. Their website is easy to search and you can filter your search so that you are able to identify options that suit the dates you wish to travel, countries of choice, types of tour, guided or unguided etc. Over the years I have added companies such as Saddle Skedaddle from the UK, Girolibero from Italy and Tour de Vines from Australia to my searches in order to maximise my choice.

In addition, if I get an idea of a new place we would like to tour by bike, I will conduct browser searches using key words such as the location, the type of tour that I'm interested in, the type of bike I want to ride, etc. It was the combination of location, price, on road riding on quality road bikes and small group tours that lead me to the 'Road Bike Tours Italy' website. We have ridden with this company twice now and were pleased to see that although the tours it offers are getting more difficult in terms of the amount of climbing, it has now added E Road Bikes to it's fleet of bikes to hire, thereby opening up the range of tours that are 'doable' for us. A similar situation occurred with tours offered by French Cycling Holidays with whom we have also ridden twice. In both cases we intend to try some of their more challenging tours using their E Road Bikes as soon as COVID travel restrictions from Australia are lifted.


The cost of cycle touring can vary dramatically depending on the inclusions. In addition, you need to be careful to know what currency is being used to quote the price on the browser. European sites tend to quote euros, but some ostensibly European sites turn out to be British and quote in pounds. Likewise as an Australian I have to be careful when I see prices in dollars to check whether it's US or Aus dollars as quotes in US dollars can seem quite reasonable till you see the converted amount. If you travel with Trek Travel, for example, all their quotes are in US dollars and they tend to offer two levels of touring (Luxury and Explorer) which can also be confusing. Their Luxury Tours are brilliant (we did their Puglia luxury tour and thoroughly enjoyed the experience) and they cost considerably more than their equivalent Explorer Tours which visit the same destinations, but use lower rated hotels and provide good but lesser quality meals.

When thinking about cycle holiday touring you need to think about:

  • additional costs of getting to and from the tour location;
  • any additional accommodation required before or after;
  • the cost of the tour;
  • are you happy with the standard level of accommodation offered and if there are alternative types of accommodation, how much extra does it cost:
  • if you want to join a guided tour, what is the extra cost;
  • hire rates for regular bikes and the additional premium if you can opt for an E Bike;
  • helmet hire costs if not taking your own ( we always take our own as we know they will fit and we don't have to worry about hygiene issues);
  • purchasing specialty cycling clothing if you don't have any, particularly padded knicks and gloves;
  • insurance if you are not already covered - you will need both personal and bike insurance. Many tour operators offer insurance for both but its worth checking whether your travel insurance already covers you for both types of cover. Further if you belong to a local cycling support group, such as P{deal Power in the ACT, does your membership premium include insurance cover locally and overseas;
  • buying lunches on some or all days if you want to try the local cuisine;
  • are drinks included with evening meals or will you be buying drinks for dinner and also after dinner when you mingle with the other guests;
  • and almost last, but certainly not least, tips. A perennial problem that arises as the tour is coming to an end - should you tip and if so, how much. US based tours such as those run by Trek Travel suggest in the pre-tour blurb that tips should be calculated on the basis of 10% of the cost of the tour for each person. For those of us coming from optional or no tipping countries this can represent a major financial burden and if you are riding in a country other than the USA you will probably know of other tours where no or considerably less tips are given. Generally there are no hard and fast rules, but over the years we have often sat down with the other guests and digested any suggestions included in the tour information and then agreed on a tipping regime. For example a European land based tour conducted by a guide and a driver/mechanic over a week will usually result in us giving a single tip to cover both persons who looked after us, with an amount in the range of 200-300 euros. However, Americans who might be with us on the tour will often choose to calculate their tip based on what they would pay at home and pay the guide and driver 500-600 euros, if not more. In Japan where they don't accept tips we understood that the half day ride price included all costs and a tip was not sought, nor given. If choosing a European tour conducted by an American company using an American support crew it can come as a shock to non-American participants when towards the end of the tour participants start talking about the quantum of the tip per support crew member. Often the paperwork circulated by the operator prior to the tour will suggest that tipping is not mandatory, but appreciated and American paperwork will often suggest an amount of 10-15% of the tour price per support crew. When calculated and converted to your non-American currency the amount can sometimes exceed the full cost of an equivalent non-American operated tour.
  • The other thing that pops up and for which there is no simple answer is how the participants handle the process of tipping. The usual options are either each participating person or couple can individually hand over their tips to those they wish to tip at a time of their choice or all the tips are collected in an envelope by one of the participants and at an agreed time the combined tip for the whole support crew is handed over to a representative of the crew, usually the guide if there is one. This can become a big issue on tours where the tipping amounts vary dramatically due to the national approach to tipping. We have found that the group tip approach works well in cases where all or most of the participants are of a like mind about tipping and the amount. This isn't the case when its clear that a minority of participants will not tip or provide a very small or very large tip, in which case you may opt to hand your tip for the crew directly to our guide.


There are no hard and fast rules about what clothes to wear when joining a cycle tour, other than you should wear what you find comfortable. In our experience, most riders wear cycle gear because it's both comfortable and easy to wash and dry (see laundry). Bicycle shorts with padding (knicks) can make the difference between being able to walk comfortably at the end of the day or needing to sit down. Many riders will wear padded bicycle pants as a minimum and then put on regular clothing to go with it. 

Depending on the nature of the tour and the experience of the riding group, riders may choose to wear trainers or riding shoes with cleats. Essentially, there are two types of shoes with cleats, road and mountain bike shoes.  The former have pronounced cleats and can be difficult to walk on, whereas the latter tend to be recessed into the sole of the shoe and make walking fairly easy.  Depending on the mountain bike shoe, it can be difficult for an observer to know you are wearing bike shoes and you can easily walk long distances.  

