Going on a cycling tour is one of my favourite things to do. I’ve been lucky enough to get a fair few under my belt, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. There are many highs, but there are also some lows. Either way, I can look back at them fondly now. If you’ve been away on a cycle tour you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll probably be able to tick most of these off the list. If not, but you are thinking about going on one, here are ten things you can expect:
Someone’s bike hasn’t made it in one piece
You will always have one in the group who comes unprepared. Either they have taken their bike apart and not put it back together properly, they haven’t had it serviced pre-tour or they will have turned up with the wrong kit.
Even worse, as I recently experienced, one of the group’s bikes doesn’t turn up at all… I’ve also been on a cycling tour where one of the team cycled the first 50k with handlebars that weren’t on properly!
There will be logistical issues
When you are cycling a long distance, especially if abroad, lots can go wrong. Getting the directions perfect is difficult. Remember that wrong turn that took you the wrong way down a motorway…? Whatever it was, it happens. You’ll find it funny by the evening.
“Sorry, we’ve managed to add an extra 20k on to our distance” – taking the wrong turn and persevering with it until admitting defeat.
“I promise you, this is a designated cycle lane” – ending up in the middle of a field on unsuitable terrain.
One rider will go too hard, too early
It always happens. Early on, when you are feeling fresh, you’ll have that one member of the team who drives the pace just 5k per hour too fast. You’ll mutter under your breath but cling on to their back wheel. An hour later, you’ll all be regretting it.
I’ve always found pacing to be a steep learning curve, especially when you’ve run out of gas and you still have a significant distance to go!
There will be a hangover in the peloton
It’s a holiday, right? And I’ve been there. Carrying a wheel of cheese, hungover, on the mad dash back to the Hook of Holland ferry port. My advice would be: embrace the hangover but be sensible. You’ll find one of the best things about a cycling tour is the total experience and, of course, that includes sampling the local beverages. At least you can say you’ve earnt your beers.
You’ll underestimate rolling hills
Trust me when I say this, never, ever, underestimate rolling hills. Especially if you have panniers on your bike, adding not-needed weight as you struggle to get to the top of one particularly steep hill. I recall our fourth day of cycling in Northern France, from Lille to Boulogne-sur-Mer. Having told the team it would be a fairly easy ride, to put it simply, it was a killer. 30-degree heat, miles upon miles on relentless hills, no sign of life nearby and the odd bike failure.
The peloton will work together, one day
It will probably come about three or four days in. You’ll be tired and behind schedule. The team will be fairly quiet and suddenly you’ll find yourself cycling in a straight line, in perfect formation. Before you know it, the pace has picked up. Your lead rider peels away from the front and moves to the back. The pace holds as the team share the workload. Two riders ahead, the new front rider works hard for a few minutes before peeling off to the back. You are almost there. Five minutes later, you find yourself pedalling furiously as the leader of the peloton. The wind is strong, there is rain in the air, but you give it everything. As your legs start to cramp, you pull away to let your teammate take over. It’s safe at the back. You look at your GPS and realise you’ve just smashed through 15k in record time. Maybe this cycling business isn’t that hard after all…
You’ll arrive home with dodgy tan lines and a lot heavier
Let’s face it, you are burning calories quicker than you can say cycling tour so you will probably over-indulge when given the chance. From protein bars to heavy carb meals, you’ll be ramming it back. I certainly do! Additionally, you might find yourself starting to resemble the Greek God, Zeus. Bulkier, more tanned and muscular. Although beneath the confines of your cycling kit, you are still the same pale, sun-free cyclist as before.
The good news is your weight will drop off after a week or so eating normally, but your tan lines will take a while to fade.
DOMS will strike, but you’ll be in your best shape
Navigating DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is like sailing through choppy waters. It can be painful and tough, but you’ve just got to see it out. You can expect sore muscles for a few days after you get home. However, once you’ve got over the muscle fatigue, you’ll find you will be in the best form you’ve been in. Your legs are strong, you feel fitter and you are ready to plan the next tour…
The cycling bond will be strong
Spending five hours plus on a bike with a bunch of people for days straight is a sure fire way to bond. Yes, there will probably have been moments of misery, but also moments of joy, and you shared it all with your team. Cycling is all about working as a team, from helping to get everyone up a steep climb to taking the front of the peloton to let others have a rest. Plus, everyone loves the post-tour reunion.
You’ll find it inspiring
I have always found, and see with others, cycling tours to be really inspiring when it comes to cycling participation. The post-tour buzz will continue and you’ll find yourself cycling a lot more, thinking about bike upgrades, looking at new gear and improving your nutrition.
If you would like our help in organising your next cycling tour, get in touch.
Thanks for reading our blog. As a ‘thank you’, here’s a 50% discount on your first nutrition subscription box. Choose either the cycling or running fuel box, or our quarterly fitness box, and simply enter the code vivisubbox50 at checkout to apply the discount.