I have the cycle touring travel bug! And I’ve got it bad. I didn’t think I would get bitten quite so badly; I’m a road cyclist really; it’s always been my true cycling love – getting out on the open road, challenging myself and feeling some improvement in my fitness levels and abilities. But since my return from Catalunya, I’ve spent some part of nearly every day researching my next cycle touring travel destination, dreaming of cycling in places I’ve never cycled before, surrounded by mountains, seas, vineyards…
Cycle touring can be extreme – some people love it so much they travel across continents – or it can simply be a weekend in the UK or a few weeks holiday in Europe. Exploring your favourite countries by bike adds a whole different dimension to your travel adventures and your cycling experience. Cycle touring is far less competitive than road cycling. There are no strava segments to worry about, no assigned ride speeds, no competitive feelings about who is riding the best bike with the best components, or wearing the best kit. Cycle touring is purely about exploring the country you’re in and enjoying your time on the bike. I like that concept. I like it a lot.
So, how come I have the cycle touring travel bug? What is there to love about cycle touring?
1. You can explore paths you can’t drive to by car; admire vistas that in a car you just wouldn’t get to see. It’s exciting and magical and there’s often just you and your bike and miles and miles of beautiful scenery.
2. Riding a bike is good for your body, your mind and your soul. Cyclists know this already, right? But add in cycle touring and well, you add in some purpose-built relaxation and de-stressing too. And anyone can do it. You don’t have to be amazingly fit. Go at your own pace.
3. Food tastes so much better after a day in the saddle. Cycling typically burns around 650 calories an hour, so you can really tuck in and enjoy it. And you can wash it down by sampling local alcohol too!
4. There’s a huge sense of achievement at the end of the day. You’ve seen some amazing places, cycled paths you’ve never cycled before and no doubt met some wonderful people along the way. You’re tired, but in a very good way.
5. You can go at your own pace and set your own route. You can stop and take pictures whenever you want, stop to eat food, drink coffee or have a beer. You decide. It’s your ride, your adventure. Do it your way.
6. Packing is minimal, which is quite liberating. You pack the essentials, plain and simple (but make sure you include padded shorts in those essentials).
7. There are no fuel costs. That’s a big bonus as it means more money to try the local food and drink!
8. Cycle touring provides the ultimate quiet time with your own thoughts. The sun’s on your back, there’s a new country’s landscape to admire. Your own thoughts all accompanied with the natural wonders of the world and some newly formed, life-long memories.
9. You can do it your way. When you mention cycle touring, people often think it means staying in a tent. It doesn’t. You can stop off in luxurious five star hotels with swimming pools and gourmet menus or visit local cycle friendly hostels en route, or anything else in between. You can camp if that’s your thing. But if it’s not, you can make it as luxurious as you want. The point is, the choice is yours and there’s something for every pocket. You can tailor-make your cycle touring adventure to make it exactly how you want it.
10. There are lots of companies out there who will happily help you arrange every last detail. If you’re new to cycle touring, and don’t want to have to worry about organising it all independently, you don’t have to! Many travel companies specialise in cycle touring. They love travel on two wheels and they want to make sure you love it too.
I’ve done a lot of research these last few weeks and I’ve been rounding up my cycle touring bucket list, so watch this space for the top places I would love to tour on a bike!
What do you love most about riding your bike in new places?