Pros and cons: How we're different
Rather than operate our own tours, BikeToursDirect represents local bicycle tour companies around the world. (More about us.) We'd like to highlight some differences between booking through us and touring with local companies compared with booking and riding with some of the larger North America-based operators.
By traveling with a local bike tour company, you benefit in several ways.
The prices we offer are generally quite low relative to most North America-based tour operators—in some cases as much as 70% less. In fact, they’re almost always the same price you’d see on the local company’s website! Based locally and with a large regional clientele, their volume is high and costs are low—which means you pay less, often staying in the same hotels as more expensive tours.
More tours, more choices
We currently represent more than 50 tour companies on 5 continents – giving you one of the most extensive listings of overseas bicycle tours. We're also rapidly expanding and continue to add tours.
Some local bike tour companies run many of their guided tours weekly (or even daily). Many self-guided tours can start on any day, given a minimum of two participants. BikeToursDirect also includes many tours not found on other websites—for example, tours offered by regional and local tourist offices small tour operators and hotels.
Guided and self-guided options
In most cases, you can choose between guided bike tour and self-guided bike tour options. Self-guided doesn’t mean you’re entirely on your own. Self-guided cycle tours usually include daily luggage transfer, maps and information materials, and on-call support. Self-guided bicycle tours can also mean substantial savings: A bike tour that might cost $1,000 guided might cost only $650 self-guided.
Going with a U.S.-based company usually means that the entire tour group is American. Traveling in a cultural "bubble" might feel familiar, but it doesn’t encourage as much exploration and interaction with new people and situations.
If you choose to travel on a guided tour with a local-based bike tour company, you’ll generally find an international clientele, giving you a chance to experience multiple cultures. It can be a lot of fun to make new friends and learn about their home countries while eating or taking a rest stop.
Routes designed by local experts
Most tours listed on this site are designed by local experts who live in the countries you'll visit or by companies with extensive operations in those countries. They know where to take you off the beaten path to find the best sights and scenery (and gelato).
Many of the bicycle tour companies we represent have only recently started to target English-speaking markets (in many cases, thanks to BikeToursDirect!). That can mean some potential issues for consideration.
On many overseas bicycle tours, there's not as much material in English as in the language of the tour company's primary market. We encourage you to do as much research in advance as possible. On self-guided bike tours, you'll have maps and cue sheets in English, but the translations can sometimes be confusing (and sometimes amusing). This is less an issue now than even a few years ago, as increasing numbers of English-speaking clients take the tours.
On guided bicycle tours, it's possible that your party could be the only English-speakers in the group. While the guides will provide information in English as well, it may be a significantly abbreviated version. However, sometimes when participants speak several different languages, the guide will use English—one language that almost everybody knows—or give bilingual explanations with English as at least a secondary language.
English also may not be the dominant language for social settings, like around the dinner table. (But often other guests will want to practice their English and want to engage you in conversation.) This can be an exciting diversion for some travelers but can make others uncomfortable.
Almost all guided bike tours (and some self-guided bike tours) are subject to a minimum number of participants. If the minimum isn't reached, the tour may be cancelled—a decision that is usually made just four weeks before the start of the tour (since local travelers tend to book closer to the departure date). If your bicycle tour is cancelled, we'll do our best to get you on a different tour or on a self-guided tour if available, or we'll refund your tour payment in full.
Rental bikes are generally quite good, but many do not come with water cages or odometers. However, at the other extreme, some bike tour companies now offer handlebar-mounted GPS. Please see the information related to each bicycle tour to learn about available bikes and equipment. Most companies do not rent helmets due to hygiene and safety/fit reasons. Please bring your own!
On self-guided bike tours, you are expected to fix your own flat tires. In the rare case of bicycle breakdowns, you may be asked to take public transportation or a taxi to the next town, where there may be a repair shop that can fix the problem (reimbursable by the tour company). Some companies have spare bikes at "depots" along the route. In other cases, the tour company will bring a replacement bike, but it may be at the end of the day or the next morning.
While we work hard to make the booking process as easy as possible, it usually takes two or three business days to get confirmation from the tour operators (but can sometimes take up to five to seven business days or longer). Most don’t have online booking systems, so we don’t know real-time availability and can’t get instant confirmations.
Life sometimes moves at a slower pace in other countries, which is one reason we love cycling there! But it also means that responses can take longer than we'd like.