We offer two types of tours – guided and self-guided, and cater to all ability levels. Guided tours include performance tours, one-day sportives and training camps and are usually larger groups of between 4- 13 persons. Training camps can be up to 30 persons.
Guided tours are all-inclusive tours with van support, trip guides, luggage transfer, bike maintenance, accommodation, most meals and route maps/GPS. You will have a guide on a bicycle following behind you and a support vehicle sweeping the route. You still have all day to get where you want or stop off on the way.
Self-guided tours – we call them Explorer tours – include everything that a guided tour does but there are no guides or van support. Lodging, food, luggage transfer and emergency support are included. You’re given detailed maps and/or GPS units and itineraries to get you to each night’s lodging. You have an emergency number if you have a mechanical problem or emergency. Again, you have complete flexibility to get to your daily destination. Your luggage will hav been moved on for you.
What kind of shape do I need to be in to enjoy a bicycle tour?
If you haven’t been to the health clubs in ages, don’t despair; you still have time to get fit. For safety reasons, we recommend that you first consult your doctor prior to beginning any fitness program. Most health clubs can provide you with a fitness assessment and then design a program with your cycling objectives in mind. If you have been inactive, we recommend starting a fitness program slightly earlier – 45-60 days in advance of a trip. Simply follow the recommendations below, but do it for a bit longer.
For leisure cyclists, a basic level of fitness is needed if you want to have an enjoyable and safe trip. This doesn’t mean you need to be at triathlete level. It does mean you should currently be cycling, swimming, running, fast walking or taking aerobics classes on a regular basis to prepare yourself for the physical demands of the tour.
If you’re currently exercising and have access to a bike, we recommend cycling at least 40 minutes, 2-3 times a week at least a month in advance of the tour. Always stretch beforehand and warm up on the bike at an easy pace for about 10 minutes. Increase your pace to one that’s just comfortable for you and try to cycle at that pace for the duration of the ride. As you cycle more, increase your pace gradually. Each week, add a few more minutes to the overall length of your ride.
Include any hills in the area. Hills work muscles differently than muscles worked on flat ground and will make a difference when on the trip. Riding a bike in the outdoors is the best way to prepare for a trip, as you will rediscover your cycling muscles, get comfortable with the gearing and braking action of a bike and build up your bike confidence around traffic all at the same time.
If you live in an area of the country where you can’t cycle outdoors, most gyms and health clubs have excellent indoor Spinning cycle classes. Spinning classes use stationary bikes that can be adjusted to provide more or less tension as you pedal. Each spinning class has an instructor who directs the class through a program. Most classes are offered at Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced level, so there’s usually someone else at your level in the same class. They’re great for motivation and you get to ride with other avid, sweating cyclists while it’s howling outside.
Spinning 2x times a week for 45 minutes provides excellent preparation for a trip and can be combined with other exercise activities, such as longer rides on the weekend to help build endurance. Why slog up a hill when you can defy gravity with a little preparatory exercise? Joining a bike club is also an excellent way to get in shape as well as learn from the advanced cyclists you will meet.
Club Level Cyclists
Club cyclists usually have their own training regimen and are active in their club, participating in a variety of cycling events – sportives, time trials, cycle cross, road racing or track cycling. If you’re a club cyclist and considering a short Performance Tour or a Classic Col or mountainous tour, we recommend longer rides in hilly terrain - 40- 60 miles each at least 2x per week for 6 weeks in advance of the tour. While the gradients are not normally steep, they can abe long, up to 20km, with multiple passes on a daily basis.
Tour ratings, routes and abilities – 1 – 5 in difficulty
Selecting the right tour for you will give you the most enjoyment based on your ability and interests. You can enjoy a bicycling vacation if you follow our tips for training before a tour, have an open mind to new cultures and countries and don’t mind being challenged. Depending on the tour, distances are between 25-50 miles per day.
On average it’ll take you between 3-5 hours per day to cycle a day’s stage. This doesn’t include stopping along the way, which will add to your overall time. This distance gives you enough time on the route so you don’t get to the hotel too early yet still provides time to explore your new surroundings when you arrive. We offer tours for the following abilities. They are rated on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being Easy and 5 being Adventurous. The higher the number, the higher the overall mileage.
Level: Beginners, leisure cyclists, kids
Pace: Very relaxed – Able to cycle – 6-10 mph on flat terrain
Distance: 8-15 miles per day
Terrain: This is sidewalk or bike path easy cycling. It’s good for families with young children.
Level: New and returning cyclists; weekend leisure cyclists
Pace: Relaxed – Able to cycle 8-10mph on a mix of hills and flat
Distance: 20-30 miles per day
Terrain: Flat, undulating and gentle rolling terrain.
Level: Active/leisure experienced cyclists who cycle 2-3 times a week for over 1 hour.
Pace: Steady – Able to cycle 10-13mph on a mix of hills and flat
Distance: 25-40 miles per day
Terrain: Flat, rolling hilly terrain with a number of longer climbs (.5-1.5 miles in length).
Level: Avid/experienced cyclists on 2-3x weekly training schedules with strong endurance
Pace: Sustained – able to cycle 12-17mph on a mix of hills and flat
Distance: 35-50 miles per day
Terrain: Rolling and hilly terrain with numerous climbs, some on steeper sections.
Level: Avid bike club member/racers with excellent endurance who train for competition or to ride the most spectacular roads over challenging terrain
Pace: Challenging – able to cycle 15-20+mph on a mix of hills, flat and mountains
Distance: 45-80 miles per day
Terrain: All conditions, including rolling hills and mountain passes.
How difficult are the hills on the tour?
The terrain on our routes varies between flat, rolling and hilly with some areas including mountain sections. These are detailed as part of each tour description. Generally, hill gradients on our routes are gradual, short and with very few steep sections. These can take from 1-10 minutes to ride up depending on your physical condition.
Most bikes for leisure and beginning cyclists have “climbing gears” on the bikes, so even the short steep hills is manageable. We’ve designed the easier routes to avoid big hills but you should realistically expect some hilly terrain each day along with flat and rolling countryside, otherwise it would be flat and boring. Expect hills on tour ratings 3-5, with more and longer hills the higher the number. Some of our self-guided Explorer tours take in more challenging terrain which is explained in the specific tour offered.
When designing routes, we opt for a mix of quiet roads, varied scenery and interesting places along the way. Our routes go through river valleys (flat), sometimes begin high in the hills (fun descents), over passes, meander through rolling country (variety) and into and out of lots of villages, which makes for interesting cycling.
Advanced & Experienced Cyclists – Cols and Mountains
Our mountain tours offer the most fabled classic climbs as well as lesser known but beautiful routes and are designed for advanced and experienced cyclists who can manage longer distances and climbs. If you follow any of the pre-trip recommendations, you will enjoy the cycling on offer. On Explorer tours, there is no van support, so cyclists should have a realistic appraisal of their abilities. On guided tours, should you find yourself in distress, the support van is always available to give you a helping hand.