Bike Vacations – Beginner’s Guide for Success

Imagine a vacation that offers all of this: leisurely rides off the beaten path, stirring vistas, low impact workouts, guilt-free dining, new friends, and an affordable price tag.. If you’re tired of the usual drive, eat, hotel, tourist-trap vacation; a biking vacation is worth checking out. And the best part is that you can be a Sunday bike rider and still have plenty of fun.

Recently I took my first-ever bike vacation. Here’s what I learned.

Vacation Packages Most every vacation package includes pre-arranged, overnight stays at hotels and B&B’s, full or continental breakfasts; and luggage transfer – generally on local buses, taxis or support van. Each day you are expected to ride between 30 to 50 miles to your next overnight accommodation. Most packages are either five day or seven days in total length, but you won’t be riding everyday. Actual riding days for a five day vacation will be three days, and for the seven day vacation you can expect to ride five days. Non-ride days provide an opportunity to relax and take in the sights.

Supported versus Unsupported You can choose between supported which means you have a driver and van following you or unsupported where you are on your own. While unsupported can be cheaper, I’d recommend the supported option for the beginner. If the weather turns frightful or you get fatigued, it’s nice to have a lift nearby. I had the cell phone number for our van driver, so I knew help was just a phone call away. Also, on my trip a couple of riders collided with one other and needed medical attention, another plus for the supported option. Often the driver will serve as your guide and can direct you toward choice local restaurants and activities.

Daily Ride Length As a beginner, I’d recommend the shorter 30 to 35 miles a day option. This translates into four hours of moderate to slow riding. You can enjoy a full breakfast, ride for two hours, have a light lunch and arrive at your destination by three in the afternoon. You’ll have plenty of time to stop along the way and enjoy the sights.

Dress and Climate Spend some time preparing for the climate and weather. If you’re going to a cool, wet climate invest in rain gear and bring lots of layers. For warmer climates, think clothes you can sweat in and stay comfortable – loose, breathable fabrics.. Sun screen is a must no matter where you go. Your bike will typically be outfitted with saddle bags or panniers. You can use these for extra clothes you may need during your ride – don’t skimp here – the weather can change quickly and you’ll want extra clothes close at hand. In wetter climates, stuff your clothes into large plastic bags to keep them dry; your panniers may not be waterproof.

Terrain and Riding Surface For the beginner, long flat runs and gently rolling hills will be your best choice. Avoid mountainous venues and dirt roads for your first trip. Likewise; try to avoid busy city streets, the traffic can be worse than a steep mountain climb.

Training Here’s the best part. You can enjoy a bike vacation with surprisingly little training. Most of the others on my tour had never biked more than a few miles at any one time. One person only trained on a gym bike, and while I wouldn’t recommend this strategy, she made it just fine. Optimally, I’d recommend riding five miles on streets at least a couple of times a week. Try to start your training a month in advance of your trip.

Cushion Bring your own padded, bike seat cushion and wear padded bike shorts. These will make a huge difference in your comfort, especially if you haven’t spent much time in the saddle.

Don’t be afraid to try a bike vacation. Imagine cruising along a quiet county lane, unhurried and all under your own power. And for an added bonus, it’s green!

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