Get a great cycling holiday at half the cost of a packaged one
There are two kinds of ‘independent’ cycling holiday:
(1) cycling independently with an itinerary and support from a tour operator who provides route maps, accommodations and luggage transfers.
(2) a wholly independent DIY cycling trip, organising all the above yourself; either a multi-day A-B journey or some day rides from a single base, with as much or as little cycling as you like.
The second option is what this page is about.
Advantages of DIY cycling breaks
Your whole trip is tailor-made to your own requirements and preferences, you learn a lot before you go, you don’t have to follow anyone else’s schedules, and you can be flexible – free to do as you please every day. It’s especially good for people who enjoy less visited areas and routes off the tourist track. And the cost? Often half the price of an off-the-peg holiday.
Planning a DIY cycling holiday
Planning and anticipating your own cycling adventure can be a big part of the enjoyment and satisfaction. Here’s how:
1. Choose a country and/or region: the best cycling destination for your interests, abilities and the time of year. See below for some inspiration.
2. Long-distance A-B routes may sound good, but for easier planning, maximum freedom and flexibility and no need for a luggage transfer service, we usually choose single-centre-based cycling. Look for a bike-friendly place in a beautiful region that’s neither too hilly (Mountains are great – in the distance!) nor boringly flat, with good circular day-rides, and some interest for non-cycling days.
How to find the best places for your cycling break? Suggestions below.
3. Depending on your choice of destination, book the following:
– flights, trains or other if not travelling by car;
– accommodation in a suitable area, maybe with free bikes included
– car hire if needed (+ separate excess cover to avoid rip-off prices)
– travel insurance if you don’t have annual cover
– airport parking if needed
– transfer to accommodation if pre-booking advisable
– bike rental if needed (Research the options, and maybe book ahead, especially in high season).
Usually you can have hired bike(s) delivered for the whole period, so you can ride from your accommodation each day. An alternative, especially if you want some non-riding days, is to rent by the day. This also means you can start rides from different rental places in the region on different days.
4. Research and/or Plan a few circular cycle routes on quiet roads, cycle paths and tracks, using good maps and/or a route planner app. Then save the .gpx files to an app on your smartphone or GPS. A good app (e.g. the Ordnance Survey app in the UK or Komoot for worldwide use) can work like a sat nav even when off-road and offline, and this makes it easy to find your way and enjoy the ride. Click the blue link for info if you haven’t done this before.
You can print off paper maps, of course, but a GPS or phone app on your handlebars leaves you wonderfully hands-free, and it’ll pinpoint your location when you get lost.
The best places for cycling holidays and how to find them
The ‘best places’ are the ones that suit YOU best. Here are some ways to find inspiration:
• See where cycling holiday operators go. Browse the photos and info on sites like Headwater. Which places inspire you to arrange your own trip? Or find more off-the-beaten-track alternatives in the same region?
• Choose a country or region you like and look at the map, e.g. Google maps with ‘Terrain’ selected. Would it be a good place for cycling? You can check it out and do virtual rides using Google Street View (the little yellow man on Google maps).
• Do an image search on Google for areas of interest, e.g. Cycling Loire or Cycling Tuscany. Which images excite you most?
• Consider the time of year. Choose cooler climates for summer and warmer dryer ones at other times.