Bicycle touring is great for taking in the scenery and sights while on vacation. But as with any trip, there are a number of things you need to plan before departure. Here is what you need to know before you embark on a trip to Europe by bike.
Traveling in Europe by bike
When my friends had the idea of planning a cycling trip to the Catalan coast in Spain last spring, my first reaction was to meet them in Barcelona for the Tapas Tour which was the last leg of the trip. I may be in good shape, but in fact, I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since high school.
But the fear of missing out on an exceptional opportunity (not to mention Dali and sparkling cava, two things that northeast Spain is famous for) got the better of me and it wasn’t long before I hang a bicycle helmet on my backpack. Here are the 10 big lessons I learned from my cycling adventure in Europe.
Once you’ve gotten on your bike… you have to keep going
1. There’s a reason they say riding a bike is never forgotten
When I confessed to my friend Amy a few weeks before we left that I hadn’t ridden in ages, she could not hide his nervousness. Until the very last moment, she kept texting me begging me to get on a bike, even if only for five minutes, which I ignored. And by the time we picked up our gear on the first evening in Spain, his face betrayed genuine anguish as I swayed on my bike on the steep climb to the hotel, testing my cycling legs ( an admission: I was quite stressed myself).
However, it’s been scientifically proven that our bodies never forget how to ride a bike , and I’ve proven it live. Long before we arrived at our first medieval village, a leisurely 13 kilometer ride, it became clear that our fears were unfounded.
Cycling from the top of a mountain for a spectacular view
2. There’s no shame in walking uphill
Our Exodus trip was advertised as a level one package, requiring no cycling experience . Which doesn’t mean it was always easy. If Catalonia has large flat rice fields, the roads near the sea or those leading to some medieval villages are rather steep. While encouraging each other on each climb, we passed no judgment if one of us (and oh surprise, it wasn’t always me) jumped off her bike to continue on foot.
Plan your route before taking your bike
3. It’s still important to check your route before you go
That said, you can avoid facing unexpected climbs by checking your route on an altimeter map. Our animators in Spain had familiarized themselves with the Exodus itinerary in Tuscany which was level three. According to them, the hilly landscape of the region had made the course more demanding than expected for many travelers.
Traveling by bike without a guide
4. You don’t have to follow the guide
Self-guided trips, like the one I took, are halfway between a planned group trip where everything is logistically taken care of and the flexibility of a trip. independent. Exodus took care of all the arrangements: reservations (one of our hotels was a restored 14th century castle ) , luggage transport, bicycles and detailed road maps. However, we rode and traveled unescorted.
Favorite breaks during your bike rides
5. You’ll still have time to explore on foot (but check your route !) A bike trip doesn’t mean you spend all your time on a bike. Our itinerary consisted of alternating days of travel that took us to a new village or hotel, and optional routes offered for the next day. When one of those ‘days off’ came while we were very close to one of the nicest beaches in the area, we skipped the bike ride for a walk along the water’s edge before indulging in a feast of seafood for lunch. If you like having time to make your own discoveries, look for an itinerary that has this flexibility.
Traveling and eating: a delicious adventure
6. You’ll appreciate the local cuisine even better
From the seafood feast I just mentioned to the tapas and molecular gastronomy of Michelin-starred restaurants , it’s safe to say that we eat well in Catalonia. Our constant sporting activity whetted our appetites and we took advantage of it.
A journey that will further stimulate your senses
7. In fact, you will enjoy your journey even more Driving
along the country roads and crossing the cultivated fields of the famous rice of Pals, we felt the warm earth, the smell of wild flowers and the caress of the breeze on our faces. Traveling by coach or car can limit your perceptions of a destination, but by bike, you enjoy the places with all your senses.
Friendship tested by the challenges of travel
8. Bike trips can test your friendships – or strengthen them
They say you learn a lot about people by traveling with them. We learn even more when this trip is done by bike. In our case, things got tougher when it came to orientation. I relied on my GPS maps, while my friend Sarah preferred to stick to the detailed notes we were given. Let’s just say that she and I didn’t always agree. But never mind the roadside spats, we were already joking about it all while watching the sunset, a glass of cava in hand.
For rest and a sense of accomplishment
9. You’ll come back rested with the feeling of having accomplished something
For me, holidays are all one or the other: either I come back voluptuously rested after having done absolutely nothing at the beach, or I visit all the attractions I have identified on my list only to come back more tired than when I left. But a big breath of fresh air and five hours of cycling a day are an almost infallible formula for guaranteeing good sleep (we were literally falling from fatigue at 10 p.m.), so I came back very rested and felt like I had accomplished a feat.
Cycling: a new way of traveling
10. This could be the start of a whole new way of traveling
I’m an active woman, but my bike trip was a big first because of the physical fitness that came with my journey. Before, when I trained while traveling, it was usually in the hotel gym. But with everything I learned in Spain, I decided to set aside more time for forest hiking, river kayaking and other outdoor activities during my travels. I even did a horseback riding and biking tour on a recent trip to California. I can therefore affirm from the bottom of my heart that I will not wait another twenty years before going back to cycling.