plan a cycling tour on a budget

8 tips to plan a cycling tour on a budget

Going away on two wheels is a cyclists dream. 

It’s a chance to see the great outdoors, find hidden pub stops, meet like-minded cyclists, enjoy the countryside and so on. But one of the biggest perks is that it’s a lot cheaper than your typical holiday.

However, costs can quickly escalate if you don’t plan in advance. And when there is a lack of planning, cycling tours can quickly become stressful, expensive and potentially unsafe.

We’ve been on a fair few cycling tours around Belgium, France, The Netherlands and the UK, and emerged unscathed. No dead bike lights in the dark, cycling the wrong way down a road or running out of water in the middle of nowhere. In this blog, I’ll share some of the tips we’ve picked up on the way – see below to save some money, reduce stress and plan a cycling tour on a budget.

  1. Browse the Warm Showers website
  2. Do your research
  3. Get your nutrition and hydration right
  4. Discover bike-friendly hostels
  5. Make sure your bike is well-serviced
  6. Book in advance
  7. Plan your route properly
  8. Travel with a cycling buddy (or group)

Browse the Warm Showers website

The first place you can start with when planning a cycling tour is the Warm Showers website. Why? Because food and accommodation are often the most costly part of a cycling tour, and Warm Showers help sort both. Think of the website as Couchsurfing for cyclists. Essentially, it’s a network of people who are up for hosting those on a cycling tour, for free. Our very own Jack Huntley used the site during his cycling tour to Portugal and met some amazing people on the way.

You’ll get home-cooked, authentic dinners, breakfasts, a bed, water refills and so on. Quick tip – always offer to clean up and help cook, and make sure you say thank you! Finding a host family who shares your love of cycling is way better than sleeping in a tent. To get started, simply create an account, add a little info about yourself and your trip, and get searching!

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Do your research

Failing to research your cycling tour before setting off is like flying blind.

If you do the research beforehand, you’ll save yourself time and money by knowing where to stop, any diversions en route, bike shops in case of emergencies and landmarks or attractions you want to stop at. You don’t want to end up cycling past some beautiful spots just because you didn’t know it was there. I’d recommend buying a guide book on wherever you are heading as a starting point. Or, like with most things, turn to Google.

For our cycling tours, we highlight things we want to see, do and the best eating spots for dinner!

If cycling abroad, you also need to know the rules of the road. For instance, in Belgium all bikes must have a front a rear brake, all bikes must have a working bell, dedicated bike lanes must be used when available, and side reflectors, white front and red back lights must be fitted for use after dusk. Additionally, in France, all cyclists must wear a reflective vest if cycling on the road at night or in poor visibility, outside of built-up areas.

Get your nutrition and hydration right

Generally speaking, at some stage on your cycling tour you’ll likely find yourself in the middle of nowhere without a shop in sight. When that moment comes, you want to be armed with enough food and drink to get you to the next watering hole.

Hydration is so important during a cycling tour. If you don’t drink enough, you risk cramps during the ride, feeling faint on the bike and longer muscle recovery afterwards. Additionally, if you don’t fuel properly, you’ll suffer from the dreaded ‘bonk’.

Pack plenty of fluids, energy gels and protein snack for on the road. You can reduce cost by sorting these beforehand, otherwise, you’ll end up spending more if buying on the go. However, don’t try things new in case your stomach doesn’t agree with it.

Discover bike friendly hostels

If you don’t fancy staying in someone’s house, there are plenty of bike-friendly hostels readily available at a cheap price (particularly abroad). Team Vivi have frequented hostels in a variety of European cities and we’ve always found them very cost-effective. Additionally, they’ll offer secure bike storage, which is key if you don’t want to lose your bike! If you are on tour with a group, this will bring the cost down significantly as you can split the cost of a hostel dorm between you.

Head over to Hostelworld, pick your destination and dates and then filter hostels by those offering bike parking facilities.

Make sure your bike is well-serviced

This is actually an initial investment but saves money in the long-run. Never go on a cycling tour without making sure your bike is tour-ready. If you skip getting a service, you can pay for it, literally, later on.

This is especially important if you are in the middle of nowhere, without a bike shop for help. And, even if your bike malfunction doesn’t cost you money to fix, it will cost you time. So, before you go, get to the mechanic for a once-over to correct any squeaks, rattles, scraping or clinks coming from your trusty steed.

Book in advance

This is an obvious one – booking early is vital if you want to save money on your tour. From train tickets to accommodation to flight seats to tourist attraction tickets, booking early normally nets you a good deal. Especially if you are going on a big trip, don’t risk leaving it late to organise your logistics. The bigger the trip, the earlier you should book.

Plan your route properly

This ties into the doing research point – planning your route is a vital part of this. We’ve got the first-hand experience of getting the route wrong. Back in our newbie days, we’ve taken wrong turns that cost us hours of time and additional miles in the legs, as well as ending up on surfaces not fit for road bikes, which subsequently resulted in punctures!

Planning your route properly will keep you on the right track, safe and away from unnecessary costs from punctures, transport, missing hostel check-in and so on.

Travel with a cycling buddy

It goes without saying that travelling with a cycling buddy will save you money. It presents the opportunity to halve the cost, and if you are cycling in a group, you can make it even cheaper. Think about spreading the cost of food, accommodation, and more.

Plus, experiencing the joys of a cycling tour is better with company!

Get in touch if you’d like any advice! And if you’ve done your own cycling tour on a budget, let me know what you did.

Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

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