We’ve been sending our clients on European bicycle tours for fifteen years, so we’ve seen a thing or two! For 2019, here are the bike tour trends to look out for.
1. E-bikes—where the “E” stands as much for “equalizer” as “electric-assist”—opening active travel to vast new markets.
Electric bikes aren’t motorbikes or even mopeds — instead, they provide power on demand, responding to and complementing your pedaling speed and power. Electric-assist bicycles open bicycle touring to four broad groups:
1. Couples often want to travel together but are hindered by differing ability levels. In these situations, one spouse might follow the tour’s daily biking itinerary while the other rides in a support van or takes public transportation to meet at the day’s destination. Sometimes the less-fit (or less-interested) spouse will try to cycle alongside the enthusiast but ultimately slows down or rides behind the party — not much fun for anybody.
2. Multi-generation family vacations face the same challenges — the kids or grandparents may not go the same speed or distance as the rest of the family. E-bikes offer a solution for everyone to participate and maintain an enjoyable level of exertion.
3. Travelers with infirmities or recovering from injuries can still enjoy an active vacation with an electric bike rental. Since they compensate proportionately to your effort, riders in less-than-perfect health receive assistance when necessary or appropriate.
4. Some would-be and first-time cycling tourists have anxiety over their ability to keep up with their party. But the reassurance of an e-bike helps many people step out of their comfort zone because they know no one will be waiting for them. It means they don’t have to worry about being too slow and they’ll be able to better enjoy the views and sights along the bike tour route.
More information on electric-assist bikes.
2. Bike and boat tours have long been popular among our clients, but interest has been surging. Here’s why:
- They combine the best of two worlds: cruise vacations and adventure travel.
- It’s easy to take a day off from cycling and enjoy the scenery from the boat deck instead of the bike saddle (also a great advantage to travel partners with different experience, stamina or enthusiasm levels).
- You don’t have to unpack and pack every day since your floating hotel travels with you.
- You can access routes available only by boat.
3. Multi-generational travel
Bicycle touring can be the vacation-for-all-ages you’ve been looking for. From the newest addition to the family to grandma, most everyone can ride a bike (or e-bike!) or join the ride on a tandem, bike trailer, or tagalong. Cycling and international travel are a refreshing change from the expensive mouse-ears, long amusement park lines, and overcrowded beaches. It’s a great way for your family to explore a region or country. Together you get a feel for the terrain, the sights and smells, history, culture, and people. It’s a unique opportunity to spend a vacation being active and away from the screens that so many of us often find ourselves tethered to.
4. Self-guided bicycle tours
Until recently, most cycle tourists had two primary options:
1. Inexpensive self-contained tours, where they’d have to plan everything, carry their own gear, plot their own routes, organize their own lodging (often camping)
2. Expensive guided tours with support van and guide and with routes and lodging planned out and provided
Over the past several years, self-guided tours have become increasingly popular and available. The routes and lodging are planned out and provided, as are luggage transfers, but you ride on your own. Most self-guided tours also provide service hotlines in case of issues along the way. Self-guided tours had been offered primarily by bike tour companies based in Europe.
Since our model is to represent the small, local European bike tour companies rather than operate our own tours, we feel we’ve brought self-guided tours more into the mainstream for American travelers. Another benefit: self-guided tours often cost as much as 70 percent less than guided tours, and they typically have more frequent (even daily) departures.
More on the differences between guided and self-guided bicycle tours.