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Travel & Holiday

Bike trips and tours

Sometimes, two wheels are all it takes for you to go on an exploratory respite
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - November 25, 2009
By: Sheila Lim
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Bike trips and tours

Two wheels, new vistas and fresh experiences waiting round the bend… What more exciting way is there to see the world than hitting the road on a bike?

There are a lot of things that you don’t get to see and experience when you travel in a coach, train or car. If you wish to get a real taste of adventure, truly savour the local culture or take things slow and easy on your holiday, hop onto a bicycle. Many bike trips and tours take you along back roads and through small towns, allowing you to get up close and personal with the charms of local life.

What’s also good about cycling is that it is the purest form of low-carbon travel. It’s not only better for the environment but for your body as well – some even relish the opportunities to test their physical limits by going on cycling expeditions.

RARING TO SET THE WHEELS IN MOTION?
Check out our tips on planning and preparing for a trip of a lifetime – solo, with a loved one or as a group:

Should I go for a bike tour?
As long as you are reasonably fit and adventurous enough, there’s no reason why you can’t embark on a bike tour. Those with very little biking experience needn’t worry as many different types of bike trips and tours are available to suit people with different levels of riding experience. These range from leisurely rides through the French countryside to bone-rattling adventure trips in the Rockies.

But if you are out of shape and not willing to train beforehand, a bike tour is not for you. You may get exhausted or injured during the course of your trip if you are not ready for it. And if you aren’t prepared to suffer bouts of discomfort like heat exposure, muscle aches and inclement weather, it’s best to stick to more conventional modes of touring.

Where and when
Start planning your bike tour by determining your preferred time and destination. Factors to consider are the weather, language, ease of cycling (types of terrain) and attractiveness of the landscape. The best period to go on a bike tour is from October through April in countries located in the southern hemisphere, and from May through October in countries in the northern hemisphere.

How do I find a suitable bike tour?
Unless you are a highly experienced cyclist and very familiar with your planned route, it would be wiser to join a tour company that will plan your route, supply you with a bike and transfer your luggage from one hotel to the next. Guided tours usually include a tour leader and the services of a support van, which follows cyclists along the route to assist them whenever they are in need of help or a lift.

Most bike tour operators categorise their trips as easy, moderate or difficult, and offer different levels of luxury – some independent bikers may choose to put up in camping grounds and eat picnic fare from local markets, while those joining organised tours may enjoy the comfort of four-star hotels and more formal meals.

There are also self-guided options for more experienced cyclists who know their own limits, prefer to set their own pace, want a little more independence and enjoy the conveniences that a tour agent can provide, such as detailed route maps, hotel accommodations and luggage transfers.

To pick out a tour, consider the itinerary, costs and the type of accommodation (ranging from camping grounds to luxury inns). A good tour agent should be able to help you determine the level of difficulty or pace at which you can travel, the distances that you are comfortable with and the suitability of the tour/s under consideration.

Here are a few bike tour operators and resource websites you could check out:
Euro-Bike Tours: Guided tours in Europe and New Zealand. VBT: Guided tours in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Vietnam, New Zealand, South Africa and Costa Rica. Cyclomundo: Guided and self-guided tours in Europe. BicyclingWorld.com: Clearinghouse for more than 1,000 guided and self-guided tours from 75 suppliers, including options for families, women and seniors. BikeToursDirect: Clearinghouse for guided and self-guided tours throughout Europe. Butterfield & Robinson: Guided tours in Europe, Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Oceania. DuVine Adventures: Guided tours in Europe, California, South America and New Zealand. Backroads: Guided tours in Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin and North America.

What should I do to prepare for my trip?
It would be good to train up before your trip; and try to replicate the conditions of your trip as closely as possible while training. For instance, cycle the same distance you’ll be covering each day and carry the same amount of gear you'll be bringing with you on the journey.

What else should I bring?
Clothing suited for biking in all kinds of weather, formal clothing (if you are planning on going for social outings in the evenings), energy bars or other snacks, a water bottle and detailed route maps (whether supplied by your tour operator or self-obtained) are essential items. Check with your tour operator what the package includes, and if you need to bring along items like a helmet and camping gear.

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