Cycling Holidays To Suit Everybody – Where To Go and How To Pack
Life is like riding a bicycle; you have to keep moving otherwise you’ll just topple over and I guess that’s kind of why I keep on traveling.
Travel and cycling are two of my favorite things so whenever I get the chance to combine them it makes for some very happy times indeed. Cycling is green travel. You create no pollution, use no diesel and add nothing to the toxic cloud which threatens to choke the very life from our dear planet. Cycling is also incredibly healthy and all of those beers shared with new travel friends and portions of deep-fried street food, are soon burned off by the time you have reached the next town.
Finally, cycling is also unparalleled fun and there are few better feelings than that of the wind racing through my hair as I cross a new, unfamiliar landscape. Above all, though its the freedom and independence that I love, the realization that I am doing this alone with no driver, no guide, no engine even and that I am more than a passenger merely staring passively out of the window.
Rings around the World
Have I sold you on the concept of cycling holidays here? Good, then let’s get down to the details…
First up you need to know exactly how and what to pack…
How To Pack For Cycling Holidays
Packing for a cycling trip largely depends on your route and the requirements and will vary wildly depending on terrain, distance, and duration. However, some items are indispensable and should be brought along for cycling tours whether you’re leisurely peddling along Amsterdam’s canals or heading off into the Australian outback.
Lyrca clothing doesn’t really look all that good but its practical. It’s comfortable, breathable and quick drying.
Whether you bring your own bike or pick one up locally is up to you. If you have to fly then it may prove more cost effective to either buy one at the other end or hire one. If you have an expensive bike which is very dear to you, then you will probably want to bring your own. Check your airlines baggage allowance policies.
Bike Bag or Bike Box
If you are taking your own bike overseas, then you need to ensure it arrives in one piece and doesn’t mysteriously fall into pieces at somepoimnt between checking it in at the airport and collecting if off the conveyor belt at the other side. This is where a decent bag bike or bag box will come in handy. Before you fly, check the weight of your bike in the box to ensure you don’t have to pay an excess weight charge.
A Saddle Bag fixes to the rear of your bike. Ideal for storing spare tyres, puncture repair kits and other bike related bits and pieces.
A bike bag or box is perfect for putting in your clothes, toileties and whatever else you need for your cycling holiday. They are specifically designed to balance the weight across your bike.
A backpack is always useful even if you have a saddle bag or rear rack. I recomened one no bigger than 15 litres so its just for carrying bare essentials. A water proof one would also be ideal.
Keeping your phone in your pockey is OK but if you want to use any of the new, fangled cycling app’s (detailed below) you need to be able to see it. A handy phone mount which sits across your handle bars will do the job allowing you to check the map or stream your favourite Pornography.
Enter Bag Balm
Bag balm is a gel created to soften cow udders. It’s great for your chaffed hands and bums.
Puncture Repairs Repair Kit
Whilst this is truly indispensable for longer, cross-country routes I also carry one for inner city rides owing to the increased prominence of shattered glass lining the roads. Flat tires can and damned well do occur absolutely anyway and everywhere. Fortunately, with some very basic gear and some very quick training, they can usually be patched up in no time.
If you’ve never repaired a flat or are simply out of practice, then there are quite a few YouTube video’s and WikiHow pages which will remind you how it’s done. Be sure to watch these before you go or you may end up trying to stream them on your iPhone from halfway up the Karakoram Highway!
For when you’re on your bike you are exposed to the elements. I always take a Kagool and waterproof pants in case the heavens decide to open at inconvenient times. Also, make sure that all of you stuff is covered in waterproof packs or simply bin liners.
Tread by Leatherman
The TREADis a wearable multi-tool that fits around your wrist like a watch. It’s clever design fashions a selection of Allen keys and screwdrivers into various chain links meaning that you literally wearing the necessary tools for all basic bicycle repairs and adjustments.
It’s an ingenious tool that looks shiny and cool because you can hardly bring your whole toolbox out on the road with you can you now? I mean it would pretty much use up your entire standard 20kg hold luggage allowance. The TREAD is, therefore, a very practical utility; its the kind of thing Batman would wear if he went cycling. It fits into my lifestyle perfectly as I don’t have to even think about packing it when I go out riding because I’m already wearing it.
If you’re going to be putting in the miles then you had better stay hyrdrated. An eco friendly water bottle should always be within reaching distance. Attach it to your bikes frame. Better still is to be bring a Life Straw bottle as they have a built in filtration system so you can re-fill it from any source you come across.
These are useful both for streaming music and listening to Sat Nat instriuctions. Don’t cheap out here. You want sport ear phones thagt fit aroiund your ears. You also need them to be sturdy and shock resistant otherwise the internal wiring will go and they will break within thge first 10 miles.
Don’t start your ride without firstly taking out full and comprehensive insurance cover for both you and your bike. Make sure your get the required policy and that the Insurer knows what you are doing and where you are going. Hopefully, you will never need to claim on it but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Apps To Download For Cycling Holidays
The chances are, that any modern cyclist will be bringing along a smartphone and I wholly advise this. Not only can you use the phone to call if you run into difficulties, but there are loads of apps that will make your cycling holiday so much better.
This is one of the most popular ride track apps which logs things such as distance, time and calories burned. You can upload your stats into a personal profile to see how you improve over time or compare against your peers.
Cycle Maps is ideal for Cycling Holidays as you can use it to meticulously plan your ride before you start. The app helps you find the safest, easiest, fastest route and you can also modify it to include side journeys and pit stops.
There are numerous weather apps out there but make sure you have one. Check twice daily to plan your route and avoid riding in adverse conditions.
