What To Pack for a Road Cycling Holiday

There is perhaps nothing more exciting that an overseas cycling holiday, particularly during the winter months when cycling is mostly limited to spinning classes and rollers here in the northern hemisphere, but if you want to avoid costly baggage fees and paying more than you should to take your beloved bike and cycling gear with you, you need to master the art of packing light.

Cape Town Cycle Tour 2019

Cycling holidays are now more popular than golfing holidays, and fortunately, airlines have taken note. You can now take you bike on almost every flight providing it meets the airline’s size and weight requirements, and you can do this either as part of your checked baggage allowance, or for an additional fee.

While these additional fees will not add a huge amount to the overall cost of your cycling holiday, you’re looking at a minimum of £120 roundtrip, and you can buy more than a few energy gels, protein bars, and chamois creams for that kind of money!

To save money on your cycling holiday, you need to know what to pack and how to pack it, and so here are a few tips for your next overseas cycling adventure:

  1. Invest in the lightest bike bag or box you can find. Hard shell cases do provide a greater level or protection, but they often weigh over 10kg, and leave very little room for anything other than your bike. Scicon and EVOC Bags are exceptionally lightweight, easy to pack, and they leave plenty of space for your cycling kit – and so they can save money in the long run.
  2. Book your flight with an airline that allows you to transport your bike as your checked luggage allowance. For long-haul flights, British Airways is a good choice as they have a checked allowance of 23kg. Providing you have a lightweight bike bag or box, there’s no reason why you cannot pack your bike, helmet, shoes, and 4 or 5 lycra outfits and still stay within your 23kg limit, leaving you hand luggage allowance free for everything else.
  3. Some airlines, such as KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines all charge a fee for transporting bikes, but they have an increased allowance of up to 30kg. Even the old stinge-bags at Ryanair follow this rule, and with 30kg at your fingertips, you can easily pack your bike and all your cycling gear for a 2 week cycling holiday.
  4. Pack for the type of cycling holiday you are going to take. If you are cycling out and back to the same hotel each day, then 2 or 3 outfits will see you through a weeklong trip. You can easily rinse out shorts and jerseys in the evening and leave them to dry the following day, so you’ll always be fresh and ready for the day ahead. If you are constantly on the move, such as a Garden Route Cycling Holiday from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town in South Africa, then you will need to pack a clean set of cycling clothes for every day of your itinerary. It may sound excessive, but no one wants to cycle next to whiffy armpits, so be kind to yourself those around you by changing daily!
  5. In the evenings, you only likely to wear your casual clothes for a few hours, so take plenty of mix and match items that you can wear more than once. As most cycling holidays take you to warmer climates, shorts and t-shirts are fine, but always take a fleece or jacket – just in case!
  6. Unless you heading to a remote cycling destination such as the Peruvian Andes, the mountains of Lesotho, or far south Patagonia where cycling supplies are limited, avoid taking gels, energy bars, electrolytes and an excessive amount of spare inner tubes with you. They will all add to your checked baggage allowance, and you can buy them on site.
  7. That said, don’t forget to take important things such as specialist tools and components that are not widely available in other parts of the world.
  8. Finally, whatever you do, do not pack CO2 canisters. You’re likely to get arrested for trying to blow up the plane, and if they somehow manage to pass through the airport security systems, they could explode in your bike bag and cause all kinds of damage.

The key to packing for a cycling holiday is limiting it to the essentials. Most cycling gear can be washed and dried in an hour, so you can always ask the hotel to wash your clothes if you get stuck. But try to keep it light so the only thing you have to worry about is cycling from A to B, oh yes, and not being the last up the hill!

 

 

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Top Overseas Cycling Sportives for Your 2019 Calendar

The sunshine is still hanging around in some parts of Europe, but it won’t be long until the indoor cycling season gets underway, and if you need some inspiration to get you through the next 3 months of spinning classes or home training on the roller, here are our Top 10 Overseas Cycling Sportives for your 2019 calendar:

Cycling Holidays 2019

  1. Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, 24th November 2018, New Zealand

Okay, we know we said 2019 sportives, but there is still time for one last hurrah this year with the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in New Zealand. A fabulous one-day event with multiple different disciplines, it is suitable for all fitness levels, and it will give you the opportunity to escape Europe just as the ‘real’ winter begins.

  1. Cape Town Cycle Tour – 10th March 2019, South Africa

A fabulous one-day, 109km cycling event around the Western Cape peninsula, the Cape Town Cycle Tour 2019, previously the Cape Argus, is the perfect warm-up ride for the new year. With toasty temperatures and magnificent cycling routes around the city, Cape Town is the perfect destination for a spring cycling holiday, so why not join the 35,000 others next March, and start your season in style.

