I’ve been on a wide range of cycling trips over the year and some of them have been better than others and I’ve learned a few things along the way. As I’m spending my hard earned cash and using up some of limited annual leave quota it’s important to me to get it right so that I have fun and don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time or money.
Here are some tips to help you choose a trip.
- Decide if this is a holiday, a challenge or a training camp. The differences between these things is very personal but for example on a holiday I’m usually more flexible about how much riding I do and might take time for some sight seeing. A trip that involves a challenge might be riding up a particular mountain (Up Mont Ventoux) to a specific destination (St Malo to Nice), or a training camp might involve more specific training sets rather than just a daily ride.
- What sort of terrain do you want to ride on? Are you looking for hills, mountains or something flat? How flat or hilly is trip compared to what you are used to and what you think you can manage.
- How fit are you now, and how fit will you be when the date of the trip comes round. Do you want to have train for your trip over a number of weeks and months, or to manage it with whatever fitness you have at the time?
- Do you want to ride in a group each day, or are you OK riding on your own. Will the group stick together and how will be managed if riders are of different abilities. At the start of my cycling career I wanted to ride in a group because I got bored and lonely on my own, so I planned my trips around that. However, 10 years on I’m much more confident, I’m fitter and faster and would sometimes rather ride at my own pace and meet other trip members at the café.
- For group trips, how fast is the group, how big is it, what are your group cycling skills like and what happens about keeping up and sticking with the group.
- Do you want a guide and a rider on the road with you, or are you happy to look after yourself and navigate with your own maps or GPS.
- Do you want to join a group with people you don’t know or go with a pre-made group of friends of people from your club.
- How much information is provided? Are there detailed routes and route guides, gpx files, trip notes, maps, specific cafes designated as lunch and coffee?
- Is there a fixed plan of distances per day, café stops and routes? Or is it more flexible and independent for you to make plans as you feel and to discover places as part of the adventure.
- How much support do you need? Do you need a vehicle back up support day to day to carry food and spares or help with maintenance and mechanical issues? Are you capable of simple things like fixing your own puncture? If there is a support vehicle where will they be and how often are you likely to see them?
- Are you looking for coaching or just to ride your bike? If so what are the qualifications and experience of the people running the trip or training camp?
- What will the weather and climate be like? How do you cope in the particular weather conditions and do you have enough kit to cope with particular weather conditions.
- Are you looking for a trip that stays in the same place or moves on each day riding from A to B? I get particularly excited about the adventure of riding A to B (e.g. Lands end to John O’Groats) but it can be exhausting packing your bags every morning and arriving at a different hotel every night. Staying in the same location can be more relaxing but can limit the riding terrain you can get to during your stay.
- What is the daily mileage? Is this what you’re looking for? It could be too easy or too challenging. How flexible is the daily schedule and does it include any site seeing, shorter trips or longer days.
My favourite trip recently has been cycling from St Malo to Nice over 14 days. This was with a small group of people we’d never met before and involved a wide range of terrain from the flattest days of cycling I’ve ever done, to riding up Mont Ventoux. It was superb fun and such an adventure to ride across the whole of France to finish by the sea and in the sun.
Get in touch to let us know what your favourite cycling trips have been, what you’ve got planned for next year or any recommendations for future trips.