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How to take a cycling holiday: Finding deals, choosing an airline plus 13 of the best

Cyclist magazine
2 May 2018

Plan your ideal cycling holiday: do it yourself or pick one of our top 13

Cycling holidays - or as some like to think of them, 'training camps' - are a must for most cyclists these days. A week in the sun riding on smooth tarmac in places like Mallorca while clubmates contend with rain, potholes and terrible drivers is a fantastic way to use up your annual leave and give your fitness a boost.

But what's the best approach to take? Below we've looked at both a DIY approach to your next cycling holiday as well as 13 of the best options if you want to pass the stress and hassle on to someone else.

Look out for deals on cycling holidays

The classic package holiday may conjure up images of the Costa del Inebriated and sunburnt Brits guzzling egg and chips by the pool, but don’t be fooled. With an increasing amount of competition in that market, holiday companies can now offer a lot for a relatively cheap price.

By bulk-buying flights and rooms at lower costs, they can pass on real savings to customers.

One top tip is to look for last-minute deals when prices will be at their cheapest.

Packages tend to sort out things like flights, transfers, insurance, accommodation and in some cases even bike hire, making them highly attractive if the only leg-work you want to do is while you’re in the saddle.

If you do go this route, make sure your operator is ATOL- or ABTA-bonded: this’ll basically mean that should they go bust before or during your holiday you won’t get stranded and you will get compensation.

Watch the hard sell from agents, too, trying to bung optional extras on that you won’t really need, and be sure to ask about hidden costs such as local taxes and single-room supplements.

The DIY holiday

The major drawback with a package holiday is the lack of flexibility. Book full-board in the hotel and that’s where you’ll be eating every meal rather than at that delightful taverna you cycled by earlier – unless you’re happy to pay for dinner twice.

Flights can also be at silly o’clock in the morning/night to keep prices low, or from/to obscure airports.

By going the DIY route, you can enjoy a much greater choice of where to stay and who to fly with – which may be important for frequent flyer bonuses or any travel clubs you may be a part of.

Of course, doing it yourself means just that, so you’ll need to set aside a serious amount of time to putting it all together.

Top tips

Things to consider include flights, accommodation, transfers and car hire but also travel insurance that covers both you, your luggage and your bike as household insurance won’t cover it abroad.

Britishcycling.org.uk is a good place to get a quote. If you hire a bike in a country where they drive on the right then also be aware that the brakes will be reversed – ie the front brake lever will be on the left not the right-hand side of your bars.

You’ll also need to make sure you’ve got sufficient maintenance tools and cleaning kit, or at least know where you can get them when you’re away.

For cheap flights consider a price-comparison site like Skyscanner.net which instantly displays dozens of bargains at a click of a mouse.

Laterooms.com offers a similar service for accommodation.

Otherwise, build your holiday using a website like expedia.com which can help put packages together for you.

Which airline should you fly with for your next cycling holiday?

There was a time when most airlines would let you hand over your bike at check in without incurring any extra cost. However, with the rise of low cost flights this service has largely gone the way of the complimentary G&T and the ability to smoke onboard.

Confusingly, although most airlines will now want some extra cash for taking your bicycle there’s very little standardisation as to how much money they’ll want, how they’d like the bike packed or what maximum weight they’re prepared to transport.

When it comes to booking your flights it’s well worth investigating each airline's policy as the fees can drastically alter the flight’s headline price.

To help you navigate between the different airlines Yellow Jersey Cycle Insurance has produced the handy infographic shown above, covering 12 operators flying within Europe.

Of the airlines listed only British Airways and TAP allow a bike to be transported as part of your regular luggage allowance, which can keep down costs although you’ll probably need to pay for a second piece of luggage.

This can still work out cheaper as many budget airlines will make you pay for any item stored in the hold anyway.

Regardless of which you go with you’ll need to box your bike before flying, so check out our buyer's guide to bike boxes.

13 of the best 2018 cycling holidays

Velusso

Velusso offer premium holidays on the cycling's favourite island Mallorca, on the cobbles of West Flanders and in the hills of the Lake District.

The trips offer top-end hire bikes and include carefully chosen accommodation options. With villas and hotel rooms on Mallorca, this could be the best way to visit and experience 'cycling's ideal destination.'

Cuisine is taken care of and made to the standard expected in the professional peloton, giving another element of the pro-experience to amateur riders.

For more information and to book: velusso.co.uk

La Corsa

This Italian company delivers rides around events and Gran Fondos as well as offering week-long riding holidays in Tuscany. 

La Corsa even provides riders with a bike so worrying about baggage charges is no longer a concern. Accommodation, food and massages are all part of the packages, and the hotel even has a swimming pool for relaxing after a long day's riding. 

Check out La Corsa: lacorsa.cc

Col Conquerors

Col Conquerors bring riders everything from cycling holidays and training camps in Italy and France, to warm winter miles in Gran Canaria. 

