Cycling abroad

Have you ever cycled abroad?  Interested to do so?  Not sure where to start?  I have seen many posts recently about cycling holidays and training camps and ended up in a discussion with some on Instagram about a recent trip I had to Sweden and got on to the subject of other countries I had been to, which prompted this post.

My husband does triathlon and this often means travel abroad with bikes.  There is a lot involved with a trip for something like this so with registration, race briefing, practice swim, shake out run I often take my bike and use the time to cycle.  So I thought I would do a round up of where I have been.

  • Dubai – very busy main roads in the city centre itself near the Jumeirah beach area (with some places actually illegal to cycle) we got a cab about 30 minutes out to visit the Al Qudra Cycle Track.  I didn’t actually take my bike on this trip but at the start of the track there is a Trek hire bike shop so a quick stop and we were on our way though advance booking of 72 hours is recommended.  The track is 86km in total though you can do just part of it and don’t have to ride the whole thing – there are options of a 50km loop from the Trek store, you can add a 20-30km extension or do a 16km out and back.  We were there in January and it was hot, as expected, but there are sporadic shelter stops – not cafes but areas that you can stop should you need to.  Some of the track is like a false flat but otherwise it is flat. The scenery is pretty much just desert but the dedicated track is such an awesome thing to have and is popular with many cyclists and you may even see some camels as you ride, which is not uncommon!

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  • Austria – we drove (I won’t be doing that again – was very long!) as this was for my husbands IronMan in Klagenfurt near Lake Worthersee that is pretty much not that close to any one airport.  Although people think this is flat (I have heard many comments on this) bear in mind there are a lot of ski resorts which means hills and sometimes mountains.  It is absolutely stunning though, jaw droppingly beautiful and somewhere I would return in an instant.

France – we got the ferry which meant no dismantling and rebuilding of bikes which was a welcome change.  I cycled in Chantilly and it was relatively flat with some undulating sections.  Gorgeous scenery and so many chateaus that we passed.  A number of streets with cobbled sections, especially in the middle of the road which mean care had to be taken on corners.  I am sure most people head to France for the hills, which I cannot comment on as I have no personal experience but cycling in this area was beautiful.

Sweden –  possibly my favourite so far.  I have done the Vatternrundan, that leaves from Motala, twice now and this year also the Tjejvattern and Halvvattern, which you can read about here.  I also took part in the Ironman Jonkoping 70.3 this year.  Sweden has a huge cycling culture.  Another interesting fact about Sweden is that approximately two thirds of Sweden’s land area is covered by forest and there are so many lakes too so wherever you cycle you are likely to be greeted by gorgeous countryside views and landscapes.  My experience here is mostly flat, some undulating parts and one mountain but that is just my experience.

Lanzarote – my experience here has been training camp at Club La Santa with Havering Tri, which you can read a bit more about here.  It is hilly! And windy – wind like I have never experienced before.  Always tough riding but feel so much stronger when I return home (though tired too).

If you are looking at a cycling holiday I would advise the following:

  • What sort of riding are you intending to do; road, mountain biking, touring/bike packing and then plan accordingly as different locations may be better for one or the other.
  • Do you need to hire a bike?  If so research local rental shops and book in advance knowing if you need/want to take your own items for example if I was hiring a bike I would take my own pedals and helmet.
  • Are you going for an event – this is often easier as the location/date/time/distance etc is set for you.
  • What sort of training are you looking to do; routes that are flat or hilly and pick a location accordingly ie I wouldn’t advise Lanzarote if you are looking for flat routes.  You may also wish to change your bike set up if going to a climbing destination for a cassette with an easier gear ratio more suitable for hill work.
  • It sounds silly to train for a training camp or cycling holiday but in my opinion, given my experience, if I were to go somewhere hilly I would train on hills in advance to ensure I got the most out of the trip and the routes available.  Also a cycling holiday or training camp more often than not involves long days and back to back days in the saddle that you may not be used to so the more training in advance the more pleasurable your experience will be.
  • Research what routes are recommended.  Some rental shops will help with this and there are often routes online or once again from others who recommend or have personally tried them – we have shared our routes in Lanzarote before.  This is especially important if you are cycling self guided and not with a group.  Once you know your routes you can plan your trip accordingly for example you wouldn’t start your cycling trip with the hardest route on the first day.
  • Get advice from people who have been to the destination beforehand as personal experience and recommendations are invaluable.
  • Insurance is important and you will need to make sure you are covered if you have an accident as cycling abroad can be classified by some providers as an extreme sport and cover needs to be adequate for your needs.
  • Kit is key depending on destination.  You don’t want to pack for every occasion but weather can change so being prepared with the essentials will help.  Even when I have been to sunny destinations for cycling I have taken a gillet and arm warmers for example in case it is windy or there is a shower – you’d be surprised how cold you can get after some rain and it can affect the remainder of your ride.
  • Nutrition is good to plan – what will you take and what will you buy on arrival.  Is there anywhere to buy nutrition?  If a hot country you wouldn’t necessarily pack something that could melt when having a long day in the saddle.  But do plan especially if you are having long days in the saddle or climbing a hydration and fuelling will be key.

If you travel with your bike like me then investing in a good bike box is key and I love my Bike Box Alan, which although not cheap are worth every penny and if you travel regularly it is worth the cost as it pays for itself after a few trips rather than paying for hiring all the time.  I wrote a blog post on travelling with a bike you can read here.

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I welcome any recommendations of places I should add to my list too – nothing better than a personal recommendation to go by!

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