More and more families are taking cycling holidays. For families who already love cycling together, it’s the perfect way to celebrate a shared hobby. Cycling fanatics won’t need any persuading to pack the bikes and go in search of warmer weather and steeper slopes.
But if you’re not much of a cyclist, why would you give up your week by the pool? Well, a cycling holiday is a great way to fall in love with cycling, and to enjoy all the health benefits of a more active lifestyle. You can take it as easy you as like, choose a destination with plenty of easy routes on flat terrain, and you’ll still feel fitter at the end of it. And let’s face it, you can’t go to the beach every year. Cycling can also provide a more authentic experience of a foreign country, away from the tourist hotspots.
So, you’ve decided to give it a try. What do you need to think about before you pack? Take all the usual precautions, of course. Check and re-check your bookings. Because kids’ passports go out of date more often than adults’ passports, it’s always a good idea to check the dates. Now you can think about getting ready to cycle:
Taking your own bikes
There are arguments for and against taking your own bikes on holiday (if you have them). Renting bikes is an increasingly good options. Those parts of the world where cycling tourism is a growth area are seeing more companies offering a range of rental options. The main advantage of renting is that you don’t have to transport your bikes, but another advantage is that most rental companies will also take care of your equipment and insurance.
On the other hand, your own bikes are guaranteed to be comfortable on long rides, and you know all their little quirks. If they have big quirks, get them fixed before you go! Even brand new bikes should be checked thoroughly. Replace worn tyres and brake pads, and pack plenty of spares. Your bike will be working in different conditions than it’s used to—hopefully warmer and perhaps on tougher terrain—so it might experience more wear and tear than usual. Don’t forget repair kits, and make sure you know how to use them. You might have repaired a hundred flat tyres, but it’s still a good idea to check you’re doing it right. You can find good how-to videos online.
Spare helmets are essential, because a bike helmet is useless after an impact. Pack them tightly so they don’t get impacted while you’re travelling to your starting point. Other must-haves are hi-vis clothing, extra reflectors and a first-aid kit. Make sure there’s nothing missing from your first-aid kit before it’s stowed.
Prepare for all weathers
You’ll be hoping for blue skies and sunny vistas every day of your holiday, but sadly there are no guarantees. If the skies open while you’re on a cycling holiday you can’t just duck into your hotel. Wherever you’re going, prepare for less than ideal weather. Pack things which you can layer to adjust to different conditions: lightweight tops, rainproof jackets, leggings.
Most importantly, make sure you prepare properly for the perfect weather you’re expecting (and deserve!) Pack even more suncream than you think you’ll need. While you’re cycling, you’ll sweat through your protection more quickly than you would by the pool. Everyone should have sunglasses, and wear them. On a sunny day, light reflected from the road is a real hazard. Without sunglasses you’ll be at risk of headaches and in the long term severe eye damage.
Check everyone’s expectations
You might all love cycling, but that doesn’t mean you’ll all love the same cycling holiday. For some bike fanatics, cycling is enough by itself, and that’s great. But the bike fanatics will get frustrated if someone else in the family wants to dismount and take a dip in the sea. Talk your plans through with everyone in the family as you’re making them to keep everyone onboard.
Phones with inbuilt GPS have made navigating from the saddle easier than ever. It’s never a good idea to rely on GPS when you’re abroad though. You can’t be sure you’ll get a signal everywhere you go, particularly if you’re planning to take on a mountainous region. If your phone is exposed on your handlebars, it can easily get too hot and turn itself off temporarily. And even at home you can run out of battery or simply lose your phone.
As a back-up, take a compass and real paper maps with you. Mark your routes before you leave, and if it’s been a while since you last navigated with map and compass (let’s face it, it probably has), you might want to practice before you set off.
For most people, a cycling holiday will involve more hours in the saddle than usual, and for most people that will mean a sore bum until proper precautions are taken. Padded shorts make a world of difference, and no serious cyclist would leave home without a tube of chamois cream. Any slight discomfort you’re feeling during your ordinary cycling routine will be a lot worse over a more intense period of cycling, so address it before you leave. Replace your cycling shoes if they pinch, and invest in new gloves if you’re getting blisters. Blister plasters are a cyclist’s best friend.
Get In Training
The most common cause of injuries is suddenly increasing the amount of cycling you’re doing. Even if you don’t cycle much at home and you’re only planning to do a bit on your holiday, you run the risk of injury unless you prepare. Calculate the longest distance you’ll cover on your trip and encourage everyone to practise over that distance before you leave. If it’s an ambitious distance then don’t try to do it at once. Instead increase the distance you cycle slowly until you reach it.
A big advantage of bike rental is that most rental companies will arrange your insurance for you. If you’re bringing your own bikes, get them insured. In the EU you won’t need health insurance, but you will need current EHIC cards for everyone in the family. Beyond the EU, you will need health insurance or travel insurance that covers medical expenses. The majority of travel insurance plans don’t cover injuries incurred during potentially risky activities, including cycling, so don’t assume that you’re covered just because your policy mentions injury.
Claiming compensation for injuries
Although cycling is not a dangerous activity, it does carry a risk of injury. From a legal perspective you accept that risk when you get on a bike. However, if a driver or anyone else causes you injury through reckless or negligent behaviour, then there’s a good chance you’ll be entitled to compensation. In the unlucky event that this happens to you, it would be good practice to seek some legal advice. A qualified solicitor will be quickly be able to assess your situation and provide advice on cycling accident claims if they feel you have a strong case.