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 days. 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. Its also incredibly healthy and all of those beers shared with new travel friends and portions of deep-fried street food are burned off by the time you have reached the next town.
Its also unparalleled fun and there are few better feelings than 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 and no guide and that I am more than a passenger merely staring passively out of the window.
Rings around the World
Have I sold you on cycling tours here? Good, then let’s get down to the details¦
First up you need to know how to pack…
How To Pack
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 outback.
Enter Bag Balm a gel created to soften cow udders. Great for your chaffed hands and bums.
Flat 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. Flats can and do occur absolutely anyway. Fortunately, with some very basic gear and some very quick training, they can usually be patched up in no time.
Saddle Bag – A saddle bag fits under your saddle and is perfect for keeping the essential bits and pieces. Here you can store your puncture repair kit, a few band-aids (in case you puncture your skin) and a spare water bottle.
Rain Gear – 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.
Tread by Leatherman – The TREADis aa 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. 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.
Next Up, Where To Go?
There are cycling routes 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.
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 n that leads from Pakistan 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.