For a lot of people, the idea of doing a cycling holiday may sound horrendous. I know a lot of people who believe that a holiday is a chance to get away and do nothing but relax and sunbathe. The thought of cycling instead of reclining to them is less than appealing. However, I have found that cycling is one of the best ways to experience and travel across a country. It’s a cheaper and perhaps even more rewarding alternative too.
One of the first and probably the most important reasons for traveling this way is just how much money you can save. The only real costs that involve taking a bike abroad is getting it there in the first place. Most airlines allow you to buy a bike passport, usually these are around 30-50 pounds depending on the airline. You will also need to pack it in a bike box, these are usually free if you prepare early and get a shop like Halfords to save you however many you need, for this you will need to take apart your bike in order to fit it. The only real inconvenience is in having to put it back together in the airport or wherever you decide to stay, if it’s nearby. As long as you remember all the little screws and tools you will find this to be relatively straight forward.
The fact that you have a bike means you will save considerable sums of money by not having to use public transport, a very good thing to have when in the city, and you will also manage to avoid having to pay for trains. However, in places like Italy where the driving is very near to insane on the flat straight roads, sometimes it is advisable to take trains which are very cheap in Italy. However France, Spain and Germany appear to be much better for cycle paths! Also, be very careful in the big cities when locking your bike up, a d-lock is preferred. In Barcelona my bike was stolen on the second day of a month long cycling trip (I had three standard bike locks, but these were all cut), very stressful but this can be easily avoided.
Another thing about cycling is that you see more of a country. You will usually be cycling along the smaller roads and therefore the more scenic roads the place has to offer. You will no doubt miss all of the small villages you would come across cycling if you took a train instead. These relatively unknown places could well end up being the highlight of your trip and you will also most likely avoid crowds and have these places pretty much to yourself. This way of travel gives you the opportunity to camp in some incredible places, usually a campsite is on the outskirts of a city and therefore much less hectic.
Campsites also crop up in the middle of nowhere as well. I have ended up camping in the middle of the Alps with little or no nearby villages, perhaps what is most relevant is just how cheap camping is. The most expensive campsite I have ever stayed in whilst in Europe was around seventeen Euros. Very cheap for a hostel! The average price is around eight pounds; the price includes toilets, water, usually a café or shop and if you are staying in hotter countries such as Spain or Italy occasionally, a pool. The only problem with cycling around as opposed to taking public transport is that you will need to carry a tent around on your bike. You will hopefully have panniers as well to carry your other luggage so this isn’t too difficult.
The final advantage of doing such a holiday is the fact that if you are strict about your cycling schedule you will become incredibly fit. At first you may be regretting the choice to do a cycling holiday, but as you get into the swing of it you will realise it gets easier and easier and even though you have a heavy load on your pannier rack you will inevitably get used to this!
Overall I think that cycling, as a holiday, is incredibly underrated. It is probably the cheapest, healthiest and has the greatest sense of achievement when you finish. You will see more places, meet more people and have more experiences than if you take trains, buses, cars or planes. It presents an amazing opportunity that when taken will not disappoint!