Cycling holidays for beginners: a survival guide
Going on a cycling holiday? Before you throw your leg over the crossbar, read this
The Greenway in Westport, Co Mayo. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
If you have always wanted to go on a cycling holiday but something’s been holding you back, right now is the perfect time to get in the saddle. Age, experience, fitness and family circumstances are no barriers as long as you choose the right type of trip. But before you throw your leg over a crossbar, here are a few things to consider.
Whether buying or renting, think carefully about the type of bike you need. Unless you are planning to negotiate rough terrain, steer clear of mountain bikes; they are really heavy. Hybrid bikes, those with wheels that are similar in thickness to a racing bike, but with upright handlebars, are the best for leisure cycling. Also make sure the bike fits you. You can raise or lower a saddle if you get it slightly wrong, but you will get a sore back if you are constantly overstretching to reach handlebars on a frame that’s too big for you. Any bike shop will be able to advise you.
Bring, rent or buy
If you’re travelling by ferry, taking your own bike is little hassle and can be done without a charge or having to do any dismantling. Airlines generally charge about €30 to €50 each way and often charge lower prices if you book online. However, you will be required to have a bike bag or box, and you may have to make significant adjustments, such as removing wheels and pedals, so it’s important to make sure you can put your bike back together or have someone to do it at the other end. Also, no matter how padded your bike bag is, stick in a bit of extra cushioning, particularly around the delicate bits, such as the chain rings.
Being able to put your bike on a train is handy, not just for getting you to the starting point, but to get you across any boring or treacherous bits of terrain. It’s also a great safety net if you have been overoptimistic about your abilities. France and Britain are particularly accommodating in this regard, as are most European countries.
Iarnród Éireann’s on-board provision is limited. Its cycle spaces are too short for some frames and, in the same space that a French train would carry five bikes, an Irish train carries two.
Bike rental fees in Europe vary widely and can cost anything from €50 to €200 per week, depending on the country, bike and the service offered. You also may need to factor in pick-up fees if you’re not planning on a round trip.