“We think the world’s at its best when there’s nothing between it and you. No big bus window. No iPhone screen. No maps or walls or guidebooks. Just the wind and the open road.”
This quote, on Intrepid Travel’s cycling trip page, is a classic.
It explains exactly why we love these bike trips. But it doesn’t answer many of the questions we receive about them. So, we had a little sit down with Cycling Product Manager, Frank Cheshire. He’s the most passionate cyclist you’ll likely ever meet and he has ALL the answers to your questions – from e-bike availability to what you need to bring.
Here are 10 of the most commonly asked questions about our cycling tours. And his answers to them:
Can/ should you bring your own saddle and pedals?
Our seats are ‘unisex’ but we know that saddle styles and types are a personal preference, so if you are an experienced cyclist then we definitely recommend bringing your own saddle along – you’ll be more comfortable that way. Some people also like to bring their own gel seat cover to make things even more comfortable.
Our bikes all have flat pedals so if you are used to cycling in clip-in pedals then by all means bring them along. But please make sure you bring ‘mountain bike’ rather than ‘road bike’ style shoes with you as we can sometimes do a fair bit of walking when cycling, especially in towns and cities.
If you bring either your own saddle or pedals (or both!) our friendly mechanics will be more than happy to fit them on our bikes for you.
Can you rent helmets when you’re already in the destination itself?
We do not provide helmets on our trips, nor do we hire them directly. We strongly advise you to bring your own helmet but we also understand that sometimes luggage space counts so our cycling leaders know the best places to purchase one before the cycling begins.
In some places – usually where cycling is not a common pastime – this is not possible so you must bring your own. These places include Cuba, Iran, and Tanzania.
How fit do you have to be? How demanding are the bike rides?
All you need to enjoy our cycling trips is the ability to ride a bicycle and a passion for seeing a destination on two wheels. That’s about it.
While there are occasionally longer days on some itineraries, the vast majority of our cycling days are between 30-70kms and are done at a leisurely pace with plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery and just take a break.
All riders and all groups are different so the pace of the riding varies trip to trip. When possible our leaders will often let the faster riders set their own pace but generally the group rides together, at an average speed of approx. 18-23kph/11-14mph. Anyone with a reasonable level of fitness will get by with no troubles.
To help discover if a trip is right for you we rate the physical difficulty of our cycling trips from 1 (easiest) to 5 (hardest), but in reality most sit between a 2 and a 4. If you’re looking for a leisurely cruise (like our Cycle Bali trip) then choose a trip with a rating of 2. If you want to get the blood pumping then look out for a trip rated 3 (like our Cycle Tuscany trip) or if you want to challenge yourself then opt for a rating 4 trip like our Cycle Morocco or Cycle the French Alps trips. Remember it is not always just the riding that affects these ratings, it is also the terrain, the actual road conditions, and the weather.
If you really want the details, we can also provide a day to day elevation chart that displays just how hilly (or flat!) the ride is – ask your booking agent for more details.
Are electric bikes available?
E-bikes grow in popularity each years and, to make life easier, we’ve included the option to hire an e-bike on selected trips. While it won’t do all the work for you (you still need to pedal!) it can help you hold a higher average speed and make the hills a lot easier. Many couples where one person is not as strong as the other find our e-bike option a great way to enjoy the trip together.
They’re also coming to other trips soon – check our website or with your agent for more details.
What should you wear for the cycling itself? Casual clothing or actual cycle gear?
Our cycling trips are not races so feel free to wear whatever you feel comfortable in – casual cycling gear or lycra. Having said that, we definitely recommend bringing a pair (or 3!) of padded cycling shorts. Sure they look kinda funny, and feel pretty weird the first time you wear them, but it’ll make a world of difference to the comfort of your ride.
Whatever you decide on, we’d definitely recommend that the material is lightweight, breathable and dries quickly. Cotton isn’t a great alternative but you can usually pick up breathable/quick-dry clothing at your local adventure store pretty cheaply – and if you don’t want to bring it home we can always find someone locally that’d appreciate it.
