By Stephen Hartshorne
“Everyone knows that bicycle tours are one of the best ways to experience Europe, but there are many different kinds of bicycle tours, and many different ways to book them.
“You can generally save money and find greater flexibility by booking a tour with a European company because their volume is so much greater. Europeans average about a month of vacation every year, and consequently they do a lot more traveling, and especially a lot more bicycling.
“Because they have so much more volume, European tour companies can charge as much as 70 percent less than tours booked with American tour companies, and they can offer a wider selection of tours and departure dates.
“One way of finding the right bicycle tour with a European is to go through Bike Tours Direct, which represents more than 40 European bike tour companies in 30 countries to offer nearly 200 different tours. President Jim Johnson says he started the company after taking several bicycle tours himself.” Full story >
By David Lamb
Philadelphia Inquirer, July 31, 2011
“That’s the beauty of a bicycle. Unlike a tennis racket or a pair of skis, it rises to meet you at your level of ability. It accommodates the overweight and the underweight, jocks and non-jocks, the weak and the strong. Some people I’ve asked to join the team are intimidated by the thought of biking a hundred-plus miles in a week. But anyone who can walk four or five miles can comfortably knock off the 25 or so miles a day we pedal on our trips.”
“If I’ve piqued your interest in gathering friends or family to take one of the hundreds of bicycle tours offered throughout Europe, this might be a good place to share some of the lessons I’ve learned.”
“The choice of tours can be bewildering. How about Innsbruck, Austria, to Munich, Germany? Or the Nile by bike and boat? The Loire Valley? Vienna, Austria, to Budapest, Hungary? Or Iceland’s fire-and-ice tour? The first few years I sifted through all of them and exchanged scores of e-mails with the tour operators. Now I’m smarter. I found an online company in Tennessee, BikeToursDirect.com, that acts as a U.S. broker for 30 foreign bike-tour companies. The founder, Jim Johnson, an avid cyclist, does the heavy lifting and customizing by acting as a middleman between me and the operator. Regardless whom you book with, start your search with Johnson’s easy-to-navigate website.” Full story >
By Ann Abeles
International Travel News, April 2007
“Some friends suggested the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca (Majorca) for a bicycle tour, and in a Web search BikeToursDirect (1638 Berkley Circle, Chattanooga, TN 37405; 877/462-2423, www.biketours.com) had what looked like the perfect option: a 7-night, self-guided tour, about 30 miles per day on a bicycle, for $718 per person (land only).
“[At tour’s end], we felt that this had been a wonderful and well-planned bicycle adventure.” Full story >
By Melissa Adams
“With its small bit of remarkably flat, below sea level terrain, Holland seems to have been put on the planet to be a bike-friendly country.
“Indeed, by some estimates, there are now more than 18 million bicycles swarming around the Netherlands, a tiny nation of 17 million people. To join their ranks for a week, book an up-close-and-personal look at the serene countryside around Amsterdam on a bike-barge tour.
“Given the lush scenery and horizontal layout of the Netherlands, most of the tours offered by local tour companies are not designed for mileage junkies, hill climbing fanatics or speed demons.
“Indeed, if you’re an even somewhat in-shape parent or senior interested in vacationing with a child or grandchild age eight or older, touring Holland by bike could be a perfect, stress-free adventure without the hassle of packing and unpacking between destinations. On my Southern Tour Relax tour, led by intrepid Dutch marine biologist-turned-tour guide, Piet, we stopped at such enclaves of Dutch culture as Schoonhoven, where silversmiths still practice their time-honored craft; St. John’s Church, where the ‘Gouda Windows’ recount biblical and Dutch history in stained glass; and De Delftse Pauw, Delft’s center of Chinese-inspired blue ceramics.
“Nature lovers appreciated our visit to Holland’s seaside resort near Scheveningen, bordered by rolling sand dunes.
“Yet no listing of attractions in southwestern Holland can come close to capturing the real appeal of my tour’s unhurried course through landscapes of carefully plotted-out fields and meadows laced with dykes, waterways, and colorful flora and fauna.
“With routes averaging 24 miles/day, the ‘Southern Tour Relax’ could be traversed in two or three days by cyclists who simply want to get from Point A to Point B. But that is clearly not the point of what is designed as a sightseeing junket on two wheels, not an endurance race.
“If you’re fortunate enough to have Guerdi, a no-nonsense Dutch chef known to spend all day in a ship’s kitchen preparing such exotic culinary imports as rijstaffel (literally, rice table), comprised of rice surrounded by well seasoned side dishes, you can be sure you’ll be well fed on your trip.
“The ‘Southern Tour Relax’ is offered by Cycletours Holland, an Amsterdam-based firm specializing in bike-boat holidays since 1989. They are represented in North America by BikeToursDirect, a one-stop resource for European bike tours.
“The Tennessee-based company doesn’t organize its own tours but represents more than 40 Europe-based bike tour companies with 200 excursions throughout Europe.
“In general, European companies charge less than their American counterparts. Clients book tours through BikeToursDirect, usually at the same prices the tour operators charge, and the company handles the full booking and payment process while offering extensive planning assistance.” Full story >
By Ann Abeles
International Travel News, September 2010
“My husband, Fred, and I took a guided, two-week bicycle tour covering parts of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, July 21-Aug. 4, 2009.
“The ‘Baltic Explorer’ cost €1,199, then about $1,700, per person (land) and included hotel accommodation for 14 nights; baggage transport; the use of 24-gear trekking bicycles; all breakfasts; dinners on about half of the days; train/bus tickets for the transfers; admission to many museums; two city tours, and road books with detailed daily routes.
