Travel Tip: Choosing a Self-Guided Cycling Tour

One travel expert gives the low-down on what to look for in a tour

“More popular than ever, self-guided cycling is surging in offers from tour operators—and with good reason. [It’s] often half the price of a guided trip, you don’t have to conform to limited dates, you start your day when you want, stop as long as you want, eat where you want, and so on. 

These are just a few of the features that travelers should consider in favor of a self-guided trip. But before choosing, ask yourself: are you up for navigating yourself and being in charge of your day? If the destination is a foreign country with a different language, are you ok with that?

Be sure to compare offers [since] not all self-guided trips are the same—check the details and compare apples to apples among tour operators. There are different levels of support from one operator to the next, especially now that the term ‘self-guided’ has taken off. Prospective travelers need to ask and clarify what is included, and specifically in the way of support and navigation.

• What does the ‘navigation’ look like? Is it cue sheets, maps and GPS? GPS only? Maps only?

• Luggage transfers are basic and usually included by all, but sometimes it is an extra service that adds on to the price.

• Hotels should be examined. That is typically the largest part of the price, so cheap tours usually have cheap hotels.

• Often—at least in Europe—breakfast is included. But are dinners? Some people want them and some people like their freedom to choose; is there an option and flexibility?

• There are self-guided offers that can only start on certain days of the week. Sometimes this is to group people up, but it might also be due to limited support or service availability every day of the week.

• It’s important for people to know if they are traveling in their own private party or being grouped up with others for some of their included services.”

Loren Siekman has been operating self-guided bike tours in Europe since 1994 as the owner and founder of Pure Adventures and the founder of Discover France Adventures. Loren and his companies are among the early pioneers to introduce the self-guided concept to North America and have handled over 2000 passengers per year amounting to hundreds of departures each season.