In most places, both men and women are fine to ride in short sleeves and shorts (above the knee) but due to cultural sensitivities there are some exceptions to this. In predominantly Muslim countries we cycle in (e.g. Morocco, Jordan, as well as parts of Myanmar and Thailand) it is important to dress respectfully – especially females – even when cycling. This means, as a general guideline, shoulders, cleavage and knees should be covered at all times.
As a traditionally Islamic nation, Iran has a fairly strict dress code including when cycling (particularly for women). All women must wear a headscarf (hijab) and must also have their arms and legs covered at all times, even when cycling. Men are expected to wear long trousers even when cycling, but short-sleeved shirts can be acceptable in less strict destinations.
While these ‘rules’ may seem challenging to the casual cyclist, it is important to follow them and be respectful. This way your ability to meet and interact with the local people is greatly enhanced – and getting to meet locals is always a highlight of any trip, cycling or not.
Don’t be nervous! If you are still unsure your leader will always advise you what is appropriate to wear in each destination.
What shoes should you wear on cycling trips?
When cycling you have quite a few options, but the only thing we do insist on is that they have ‘closed toes’. Yes, we realise that having the wind between your toes is a lovely feeling but broken toes from a loose stick or otherwise innocuous incident can quickly ruin a cycling holiday.
You are free to cycle in trainers/sneakers/anything with a rubber sole. If possible, a shoe that has a slightly less flexible sole is preferable to cycle in, as well as being quick-drying for those annoying days when it rains (although we find stuffing your wet shoes overnight with newspaper works a treat to dry them out by morning).
We also recommend bringing a separate pair of shoes to walk in for the days we are off the bike and exploring the destination.
What are the road conditions like?
Well, it depends… I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for but the beauty of travelling the world is that everywhere is different – and sometimes even the places you thought you knew don’t always turn out to be what you expected (but that’s a good thing, right?)
As part of our trip design we try and find the small roads and cycle paths that help us truly experience a destination and give us a chance to get off the usual tourist track. In some places that means we are cycling on roads where truly no vehicle should ever drive (hello Cuba!) yet in others we ride along pristine tarmac when you least expect it (hello Iran!).
Is there a guide both at the back and the front during cycle journeys?
All of our trips include a cycling leader and a support team. The support team varies by region/trip but always includes a support vehicle driver and mechanic.
Generally our cycling leader will ride at the front of the group, guiding the way and controlling the pace of the group. In some destinations (e.g. Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Peru) our support vehicle acts as the back marker, ensuring constant support and making sure that no-one gets left behind. In other regions (e.g. most of Asia and Morocco) we have a separate rider at the back, as well as the vehicle.
In either case, you are always fully supported and free to just enjoy your ride.
How do the support vehicles work?
As part of our commitment to your health and safety, as well as comfort, we provide a support vehicle on every one of our cycling trips. The actual vehicles vary, from a support car with small groups on our Cycle the French Alps trip, to minivans on most trips, to a comfortable coach in Cuba, to a specially converted overland truck on our Cycle Tanzania trip.
As well as providing transport for sections that are too long or dangerous to cycle, these support vehicles carry your luggage, food and water and all spare bikes and parts. They are also a welcome haven for cyclists that are too tired, hot, or just feel like taking an hour or day off from cycling.
The vehicle usually closely trails the group (just behind the last rider), acting as a back marker on trips that don’t have a second cycling guide. On occasions where the vehicle cannot closely follow (e.g. designated cycle-only paths) the vehicle will drive ahead to meet the group, often setting up a quick refreshment stop along the way.
Is there still time on Intrepid cycling trips for sightseeing that isn’t by bike?
While we strongly believe the best way to truly experience a destination is to cycle through it, we also know sometimes we need to park the bike and take in the world by foot or in a vehicle. That’s why we design our cycling trips to encompass the best a destination has to offer, and swap the bike for a truck to experience the wonders of the Serengeti, go by foot to take in the sublime beauty of the Taj Mahal or even float by balloon in the early morning mist over the temples of Bagan.
We usually build in a rest day in the most culturally interesting location so that you are free to discover all aspects of the destination – truly the best of both worlds. And yes we also make sure we stop at the most interesting sights along the way when we are cycling as well – as you’re in control you’ll never miss that perfect photo along the journey!
Ready to embark on the cycling trip of a lifetime? Check out Intrepid Travel’s cycling tours.