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What are cycling and cycle touring holidays?
What do you need on a touring cycling holiday?
Selecting a cycling holiday company.
Cycling leadership qualifications.


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Cycling holidays and cycle touring breaks

What are cycling and cycle touring holidays?

This category lists holidays that involve the use of a road bike, it may be your own bike transported (or even ridden) to the start point, or it may involve bikes hired to you by the tour operator. Most commonly the cycling holidays and tours will be for users of standard road bikes, but many tours will also cater for children and some can provide children's hire bikes, adapters and kiddie trailers etc. We also have a separate category for people interested in tandem bike holidays.

The cycling holidays and cycle touring section focuses on road tours, if you are interested in off-road mountain biking and mountain bike tours we have a dedicated category for these too.

What do you need on a touring cycling holiday?

You'll need a bike of course, plus a some or all of the following: helmet, panniers, pump, barbag, water bottle, cycle locks, bike tools and repair kit, and spare inner tube. Many tour operators will hire out some or all of this equipment which can save a lot of hassle, particularly if you are travelling to some of the remoter parts of the world. If the trip involves camping you'll find that several operators also hire out tents and camping equipment.

Most of the self-lead tour organisers provide detailed maps and itineraries as part of the service.

As for the rest, we recommend you learn the art of packing light, the more you pack the more weight you have to pull up those hills! Take the minimum of clothing, decant your toiletries into mini bottles, choose your reading book by weight.

Clothing depends partly on where you are headed and partly on personal preferences, but we would recommend using proper cycling shorts or leggings (the padding can make all the difference!) and you may find cycling gloves take the strain off the hands and help prevent blisters. Proper cycling shoes are kinder to the feet than ordinary training shoes and are worth considering for longer trips.

Selecting a cycling holiday company

Cycling is a very popular holiday choice, and you'll find tour operators of all sizes, from large well established companies to small one or two man bands offering a very personal service.

As well as focused cycling tours, you'll also find themed trips like 'women only' cycling tours, cycle holidays that include historical visits or gastronomic biking tours that take in vineyard wine tastings on route and then offer fabulous eating in the evenings. But the most obvious decider is location; not that that should be a problem because with so many cycling holiday operators you'll find that most of the world is covered.

You choice of operator will not just depend on where you want to go, there is a wide variety in the way tours are operated too. Some are fully escorted and guided, which can be great if you don't want to be bothered with map reading or deciding where to go next. Others are self-guided, where the tour company may provide the bikes, maps/printed routes, will sort out the accommodation on-route and may even move on your bags for you each day and transport you back to your start point at the end of the trip.

The sorts of questions you might want to ask are:
What are the group sizes and the guide-to-client ratio?
What backup is offered by way of support vehicles, spare bikes or mechanical assistance?
How are trips graded and how does that relate to your own cycling experience?
If you choose a company from a non-English speaking country, does at least one of the guides speak good English?

Cycling leadership qualifications

Judging a cycle holiday tour operator by their paper qualifications can be difficult. There are no relevant international qualifications for cycle touring leadership and national qualifications are in short supply too.

More often than not you will need to judge on the basis of the experience of the tour organisers; read their 'About us' pages or ask them directly about their own cycle touring or mountain biking experiences, check the length of time the company has been in operation, how many clients have they had on bike tours, and the number of years their guides have been guiding. For guided trips we'd also recommend looking for first aid qualifications and evidence of bike maintenance skills.

UK cycling holiday companies – cycle touring

The UK doesn't have one overall governing body for biking and cycling leadership training, some qualifications exist but most are not specific to cycle touring leadership and you'll not find them quoted much by cycle tour operators:

The British Schools Cycling Association (BSCA) run a Touring Leaders course which deals with planning and taking a group on tour, from day rides to longer tours. They also run a Cycling Teaching certificate course which is aimed at racing and competition cycling.

British Cycling is the UK's internationally recognised governing body of cycle sport, but it is aimed more at the racing, competitive and club cycling side rather than leisure and holiday cycling. It does offer coaching qualifications for racing and club training, but not leadership courses for touring or cycling holidays.

Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC), national UK cycling organisation is the accreditation body for cycle training in the UK, but it's courses are aimed mainly at everyday urban cycling, particularly courses for children.

UK cycling holiday companies – mountain biking

At present there are no national standards for mountain bike leadership qualifications in the UK, but a variety of organisations offer leadership awards and qualifications and you may see these listed:

The British Schools Cycling Association (BSCA) run a well recognised Mountain Bike / Off Road Leaders course, designed to enable leaders to take young people on mountain bike tours.

The Off Road Training Consultancy (OTC) offers some of the most accepted mountain biking leadership qualifications in the UK. Levels range from 'Road Leader Award' through to 'Advanced Mountain Bike Leader Award'.

The Mountain Bike Instructor Award Scheme (MIAS) has qualifications at a number of levels including 'Low Terrain', 'Wilderness Terrain' and 'Mountainous Terrain'. These qualifications are accredited by the CTC and are recognised by the AALA (Adventure Activities Licensing Authority).

In Scotland, Scottish Cycling run 'Trail Cycle Leader Courses' and 'Mountain Bike Leader Courses' that are recognised as a best practise model throughout the UK.

Mountain Bike Instruction (MBI) also run mountain bike leadership courses in the UK.

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