Whether you plan to chat with our tour advisors or look through our bike tours on your own, it often helps first to give some thought to these 12 questions. This will help you with your planning process--and to choose your dream tour.
1. What’s my intent?
Why are you taking a bicycle tour instead of driving or getting on a tour bus? Maybe it’s the slow pace, so you can get to know and feel the country, meet the people and have time to sightsee. Maybe cycling is the focus, where culture and history may be secondary to setting and scenery. Or maybe you’re looking for an opportunity to get in some training miles in a new country.
2. Do I have any special interests?
Before you select an overseas bike tour—or any kind of tour for that matter—take an inventory of the most important elements you want built into your experience. Do you have special interests like castles, medieval architecture, wine or regional cuisine? Where is that idyllic scene in your mind’s eye: a quiet stretch of seacoast, an alpine forest or a bustling market square?
3. How comfortable am I with cultural differences?
Do you want a “familiar” setting or a more exotic (and even challenging) one? Do you prefer countries where in English is widely spoken? Or are you excited by the challenge of translation dictionaries and hand gestures in the event you get lost or need to find the best gelato shop?
4. Where do I want to spend my nights?
We don’t mean that as a personal question! While nearly all bicycle tourists spend most of their riding time in quiet countryside, overnight locations vary. Some travelers enjoy the excitement of the city, while others crave the peaceful setting of a small village or even a rural farmhouse.
5. Do I prefer riding with a guide and a group or more on my own?
If you enjoy traveling with a group, meeting new people, and having a guide and structured schedule, a guided group tour may be the best fit for you. If you prefer to be independent and to choose your traveling companions and daily schedule, consider a self-guided individual tour where the tour operator still organizes all of the details for you, including hotels, luggage transfers and routes. Read more about the differences.
6. What’s my ability level?
7. How far do I want to ride each day?
Remember you are on vacation and there will be a lot to see along the way—and you’ll be riding for several days, usually back to back. So don’t use your weekly Sunday ride as a guide. We almost never hear feedback that daily distances were too short! Again, electric-assist bikes are perfect ways to make longer distances seem much shorter!
8. Do the people joining me have varying levels of cycling experience?
If ability levels, desired speed or endurance vary among members of your party, you may wish to focus on programs that offer multiple ride options, or maybe even days off with optional rides. Yet again, electric-assist bikes come to the rescue for travelers concerned about keeping up with others. If you’re traveling with children (or grandchildren), we have a broad selection of leisurely family-friendly tours with lower distances, low-traffic and kid-friendly, off-the-bike activities.
9. What kind of route surface, setting and terrain am I comfortable with?
Would you prefer a route that primarily follows paved bike paths? Are you comfortable with light to moderate road traffic? Will going “off-road” even on wide, packed-dirt trails make you nervous (or smile with glee)? Choosing the right terrain—flat, rolling, hilly, or mountainous—can also make or break your tour (or you).
10. Do I want to ride every day?
11. Am I worried about traffic?
European drivers tend to be more respectful of cyclists than do their counterparts elsewhere, but cars can still make the most experienced cyclist nervous. If you wish to avoid traffic as much as possible choose a tour on dedicated bike paths or on quiet back roads. This information is listed under “Program” on every tour page.
12. Am I worried that I can’t keep up or can’t make it?
You’ll probably surprise yourself! But to be sure, you may wish to consider a tour that offers electric-assist bicycles. “E-bikes” help put the joys of cycle touring within easier reach for people of varying fitness and experience levels. They provide power on demand to cyclists for a helping push to get up hills, to help keep up with faster friends, and to make longer distances feel achievable.