We know, without a shadow of a doubt, you will absolutely love cycling in and exploring Europe. We’ve put together five top tips to improve your European cycling experience.
Whether you enjoy cycling along on flatter terrain on a upright Dutch style bike and relaxing as you go, riding challenging mountain passes on a road bike or an e–hybrid bike, or chasing the great races around Europe’s most beautiful hilly terrain at the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a’Espana, our cycling tips will improve your enjoyment and overall journey.
Europe is a continent practically born and raised on two wheels. The terrain, roads and tracks are almost purpose-built for cyclists. Smaller roads criss-cross and connect charming villages that are all within close proximity to each other.
A cycling holiday in Europe is one of the best ways to experience a comprehensive and authentic cultural emersion.
Chic hotels, Lodgings and La Dolce Vita
No matter your budget, your overnight accommodation is your home away from home. It’s a welcomed refuge and will break up the journey nicely after a day on the move.
Beautiful seasonal/regional produce is plentiful and available at every turn of the pedals. Generally, Europe hotels have a good restaurant attached for eating in, and this makes finding a meal at the end of the day much simpler.
Europe truly is La dolce Vita, “The Sweet Life”, on wheels. You’ll be well fed and watered with great local fare, no matter your chosen route.
We understand riding in Europe can be a little daunting at first, especially for riders who are accustomed to riding on the opposite side of the road in other parts of the world. No worries!
Here’s how we take care of riders from start to finish. We suggest you do the same on your rides.
On our first rides, we keep everyone together or form smaller groups. We maintain a comfortable pace to help riders get acclimatised to riding on the right. Staying together also removes the responsibility of decision making for all the riders. Plus, it’ll allow riders to fully immerse themselves in the experience and sit back, relax and look around a little without any additional stress.
European drivers tend to be excellent, on the whole they are patient drivers who are familiar with and encourage cycling (or any outdoor fitness activity, really). We are sure you will be pleasantly surprised at how respectful drivers can be. Sometimes we even see drivers stopping for cyclists, despite having the right of way, or waiting at intersections and roundabouts to let cyclists pass safely by while voicing their encouragement of your cycling.
Tips for Cycling in Europe
These cycling tips will make your journey safe, fun and everything you’ve ever dreamed a cycling trip in Europe could be.
The following tips are ultimately intended to make your trip as enjoyable as possible, but they’ll also increase your safety. We use these easy-to-remember tips ourselves as we travel to many locations around the world. They keep us safe and on track.
1. RIGHT IS RIGHT
It’s no mistake we made this the first tip on our list, since it is arguably the most important. You must ride on the righthand side of the road.
Be especially cautious when you are taking off after a stop. If you are ever unsure if you are on the correct side of the road, stop to get your bearings then proceed.
2. LOOK BOTH WAYS
You would be surprised how easy it is to forget to look in the correct direction for traffic, especially when you are fatigued after a long day of cycling.
When entering a roundabout, crossing the road on foot, or taking off from intersections, always check both ways for traffic. We suggest looking both ways so that it eliminates any chance of confusion or for getting mixed up – if you look both ways at every point of your day you’ll never go wrong.
3. KNOW THE TIP CUSTOMS
Throughout most of France and Europe, tips are culturally encouraged. It’s often assumed that you will leave a small thank you when purchasing food or drinks from a place of service. To learn more about tip customs, check out this helpful guide to tipping etiquette in Europe.
4. START SLOW
We always suggest starting each ride well below your maximum threshold. You will end up riding better each day, you’ll climb faster if you start slowly and don’t use all of your energy at the bottom of the climbs, you’ll finish each day feeling fresher, and be ready to go again for the next day.
We recommend to ride each climb, hill or mountain at 10% below your normal climbing rate. Some of the areas are higher in altitude, meaning your energy reserves can be depleted faster than normal.
Be aware of your body’s limits, do not push yourself too hard, and aim to finish with some leftover energy. This will make your experience more enjoyable overall and ensure you feel great at the finish of your trip.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, RESPECT YOUR LIMITS, AND STAY AWARE
We always suggest everyone takes it easy on every descent in Europe, or at Tour de France and on other Tours. Road users in France, Italy and Europe are very accommodating of cyclists, but that does not mean you can let your guard down. You must be 100% aware of your surroundings at all times.
It is not uncommon to see cars accidentally cross to the wrong side of the road around blind corners. Since traffic flows a bit differently in Europe, ride safely, pay attention to your surroundings, and be ready to cope with the unexpected.
Descending at anything more than 70% of what you are comfortable with is a sure recipe for close calls or accidents. We by no means intend to strip the fun out of your cycling holiday, but we also prefer to ensure everyone’s safety.
If you find it hard to ride slower for yourself, consider your loved ones who are waiting back at home for you to return in one piece. No one wants to spend their vacation in a hospital and we certainly do not want to see riders end up in one!
Accidents are often an indication that a rider was going too fast downhill or not paying attention to the surrounding conditions. Falling hurts and it is unlikely you will simply bounce back up and keep riding as the pro riders do.
If you are lucky enough to be at a professional race in Europe, being surrounded by pro riders and all of the excitement can tend to get everyone overly excited, but it is important to take a deep breath, be calm, ride at a comfortable pace, be smart and cautious, and soak in the stunning scenery and landscapes of Europe.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section we will address two of our most common questions: staff tips and restroom facilities.
ARE THERE BATHROOM STOPS ALONG THE ROUTE?
Although public toilet facilities are few and far between, we plan our rides and routes accordingly and make as many stops as necessary for bathroom stops.
We also make stops to local cafes and bars, although it is assumed you will be purchasing something – a cool drink, water, or espresso – if you are going to use the facilities. These simple bar items are generally reasonably priced in europe. It is a small price to pay to use the bathroom.
In some cases, you may even be charged a fee to use a facility if you do not purchase something at a place of service, so you might as well enjoy a quick drink or bite to eat.
DO STAFF EXPECT TIPS?
We are often asked if our tour staff expects tips. Often, we have international and European staff and tips are encouraged according to North American and European standards at the completion of your tour. Although your staff do not expect tips, it is a wonderful way to thank your tour staff for the wonderful experience you’ve just enjoyed.
We also get asked what an appropriate amount for a tip is. While there is no correct answer or set formula for tipping, 3-5 €uro per person per day is a general comfortable recommendation.
Tips are shared among the staff. We generally pass out a musette/cycling bag containing envelopes, a note pad, and pens for guests to write messages or notes of thanks to the staff group or messages to individuals that did an exceptional job of making your cycling holiday extra special. Anonymous tips are also fine if your prefer to fly under the radar.
Safety Is The Top Priority
Riding on tour in Europe is definitely not the place to challenge your fastest speeds or downhill KOM’s. Remember the show must go on with or without you. Your safety is the top concern!
While we do everything in our power to make your cycling holiday fun, memorable, and safe, we also need you to do your part in knowing and respecting your limits and maintaining awareness of your surroundings.
Time To Ride!
Head out and have some fun; riding safely up and down some of the best roads and bikeways in the world.
Whether you are curious about existing tours, a DIY Tour, a VIP tour, or you if have an idea for a cycling tour you would like to put together with friends, we are here to help.
Please feel free to contact us with any general questions you have about cycling in Europe. We are here to help.
The Team at Ride International Tours