Which cycling tour do you prefer- unsupported, destination, or supported?

Posted by tan xiao yan on

Riding a bicycle over long distances for pleasure and adventure, and generally without an element of competition would be an awesome experience worth recollecting in a lifetime. Bicycle tours may be longer than a day, and tourists may carry camping gear or use paid accommodation. Basically speaking, three options are available for cycling tours- unsupported tour, destination tour, and supported tour. I’m going to present an introduction of these three types of cycling tours for your reference.

Unsupported bike tour
Unsupported bike tour refers to the cyclists loading their own equipment on their bike. Or as some cyclists put it, it can be called bike camping. It can certainly be the most challenging of the three types but it’s also rewarding.

These tours tend to be more budget-friendly and flexible in terms of the choice of destination and routes. You will decide exactly what gear you will depend on, and you will carry all of it on the road. The main challenge would be how much luggage you can carry. I would suggest you keep the most important stuff, all your warm clothing, and bike spares. Leave out the extra clothing or good to have stuff. This will help you reduce load and make your trip comfortable. On clothes, front carries only the must haves. If you can get waterproof gear this will help you reduce weight on your inner layers as then you just need one spare pair of inner layers instead of multiple ones. As much as possible test all your stuff before the trip as you still have a lot of time as new stuff can hold surprises.unsupported, destination, or supported cycling

If you’re cycling with a group, you can often share equipment such as tents, tools, and food supplies, which will reduce the burden on your back. For the more advanced or self-reliant cyclist, solo unsupported touring provides the most freedom, but also requires the most independence.

Taking unsupported cycling tour from Geneva to Nice as an example, here are some suggestions: it will be wise to take a tent, sleeping gear, cook stove and cooking gear, clothing, first-aid kit, bathing kit, even replacement parts and tool kit for unforeseen repairs. All of it must be packed and carried on your bike. Not only must you plan the gear carefully, you must then decide how best to hang it on the bike. Cycling bags, called panniers, come in a lot of shapes and sizes, as well as prices. The key is carrying enough without overloading. Nearly every new unsupported touring cyclist will throw away some gear early in the ride.

There are plenty of campsites so you shouldn't need to book in advance. www.camping-municipal.org is a good website to find council-run sites which are generally good value and have good facilities. There’re plenty of good privately run sites as well including small and basic camping sites.

Besides, try to travel light as you are lugging that weight up some really long and steep climbs. Make sure you have low gears - a triple or at the very least a compact with a wide range cassette. Try to get to campsites not much later than 4 pm as that will give you time to put up the tent, wash and dry your shorts and have some recovery time. You can always strap your damp shorts on the pannier tops to dry out during the day.

On the road, you need to build up a reasonable level of fitness, spin easily up those passes and don't try to race. And exercise caution on the descents. You build up speed very quickly and it can be tricky to slow down a heavily laden bike before you hit a hairpin bend. Watch out for loose gravel, potholes and rocks on the road on those descents, particularly under the dappled shadows of trees.

Destination bike tour
It’s totally different from the unsupported cycling for you can stay in a hotel, motel or hostel to rest every night and don’t have to be concerned about the tent issues while still carrying the gear. Compared with the unsupported tours, the destination bike tourist tends to carry a much lighter load, leaving behind tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, to sleep in a bed, and will usually eat in restaurants rather than cooking, as well. Therefore, destination/hotel bicycle touring usually allows for longer distances per day.

Is there some destination that allows you to start and finish your trip from home? If not, try to travel on your bike (on a train or plane), or ship it well in advance so that you can confirm its arrival before you leave home.

There is no such thing as one unambiguous "best destination". It depends on yourself, your experiences on the trip, the time of year, your luck, etc. The best destination, especially if it's your first tour, is a place that is nearby so that you don't use up your two-week vacation getting there and back. Although exotic and distant locations may be wonderful on a bicycle, it is common for bikes to be held up for days in customs, or for shipping plans to go warily.

Supported bike tour
This also refers to vehicle-supported bike tour where the cyclists don not carry their gears at all but have it transported by vehicle to their destinations. Therefore, this type of bike tour may allow for much greater distances in a much shorter time. It seems easy to emancipate the cyclists from the loads, but supported bike tour can also be costly and the vehicles may not always be able to travel to places that are narrow. It is this type of touring that is usually conducted in groups, perhaps quite a large group; thus the pursuit of freedom may be disturbed.

Realistically, accommodation should be your main expense. If you stay mostly in countries with decent and not too expensive grocery stores and/or markets and take an effort to learn what products are good and inexpensive in a given country, you probably don’t need to spend much more than a few euros a day on food. On the other hand, even hostel beds or official campground can easily cost 20–30 euros a night. Fortunately, “wild camping”, as you call it, or “free camping”, is quite possible in many regions.

Taking the supported bike tour in Germany for example wild camping in Germany is quite possible, at least in less densely populated parts; it’s pretty easy to find routes that indeed go through such area, e.g. along the Küsten Canal. Get a good map (Google Maps will do if you have internet access). Food-wise, German supermarkets are the best in Western Europe; food from Aldi and Lidl (two major grocery stores in Germany) feels very nice after you’ve been riding for a day… It’s remarkable how much better an Aldi store in Germany is than an Aldi in Australia or the USA; just look at the fresh-baked bread Aldis in Germany carry!). Accessing the internet in Germany may be a problem, though, as even public libraries did not seem to have free WiFi there. But maybe I was just in less developed parts of the country…

Europe is expensive. The West Coast of the USA, for instance, would be much cheaper: campgrounds there are $3/day at state-run hiker biker sites, and the food is also relatively cheap. If you enjoy meeting people or interacting with locals you don’t want to smell or look dirty all the time, as that might not make a good impression.

Despite that, however, if you’re prepared to camp out and are socially adept, one easy way to approach the problem is to not wild camp but to ask house owners if you can camp in their backyard and use their showers. This depends on you speaking the language, but as an 18-year-old on a bicycle you’re much less threatening than the typical backpacker, and if you can stay clean and not stink you’ll be surprised at how accommodating people can be. When I was in my early 20s I would regularly get invited to stay in people’s homes. In some cases, this was a blatant attempt to get me to join their religion but as long as you’re polite you can usually extricate yourself from such conversions in the morning and part easily with no feelings hurt.

Here are the expenses you should expect:

Around 9.- to 12.- € for the weekly campsite, including a hot shower.

Maybe around 7.- to 12.- € for food every day. You can save money by getting a big sack of Basmati Rice, and add different vegetables and meat from discounter stores or farmer markets. BESTER BASMATI REIS 10 kg TILDA

Maybe 3.- to 5.- euros now and then to wash your clothes in a laundry.

Gear: Not sure if you already got all you need: Tent, basic stuff for repairs, rain clothes, rack packs, cooker, decent bike?

Possibly, transportation of you and your bike to and from your start- and finish destination by train (or by plane?).

Money for unforeseen expenses (major bike repair, possibly a need to stay in a hotel due to terrible weather or unavailability of a place for your tent etc.).

To sum up, whichever type of cycling tour appeals to you, there are variations and combinations involving each. Planning the route, packing the gears, testing and maintaining the bike, strengthening the body are the keys to a successful bicycle tour. I hope you would enjoy the cycling tours.