There’s nothing better than riding the trails you know and love, but packing up your bike and getting on a plane to explore somewhere new has got to come close. It’s something every cyclist should try at some point. So, without further ado, here are my top tips for planning the ultimate riding holiday.
- Plan a reasonable number of destinations
All the trail heads in Switzerland – you’re not going to fit them all in one trip.
There is an infinite number of cycling destinations around the world, so you can’t get to all of them in one trip. Don’t plan for too many stops in one trip; it’s more enjoyable to spend a reasonable time at a few destinations than to rush your visits, cramming in a half day’s ride each at 16 different bike parks across Europe.
2. Be prepared
On my last trip to New Zealand, my riding group had every type of mechanical failure possible, from rusted chains to stripped cranks. I’m pretty sure I even rode the last two days of the trip on a cactus hub. On top of that inconvenience, there’s a good chance you won’t be anywhere near a bike shop, so make sure you bring zip ties, tape, and plenty of spare tubes.
3. Pack light
Not going to sugar coat this one: taking your bike on an plane is far from enjoyable. Airlines specify different baggage weight limits, so if you use more than one airline service for your trip, you’ll run into some problems if your bike weighs in too heavy for any part of the journey, and they can add hefty fees (per kg) to let you put your bike on the flight. I booked my trip through a travel agent, and they put me on a Qantas flight for my trip over to New Zealand, which came with 30kg of checked baggage. However, I was booked on an Air New Zealand flight on the way back, which only came with 23kg of checked baggage, something my agent forgot to mention. Make sure you know how much you can take on every leg of the trip so you don’t get caught out like I did.
4. Get insurance
Riding is a great way to break a collar bone. (1) So don’t be a fool; get the insurance.
Common sense really. It seems like an easy way to do the trip on a budget: save yourself a hundred bucks by not getting travel health insurance. This is possibly the biggest mistake you’ll ever make. Not only is there the chance that the nearest hospital won’t even treat you, there is a 100% chance that they won’t do it for free, and trust me, without government subsidies, medical bills rack up real fast. So don’t be a fool; get the insurance. Just make sure it will cover you if you injure yourself while riding.
5. Ride within your limit
An awesome way to start your trip is to huck as far as you can off the first jump you see at the bike park, but it’s also an awesome way to break your arm and ruin the rest of the trip. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t push yourself, but you should work yourself up to that 40 foot gap.
6. Don’t get a car
Having to hire a car just complicates things and takes money away from the real aim of the trip: getting as much riding in as possible. If you’re going to a riding town, such as Queenstown, NZ, don’t hire a car, just choose a hotel that’s close to the Gondola and the other trails in the area. The popular riding towns generally have buses equipped with bike racks if you want to explore further.
8. Have plenty of spare cash
Cycling trips are easily done on a budget, but make sure you have a readily accessible spare reservoir of cash for the unexpected. Anything can happen, from lost shock pumps to hire companies keeping deposits for damage you’re pretty sure was already there, so it’s always good to have a safety net.
7. Go with a group
Riding by yourself is never loads of fun, and when you’re travelling it can be much more expensive, so take a bunch of mates. A group of four is an optimal number for getting around with ease, but don’t let logistics get in the way of a good time.
(1) Image by J Bizzie /CC SA 03