Are you getting ready for your next vacation and thinking about combining visiting a new country (or countries) with improving your health and fitness? Cycling through Europe could be the perfect challenge for you. Europe is the birthplace of the Tour de France, the infamous cyclist-friendly city of Amsterdam, and the trans-continental bike route. Plus, it’s full of culture and heritage, great food, quiet backstreets and plenty of hotels and campsites. However, planning a bike trip to Europe can be intimidating, especially with so many countries to choose from and languages to understand.
There are many travel agencies that can put a tour together for you. If you prefer to go it alone, however, not only will you reduce costs, but you’ll also experience much more adventure and flexibility for route changes off the beaten path. Plus, depending on where you decide to visit, Europe is a safe and developed continent with well-marked routes and signs, a fairly low crime rate and a cyclist-tolerant culture. It also has a well-developed rail network, lots of bike shops, accurate maps and Internet signals if you prefer to rely on GPS. Overall, it’s an excellent place to start touring on your own. Although, there are a few things you need to know about biking in Europe before you decide to go:
Choose a destination that works for you
A map of Europe can be daunting. There are tons of roads and plenty to see, but think about what you’re physically able to accomplish and how much cycling you want to do. If you’ve always wanted to visit the Pyrenees, or the Swiss Alps, remember that these places are mountainous, and mountains equal a lot of hard work on your bike. If you want to go somewhere gentler on your body, try the river valleys of France and Germany, such as the Rhone, Rhine, Loire, Dordogne, and Danube: they’re all flat and have great bike routes along their rivers.
Make sure you pack waterproof, windproof, breathable clothes
While the weather is generally pleasant, depending on where you go and the time of year, it can rain anywhere in Europe and storms can come out of nowhere. Waterproof clothing that lets your skin breathe is a must, and a couple of pairs of comfortable footwear as well. Also, while it’s not law to wear a cycling helmet in most of Europe, tourists who don’t want to get knocked off their fixies in the bustling streets of Paris or London and end up having to cut the vacation short ought to take a helmet.
Staying in touch
It’s easy to stay in touch from most places in Europe. Although internet cafés are fairly scarce these days, almost all restaurants and bars have a WIFI signal. Another alternative is to get a prepaid phone in Europe for about €30.
While Europe isn’t particularly troubled by high crime levels, thieves are a universal problem and it’s not advisable to leave your bike unsecured when it’s out of sight, especially in cities. Buy a U-lock to take with you, as they’re generally available wherever there are bikes for sale.
Take a phrasebook
If you thought that the whole world speaks English, then it’s time to think again. Remember that you’re in a foreign country, so try to make an effort to learn a few phrases, especially important ones, like asking for directions. You can get by with a few words of English in many parts of Europe, but you could end up getting lost if you don’t try to use the local lingo in quieter areas.
No matter where you decide to go and how long you want to go for, biking in Europe will always be highly rewarding and it doesn’t involve any great danger. Also, it’s well geared up for cyclists. Although it’s cheaper to buy most things at home, if you do forget something, you should be able to pick it up fairly easily.
Michael Peggs is the founder of digital marketing agency Marccx Media, where they specialize in SEO and Content Marketing. Before Marcxx, Peggs worked at Google in business development, forming digital media and advertising partnerships. He is also a blogger and podcaster, hosting the iTunes Top 10 New & Noteworthy podcast You University – The Personal Branding Podcast.