Here are a few of the most common travel hurdles you’ll encounter while planning your next bike tour—and how to navigate around them.
Biking Travel Hurdles and How to Avoid Them
Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2023
Story by: Molly Waldstein | Travel Writer
Exploring the world by bike is one of the most rewarding vacation experiences you can have. Picture yourself gliding through a medieval village overlooking orderly terraces of lush grapevines—or pedaling an iconic river bike path against a backdrop of azure water and clear, sunlit skies. At the end of a day of exercise and exploration, you find yourself tired but invigorated—looking forward to a hot shower, a relaxing dinner, and a comfortable night’s rest. As you’re planning your bike tour, there are many different styles and approaches you can take—bearing in mind that even the best things in life come with their share of ups and downs. Here are a few of the most common travel hurdles you’ll encounter while planning your next bike tour—and how to navigate around them.
The Staggering Amount of Time It Takes to Plan a DIY Vacation
If you’re trying to decide if you should plan your own bicycling vacation from soup to nuts, the first question to ask yourself is—”how much time do I want to spend planning this?” If your answer is “I want to devote months of my life to planning every detail” then a do-it-yourself (DIY) bike tour is for you! If, on the other hand, your schedule is packed with work and play, booking a VBT self-guided bicycling vacation involves a much smaller time commitment. Just find the departure you want, book it—then let us take care of the nitty-gritty. Here are a few examples of things you DON’T have to plan when you book a VBT self-guided tour:
- Booking flights: VBT’s expert flight department will find the best airlines and itineraries for you at reasonable prices—taking advantage of our contract rates with major carriers.
- Finding hotels: We visit each hotel to ensure it ranks highly on our 23-point hotel scoring matrix.
- Getting a bike: VBT trips always include a well-serviced bike, helmet, and rack bag from our professionally maintained fleet.
- Moving your luggage: On VBT self-guided vacations, we move your luggage to each hotel for you.
- Mapping the best cycling routes: The last thing anybody wants on vacation is to find themselves cycling a route with heavy traffic, no shoulder, and loads of potholes. At VBT, we ride all the routes ourselves and our local in-country staff members are always on the lookout for road construction and other issues. Plus, our Ride with GPS app provides real-time voice navigation on your phone—along with tips about top local restaurants, attractions, and scenic spots to take that awe-inspiring photo.
Shipping Your Bike Overseas is Tons of Fun (Said No One, Ever)
What’s the one thing you absolutely can’t do without on a bicycling vacation? A bicycle, of course! While VBT trips always include a well-maintained bicycle and helmet from our international fleet, on a DIY trip you’ll have to come up with a bike on your own. In this case, there are three basic options: ship your bike to your destination, take it on the plane, or rent a bike when you get there. It takes some time to research and find bike rental shops—and in some regions, options may be limited. Of course, if you rent, you always run the risk of finding yourself pedaling a bike that fits poorly, weighs a ton, and has technical malfunctions.
Packing your bike as oversized luggage, or shipping it overseas, also involves its own headaches and expenses. As if disassembling your beloved bike, packing it carefully in a bike box, and paying to have it shipped aren’t complex enough, consider the effort of retrieving the package at your destination and putting the bike back together. And what if it gets damaged in transit—or simply doesn’t arrive? Even if that all works out, you still have to do it all over again at the end of your trip—and once again cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t get damaged or lost in transit on the way home.
Slipped Chains, Flats, and the Breakdown Blues
Let’s face it—even the most well-planned vacation can hit the odd snag. Punctured tires, jumped gears, and snapped chains are just a few of the mechanical problems that can occasionally arise—even under the best of conditions with a perfectly maintained bike. The key is to minimize the chances of a breakdown—while also having a backup plan in case one does happen. With a DIY tour, you’ll have to be prepared to fix any breakdowns on your own—or find a local bike shop to help with anything you can’t handle.
This is where VBT self-guided tours really shine. In addition to our excellent fleet of well-maintained bicycles, all self-guided VBT bikes are newly-equipped with protective tire inserts. These inserts provide an extra 15 millimeters of sturdy protection to shield the tube against punctures. This protective layer can deflect much of the debris that might cause standard tires to puncture—including glass, thorns, and tacks. While nothing can eliminate 100% of punctures in inflated tires, this extra protective layer tremendously reduces the likelihood of flats. Best of all, in the unlikely event you do need support during a VBT self-guided tour, a quick phone call to our 24/7 local support team will get you the help you need to set you back on course.
The Unenviable Luggage-Juggling Act
Let’s say you’ve decided on a bicycling vacation for two people. One of the first questions to ask yourself before you decide on a travel style is: what’s the itinerary, and how many places do you want to see along the way? If your dream vacation involves staying in the same hotel for seven nights—no problem! A DIY vacation is for you. But if you have any ambition of moving from place to place, a DIY bicycling vacation can involve a whole lot of extra planning.
Let’s say you and your partner have decided to take a DIY biking trip of Tuscany—and you want to see Siena, Lucca, and San Gimignano. You book a hotel in each town a few days apart. But how do you get your luggage from town to town? You can rent a car and drive your luggage—but how will you get your bikes from point A to point B? It’s not always possible to rent a bike rack—and if you bring one with you, it’s just one more ungainly item to schlep on the plane. You might consider getting all your gear onto a bus or train—but it’s not always possible to bring a bike onto public transportation. This is another area where VBT’s self-guided bike trips have a real advantage. On days when you switch hotels, just pack your bags and bring them down to the hotel lobby—we’ll move them to your next hotel while you’re out enjoying your day’s ride. Problem solved!