“We booked the tour through Bike Tours Direct (Chattanooga, TN; 877/462-2423, www.biketours.com). This US company is the broker for many European bicycle tour companies and lists hundreds of tours. We have used them for several tours and found their offerings interesting and moderately priced.” Full story >
By Grace Lichtenstein
“Bike tour operators have long known that when friends, couples or inter-generational groups sign up for a commercial multi-day bike tours, some members have a higher fitness level or enthusiasm than others.
“Electric bikes are more or less the same as traditional bikes except that as a rider pedals, the battery automatically kicks in and boosts the power by up to 80%. The rider thus can cover almost twice the distance with half the effort.
“One option is to check with BikeToursDirect.com, which represents Europe-based tour operators and handles their bookings in the U.S. Finding which tours at BikeToursDirect have E bikes as an option takes only a few clicks. Full story >
By Arthur Frommer
The Star, June 11, 2011
Travel websites come and go—hundreds of new ones emerge each year—but 10 remain unchallenged, in my view, for their ability to save you large sums of money on nearly any vacation trip…Runner-up: BikeToursDirect.com” Full story >
By Sarah Schlichter
MSNBC.com, January 19, 2007
“For example, you can see Europe by bike with BikeToursDirect, which offers both guided and self-guided tours through 30 countries, including Italy, France, Austria and Portugal. You’ll cycle along scenic river banks, past vineyards and through medieval towns, combining all-day exercise with a more intimate look at the European countryside than you could ever get from the seat of a motorcoach.” Full story >
By Gerald Hasser
Napa News, November 8, 2010
“We had already been considering bicycle touring along the Danube River before the kids broke the news. Things started looking good for a longer overall trip focused on the new guy, and a weeklong trip on bikes along the river to Vienna. We used biketoursdirect.com for the Danube River trip. Offering a variety of trips, they work with tour operators around Europe. We selected a self-guided tour, meaning it is not necessary to ride and eat and stay with a group and guide. They do provide hotel arrangements, breakfast, luggage shuttle each day, bikes and maps.” Full story >
European Bike Tour Companies Offer Budget Bicycling at its Best:
Stronger Dollar Translates to Lower Prices
Etravelblackboard.com, February 22, 2010
“It’s budget bicycle touring at its best, as a stronger dollar and already low prices translate to excellent values for Americans booking trips with European bicycle tour operators with many one-week programs less than $1,000. Europe-based companies have long offered tours priced as much as 60 to 70 percent lower than those of companies based in North America, according to Jim Johnson, president of Tennessee-based BikeToursDirect, which represents more than 40 Europe-based bike tour companies.” Full story >
By David Lamb
Washington Post, September 20, 2009
“It is worth noting that there are no Lance Armstrongs in our group. Most of us are in our 60s. Some are collecting Social Security checks. There’s usually a rider or two with a recently replaced hip or knee. A few haven’t ridden a bike since our last trip a year ago. We dawdle in cafes and pubs and stop often to smell the roses. At the end of the day, it’s the experience, not the speed or the miles, that matters.
“Of course, the essential ingredient to putting together a biking vacation is to find the right tour. There is a bewildering array available, from Armenia to Vietnam. One Web site that is particularly helpful (http://www.biketours.com) lists more than 200 foreign tours and offers detailed itineraries and must-know information for each one.” Full story >
By Colleen Friesen
Adventure Cyclist, May 2011
“What I discovered is that if you want to go to Europe to rack up the miles, push yourself to the limit, and drink nothing but water, you should pick a different trip. If, however, you think you’ve done enough of those miles-for-the-sake-of-miles trips, maybe you’re ready for something a little mellower. That is exactly what this trip turned out to be. No, that’s wrong. Mellow isn’t quite the word. Let’s say intensely laid back but with whatever the equivalent Hungarian expression of joie de vivre might be. This is a trip that lives large, with gusto.” Full story >
Travel and Tourism News
“The ongoing expansion of France’s ‘Loire à Vélo’ – ‘Loire by Bike’ – bicycle route is turning the Loire River Valley into one of Europe’s top destinations for leisure bicycle touring. By this summer, the well-marked “Loire à Vélo” route will cover more than 250 miles — from Orléans, south of Paris, to the Atlantic — passing along the Loire River through the heart of chateaux and vineyard country. The mostly flat, paved route, much of it on dedicated bike paths, is an excellent choice for leisure and first-time bicycle tourists and families and is part of nine Loire Valley programs offered through BikeToursDirect.” Full story >
By Colleen Friesen
Travelwriterstales.com, September 22, 2010
“There are no crack-of-dawn starts when you’re travelling with Hungary’s Vinociped’s nine-day wine and bike tour. The name says it all – cycling comes second.”
“Back in the dazzle of the day, we gather around the outdoor oven as the lid comes off the huge trough-like roasting dish. It reveals whacks of wild pig, gargantuan ham hocks, potatoes, red peppers, carrots, onions and peas basting and mingling to create a savoury blend of pork fat heaven. With greasy chins and rounded bellies, some of us step around the old dog snoozing between the tables. Blankets are handed out. I can’t quite believe it – a bike trip with a nap time.”
“The breeze rustles through the apple leaves. The air is a bouquet. There is the suggestion of apple, a hint of porky smoke, a redolent bottom note of earth – like a wine the gods would make of their finest August day.” Full story >