Tours for Bicycles

Author: Joachim Geiger

Jul 05, 2023

An individually planned cycling vacation is a different kettle of fish to an all-inclusive package from a tour operator. The planning and execution alone can be a challenge. Which route is the best choice for traditional bikes, which for e-bikes? And above all: Where do you want to go? DEKRA expert Marc Gölz has some tips.

A vacation on a bike? For several days or weeks at a time? What could possibly be fun about cycling for hours in all kinds of weather, pedaling uphill with a sore backside, and sweating your heart out? For many people, there is nothing better than doing just that. Vacationing on a bike stands for adventure and pure nature. What’s more, a trip on a trekking bike, gravel bike, mountain bike, or racing bike is good for your health. Cycling is easy on the joints, strengthens the back and immune system, and provides plenty of fresh air for the lungs. So why not hop on your bike and start logging kilometers? Well, it’s not quite that simple. “Planning and carrying out a longer tour is more demanding than an all-inclusive club vacation,” says DEKRA expert Marc Gölz from the Bicycle Damage Assessment Product Management division.
Thorough preparation is the nuts and bolts for a successful cycling vacation
The 45-year-old is a dyed-in-the-wool cyclist who competed on mountain bikes as a teenager and went pro for the T-Mobile MTB team in the 2000s. Today, he cultivates his sporting ambitions with crisp weekend tours in the Swabian Alps. His preferred vehicle is a gravel bike with a stainless steel frame – custom-made by a bike manufacturer that Marc Gölz himself founded a few years ago. “Tour planning should take into account the challenges of the route, the degree of difficulty, and the differences in altitude,” explains the DEKRA expert. The expectations of fellow cyclists also play a part. It is important to clarify in advance how to work with people’s respective fitness levels as well as their requirements for comfort – if someone prefers sleeping in a hotel bed at the end of a long cycling day, they will hardly find the necessary rest on an air mattress in a tent. And on a family trip, it’s important to focus on finding well-maintained bike paths, traffic-free sections, and child-friendly routes.
How do electric drives affect route planning?
When planning a tour on a computer, laptop, or smartphone, cyclists can draw from the full range of tour suggestions on relevant websites and apps. It is often worth clicking on travel providers and tourism organizations. The Brussels-based European Cyclists Federation (ECF) provides good orientation with detailed maps of the European cycling network “Eurovelo”, which is made up of numerous national cycling routes in the participating countries. Currently, the network consists of 19 routes, including a North Sea coastal route, a Baltic-Adriatic Sea route, and a route from the Atlantic Ocean across Central Europe to the Black Sea.
So what difference does it really make for a tour planner, whether the cycling vacationers hop on an analog or an electric bike? “In most cases, the drive does not play a role in the choice of route,” says DEKRA expert Gölz. If the participants’ fitness is good, the e-bike sections may be somewhat longer. Otherwise, planners should not rely too much on that electric tailwind. Passengers who call up maximum support on every uphill section will ultimately not make more progress than a trained “organic biker”. On the other hand, when touring mountains by mountain bike, it makes sense to take a closer look at the ascent sections. If the route serves up longer daily distances, it is advisable to take a different route due to the higher weight of e-MTBs.
When it comes to spare parts, cyclists should not make compromises
In fact, luggage weight is also a relevant factor when making plans. Since mountain bikers focus on flexibility and maneuverability, they need a minimalist luggage solution. In most cases, just a few bags for the equipment, attached to the bicycle frame to save space, are enough. If you’re planning a longer bike trip with overnight stays at campsites, the classic trekking bike is a good choice. After all, panniers at the rear, on the front wheel, and on the handlebars can easily amass a payload of 15 to 20 kilograms. DEKRA expert Marc Gölz advises to distribute the equipment evenly among the bags so that the bike remains balanced. Before the start of the trip, it’s a good idea to pack the bike for a test ride and take it for a spin. Otherwise, frustration is inevitable when you discover en route that you have too much weight on board and the bike’s handling feels off.
By the way, cyclists should not cut back on spare parts. Two suitable inner tubes, tire levers, and an air pump belong in a cyclist’s luggage just as much as an additional chain lock and a multi-functional tool that can be used for broken or chipped chains and loose screws. A bike check should also be part of any thorough preparation: Tires and brake pads should have sufficient tread, tire pressure should be in order, and the chain should be well greased. The gears should shift smoothly and the lights should work.

Five tips for cycling in Europe

Trekking bike / gravel bike: Gironde Cycle Circuit, France
  • Character: Tour for families, beginners
  • Route: The circuit starts in Bordeaux and passes through the Entre-deux-Mers and Landes de Gascogne nature parks to Arcachon Bay. Then it goes along the Atlantic coast to the mouth of the Gironde and from there into the wine country of the Médoc. The return journey leads partly over long-distance cycle routes Canal des 2 Mers and La Vélodysée.
  • Tour length: 480 kilometers
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Special features: About 90 percent of the tour takes place on specially created and predominantly asphalt bike paths.
Trekking bike / gravel bike: Coast-to-coast, England
  • Character: Tour for experienced cyclists
  • Route: This route takes you once across the entire island, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. The tour starts in Whitehaven in the northwest of England and ends in Sunderland in the northeast. The most interesting sections are the Lake District National Park and the Pennines, a low mountain range known for its scenic beauty, with upland moors and river valleys.
  • Tour length: 225 kilometers
  • Difficulty: Medium to difficult
  • Special features: The trails are mostly paved. However, steep and demanding climbs require good physical fitness.
Mountain bike: Trans Slovenia 03, Slovenia
  • Character: Tour for athletic cyclists
  • Route: Picturesque mountain ranges and spectacular valleys – the adventure tour starts in Maribor and mostly runs off the busy main routes. It leads through spruce forests and over mountain passes right into the Karawanken. Highlights include the Rogla Bike Park, the Jamnica Single Trail Park, and underground trips through abandoned mine tunnels.
  • Tour length: 330 kilometers
  • Difficulty: Medium to difficult
  • Special features: Although the tour makes high demands on the cyclists’ fitness, it comes with no special challenges to riding technique.
E-mountain bike: Crossing the Alps, Germany and Italy
  • Character: Tour for experienced cyclists
  • Route: The alpine crossing begins in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and ends after a series of technically demanding trails and about 18,000 meters of climbing in the former fishing village of Limone sul Garda. The tour plan includes spectacular trails from Fimberpass, Ofenpass, and Bormio and finally the downhill from Tremalzo.
  • Tour length: 440 kilometers
  • Difficulty: Medium to difficult
  • Special features: Stamina and advanced riding technique are indispensable. Crisp climbs, with passages where you have to push. Climbing aids can be used in some locations.
Racing bike: Sierra Nevada and Pico del Veleta, Spain
  • Character: Tour for experienced cyclists
  • Route: This round trip around the Sierra Nevada – the highest mountain range of the Iberian Peninsula – leads through the provinces of Granada and Almería. There are about a dozen variants with numerous mountain roads and passes. The climb up Pico del Veleta is a must, which, at almost 3,400 meters, is considered the highest mountain in Europe passable by racing bike.
  • Tour length: Between 800 and 950 kilometers
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Special features: Very good fitness and at least some experience with mountain tours are required. There is generally little car traffic in the mountain sections.