Weekend visits and sportive trips can be booked to take riders up climbs such as the Col du Galibier, as well as week-long options on Gran Canaria when the weather turns for the worst at home.

Check out their trips at: colconquerors.com

Bici Amore Mio 

These trips are for those looking for a bit of Italian passion for their international cycling trip. Bici Amore Mio offer five hotels in five locations in five different Italian regions. 

This company aims to bring a full Italian experience to its visitors, not just the cycling but in doing everything 'the Italian way'.

Find out more: biciamoremio.it

Flyingeese

Running cycling holidays in Portugal, Flyingeese aims to be the 'perfect blend of ride and relaxation.'

These holidays offer cycling on open roads in dramatic landscapes and will challenge you to take on epic climbs.

Small groups are hosted over six days in Portugal’s Monchique Mountains. Riders are supported by personal nutrition plans, performance coaches, and support vehicles.

More information: flyingeese.co.uk

Derwent Water Guided Leisure Cycling Holiday

This short break is a perfect way to explore the northern parts of the Lake District, arguably the most beautiful place in England.

Based in Keswick, you’ll stay in the newly refurbished Derwent Bank Country House that directly overlooks Derwent Water.

From here you’ll enjoy guided rides around old railway lines or up challenging Lakeland fells that’ll leave you gasping – in both senses of the word – at the views across Skiddaw and Blencathra.

As the planned routes will see you take on just 62 miles over two days, you’ll have plenty of time to chill, and enjoy all the wonders of this special part of the world.

From the ancient stone circles of Castlerigg (built 5,000 years ago) to the exquisite array of local food and drink on offer, this is an experience for all the senses (think of it like a bike version of The Trip).

The price includes two nights full-board based on two sharing, with two nights guided riding with vehicle support. 

Magical Moorland Tour

Taking in part of the 2014 Tour de France route in Yorkshire, the Magical Moorland trail leads riders through the beautiful moors and dales of Britain’s white-rose county.

Starting off in York, you’ll follow a circuit that meanders along old country roads and beautiful canal paths, allowing you to experience a fabulous cross-section of the historic county over four days.

Day one involves a 20-miler that takes you to the edge of the Yorkshire Moors and your first overnight stop.

Day two sees you tackling 40 miles on canal towpaths and moorland to Haworth (home of the Brontë sisters).

Day three takes you on to Hebden Bridge to sample some of 2014’s Tour de France route, while day four sees you riding through the country back to York.

Averaging around 45 miles a day over four days, this won’t break you but it will provide a decent challenge among some spectacular scenery.

Prices are based on two sharing, and include breakfast, luggage transfers between hotels, plus bike and equipment hire. Separate insurance will be required, though.

Tenerife Ultimate Cycling Experience

This one allows you to follow in the footsteps of Sir Bradley Wiggins, who used Tenerife to train for his historic 2012 Tour de France victory.

Taking on 600km of riding and 15,000m in elevation gain over six days, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.

You’ll also get to tackle the road up the notorious El Teide volcano – the longest and arguably most iconic climb in Europe where the road ascends to 2,100m over a 35km-long stretch.

You’ll be riding in a completely unique landscape, too. One that includes almost-lunar landscapes, sparkling white villages, pine forests and coastal views.

You can also expect full mechanical support, snacks and drinks. All you have to do is bring your bike, some spending money and the will to climb!

Prices also include return flights, seven nights four-star, half-board accommodation (based on two sharing) airport transfers and a cycling jersey.  

The Italian Coast to Coast

Riding an average of 47 miles a day, you may be forgiven for thinking this is a straightforward cycling jaunt but with an average of 1,300m of elevation gain a day you’d be mistaken.

Starting at the seaside town of Cecina, just south of Pisa on the Mediterranean, riders roll across the country finishing in Riccione on the Adriatic Sea via Florence.

Riding through the heart of Tuscany, you take on the Apennine mountains and the rolling hills which were once home to some of the greatest Renaissance artists and architects.

And each evening you’ll get to enjoy fine food and wine from the fields and vineyards you’ve spent the day riding through.

This trip’s only available between September 7th-12th when the sting of summer’s heat has waned, but you can still expect temperatures of between 20-25°C – although some of those climbs may require you to crack out the arm- and leg-warmers.

Prices include accommodation based on two sharing in three- and four-star accommodation, all meals including snacks and picnic lunches, transfers, and bike hire.

You will need to sort out your own insurance and flights though.

At the time of writing, flights from London to Pisa were around £60, while those coming back from Bologna were about the same.

Dover to Cape Wrath Tour 

Many riders will know the hardships of taking on LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats), which sees you ride the entire length of the Britain.

In the same vein, the Dover-Cape Wrath Tour sees you ride 997 miles, averaging 72 miles a day over 13 days, taking in mile after mile of beautiful countryside.

