s Riding a Bike Abroad So Different?
In reality, it isn't so different. Even if you are riding on the different side of the road, the rules of the road are pretty much the same as where you ride at home. Roundabouts go round the other way, junctions operate the same and you more or less follow the same rules. Don't let the Left Hand Drive vs Right Hand Drive put you off, it is much easier and slower on your bike!
2. Other Road Users - is Cycling Popular in your chosen Country?
Chose a country where cycling and cyclists are held in the highest regard. Italy is one such country. Every Italian village seems to has its own local cycling legend and every weekend large number of cyclists tour the Italian country roads, enjoying roadside restaurants and cafes while clocking up the kilometres and counting down the calories. Italy has a great cycling history and culture and other road users are very considerate towards cyclists giving them a wide berth when passing.
3. Consider the Terrain
In reality, cycling on the flat, in the valley bottom is pretty boring and the views are a little tedious. And if you don’t cycle regularly the idea of ‘hills’ probably puts the fear of God into you!
For example, Tuscany is 92% hills. This means 46% of the time you are climbing. So how can you have an enjoyable cycle trip in Tuscany? Take an eBike. The various power-assist settings allow those cyclists wanting more of a work out to get just that while others wanting to take in the view can increase the assist and take things a little easier. And everyone rides together!
4. Guided or GPS Self-Guided?
Gone are the days of map reading, arduous decision making and route planning. Todays modern cycling GPS systems allow tour operators to preplan your route and itinerary so that you can follow the simple GPS turn by turn directions. But while the terrain may be beautiful and the views astounding, a self-guided trip misses so much of the local culture, personality and ‘colour’.
A good guide, someone who lives in the area, provides a deep insight into the community, it's history, culture and even the local gossip. A local guide brings your ride to life with tips, snippets and insight. Make sure that you understand the background of your guide before booking.
5. The Itinerary - How Many Days in the Saddle?
Your itinerary includes the arrival and departure day, ride days and rest days. It would be unusual to ride on the arrival or departure day. Your bike will most likely be delivered on the first full day of your trip. This is to avoid issues with delayed transfers and unexpected late arrivals. Use your arrival night to relax after your journey. Once you have your bike and it has been adjusted to your ride position, you're ready to go! Whether 3, 4, 5 or 7 nights make sure that your itinerary has a rest day or is balanced for you and your needs.
6. Time of Year - Weather, Temperatures, Busier/Quieter Times
The peak summer months July and August can be blisteringly hot in the Mediterranean countries. While May/June and September through until the end of October can be absolutely delightful.
All is not lost if you want to cycle in the peak summer months or even if it gets a little warm at other times. On an eBike, turn up the power, turn down the effort and you have your own on-demand air conditioning. It is when you stop that you really feel the heat. And do make sure that you’ve creamed and covered up!
7. Local Support - Who is There, On The Ground, to Help?
Make sure that your tour operator provides you with a full briefing, from information on riding to how to use the bike and the GPS. What support is available out of hours and how is this provided? What information is given to you and in what form (do you really need to carry sheets of printed information?)
8. Saddle Time - How long should you ride?
Two hours cycling should see you cover around 30 kilometres depending upon terrain and your choice of ride - eBike or standard road bike.
An eBike means that you travel further, see more and get more from your trip. But whether you choose an eBike or a standard bike, casual riders struggle most with ‘time in the saddle’. We highly recommend some pre-holiday cycling and being ‘saddle ready’ for your cycle holiday.
9. Mobile/Cell Phone Coverage
This is more to do with your data plan. Having data while abroad is critical not only for safety but for your enjoyment. At Inspired ITALY we support all our guests using WhatsApp groups and use of Google Maps and GPS coverage is hugely valuable. We monitor guests WhatsApp groups - we call it a virtual guide - 24/7 and send daily updates on weather, your days activities and general information. In emergencies it proves invaluable.
10. eBike or Standard? | Bob & Jane, Phil & Margaret: On a Cycling Holiday in Tuscany
You may have gathered, we are eBike fans! Why? eBikes enable all cyclists to do more and get more from their efforts. eBikes enable you to cycle greater distances and reduce the barriers.
Bob and Jane, Phil and Margaret came on a week-long GPS self-guided cycle tour of Tuscany. Bob and Phil insisted on taking hybrid bikes against our advice. Day one of their trip was 66-kilometre ride from Cortona to San Quirico d’Orcia, estimated to take around 3hrs 25 mins on the eBike.
Bob and Phil took 9 hours to reach their destination. But the story doesn’t stop there.
Phil asked us to exchange his hybrid for an eBike and the next day he set out with Jane and Margaret and they cycled together through the Tuscany countryside for a further five days.
Bob carried on with his Hybrid. Each evening Bob would eventually arrived at the hotel to find that Jane, Margaret and Phil had been in the pool for an hour, had enjoyed a nice lunch and Phil, being an enthusiastic cyclist, had blue-toothed his heart rate monitor into the Bosch eBike computer and was very happy with the work out that he had. Jane, Margaret and Phil had a wonderful cycling holiday together, seeing the sights, enjoying wonderful lunches and, most importantly, each got what they wanted from their cycling.
We don’t really know if Bob enjoyed himself. No one saw that much of him!
11. Holiday or Hardcore?
Can you do hardcore on an eBike? Yes, for sure. Taking an eBike doesn’t necessarily reduce your effort. Because of the assist, you can ride further, climb higher, so why not take the long road? Inspired ITALY eBike itineraries tend to cover more ground than their standard road bike equivalents. And if you want a tough work out, just turn down the assist!
12. What to Wear? - Don’t Get Caught Out
Even the hottest day of the year can start with a chill. Make sure that you have a windproof jacket and maybe even a pair of fingerless gloves for the shoulder season. Valley mists at the beginning and end of the season can hold early morning temperatures well below seasonal norms. We also think that padded short help the casual cyclist. You don’t have to buy the short, just the under short, then you won’t look like a Baboon bottom!