Are you a bike tour newbie? Don’t worry! We’ll help get you started and point you in the right direction to make sure your first trip is definitely not your last.
Great tours for beginners
- Vienna to Budapest (Service Plus) (Austria and Hungary)
Why? The Danube Bicycle Path offers a relatively flat path, passing through picturesque towns and villages and across lush farmland. The route is well-marked and the tour is available as guided or self-guided. Learn more!
- Neckar and Rhine by Bike and Boat (Germany)
Why? No noteworthy climbs and short stages make this an excellent tour for beginners. It’s all about leisurely cycling, beautiful cathedrals, local wine, and quaint villages. Learn more!
- Burgundy Wine Trails (France)
Why? Burgundy is a fabulous region for a cycling tour: quiet roads, nice accommodations, many vineyards and estates to sample wine, and great cuisine. The route from Charnay Le Macon to Givry is on a dedicated bike path with an easy, flat, paved surface. Then from Givry to Beaune the route is on the small countryside roads that are fairly flat. Learn more!
- Connemara Lazy Days Cycling (Ireland)
Why? This tour is specifically designed for travelers who wish to cycle shorter distances and spend relaxing lazy days along the way to explore the various cultural and natural attractions of the wonderful Connemara, the western wonderland of Europe, where rugged mountains soar above wild Atlantic beaches. Daily cycling averages 16-22 miles/25-35 km on low traffic back-roads across rolling countryside. Learn more!
- Dolomites to Venice Along the Old Dolomites Railway Track (Italy)
Why? This tour features the beautiful and towering Dolomites in a way that’s easy for new cyclists or travelers as you follow the old Dolomites railway track. The tour encounters slight ascents and descents on quiet side roads through idyllic landscape and typical Italian villages until reaching the plains on the last day. Learn more!
Still nervous about your first bicycle tour?
Here are some valuable tips on choosing, planning, and going on your first bike tour.
- Decide between guided and self-guided bike tours.
Guided and self-guided tours offer somewhat different experiences, and each has unique advantages. For example, on guided tours, riders tend to stick together as a group with the guide. If you’re a more independent cyclist who prefers to ride at your own pace, a self-guided bike tour may be a better option. If getting lost is a real concern, or if you worry about language barriers, a guided tour may be better.
- Don’t overestimate your ability level.
You can’t assume that a good fitness level will give you a comfortable cycling experience. Many strong athletes who do a lot of running, swimming, or weight training make the mistake that they’ll do fine on a bicycle tour. Cycling uses a lot of different muscles than other sports, and even strong, in-shape athletes find their weariness comes sooner than expected. More on rider level.
- Spend some quality time in the saddle.
Regardless of your athletic or cycling ability, you need to put some time in the saddle. Try to ride at least four days a week, some of them one after the other, and try to reach at least 60 percent of the distance your tour will cover. Ideally, start 6–8 weeks before your tour, earlier if you can. Your sit-bones will thank you.
- Be realistic in the distance you wish to cover each day.
Remember that 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. Also, you’re at a much slower pace on a bike tour. You’ll find yourself getting on and off your bike to take pictures, visit that amazing castle, or stop for a pastry. In more than 10 years of business, we’ve never heard anyone say that the daily riding distance was too short.
- Consider a tour on a dedicated bike path.
Many tours follow dedicated bicycle paths that are paved, free from traffic, and well-marked. While dedicated bike paths are most prevalent in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, other countries in Europe and elsewhere are following suit. This is especially helpful if you are worried about getting lost. More on tours along dedicated bike paths.
- Consider an electric bicycle.
Some purists may scoff, but electric bikes are making cycle touring possible for travelers who never thought they could tour on two wheels. This is not just a question of fitness level; we recommend older riders and anyone recovering from knee surgery to consider an e-bike. Electric bikes are also great “equalizers,” when two riders are of differing abilities. “E-bikes” are quite prevalent in Europe, and newer models don’t make it obvious that you’re getting an added “push.” Note that these are not mopeds. You still have to pedal—just not as hard. More on e-bikes.
- Book a tour in the off-season.
When you ride just before or after high season, the prices are often lower and crowds are smaller, and you still get all the pluses of a high-season experience.
- Pay attention to climate and weather.
Look up average weather conditions and rainfall in the area you’d like to tour. Some like it hot, some like it cold. And most like it dry!
- Pack smart.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. Dress for the weather you’re likely to encounter. If it’s likely to be cold, wear layers and remove clothing as the day progresses and temperatures climb. Be prepared for the chance of rain. Carry good rain gear to cover your shoes, legs, and torso. More packing tips.
- Bring your own helmet—and wear it.
We encourage clients to bring their own for reasons of hygiene and safety (and many tour operators do not offer them). When you bring your own helmet, you know it fits and hasn’t been damaged. And no matter how safe the cycling seems, protect your noggin and wear a helmet!