There is no better way to earn your rest at the end of the day than getting there by human power.
So you’re thinking about taking a small group cycling trip? Good idea. Cycling through your destination brings you closer to the land and its people than just about any other style of travel. It’ll give you the chance to see familiar locales from a new perspective and opens up their more remote corners to deeper exploration. And since you control the pace, you’re free to stop at a friendly café or roadside market whenever you like, or turn that rolling field you just passed into an impromptu picnic spot. Ah, the slow life. It really is the best method of getting around. There is no better way to earn your rest at the end of the day than getting there by human power. One pedal at a time, turning over your wheels, up and down distant roads.
This thought can be a little daunting to some. And yes, it’s not unusual to be a bit worried. But don’t fear; with a little preparation and planning, you can conquer any road by bike. Throughout my 23 years of cycling, I’ve learned a few things that keep me motivated to go the extra mile—and smile the entire way. Follow these simple steps in the weeks leading up to your trip, and you will be rolling along, enjoying every minute.
Step 1: Get out and ride
Ahead of your trip, the most important thing to do is get out and ride a bike. You have to get used to it, and feel confident going tackling hills, taking corners, and riding on different surfaces. You don’t want to be the one person that shows up having forgotten how to brake, or knowing when and how to change gears, which isn’t always immediately intuitive to most people who haven’t biked in a while. There is always a good reason to go for a ride at home. Find a friend and head out for coffee or tea. Ride to the park for a picnic. Leave your car behind and bike to work. The more time you can get out, the better. The best confidence boost is knowing you have gone the distance already, and have already conquered it.
Taking in the view outside of Vietnam’s Hue.
Step 2: Get used to being active for a few hours at a time
Some days your time in the saddle will be longer than others. So, you’ll want to make sure your body is prepared and knows what it’s like to be active for a few hours at a time. Ideally, you will have done a few longer rides before your trip; however, if that’s not possible, there are other ways to help your legs prepare for what they are going to do. Go for a long hike to get moving and get your heart pumping — or play sports (soccer or squash are great choices). An easy option is to avoid sitting during the day. Try a stand-up desk while working at your computer, or walking to your destination instead of driving. Long walks are a great way to keep moving, see new places and enjoy being outdoors.
Cycling through the wine capital of Burgundy in the Côte d’Or.
Step 3: Understand your body
Prolonged activity can cause some muscle confusion. So you’ll want to pay attention to what your body is telling you. This way, you’ll get the most out of yourself—and more out of your ride. Make sure to eat and drink enough to provide your body with the energy you will need to complete a full day of cycling. You’ll be burning a lot more calories than normal and—without topping up throughout the day—you might run into difficulty. Indulge at breakfast and pack snacks for along the route. Bring and drink lots of water. You want to make sure you never get to the point where you feel thirsty—this is an indicator that you are already in the first stages of dehydration. Some effects of calorie deprivation and dehydration can include cramps, fatigue, light-headedness, drowsiness, loss of balance and blurry vision. If you experience any of these while riding, stop, dismount your bike and let someone know. Most of these symptoms can be easily remedied with an electrolyte drink and a high-calorie snack.
Step 4: Have fun
Your mind is a powerful thing, and can overcome any obstacle. Stay positive and keep moving forward. When you’re having fun, you won’t even notice how much pedaling you’ve done. Try to focus on the scenery and the accomplishment rather than the upcoming hills or how much longer you have to go. Remember, you’re on the road with a group; use them to motivate and distract you. You are doing something amazing with amazing people, even if it seems hard or frustrating at the time. You will think back on it as one of your proudest accomplishments. Look at the ride as another notch in your belt, or a trophy on your mantle. The best stories are the ones truly earned.
And remember, there is always a support vehicle near by. So just in case that hill is a bit too big, or your day is just a little too long, you can always jump on board for a rest.
Travelling and the bicycle have been in a serious committed relationship for centuries, and it’s not hard to understand why. Just about every environment, from desert to mountain to rolling prairie, is accessible with a trusty bike, and the world is always eager to offer options aplenty for leisurely pedallers and hardcore asphalt-eaters alike. Ready to ride? Learn more about G Adventures cycling trips.