Cycling tourism has become big business both in the UK and overseas. Tony Booth of All Terrain Cycles considers the appeal of holidays on two wheels.
With so many people discovering the joys of the open road on a bike, it’s not surprising that there’s been a huge surge in the popularity of cycling holidays over the last few years.
With more than two million people across the UK now taking to their bicycles at least once a week (an all time high according to British Cycling) these breaks are no longer only the preserve of lycra-clad sports fanatics, but are just as likely to be chosen as a family holiday or by more mature couples.
Cycle touring lets you enjoy the journey – what could be more exhilarating than pedalling through stunning scenery, whether you’re free wheeling down mountain passes or visiting picturesque villages?
We are fortunate that in the UK there are some beautiful, and accessible, areas to explore.
As a nation, we are becoming increasingly bike friendly with some fantastic cycle tracks enabling you to keep off busy roads and safely enjoy the delights of coast and countryside routes.
Whether you want to take on the challenges of the Highlands or the Lake District, or prefer something less strenuous like cycling in the New Forest, Norfolk or on the Isle of Wight, there’s plenty to choose from.
There’s a plethora of specialist tour operators offering all-inclusive cycling holidays in Britain and overseas.
As well as the ever popular destinations of France, Germany, Italy and Spain, there are now more exotic options around the world including Puerto Rica, Vietnam and Chile.
If you’re looking for a break from the British winter, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura with their moderate climates and smooth road surfaces, are a great choice.
Majorca is also a particularly (although challenging) destination for serious cyclists with many triathletes choosing it as a training base.
These specialist travel companies will take care of everything from providing bikes, accommodation and food, to cycle routes, luggage transfer and often a guide.
Guided cycling holidays are great for people travelling alone who want the social element and security of being part of a group.
There are also lots of options to help make cycling holidays family-friendly such as tandems and tagalong bikes.
Most older children will relish the challenge of cycling longer distances on their own bikes, just make sure that you choose a relatively flat destination.
For older or less fit people who struggle on the hills, you can always hire an electric bike which offers all the fun of a conventional bike, but gives the reassurance of a bit of extra power should you need it.
Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist seeking adventure or a fair-weather rider wanting a more sedate experience, here are some things to consider:
Do you want to join an organised group or do a self-guided tour where you navigate yourself but your luggage is transferred and you stay in pre-booked accommodation?
Alternatively, you might prefer the flexibility of choosing your own routes and finding places to stay as you travel.
Do you want the freedom of travelling solo or would you prefer to cycle with friends or as part of a group?
If you’re a keen cyclist planning to cover long distances, you may want to look into taking your own bike with you rather than hiring one.
You might also opt for the added flexibility of carrying your own kit in bike panniers
Make sure you take good cycling kit with you (padded cycle shorts; lightweight layers; compact waterproof jacket, cycle gloves and good quality cycling sunglasses are all a must); it’s also worth checking whether the bikes are fitted with clip-in pedals and ensuring that your cleats are compatible; also double-check that bike helmets are provided.
Do be realistic about your fitness and experience and make sure that you choose an appropriate trip both in terms of distance and type of terrain.
It is meant to be a holiday, so make sure that you don’t push yourself too hard.