What is Road Cycle Touring? In its purest form it is a multi day ride where the rider/riders are completely self-sufficient, taking everything they need on the bike. i.e. no support vehicle. Daily distances should be challenging, with the emphasis on enjoying the scenery and not on speed. It is without doubt the best way to travel. You see and experience so much more on a bike, whether it’s your own backyard or an exotic location overseas.
4-10 Day Tour Lets start with a tour in your own country, this is a great way to start, as while you might need to fly to your start point, at least you wont have to worry about passports, visas, vaccinations etc. These shorter tours are a great way to get the “taste” of touring, without being away for weeks or months, plus they wont break the bank.
Group Size While many people tour alone, I have done this and enjoyed it, I have personally found touring in a group a lot more fun. Having a few beers at night talking about the days ride, giving each other a bit of stick, is a great way to wind down after a long day in the saddle. There’s also the safety factor with a group. Mechanical problems can occur, and if you’re on your own in the middle of nowhere and your bike breaks, well…
I would recommend a minimum group size of 4, up to a maximum of 10. Any more than that and it can become a bit unmanageable. Group dynamics is important, so ages and fitness abilities should be similar, especially in larger groups, so that no-one gets left behind, or feels they are holding up the group.
You really want a tour leader, preferable the person who has planned the route and the accommodation, who will have all the contact details of where you’re staying, and who is hopefully well acquainted with the route. What you don’t want is no-one knowing which way to go, and arguments happening. A well organised, and well led tour is a happy tour.
Accommodation This is an adventure, so I would recommend staying in cheaper accommodation, such as backpacker hostels or cheap hotel or motels. You only sleep there, so why waste money on flash hotels. Eat out at local restaurants, and try the local specialities, to get a real taste of the area. Be prepared to eat a lot, as you build up quite an appetite after a days ride.
Money The idea of these road cycle tours is to have fun, so you don’t want to be worried about not having enough money with you. Take some cash, especially if you’re going off the beaten track, as some places don’t accept credit cards. I would budget for at least $100 per day for spending money, (assuming accommodation has been prepaid)
The Bike I have written about the bike elsewhere, but with the right bike you can easily go on sealed and unsealed roads, and this is where touring really becomes fun, as you test your riding skills on loose gravel roads and explore remote places away from cars and often away from people as well. Just take enough food and drink to get you through to the next food stop.
I highly recommend, if you’ve thought about road cycle touring, that you take the plunge, get a few mates together and plan an adventure. You wont regret it. And don’t forget to stop often and take lots of photographs.
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