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A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling Vacations and Bike Tours in the US

 Posted on: April 3rd, 2021

A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling Vacations and Bike Tours in the US
Tourists on bike tour enjoying the view at the Golden Gate Bridge

One of the great things about vacationing in the United States is the massive variety of landscapes and environments you can enjoy. If you’re an avid cyclist, there are plenty of opportunities to take on new terrains and get into the back country in some of the most beautiful places in North America.

Whether you’re a beginning cyclist or a seasoned veteran of the trails, you can have a fantastic, refreshing time on a cycling vacation. You can either plan out your own routes, or join up with a bike tour group to hit some pre-planned trails and sites.

If you’re preparing to plan your very first bicycle tour, here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of the experience.

Choose between guided or self-guided tours

Each of these options will provide you with a very different experience. Your selection might be largely influenced by your experience level, but ultimately it will come down to personal preference. Do you want to have this experience by yourself and take greater control over what you see, or do you want to share the experience with others and be guided by professionals?

Think about how comfortable you would be out on the trails in a strange part of the country by yourself. For those who are comfortable with it, it can be an incredible experience, but others prefer the comfort and security of being with other cyclists.

Be honest about your skills

One of the most common mistakes people make in planning their first bike tour is overestimating their ability level. If you aren’t already getting out on a lot of long rides, you’re going to have a hard time enjoying a bike tour that involves long rides each day. You should spend at least a couple months getting into shape for your excursion. Even then, you need to be honest about your capabilities. Know what you can and can’t handle at this stage in your cycling journey.

As part of this, you should be realistic about the distance you want to cover every day. You’re probably going to go at a slower pace on a bike tour than you would on a standard ride that’s purely for exercise. You’re going to want to get off and take pictures, or visit shops or tourist stops. It’s just part of the adventure.

Consider the time of year

You might find riding just before or after the busiest times of the year can result in lower prices and smaller crowds, allowing you to get a high-quality experience without the clogged trails and paths you might otherwise have.

Choose trails carefully

There are many tours that will specifically only follow paved, dedicated bike paths that are marked and away from traffic. This is common on a lot of European trips, but is also becoming more common on American bike tours as well. Before selecting a tour, make sure you have an idea of the quality and type of the trails, and your comfort level in the specific type of paths on which you’ll be riding.

Paved trails in the country
Cyclists ride along the seawall while participating in the Bike Around The Bay Benefit ride in Galveston Texas

The more research you do in advance of your trip, the more comfortable you’ll be heading into the experience. It’s difficult to prepare for the unknown, so read up on your chosen tour and area as much as you can.

Plan your packing

Make sure you know the average weather conditions in the area you’ll be at the time you’ll be there. Be prepared for anything—pack for the type of conditions you’re most likely to encounter. In addition to the proper clothing and gears, make sure that you come prepared with a first aid kit, snacks, beverages and anything else you’ll need while out on the trails and paths. And of course, bring your helmet and sunglasses, and actually wear them. A helmet can only offer you protection if you actually use it.

Bike Helmet and sunglasses are a few things you should have
Bike Helmet and sunglasses are a few things you should have

Whether you’re planning on biking in the mountains or in the plains, in the forest or in the desert, you will be able to have a wonderful experience with a bit of advance planning and physical preparation. Hit the trails this summer and enjoy seeing the country from a new perspective!