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Tips and Advice / May 14, 2018

5 things to consider when choosing an overseas bike tour

So you wanna go on a bike tour. Maybe you have a travel destination in mind, or maybe you are open to the many possibilities of traveling Europe by bike. Lucky for you, BikeTours.com can help out with either end of that adventure spectrum.

You can start immediately with our Tour Search, or you can do some upfront research. If you haven’t quite pinned down your ideal locale, here are some questions that might help you pinpoint your perfect destination.

1. Where do I want to go?

For a relatively small continent, Europe packs an exciting variety of cultures, scenery, architecture, and history. Ask yourself some key questions:

  • Do you have special interests like castles, medieval architecture, wine, or regional cuisine?
  • Do you prefer mountains, forests, plains, rivers, or the sea?
  • Do you want a “familiar” setting or one that is more exotic and perhaps even challenging?
  • Do you like hot weather or a more temperate climate?
  • Would you prefer countries where English is the primary language?

Once you know where you want to go, you should consider some additional questions:

2. Do I want a guided or a self-guided tour?

Most tours come in two flavors: guided and self-guided. Or, put simply, group and individual.

Guided group tours have long been the norm for American bike travelers in Europe. On most tours, one guide rides with the group, while a second guide drives a support van. Everything is planned out: hotels, routes, meals, luggage transfers, sightseeing tours, and so on. The guides point out places of interest, organize excursions and activities, and assist in case there are breakdowns (mechanical or human).

Self-guided individual tours are popular with European travelers and with increasing numbers of American cyclists. Self-guided tours are a money-saving alternative — and often preferable to traveling with a group.

Self-guided does NOT mean that you’re totally on your own. The tour operator still organizes hotel reservations and luggage transportation from hotel to hotel. The accommodations are usually the same as on guided tours. You even often follow the same routes.

Most tour operators provide you with a comprehensive information package with the marked route, a detailed route description, and tips on sights, cultural highlights, scenic stops, and recommended restaurants. Many tour operators offer a hotline in case of emergencies or problems.

If you prefer to be independent and to choose your traveling companions and daily schedule, consider a self-guided tour. But, also consider your comfort with speaking a foreign language, reading maps and signs, ordering food, and dealing with breakdowns and minor emergencies.

Since some self-guided tours have just two travelers — or even one — you should not count on riding with a group. For some people, this is part of what makes traveling fun. If you’re not one of those people, a guided tour may be the better choice.

3. What’s included in my tour?

As far as what’s generally included, here’s a standard list:






Breakfast buffet



Evening dinners



Support van or bus


Informed travel guide riding with group


Luggage transport from hotel to hotel



Admissions and tours according to the program


Tour description, travel material with route maps



Detailed route planning



Emergency hotline


Riding with group



4. What is my ability level?

Most tours cover around 20 to 40 miles per day and are designed for travelers who enjoy a leisurely pace. When you read the tour descriptions, pay close attention to terrain and average daily distances. Some general rankings may help guide you:

  • Easy: Easy cycling in mostly flat terrain. Generally short distances (usually 18-25 miles per day).
  • Leisure: Relaxed cycling with occasional hills and distances up to 35 or 40 miles on some day. Average physical condition required.
  • Moderate: Generally rolling or hilly terrain with longer average daily distances. For cyclists in good physical condition.
  • Advanced: Extended and frequent climbs and longer daily distances. For experienced cyclists in above-average physical condition.

5. Do I prefer point-to-point riding or a “home-base?”

Most bicycle tourists enjoy traveling each day — cycling from Point A to Point B. The scenery changes and the experience of reaching a new destination is gratifying. Still, there’s something to be said for staying overnight in one town and doing day trips: you don’t have to pack each morning, you can settle in, and you can really get to know a location. And, if you don’t feel like riding, you can rest or pursue another activity.

Although most tour operators offer only point-to-point tours, BikeTours.com also works with tour operators and local and regional tourist offices to offer “home base” tours. We also offer a number of bike and boat cruises, where your “floating hotel” moves with you, so you can stay on board instead of ride, if you wish, and watch the countryside drift by from the comfort of the deck.

Start your search for the perfect bike tour for you today >>

Tags from the story:

Bike and boat, Guided, Self-guided, Travel tips

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