  1. Tour of Flanders – 6th April 2019, Belgium

Follow in the footsteps, or should that be cycle path, of the world’s greatest athletes on the non-pro version of the Tour of Flanders. A partly cobbled circuit strictly limited to 16,000 entrants, this one day classic attracts riders from all over the world. Four route options available.

  1. Mallorca 312 – 27th April 2019, Mallorca Spain

If you don’t mind the crowds, the Mallorca 312 is a fabulous one-day sportive on the sun-drenched island of Mallorca. There are three different routes available, the 167km, the 225km and the 312km, and surprisingly, you can decide on route how far you would like to go. All entrants start at the same time, although you need to meet certain cut-off points if you intend to cycle the longer routes, and the event starts and finishes in Playa de Muro.

  1. Nove Colli (Nine Hills) – 19th May 2019, Cesenatico Italy

The original sportive and the classic Italian Gran Fondo, the Nove Colli or Nine Hills has been running since the early 1970s, and yet it continues to grow in popularity year after year. Entries are limited to 13,000, and they sell out in minutes, and while it’s a demanding route with gradients of up to 20%, all types of riders are invited to take part. PS: Entries open TODAY!!

  1. Vätternrunden – 15th June 2019, Motala Sweden

Describing itself as “the world’s largest recreational cycling event” the Vätternrunden in Sweden is a true icon in the international sportives calendar. A 300km route around Lake Vättern, this Swedish Classic offers breath-taking scenery and attracts cyclists from 50 different nations. Registration is open now and closes on 22nd October, so you need to act now if you are to secure your place for 2019.

  1. La Marmotte – 7th July 2019, Alpe d’Huez France

No sporting calendar would be complete without La Marmotte, and every cyclists should attempt this mountain sportive at least once in their lives. Tackling the four classic climbs of the Tour de France, this toughie attracts 7,500 riders each year, who battle it out over 174km and 5,000 altimeters – phew! Once again, registration is open now – so get cracking!

  1. Arlberg Giro – 4th August 2019, St. Anton Austria

It might not be one of the most famous sportives on the list, but is certainly one of the most enjoyable, and if you are looking for a well-priced cycling event in Europe next summer, the Arlberg Giro could be the perfect choice.  Including a few famous Austrian Passes such as Montafon and Silvretta, this one day race will see you climb 2,500 meters over 150km, but the scenery is so beautiful, you won’t even notice your climbing… okay, maybe exaggerating a little bit there! Sign up before 31st December 2018, and you’ll get entry plus a complimentary cycle jersey by JAKROO for just €43 – bargain!

  1. Öztal Cycle Marathon – 1st September 2019, Sölden, Austria

Described as the toughest sportive in Europe, the Öztaler Radmarathon is a 238km route with over 5,500 meters of elevation. There is only one route, there are strict cut-off guidelines in place, and many a grown man has cried tackling the final climb of Timmelsjoch – referred to as ‘Il Mostro’ or ‘The Monster’ by Italians. In the Austrian alps at this time of the year, anything can happen, and snowfall is not uncommon, so this one’s definitely not for the fainthearted!

  1. Giro Del Lago – November 2019, Puerto Varas Chile

See out 2019 in style with the Giro del Lago in Puerto Varas, Chile. A relatively new event, but one that has already attracted quite a following, it includes a 168km loop around Lake Llanquihue with a modest 2,040 metres of elevation. Limited to just 1,500 entries, this is by no means a big sportive, but if you ever fancied cycling in Patagonia (who doesn’t), then this could be the perfect starting point for your Chilean Cycling Adventure.

Winter Cycling Holidays Gran Canaria: Sunshine all but Guaranteed!

Are you looking for the perfect short-haul winter cycling holiday? With year-round sunshine, spectacular cycling routes, and bicycle friendly accommodations, Gran Canaria is fast becoming the best cycling destination in Europe for winter getaways, giving neighbouring Lanzarote a run for its money.

While still relatively new on the international cycling circuit, Gran Canaria has been attracting pro cycling teams for years. Peter Sagan and Alberto Contador as just a few of the famous faces you can expect to see on the island during the winter months, along with upcoming members of the Tinkoff Academy who come to the island to train.

A challenging cycling destination for those who love to climb, Gran Canaria homes more than a few demanding mountain passes to test your legs. There’s Pico de las Nieves, the highest peak on the island reaching 1,950m, the Valley of the Tears (VOTT), and the Temisas Climb between Aguimes and St. Lucia but to name a few.

