How I Prepared For My First Ever Bike Tour

On the way to Nova Bystrice | Els van Veelen
On the way to Nova Bystrice | Els van Veelen

How I Prepared For My First Ever Bike Tour

All of my firsthand advice on training, clothing, helmets (and more!) for going on a cycling holiday.

Earlier this year, Els found herself preparing for her first UTracks cycling trip. It can be a little unnerving when you’ve just clicked and confirmed your first cycling holiday. In this post, we share her thoughts, lessons learned, and experiences in hopes of helping you prepare for your cycling holiday and how to train for a bike tour.
Discover Telc by bike with UTracks |  <i>Els van Veelen</i>

Wardrobe for Cycling

Checking my wardrobe a few months ahead of the trip, I realised some essential items were missing to make my cycling trip more comfortable. There were sports t-shirts, vests, shorts, and sweaters. I decided that bringing a variety of both long and short-sleeved t-shirts was a good idea. 
I also packed a light rain jacket (there are ones specially designed for cycling with a slightly longer back) that easily fits in my handlebar bag. Sneakers or trainers were going to be useful for sightseeing or on the steep or muddy parts when pushing the bike would be the only option. 
Cyclists outside Chateau de Losse |  <i>Rob Mills</i>


World of Padded Shorts

By speaking to friends and colleagues, I learned that if I wanted to avoid saddle sores, the main essential to bring were padded cycling shorts. 
Going online and visiting several bike shops, opened up a whole new world for me. Whoever knew the terms engineered, carbon, gel, and click fast could apply to outdoor gear? 
Would padded Lycra, baggy or bib shorts be best for me, or even skorts or padded underwear? And should I opt for a long, short or 3/4 version?
There are many options to choose from and we would advise trying ahead of your trip to test what gear you prefer. 
It’s also wise to consider at what time of year you are travelling and what the general weather forecast is for your destination. As I went in early summer, I opted for simple padded shorts. 
Probably bringing two or three pieces for a one-week cycling tour will prove sufficient. This amount is enough as you can rinse the shorts at the end of the day to allow enough time for drying overnight.
Cycling the Parenzana Rail Trail

How Will I Include Training in My Busy Schedule?

Having solved the issue of gear, I had to start training for my bike tour. 
Living within 30 minutes (cycling time) from my workplace, I decided at least 3 months before my trip to swap public transport for a daily cycling commute. 
Your training schedule furthermore should depend on the type of cycling trip you are going to undertake. Will you tour undulating or hilly terrain? Or will your trip include long and flat sections? 
Make sure you have this information available ahead of your trip so that you can mimic a day of your trip in the months ahead of your holiday. This will help you get used to the cycling circumstances on your trip and will make your tour much more enjoyable. For exact training advice, you can always contact our team of travel experts around the world.
  Self guided cyclists stopping for photos in the Czech countryside |  <i>Els van Veelen</i>


The Extras

There may be a choice of extras to add on to your inclusions of the bike tour and the explanation below can help you decide whether you like to add these.
  • Panniers | These are bags that attach to the side of your bike, either on one or both sides of your rear wheel. Perfect for stowing a jacket or packed lunch, as well as essentials like a wallet, some fruit, and a camera/phone.
  • Map holder | sometimes included in a handlebar bag, often with a rain cover to protect your map or route notes from getting wet.
  • Cycling gloves | these are perfect to add extra grip on a long day of cycling and at the same time protect against the elements and dirt & dust.
  • Handlebar bag | useful if you have little to keep with you while cycling (eg. on guided trips).
  • Bike computer | you may bring your own and sometimes these are included on a self guided cycling holiday with a navigation option, during training a bike computer may come in handy too.
  • Helmet | in most European countries, wearing a helmet is required by law and on a trip with UTracks it is compulsory to wear one – helmets these days are very light and you’ll quickly get used to wearing one.
  • Gel seat | some people live by them, others don’t find them practical at all – make sure in which category you’re in when you’re training for your trip. We believe they can be a great aide to help prevent saddle sores.
  • E-bike | an increasingly popular upgrade for cycling holidays are electric-powered bicycles as they allow cyclists of different levels to enjoy a trip together.


A picturesque stop on the way from Brunico to Dobbiaco |  <i>Rob Mills</i>

What’s for Breakfast?

A good start is important and beginning a full day of cycling with a proper breakfast is certainly advisable. Make sure you have enough time in the morning to enjoy a hearty breakfast - breakfast is always included on a UTracks trip. 
It’s good to have your breakfast about 2 hours before you start cycling if possible and a good breakfast is rich in carbohydrates such as oats, chocolate milk, whole grain bread, yogurt, and fruits like apples, banana, mango, and blueberries.
Ready for a Romanian breakfast feast! |  <i>Renee Brown</i>



If you booked a self guided cycling holiday, it is wise to make yourself familiar with map reading and paying attention to route notes while cycling. Usually, roads are numbered and there are recognizable landmarks to help find the right way. 
If you're on a guided trip and you are unsure of the direction to take, just wait for the leader or people behind you.
  Show us where we are! |  <i>Els van Veelen</i>


How was my bike tour?

Even as an inexperienced holidaymaker by bicycle, I had a fantastic trip. More bicycle-savvy friends, the world wide web, and of course colleagues in the office helped me prepare accordingly for my first cycling adventure. If you have any questions ahead of your trip, please feel free to contact our team of travel experts and they will be more than happy to help with your queries.


Cycling holidays with UTracks

Well maintained bicycles, built for comfort, not speed, are included in the tour cost of all UTracks cycling trips. Men’s & ladies’ bikes are commonly available and vary between 7-24 speed with handbrakes. Certain trips offer electric bike options and many trips have children’s bikes, trail-a-bikes, and trailers for smaller children. In general, you can expect bikes to include panniers, a water bottle holder, lock, repair kit, map holder, and the option to get a helmet.

:: See the overview of all self guided cycling holidays in Europe

:: See the overview of all guided cycling holidays in Europe

:: See the overview of all bike & boat and cycle & sail holidays in Europe

:: See the overview of all electric bike holidays in Europe

Do you have any bike riding tips you'd like to share with us? Let us know in the comment section below.

Cycling, Bike, Tour, Training

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