If you are an adventurous person who loves to explore foreign countries on your own terms, you may have already considered planning a biking vacation.
Driving to your destination country with bikes secured on your car’s roof and then riding out from your temporary base to explore the surrounding countryside can be a truly exhilarating experience. You can set your own travel itinerary and either head back to your holiday residence after a day’s exploration or stay in one area for a few days before moving all your equipment to a new location to allow you to explore new places.
Of course, the idea of a biking vacation is liberating and exciting; however, it’s important not to let this excitement get ahead of you. Properly planning your trip in advance will ensure you not only get the most out of the experience but will also help keep you and your fellow bikers safe (if you’re traveling with friends or family, that is).
With this in mind, the following article will divulge a few simple yet crucial tips to ensure you have an enjoyable, safe biking holiday – whether you’re venturing abroad or staying closer to home.
Plan Your Journey
The first step is to sit down and map out your journey. This planning stage is important for a number of reasons; most importantly, however, it will allow you to visualise the terrain you’re likely to encounter and ensure you’re physically prepared for the challenge.
If you’re planning on biking in unfamiliar territory, make sure to pick up a good map of the area (or several maps if you’re covering a large amount of ground) and use a highlighter pen to mark out your proposed route. If you have time, try to ride sections of your journey in advance to check for any potential hazards or problem areas.
Planning your journey in this way will also give you a good idea of how many miles you’re likely to cover in a day, which is important for working out rest stops, food and drink requirements, and overnight accommodation.
Choose the Right Bike
Choosing the right bike is crucial for having an enjoyable biking holiday, as an unsuitable bike will make even the flattest of routes a real challenge. If you’re unsure what kind of bike would be best for your trip, it’s always worth seeking professional advice.
There are essentially three types of bikes to choose from – road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrid bikes. Road bikes are designed for speed and thus have thinner tyres, while mountain bikes are built for more rugged terrain and have fat tyres with deep treads. Hybrid bikes sit somewhere in the middle, with slightly thicker tyres than road bikes but not as thick as mountain bike tyres.
If you’re planning on sticking to tarmac roads and well-worn bike paths, a road bike will be more than suitable. However, if you’re venturing off the beaten track onto rougher terrain, a mountain bike would be a better option. And, if you’re unsure or are planning a mixed route of both tarmac and off-road cycling, a hybrid bike would be the best bet.
Of course, there are other factors to consider when choosing a bike for your biking holiday, such as frame size, seat comfort, and handlebar type. However, these are more personal preferences that can be decided on once you’ve chosen the right type of bike for your needs.
Check Your Vehicle’s Condition
The point of a biking holiday is that most of the exploration is done by cycling, but you might still need a car to get to your destination and to move between sites. Firstly, you must ensure that your vehicle is in suitable condition to undertake a long journey – whether you’re traveling to a foreign country or not.
It makes sense to visit your local garage and have the vehicle thoroughly inspected before you set off, having them give everything a once over in order to identify anything that’s not up to scratch or any areas of your car that could potentially become problematic during your trip. Having this important pre-trip check will minimize the risk of any mechanical problems that would otherwise cause you issues whilst on your travels, which could severely limit your ability to move from base to base.
While you don’t necessarily need to have your vehicle taken apart, checked, and rebuilt, you do need to ensure the basics are looked over and given the green light by a professional – especially if you’re heading abroad or covering a long distance.
Generally, you should ensure a mechanic verifies the engine, radiators, and brakes as sound and in good working order. However, some checks you can do yourself, so long as you’re confident in your basic car knowledge. Ideally, in the week or two before your vacation, you should check:
- Tire pressure
- Tire tread
- The spare tire
- Caps, filters, hoses, and belts
- Signals and lights
- Wiper blades and windshield wiper fluid
- The brakes
Have the Right Insurance
In addition to ensuring the state of your vehicle is good for your trip, you should ensure you have affordable car insurance that allows you to drive in other regions and on foreign roads if you’re going on a bike trip abroad. Some policies don’t offer foreign cover, which could land you in legal trouble if authorities catch you driving without proper coverage, or worse: you get into an accident during your trip.
This is why it’s so important to check your vehicle insurance policy – and if it turns out you don’t have foreign cover, you might need to call up your policy provider and negotiate the terms, or else find another insurer that can offer you protection while driving your car abroad and in other states.
Don’t forget to get appropriate travel insurance either – not just to protect your bike against damage, loss, or theft; it’s to ensure you are covered for medical bills in case you suffer a biking accident. No one wants to think about the worst happening on vacation, but it’s always best to be prepared for anything.
There are different types of policies available, so make sure you do your research and find the right level of cover for you and your needs. For example, some comprehensive policies will only cover the value of your bike at the time you bought it, while others will cover the cost of replacing a new bike should it be stolen or damaged beyond repair.
