Research fatigue is real! With many tour operators offering hundreds of tours, the unique differences between guided bicycle tours may be hard to suss out. But we’ve got a process to help you narrow down your search in minutes.
The easiest and most fun part of planning your bike tour is deciding where you want to go! So start there. In making your where and when decisions, think about your personal style and what you want to get out of your adventure.
Start by visualizing your idea of the perfect bike tour.
Terrain: Are you on a road or a path? Is it paved or dirt?
Purpose: Are the scenic vistas what you look forward to or is it all about the history and culture of a place? Tours often have side trips and off-the-bike activities that highlight the history, culture, or natural wonders of the area.
Difficulty: Is it a long day of pedaling with big mountain passes that pulls you toward bicycle travel? Or does a short saunter with plenty of time for side trips tickle your fancy?
Type: Are you carrying your own gear or is someone carrying it for you?
Accommodations: Are you sleeping under the stars or in a cozy inn?
Meals: Is every meal catered or eaten in a restaurant or are you more of the camp cooking type?
Group: How many people are in your perfect group?
Budget: How much are you expecting to spend? Keep in mind that the more amenities a tour includes the less affordable it may become.
Guided tours exist for every style, so it helps to have an idea of what you envision for your bicycle tour before you get bogged down in the variety of tours out there.
Adventure Cycling Guided Tours are unique in that they offer everything from inexpensive bike tours, with camping and group cooking, to tours where everything is prepared and provided for you — and tours in between to fit every budget and adventure cycling style.
Guided touring companies have the freedom to categorize and name their tours however they want but most tours fall into four general categories.
Fully supported is exactly as it sounds. Your meals are catered and luggage transported for you each day, so that your only concern is enjoying the ride.
For adventure travel, a fully supported tour leans toward the luxury end of the spectrum. Have a flat tire? Not a problem — one of the guides or a mechanic can fix that for you. Hungry or thirsty? Water and lunch stops are thoughtfully spaced out and ready for you on many fully supported tours.
Luxury as a term itself means different things for different people, and the same is true for guided tours. The type of accommodations can vary quite a bit, as well as the level of service. Keep in mind that with tours that travel through rural or backcountry areas, fine accommodations are hard to come by. With these types of tours, groups tend to be larger, and the schedule is less flexible.
Unlike many operators, Adventure Cycling stays true to its roots on their fully supported tours and focuses on camping as its main accommodation, although inns are an option for those that prefer a roof overhead.
Self-contained means carrying all of your own gear and camping and cooking most days. It is the budget bike tour of touring, but for some, also the most rewarding. To many cyclists, this style of travel is the ultimate. Relying on your own power, cooking your own meals, and carrying your “home” with you — it’s a sense of freedom that must be experienced to be understood.
For some self-contained guided tours, the schedule can be more flexible than other types of guided tours. While always having a defined route and start and end dates, guides can adapt daily riding distances to the weather, terrain, and attractions along the way, planning the adventure as they go.
Adventure Cycling is one of the few touring operators that offers this type of guided tour. Groups sizes are small. And because the group relies on itself rather than a support vehicle, this type of touring can travel nearly anywhere and on any type of terrain.
Like fully supported tours, van supported tours have specially equipped vans to shuttle your gear each day, leaving you light and ready for the day’s ride.
At Adventure Cycling, the biggest difference between the two is that van supported tours maintain small group sizes and do not have catered meals. Instead, with the purpose of providing a unique and empowering experience, van supported tours typically include camping and peer-made meals at the campsite.
This type of tour is great for someone looking for a less expensive, sleep-under-the-stars experience but also enjoys the comfort of a light load and the reassurance of a support vehicle.
Because most of Adventure Cycling Tours involve camping and group meals, we have a separate tour type for tours that do the complete opposite. Other operators may use the terms inn-to-inn and fully supported interchangeably.
Inn-to-inn tours focus on exploring the local food through restaurants, sleeping in roofed accommodations, and maintaining small group sizes. Since you’ll only need extra clothes, toiletries, and your lunch for the day, Adventure Cycling’s inn-to-inn tours are self-contained, meaning you carry your own gear.
Within these tour types are subtypes like family tours, winery tours, educational tours, event tours, and more. So if you don’t immediately see what you’re looking for, worry not — what you want probably exists.
If you don’t know what you want, take a look at a few of our Guided Tours. We guarantee something will inspire you.
One thing we haven’t touched on are the guides, but luckily, they’re a stellar bunch at practically any outfitter you choose. Guides are guides because they want to be out there riding and sharing the activity and places they love.
Still have questions about finding the right guided tour for you? Contact our Tours Department. They’re also a stellar bunch.