Mountain bike shoes are my choice in most circumstances, but if you are riding with a large, inexperienced group you may find that you need to be able to constantly put your feet down and not be inhibited by being clipped in. I opted for cleats while riding with a large group of predominantly novice riders in France in 2019 and sure enough, the rider in front stopped without warning and thank goodness we were riding slowly through a grassy park as over I went with my feet locked in.  A few bumps and bruises and a reminder to expect the unexpected when riding with a group.

Usually helmets are mandatory for guests but don't be surprised to find that your guide doesn't wear a helmet and that no action is taken about guests who don't wear helmets even though the literature provided said wearing helmets is mandatory. Riders from countries such as the Netherlands don't wear helmets at home and often don't want to when they are touring.


Most cycle touring companies will offer an insurance product or ask you to produce details of the insurance you have separately purchased. We always take out Australian travel insurance when arranging our trips overseas and we provide policy details when asked. In addition, I belong to a local cycling organisation that includes annual world wide cycling insurance in the membership package. As a result, the latter covers us for cycling related injuries, etc, while the travel insurance covers costs associated with the tour such as cancellation or the cost of repairing a bike damaged as part of a riding incident.  

COVID-19 has also demonstrated the value of taking out appropriate travel insurance as soon as you start purchasing flights, cycle tours and/or accommodation.  To ensure we got onto the cycle tours we wanted to join in 2020, we started booking and paying in October 2019 and as a result we were able to cancel our arrangements once the overseas flights were cancelled and were able to successfully claim lost deposits and non-refundable accommodation payments.  Friends who waited to book in February 2020 have not been able to claim on travel insurance as they booked after the point beyond which claims would not be accepted.  However, in some cases they had booked refundable arrangements and did eventually receive some refunds.

COVID has also caused insurers to look more seriously at local and national travel.  As a result when we booked to join a week long cycle tour in Victoria we explored insurance options and ended up covering our tour with Travel Insurance Direct (TID).  They did not cover COVID related costs such as a tour being cancelled due to COVID nor did they cover medical costs coved by the Australian Government's Medicare system.  But they did cover cancellation due to the usual reasons plus the usual travel insurance coverage such as lost luggage and needing a hire car to return early.  I had the misfortune of accidentally losing my Garmin computer over the side of the ferry we were on as part of our tour and my claim was upheld by TID less $100 excess and $17 depreciation as the unit was only three months old.

When do I need to book a tour?

There is no simple answer for this question and with COVID it's possible that the next 12-24 months will see a drop off in demand for International travel and for all types of touring. However, if things do return to normal, the demand for cycle holiday tours has been growing over recent years and many tours get booked out up to a year in advance. This seems to have been particularly true of bike tours involving barges or boats and probably will be the case post COVID, especially if lots of riders have gone years with a tour. In addition, before you book a tour, be sure you can easily travel to and from the start /finish of the tour. Often the start point is convenient to the route being followed, but is a long way from train stations or airports that you can get to directly. Booking well in advance can provide a number of benefits including locking in the type of accommodation you desire (bigger rooms book out fast) and providing you with time to develop your complete itinerary so that you can arrive and then you can get to the next part of your holiday, both on time.

Should I use a travel agent?

It depends.  The internet has opened up many opportunities to make your own bookings, and I certainly use it to make many of my bookings.  However, if I am travelling overseas and the trip involves multiple destinations for arrival and departure, I use a travel agent as they tend to have better access to carriers and flight options.  Unlike when I first started travelling overseas and would use locally based travel agents, I now go online to find an agent providing the package I want.  For the last two years I have used companies based in Adelaide, Australia and the service from both has been brilliant.  One was the national company Flight Centre where I had a personal connection with a staff member in Adelaide and the other was with Round About Travel that specialises in multi destination airfares with airlines that often don't fly out of Australia.  We booked through them on a FinAir flight this year with connections through Qantas.  It was a great deal and with COVID-19, the agency's subsequent hard work resulted in us getting a full fare refund. 

When it comes to internal flights, hotels, airbnb, bike tours, hire cars, trains, etc, I do all the leg work over the net.  Lots of 'comparison shopping' to find the best deal and then I make the booking.  In this regard sometimes you can deal direct with the provider and sometimes you need to book through a third party provider.  I recommend that you check out both options and compare costs/benefits of using each in cases where you can.  Sometimes prices can be lower by dealing direct and other times the reverse will apply.  Also, some third party bike tour providers might match the operators' price but offer additional incentives such as clothing, water bottles or a half day ride near the tour location before or after complete the tour.

Do tours get cancelled?

Yes they do, unfortunately. Particularly if they are being offered by smaller operators who rely on booking numbers to make a tour profitable. Some operators, such as Road Bike Tours Italy, have provided us with guarantees that a tour would proceed even if we were the only ones to book. This was the case with our first tour with this company and we had a fabulous and very personalised tour. In 2019, however, we had booked with a company to ride from Berlin to Krakow in June. In late March I was advised that the operator had not received enough bookings and the ride was cancelled. We received a full refund of our deposit, but the late advice made it very difficult to find an alternative tour given that we had already paid for flights to Berlin and from Krakow. I was able to find a tour in Croatia but this added flights and accommodation costs to our trip.. Some of the bigger providers and operators will indicate guaranteed tours on their webpage and this can be quite useful to avoid issues associated with pre-booked flights and accommodation.