Unlike LEJOG, though, this route is designed for hardier riders as it takes on more climbs – with unbelievable views and thrilling descents the pay-off for your hard toil.

Riding through the Kentish hills, across Cambridgeshire, through the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the Scottish Highlands and then onto the islands of Arran, Mull and Skye before finishing in Cape Wrath, it’s certainly a ride to rival the piffling 976-mile-long LEJOG.

Throughout the trip you move from B&Bs and hotels as part of the deal with organisers moving your luggage from one place to the next, so you can just concentrate on the road ahead.

These holidays are available in June and again in August, and the price includes 15 nights accommodation based on two sharing; breakfast, lunch and snacks each day; full mechanical support plus a tour leader to ride with the group; a cycling jersey and a certificate at the end to prove how hard you are!

The Garden Route to Cape Town

This ride goes from Port Elizabeth towards South Africa's parliamentary capital, Cape Town.

Unlike a lot of destinations in the southern hemisphere you won’t have to worry about jet lag as there’s only a two-hour difference between soggy Britain and sunny South Africa in winter, and just one hour when the clocks change in the spring.

And it will be sunny because November to March (when these trips are available) is when South Africa enjoys its summer, so you can expect to be cycling in temperatures of up to 30°C or higher.

Over 12 days – including nine which you’ll actually spend in the saddle – you’ll cycle next to the white beaches of the Indian Ocean, through evergreen forests and semi-desert regions.

You can also expect to encounter plenty of challenging climbs – not least in the wilds of the Swartberg mountains – through the Cape winelands and eventually around the Cape of Good Hope into Cape Town itself.

You’ll also encounter a huge variety of wildlife, ranging from lions (while on a short, included-in-the-price safari) to penguins. Yes, penguins.

With killer coastal views, magnificent mountain passes and European-standard roads, what’s not to like?

The price doesn’t include flights to and from South Africa (around £1,000) but you do get 11 nights in three-star accommodation based on two sharing, all breakfasts, one barbecue evening, all on-ride snacks and drinks, English-speaking tour and bike guides, all entrance fees paid for in the sightseeing programme, plus full vehicle support.

CycleFriendly’s Tour of Iceland

If you’re a keen cyclist but also love a good hike to boot, then this mini tour of Iceland could be right up your götu (that’s Icelandic for ‘street’).

With a mix of cycling and hiking, you’ll get to see Iceland’s toy-town cities and otherworldly landscapes all shimmering beneath rainbows and the unforgettable Northern Lights.

Starting in Reykjavik, you’re driven to the Rhyolite mountains for a walking tour before starting your riding in earnest on the third day of this 10-day holiday.

For the next six days you’ll explore Iceland’s wild remote interior and northern coast by bike. Expect to see fjords and waterfalls, whales (off the coast near Husavik), great canyons and gorges, lakes, volcanoes and boiling mud pools.

Although it’s a not an insubstantial distance to ride, there are few steep climbs to tackle so you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery at your leisure on quiet, well-maintained roads.

And if you get particularly lucky, a volcano with an unpronounceable name might just ensure you get stranded there!

Flights aren’t included in the price but at the time of going to press you could get return flights to London from Reykjavik during June and July (when this trip takes place) for £145.

What you do get for your money is nine-nights full-board accommodation based on two sharing, full vehicle support, bike hire, mechanical and first-aid back up, all ride drinks, plus a cycling guide.

Rapha Randonnee LA to San Diego

As with their clothing range, Rapha look to bring a high-end finish to the world of cycling holidays, and although this one ain’t cheap, you can certainly expect a quality experience with this adventure over the Atlantic.

Starting off from an Art Deco boutique hotel in Santa Monica on April 23rd, you’ll ride out onto the Pacific Coast Highway, climbing into the Santa Monica Mountains, then onto the Hollywood Hills and the Angeles National Forest.

Day two sees you take on Mount Baldy – scene of many an epic battle during the Tour of California – before a fast descent into Claremont for the night.

The San Bernardino mountains, and the edge of the Mojave desert are the highlights of day three, while day four sees you crossing the highest pass in Southern California – Onyx Summit which tops out at 2,573m.

It’s then down the Panoramic Highway for an overnight stop in Idyllwild. Day five features a ride up the 21 switchbacks of Mount Palomar, while day six brings you to the end of your epic ride in classy San Diego.

For the four grand price you might expect flights to be included but they’re not.

Though at the time of writing, return flights from London to LAX next spring were available from around £400.

So what do you get for the money? Single occupancy as standard in some of the finest SoCal hotels, airport transfers, all meals including drinks and on-road food, a daily massage, top-level mechanical support, a laundry service, high guide-to-client ratios, as well as discounts on Rapha’s fine clobber.

The original version of this article by Craig Cunningham first appeared in Bikes Etc magazine

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