Pack the Necessary Bike Equipment
Most biking holidays will involve long journeys across multiple types of terrain, so you must have sufficient gear packed for your bike. It’s good practice to make a kit list for everything you plan to carry on your bike panniers – and don’t forget to do this well in advance of your vacation so that you’re not left scrambling last minute to gather anything you’ve forgotten, or worse, you forget something crucial entirely.
Clearly, equipment such as a compact bike pump, spare inner tubes, tire patches, and a full bicycle puncture repair kit are all paramount. What’s more, you also should pack adequate cycling clothing that is both comfortable and breathable in hot conditions if you’re going somewhere sunny.
Conversely, if you’re cycling somewhere chillier or during the winter months, you’ll need to pack garments you can wear while cycling that isthat are comfortable and keep you warm. Also, remember to take additional clothing with you in case you get caught in a downpour or need to change clothes after some particularly energetic and sweaty cycling.
Other items you might want to consider packing for your biking vacation include:
- First-aid kit
- Bike lock and chain
- Water bottle and water purifier
- Snacks and energy bars
- GPS device or phone with bike routing app installed
Don’t Forget the Non-Biking Essentials
Finally, don’t get so enthralled by the biking part of your vacation that you forget to pack non-bike-related essentials you might need.
Preferably, you’ll need to bring a sufficient water supply and snacks, particularly if you’re traversing rural areas or off-the-radar parts of a country that aren’t as well served by amenities and service stations.
Furthermore, you should also bring a basic first aid kit with you that contains antiseptic cream, antiseptic wipes, bandages, electrolyte packs, over-the-counter painkillers, and band-aids to ensure you are prepared to treat any minor aches, pains, cuts, or small injuries on your journey.
There are also several other must-haves you’ll need to pack, which are less geared toward your bike but to ensure overall safety for you and your vehicle if you’re traveling in one to your biking destination. Some of these key items are:
- Tire chains for traction (only if you’re driving in the winter)
- A flashlight
- A tool kit and cutting tools
- A puncture repair kit for your vehicle
- Some jump cables and flares
Lastly, it’s important to be aware of any mandatory equipment you need by law when driving through certain areas or countries. For instance, if you’re going on a bike trip in Europe, make sure to have safety equipment in your cars, such as a warning triangle, high-visibility vests or jackets, a breathalyzer, and a fire extinguisher; these are required to be in your vehicle at all times while driving in many European countries.
If you’re renting a car for your biking vacation, these items will likely be provided; however, you must still remember to check – and if the vehicle rental company does not supply them, you may be required to purchase your own.
Whatever the case and wherever you end up going for your adventure, check the local driving laws and the mandated vehicle gear in the places you’ll be visiting; you don’t want to get caught short when abroad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to questions you might have about going on a biking vacation:
Is it worth it to get travel insurance for my biking vacation?
Yes, we definitely recommend getting travel insurance for your biking vacation – or any vacation, for that matter. Travel insurance will help protect you in the event of an emergency while you’re away from home, whether it’s a medical emergency, your bike gets stolen, or you need to cancel your trip due to circumstances.
How can I make sure my bike is secure when I’ not using it?
The best way to ensure your bike is secure when you’re not using it is to invest in a good quality bike lock. A chain and padlock is always a good option, or you could go for a U-lock. Whichever you choose, just make sure it’s heavy duty and will be difficult for thieves to break.
You should also avoid leaving your bike unattended in busy areas or overnight in deserted areas. If you can, find a hotel or hostel that has a bike storage room where you can keep your bike locked up safely.
What should I do if I get a flat tire while on my biking vacation?
If you get a flat tire while on your biking vacation, the best thing to do is to be prepared and have a puncture repair kit with you. This way, you can fix the flat tire yourself without having to call for help. If you don’t have a puncture repair kit, then you’ll either need to walk your bike to the nearest service station or call for roadside assistance.
What are some other tips you have for planning a biking vacation?
Some other tips for planning a biking vacation include:
- Choose your destination based on your skill level. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to stick to trails or routes that are relatively flat and not too challenging.
- Make sure you have the proper gear for your trip. In addition to your bike and helmet, you might want to consider packing a few other items, such as a map, sunscreen, water, snacks, and a first-aid kit.
- Plan your route in advance. This will help you gauge how long the trip will take and make sure you’re prepared for any challenges along the way.
- Start training early. If you’re not used to biking long distances, start gradually increasing your mileage a few months before your trip. This will help build up your endurance and make the trip more enjoyable.
- Pack light. You don’t want to be lugging around a bunch of unnecessary weight, so only pack the essentials.
- Be prepared for mechanical issues. Things like flat tires and broken chains happen, so it’s always good to be prepared with a few spare parts and tools.
- Have fun! Remember, this is supposed to be a vacation, so make sure to take some time to enjoy the ride and take in the scenery.
Phew! That was a lot of information. But now that you’re armed with all the tips, tricks, and equipment you need to plan and execute the perfect biking vacation abroad, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start exploring the wide open world on two wheels!