08 Aug 4 Reasons Why You Should Do A Self-Guided Bike Tour
What a week! We had the opportunity to try our first self-guided bike tour during our Europe trip, and hopefully it will be the first of many. Our tour, which was operated by Dutch Bike Tours and booked through Tripsite, took us from Bruges, Belgium to Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
With six days of bike riding on flat bike paths through Belgium and Holland, we got to see beautiful countrysides, quaint towns and neighborhoods, coastal havens, and medieval cities. It was a pleasant deviation from our typically slower, “digital nomad travel.” We both agree it was worth splurging for such a unique, rich experience.
Here’s a little more about why we enjoyed the self-guided bike tour experience:
The beauty of the self-guided tour package is that much of the hassle is taken out of arranging the trip. The tour operator provides the equipment needed, books and pre-pays your hotels along the way, provides instructions for navigation (which we’ll explain in an upcoming blog post), and – perhaps most importantly – transports your luggage for you from one hotel to the next!
People who know the area could potentially arrange their own trip, and hard core bikers could pack their belongings on their bikes. But for most people – like us – there’s incredible value in having both of these things taken care of. There’s no way we would have done this trip if we didn’t have the tour company picking up our luggage every morning at 9am and transporting it to the next hotel for us.
Autonomy and Independence
While each night’s accommodation is pre-arranged and breakfasts are included at all the hotels, the rest of the itinerary is truly self-guided. You get a suggested route and booklet describing some of the sights along the way, and you can take it at your own pace with as many stops, detours, or short-cuts as you want. For example, we wanted to shorten our last day of riding in order to have more time to meet up with my cousin in Amsterdam, so we simply looked at the bike map and found a more direct path for that day.
Lunch and dinner are on your own (or you can add on a dinner package to your tour). We often picked up food from a supermarket and found a nice park along our route to have a picnic lunch. My parents, aunt, and uncle dined out most nights at local restaurants while Jedd and I did more supermarket picnics to minimize expenses.
The self-guided option is a nice balance for travel – it’s more flexible and tailored than a guided group tour would be while still providing more support and convenience than you would have planning the whole thing on your own.
Biking through a country is a great way to witness the culture, daily life, and diversity of sights in a region. Traveling overland, powered by your own legs, allows you to catch a glimpse into the corners of the country you would never see if you were driving (or flying, for that matter). Biking still allows you to cover a lot of ground so you see a wide range of villages, towns, cities, farms, parks, and beaches. Plus, you can easily hop off the bike at any point to take a stroll or snap a picture.
One of the challenges of traveling for us has been the ability to maintain our daily work outs on the road, but with a bike tour, that is no longer an issue! Our six days of riding ranged from 39 to 65 kilometers (24 – 40 miles) per day and typically took 4 to 6 hours. The paths were almost always flat with the exception of a few dijks (levies) by the sea, bridges, and “onramps.” The toughest part of the whole week was a 20 minute stretch of open farmland where we were biking straight into the wind.
I was hoping to do some bike rides in preparation before our trip but was never actually able to get around to it. So we did the trip not having biked in probably a year. Our rear ends were sore from the bike seats, which is to be expected, but otherwise the physical aspect was manageable with our general level of fitness.
Finishing each day’s ride was very rewarding. We pulled into the hotel ready for a refreshing shower, a drink, and some dinner. We earned it!
Is a Self-Guided Bike Trip for You?
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys active travel, is interested in a trip where you can see a lot of different things in a short time, and appreciates a balance of convenience and independence, then a self-guided bike tour may be for you. There are plenty of options of different lengths, levels of difficulty, and regions, especially in Europe. We’ll be talking more about some key lessons learned, packing tips, etc. for self-guided bike trips in future future blog posts, so check back if you’re interested in learning more.
If you’ve already been on a self-guided tour, we’d love to hear about it. What trips do you recommend? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Disclosure: We received a discount on our tour from Tripsite in exchange for a blog post and social media mentions, but the opinions we share are completely our own.
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