Believe it or not, there are actually a number of different types of bicycle touring and bicycle tours. However, the main branches of the activity can be broken down into three major categories: guided bicycle touring, self-guided bicycle touring and self-supported bicycle touring.
The Guided Bicycle Tour
A guided bicycle tour is a type of bicycle touring in which you pay to be escorted along a pre-designed path by an experienced bicycle touring guide or company, and your belongings (such as your food, clothing, toiletries, etc.) are carried in a vehicle that meets you at various checkpoints along your route.
Guided bicycle tours range in size from 2 to 20+ people, with tour participants often times coming from a number of different countries all around the world.
Support and personnel vary by tour and tour company, but one guide typically rides with the group on his or her bicycle each day, while a second tour guide drives a support van carrying your luggage. Larger tour groups may have as many as three or more guides working to escort you along your route each day. In addition to carrying your belongings from one point to the next, the support van provided by the touring company also makes it possible for tour participants to bridge less attractive and/or more challenging sections of a route, if need be.
While bicycles used for the duration of the trip may or may not be included in the tour’s overall cost, most tour operators will provide you with a bicycle of some kind if you choose not to bring your own (although the cost for renting a bicycle from the company may be extra). Most tour companies will also provide you with a comprehensive packing list, route/mapping details, and an information package containing details on the sights you can expect to see along the way, cultural highlights and scenic stops (although the extent of information varies from company to company).
If you enjoy traveling with a group, meeting new people, riding with an experienced bicycle touring guide and having a structured daily schedule, then a guided bicycle tour is probably the best fit for you. The guides will point out places of interest, organize activities and excursions, and are there to help in case of mechanical, mental or physical breakdowns.
With all the tour details sorted for you and almost everything paid for in advance, guided bicycle touring allows you to simply show up for the start of the tour and enjoy the ride!
See the website at www.gobicycletouring.com to search for amazing guided bicycle tours in dozens of different countries all around the world.
The Self-Guided Bicycle Tour
A self-guided bicycle tour is similar to a guided bicycle tour in that the route, lodging and meals have all been taken care of for you by an established bicycle touring company. The difference, however, is that on a self-guided tour you will not be joined by an experienced bicycle touring guide. Instead, you must navigate a pre-designed course on your own, while carrying whatever belongings you might have with you on your bicycle (although some self-guided bicycle tours will transport your luggage each day from one hotel to the next).
While a guided bicycle tour is typically conducted with a large group of people, self-guided bicycle tours can be done alone or with a group of almost any size.
While meals may or may not be included with your tour, bicycle tours of this type are generally far less expensive than guided bicycle tours (because you aren’t paying for a guide to accompany you along your route). Self-guided bicycle tours also offer more freedom to stop and smell the roses (or take a detour, if you so wish) along the way.
If you choose to conduct a self-guided bicycle tour, you should consider your level of comfort with navigating through a different country, communicating in a foreign language, reading maps and signs, ordering food, and dealing with flats or other minor emergencies. While some tour participants would rather avoid these types of situations, others will find these challenges to be an enjoyable part of the bicycle touring experience.
If you’re looking to participate in a relatively inexpensive bicycle tour where all (or most) of your tour details are taken care of for you in advance, but you want the freedom to choose your own travel companions, cycle at your own pace and come up with your own schedule each day, then a self-guided bicycle tour might be in your future!
Be sure to visit the website at www.gobicycletouring.com to find that incredible self-guided bicycle tour you’ve been dreaming about.
The Self-Supported Bicycle Tour
Finally, there is the self-supported bicycle tour, which requires you to travel alone (without a guide) and carry all the clothing, tools, and gear you need to survive for days, weeks, or months on end. This type of bicycle travel is also commonly referred to as “traditional bicycle touring” or “fully-loaded bicycle touring.”
While your food, route details and lodging are all taken care of for you in advance by a touring company on both guided and self-guided bicycle tours, self-supported bicycle touring require you to figure out all of these details on your own – either in advance or once you get out there on the road.
By far the least expensive means of traveling by bike, self-supported bicycle touring requires the most amount of planning, preparation and skill. Knowing how to navigate, find food and water, interact with locals, repair and maintain your bicycle, ride in all types of traffic (while carrying a heavy load) and secure lodging for the night are all important skills that the self-supported bicycle tourist must posses.
Despite the education that is required to successfully conduct your first self-supported bicycle tour, this type of touring continues to be one of the most popular means of traveling by bike.
Learn how to conduct your own self-supported bicycle tours at www.bicycletouringbook.com.