While Gran Canaria is best known for its golden sand dunes and busy tourist areas, the moment you step inland you’re in a whole new world. Just 10 minutes from the busy coastal regions, you’ll find pristine cycling routes with little traffic and very few other cyclists, and while some of the roads could do with a little TLC, the majority are well maintained and perfectly suitable for road biking.

The beauty of Gran Canaria is that it bathes in year-round sunshine, and so you can cycle here at anytime of the year. From November to March, you can expect daily temperatures of around 25 degrees, and if you choose to stay in the south of the island in areas such as Tauro, you won’t need much more than a pullover for the evening.

Here’s what your 7-night Cycling Holiday in Gran Canaria could look like:

Day 1 – Arrive Las Palmas, transfer to hotel

Day 2 – Cycle Tauro – Aguimes – Temisas – St. Lucia – Vecindario – Tauro (approx. 125km)

Day 3 – Cycle Tauro – Soria – Fataga – San Fernando – Tauro (approx.. 110km)

Day 4 – Cycle Tauro – Fataga – Pico de las Nieves – Puerto de Mogan – Tauro (approx. 120km)

Day 5 – Rest Day – go enjoy the beach!

Day 6 – Cycle Tauro – Puerto de Mogan – San Nicolas – Artenara – Fataga – Tauro (approx. 145km)

Day 7 – Cycle Tauro – Ayagaures – Meloneras – Tauro (approx. 70km)

Day 8 – Departure

Find out more!

 

 

 

 

Cycling Morocco: Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean

With France, Italy, and Spain ticked off your Bucket List, you might be looking for a new destination for your next overseas cycling break, and if you like the idea of travelling between now and next March, Morocco could be the number #1 choice for your winter cycling holiday.

Exotic, affordable, and easily accessible from most European hubs, Morocco is a fabulous cycling destination for those who are looking for a truly authentic African experience, without the long-haul flight to South Africa, Namibia, or Tanzania. In fact, a flight from London to Marrakesh takes just 3 hours and 40 minutes, less than it would take you to get to the Canaries, and so it’s a great choice for a weeklong break.

Road Cycling Holiday Morocco

While you may not think of Morocco as a road cycling destination, the roads are surprisingly good in this part of the world, particularly in the Atlas Mountains where you will find more than a few challenging climbs to test your legs and keep you in peak condition until spring. The scenery is simply breathtaking here with deep valleys, snow-capped mountains, and flowing rivers that provide the perfect backdrop for your cycling tour.

There’s very little traffic here, and as accommodations are limited, you will have the opportunity to stay in authentic gites and locally owned guest houses, where you will experience authentic Moroccan cuisine and learn about local cultures and traditions. Cyclists are very welcome in the Atlas Mountains, and there are more than enough demanding ascents to keep hardcore road bikers entertained.

After completing your mountain stage, you can continue your Moroccan cycling holiday to Agadir on the Atlantic coastline where you will enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean, wide crescent beaches, and a bustling seaside promenade with colourful restaurants and bars. From here, you can head back inland to Imouzzer, cycling the magnificent Paradise Valley along the way, before heading to the formal imperial city of Marrakesh for some well-deserved shopping and sightseeing as you submerge yourself in Morocco’s vibrant metropolis.

Morocco offers unforgettable cycling experiences, so why not bicycle beyond with an Atlas to Atlantic Road Cycling Tour!

 

 

Packing Your Bike for Travel: Airline Bike Policies

Packing your bike for an overseas sportive may seem like a bit of a hassle, but it will make all the difference on race day, and providing you have a good bike box or bag, and the knowledge to rebuild your bike when you arrive at your final destination, there is no reason why you shouldn’t take your bike with you on every cycling holiday.

Rental bikes are not all bad, in fact, some of them are very good indeed, but if you are heading to a huge event such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour in South Africa,  where demand (and prices) are high, you could end up paying a huge sum of money for a sub-standard rental bike, more than you would pay to transport your own.

All airlines allow you to transport your bike, either as part of your checked luggage allowance or for a special premium, so there’s really no need to leave it behind. If you don’t want to splash out on a Scicon bike bag or hardcase bike box, you can get a cardboard one free of charge from almost any bike shop, and providing you use plenty of bubble wrap, your bike should arrive in the exact same condition in which you packed it.

