Choosing the right bike for your cycling holiday
There is a huge choice of bikes and styles these days, and many in different designs and fits to suit men, women and children. You’ll also find a price tag to suit a wide budget range and all kinds of aspirations. In general terms, lighter weight bikes with higher quality components will cost more but they will be easier to ride and should stand the test of time.
However, it is worth looking for bikes on sale and second hand if you are keen to buy more for less. It’s important to try a bike for size and fit and to seek the advice of an expert so that you buy a bicycle that will not cause you longer term niggles and discomfort. So, when starting to look for a bike, how do you pick the right one for you? And what will be the best style of bicycle for your cycling holiday?
We explain some of the basics and offer our tips.
A mountain bike has wider tyres with more aggressive tread for off-road trails. They will have lots of easier-going gears for cycling uphill and coping with rugged terrain. Most MTBs come with suspension, either front forks or back, or both. Mountain bikes are versatile and for cycling newcomers they give a comfortable ride because you ride in a more upright position. These bikes can be heavy though, and if you plan to cycle mostly on roads, the chunky tyres might slow you down. You can make an MTB easier to ride on smooth surfaces by swapping grippy tyres for smoother ones, known as slicks.
Another mountain bike style alternative is a fat bike, which has super sized tyres and does not need suspension for a comfortable off road ride. These bikes are becoming more popular and make good off-road touring bikes. You would choose to ride an MTB on a cycling tour that was all off-road, with mostly off-road terrain, or poor road surfaces.
Increasingly popular for men, women and children, road bikes or racers, have slimmer tyres for smoother and more efficient riding on tarmac. Drop handlebars, gears for hills and flats, and go-faster lightweight materials are included on racer bikes. You can choose between steel, aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre frames. The prices change with materials. However, the cycling position doesn’t suit everyone because you need to be more bent over so you should give a racer bike a test-ride before you commit to buying.
A growing number of sportive-style road bikes offer more comfort thanks to a less aggressive riding position, and designs that allow for smoother rides on rougher roads. Bike tyres are moving towards 25mm, rather than traditional 23mm, and many road bikes now come with disc brakes rather than calliper style brakes. A road bike is best for cycling routes and tours that have lots of smooth tarmac and hills. If you plan to cycle many miles each day you will find a road bike is faster and slicker.
A hybrid combines a mountain bike with a road bike. The riding position is fairly upright, which makes cycling more comfortable. Hybrids are ideal for leisure cycling and commuting and most can be fitted with racks for panniers (bike bags). An alternative is to carry kit in bike packs, which strap to the saddle and seat post of a bike. Hybrid bikes tend to be more robust and made of heavier materials. They can cope with rough roads, trails, and terrain. You can choose tyres, from smooth to knobbly, to suit on-road cycling or off-road trails. Tyre widths typically start at 28mm so they offer greater comfort from uneven surfaces. Hybrid bikes usually have flat handlebars, rather than drop handlebars. They have a wide range of gears for hills, descents, and flats.
But remember that a hybrid is a compromise bike and not ideal for really rough trails, or going faster on tarmac. Many people like hybrid bikes for shorter daily tours, or for holidays that include trails, paths, canal towpaths and roads. They are far more adaptable and also more comfortable to ride, especially if you are a newcomer to cycling holidays.
Cyclo-cross & adventure bikes
These bikes look like a road racer but they are better suited to off-road cycling because of grippier tyres. They are are also great for commuting and, again, many are capable of taking a bike rack and panniers, or a bike pack. If you usually ride a racer bike but you plan to cycle on trails and paths when on holiday a cyclocross or adventure bike will be a great choice.
A big growth area in recent years has been electric bikes. These can be road, hybrid and mountain bikes. A battery assists with power for cycling. E-bikes are a brilliant choice if you want to keep up with a faster and fitter partner or if you are new to cycling and you want to cover greater distances, such as on a cycle tour holiday The bikes are expensive because of the new technology, but prices are dropping all the time as more brands bring out e-bikes. You can also hire e-bikes in many locations worldwide.
A good quality bike is just as important for children as for adults. It’s worth paying more for lighter-weight bikes with set-up, gearing and brake levers specifically suited to children. Remember that kids are smaller, weaker and lighter than adults so their bike should be designed to suit. Islabikes, Frog and Hoy brands make children's bikes to fit children. They often have a good re-sale price, or can be passed to younger siblings. If you are panning a cycling holiday with children you could consider a tag-along bike to attach to your own bike, a tandem or a bike trailer for younger children. If you need any more advice about the right bike for your cycling holiday please do ask our team.