Warm Showers is like Couchsurfing but for cycling enthusiasts. You can contact other registered cyclists living along the route of your cycling holiday and contact them to arrange accommodation or simply a warm shower. Because it is run by and for keen cyclists, the response rate is a lot better than Couchsurfing.
Spotify, Sound Cloud or YouTube Music Player
Not as such a travel app, but for me, I love to listen to music whilst I ride. Whatever app you are using, be sure to make your selection available offline for when you get out of data and Wi-Fi areas. Personally, I find long Psytrance mixes downloaded from YouTube’s music player keep my adrenaline pumping.
Next Up, Where To Go?
There are amazing cycling routes all around the world to suit all time frames & fitness levels. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to be an athlete and you don’t need weeks upon weeks of vacation time to get into the saddle as you will see from our Top 7 cycling tours to suit all comers!
Angkor Wat – Cambodia
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is one of the great wonders of the world and its epic sprawl of temples should be high on every travellers must see list. In my view, the definitive way to experience the region is by bicycling around the 250 square mile site. Depending on how much of the site you want to explore, you can cram this into a single day trip or spend several days climbing the ancient temple structures.
All of the temples can be reached on wheels and bikes can easily be rented from the old market in Siem Reap. Remember, it’s South East Asia so haggling is absolutely essential as is carefully checking the chain, gears, and tires before you set off as they not have been serviced since the last user returned them.
The Big 5 – Holland
Wanting a bigger and longer route but still something relatively easy, to begin with? Try Holland where the windmills aren’t the only things going around and around. Hollands cultural capital Amsterdam is synonymous with cycling (and bike theft…) and is a great destination to start the journey by leisurely riding between the museums, art galleries and hip cafes. Holland is also legendarily (and dangerously) flat meaning that this is the ideal cycling destination for beginners, those recovering from injury or simply those wanting to take it nice and steady.
Our recommendation is a 5-day tour of the historic cities of Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, Dordrecht and Utrecht looping back to Amsterdam. This route covers a perfectly manageable 40 – 50 km a day so you’re never too far from a respite spot.
Picos de Europa – Spain
Spain’s Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) is nowhere near as famous as the Pyrenees or Sierra Nevada mountains but this exactly the appeal. Located in Spain’s Atlantic North, the route attracts far fewer visitors than other regions meaning you may just have the whole route, starting in Santander, to yourself.
Don’t be surprised if the only other souls you pass all day are shepherds and their goat herds. Because of the relative isolation be especially sure to have a puncture kit and your tools in case you do pop. Also, the Atlantic breeze does keep the region nice and fresh but also brings the occasional downpour so your waterproofs may also get an outing.
Negev Desert – Israel
Israel is an adventure seeker’s paradise and backpacking this little country is great fun. The Israelis themselves are an active bunch who just love hiking, camping or cycling.
One mind-blowing cycling route is crossing the Negev Desert from the tiny town of Mitzpe Ramon, through its epic lunar-scape crater, down to fun-central Eilat. The prophets in the days of old had to walk this route but now you can cycle it in just a few days! The trail does cross countless army bases and firing ranges and is also hot in the day and cold at night so be sure to bring a map, sunscreen, and your thermals.
If you are headed to the land of milk and honey, then check out my bumper guide to backpacking Israel.
Silk Road – China
The legendary Silk Road is a network of trade routes established during the Chinese Han dynasty by silk traders coming to and from different parts of Asia. The routes connect East and West Asia, passing through Iran, into Russia and even Eastern Europe.
The routes were frequented by the aforementioned traders as well as monks, soldiers and adventurers. Today, these ancient routes have found a new lease of popularity amongst travelers wanting to trek or cycle. Doing the entire road would take a hell of a lot of time and fitness. Nevertheless, there are a few manageable smaller segments located in the Xinjiang Uygur region. One of the most fun afternoons I ever spent was cycling across the brand new, Karakoram Highway that leads from Pakistan up to China.
The French Alps – France
Ok, so no surprises here I guess. The French pretty much invented the bicycle and have continued to develop the concept & improve the technology ever since. The French absolutely love cycling and it is a way of life here which perfectly encapsulated in the Tour De France; the most famous and celebrated bicycle race in the world.
Whilst the race has now become something of a moveable feast (like how Hemingway once described Paris actually…) starting in locations across the world, the most iconic and revered leg of the annual slog has to the stunning alpine section. Once the TV cameras and hordes of roadside fans have left, amateur joy riders ride the route following in the footsteps (or track-marks?!) of their heroes riding from the Alpe d’Huez, the Col de Galibier through the Col d’Izoard. The picturesque Cormet de Roseland is also well worth the sore legs.
Australia is the land of the great outdoors (I mean people don’t visit for the culture do they now?!) so naturally, there are tons of great cycling routes ranging from the easy to the epic, grueling and dangerous. The country is crisscrossed by plenty of long distance back roads and trails and many are suitable for a well-equipped mountain bike if you have a week or two to spare.
The Tanami Track is our pick although it’s not for the faint-hearted. The 12-day marathon runs from Alice Spring all the way west finishing at Halls Creek. There is also the option of a side mission to Wolfe Creek for the super fit and highly masochistic.
This is not one for beginners or the under-prepared as the longest stretch between civilization center is 580km which means a few days out on your own. Bring food, water & preferably a saddle buddy!
The Spokes Of Life!
Travel and even life itself are kind of like the spokes on a bicycle. You seem to be going from high to low, moving up and down and even suffering the occasional spell in the dirt. Really though, you’re just going round and around getting gradually closer to your final destination.
Safe travels guys.