While all airlines have different policies when it comes to transporting your bike, here is an overview of the most popular international airlines:

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • With British Airways, your bike can travel as your checked baggage allowance.
  • The standard baggage allowance in Economy is 23kg, but not all BA tickets include baggage, so you should check this when booking your flight.
  • You can only check-in one piece of baggage. So even if your bike box weighs less than 23kg, you CANNOT check in another bag to make up the difference, unless you pay for it.
  • If you want to check in both a bike box and a suitcase, you need to purchase an extra piece of checked baggage, which currently costs £60 per bag per way – so £120 roundtrip for your bike.
  • Providing your bike box does not exceed the maximum dimensions listed on the BA website, you do not need to advise the airline that you are transporting a bike prior to travel. You can simply turn up at the airport and check-in as normal.

EMIRATES

  • Emirates also allow you to transport your bike as part of your checked baggage allowance.
  • This airline uses both weight concept and piece concept baggage regulations, and so you really need to find out what your allowance is before booking your flight ticket.
  • If it is on weight concept, you will most likely have a checked baggage allowance of 30kg. In this instance, you can check in both a bike box and a suitcase providing they do not weigh more than 30kg combined, or exceed the maximum dimensions listed in the Emirates website.
  • If you flight ticket includes piece concept baggage regulations, then you can only check in the number of bags indicated. So, if your ticket includes 1 piece, you can only check in a bike box OR a suitcase.
  • You need to contact Emirates at least 24-hours prior to your flight if you intend to transport your bike as checked baggage. We recommend doing it the moment you book your flight.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, have excess baggage with Emirates. They charge $160 USD for just 5 kilos extra, and upwards of $250 USD to check in an extra bag.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC

  • Until recently, Virgin Atlantic allowed you to transport your bike free of charge, but this is no longer the case. You can now transport it as part of your checked baggage allowance, which is 23kg in Economy.
  • You can only check-in one piece of baggage and cannot pool the weight across your bike bag and suitcase.
  • If you want to check in both your bike box and a suitcase, you’ll need to purchase an extra piece of checked baggage at £65 per piece per way, so £130 roundtrip for your bike.
  • Providing your bike meets Virgin Atlantic’s size and weight guidelines, you do not need to inform the airline that you are transporting a bike prior to travel. Simply proceed to the airport and check in as normal.

KLM / AIR FRANCE

  • KLM and Air France do not allow you to transport your bike as part of any baggage allowance, you must always pay a fee for the privilege.
  • Their current long-haul rate is 100 Euros per bike per way, so 200 Euros roundtrip for your bike.
  • You have to let them know when booking your flight ticket that you want to transport your bike. If you book your flight ticket directly on their website, you should be able to do this during the booking process. If you are booking through a travel agent, let them know that you intend to take your bike with you so that they can add it to your booking.

TURKISH AIRLINES

  • Turkish Airlines allow you to transport your bicycle as your checked baggage allowance, which is generally 23kg in Economy.
  • You can only check-in one piece of luggage and cannot share the weight across your bike box and suitcase.
  • If you want to take a bike box and a suitcase, you will need to pay extra for your bike.
  • Turkish Airlines charge a per sector fee, rather than a per way fee for bikes. Therefore, if you are travelling from London to Cape Town via Istanbul, you will pay €30 per sector from London to Istanbul, and €60 per sector from Istanbul to Cape Town, totalling €90 per way, and €180 roundtrip. Complex? Yes!
  • You must advise Turkish Airlines prior to departure if you intend to transport your bike.

Please note, the above is just for reference and can change at any time. Please contact the airline for up-to-date rules and pricing.

 

 

 

 

Bormio 3 Mountain Pass Cycle Challenge: Gavia, Stelvio & Mortirolo

There are some mountain passes in the world that every cyclist dreams about conquering, and in the picturesque alpine town of Bormio, you will find three of them, all lined up and ready to welcome you with open arms! The mighty Gavia Pass, the Stelvio Pass and the Mortirolo Pass are all right here in the Lombardy region of Italy, and if you are looking for a short and sporty cycling break in one of the most beautiful areas in Europe, Bormio could be the perfect destination for your next cycling trip.

While predominantly a ski resort, Bormio attracts thousands of international cyclists each year who come here to follow in the footsteps (or should that be cycle tracks) of their Giro D’Italia heroes. The mountain passes in this part of the world are known to make the strongest professional climbers weak at the knees… quite literally, and so they are more than a challenge for us mere mortals, but with determination, training, and a will to succeed, any keen cyclist can reach the top, as we found out last week…

Cycling the Gavia Pass from Bormio

The Passo di Gavia is a beautiful ride and a great warm up for the more demanding passes ahead. Starting right in the heart of Bormio, it’s impossible to miss, and with an average gradient of just 5.5%, it is one of just a few alpine passes that even newbie climbers can attempt. While figures vary ever-so-slightly depending on the device you use, the statistics for the Gavia Pass are as follows:

  • Length of climb: 25.6km
  • Average gradient: 5.5%
  • Maximum gradient: 11% (which starts at 21km)
  • Elevation gain: 1404m

It starts with a gentle ride along the river before ramping up slightly to Santa Catarina. There are a few cobbled sections along the way, just enough to get you out of your comfort zone, but in general, the going is good, and the gradients are doable.  There are a few switchbacks to keep you on your toes, but once you have scaled those, the Gavia pass winds its way slowly but surely upwards towards a spectacular glacier. At km 21, things go pear-shaped. The road ramps up to 11% without warning and stays that way for a good couple of kilometres. However, once you’ve done that, you are home and dry. The final stretch along the banks of the beautiful lake is as flat as an Italian pancake – and the café at the top is the cherry on the cake!

Cycling the Stelvio Pass from Bormio

As one of the most iconic climbs in Italia, cycling the Passo di Stelvio is a bucket list dream for many. Both sides of the pass are open to cyclists, and the both offer different challenges, but the road from Bormio is much less crowded, and so it is a great choice for cyclists who are looking for a more peaceful ascent. During the summer months when temperatures are high, it’s a good idea to get cracking early, leaving Bormio no later than 07:30am. Here’s the stats:

  • Length of climb: 21.5km
  • Average gradient: 7.1%
  • Maximum gradient: 14% (at 10.5km)
  • Elevation gain: 1533m

As with Gavia, the Stelvio Pass starts directly in Bormio, and so there’s little opportunity to warm up, so you may want to go for a short spin before you start. The road is well maintained here (unusual for Italy), and there’s hardly any traffic if you leave early. The gradient is a steady 7 percent with a few jumps here and there to remind you that you are climbing one of the toughest passes in the Alps, but it’s only really the 14% ramp that comes just after the 10km mark that really tests the legs.  After completing the switchbacks, you come to a relatively flat section, but don’t let that draw you into a false sense of security! The last 3 kilometres are the toughest part of the entire climb, with 10% – 15% average. However, glory is waiting for you in the form of an ice-cold shandy and a sausage sandwich!

Cycling the Mortirolo Pass from Bormio – via Mazzo

They say all roads lead to Rome, and it seems like many lead to the top of Mortirolo with 5 different routes to keep you entertained, but if you want to do it like the Giro D’Italia professionals, there is only one way to climb Mortirolo, and that is via Mazzo.  To say this is a tough climb is an understatement. In fact, I’ll share the stats with you before saying any more…

  • Length of climb: 12.8km
  • Average gradient: 11.8%
  • Maximum gradient: 20%
  • Elevation gain: 1315m

From Bormio, you have to cycle +/- 28km to Mazzo di Valtellina where your climb will begin. It’s all downhill on the way out, which may sound great, but that mean’s it’s all up hill on the way back, so bear that in mind when planning your journey. From Mazzo, Mortirolo Pass jumps from 4 percent to 9 percent in the blink of any eye and stays that way for the first 4km until you reach San Matteo Church, where things really start to get exciting (or should that be painful!). From here, the gradient soars to almost 14 percent and stays that way until you reach the Marco Pantani Monument at the 9km mark. You’re cycling through a forest tunnel at this stage, so you are fortunately sheltered from the sun, but its hot, its tough, and you may ask yourself why you even cycle… this pass has grown men in tears.  Your last 4kms average at around 9 percent, and so there’s really no respite until you reach the top. Unfortunately, there is no bar at the top of Mortirolo, so take a photo at the sign to prove you really did it before making your way back down to curve number 4 for a much-needed cold drink.  You’ve done it – you are a superstar!

Sound like your perfect cycling holiday? Book your Bormio 3 Mountain Pass Challenge!

 

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge New Zealand 2018: Entries Now Open!

How far would you be willing to travel to participate in a one day international cycling sportive? Well, if like the rest of us, you would go to the end of the earth to cycle an amazing route, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in New Zealand could be the perfect choice for your winter cycling holiday!

An award-winning cycling event that celebrates its 42nd year in 2018, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge attracts some 7,000 riders from across the globe who flock to New Zealand’s North Island year after year to take part in one of 5 main road bike categories. NZ’s largest cycling event also offers a selection of challenges for off-road cyclists, elites, and groups, and there’s even kiddie rides, so the whole family can join in.

The most popular route by far is the ‘Bike Barn Around the Lake’, which is a single lap, 160km circumnavigation of Lake Taupo. Offering spectacular scenery, it really is one of the most beautiful rides in all New Zealand, and while the event is deemed ‘suitable for all abilities’ you need to be in good shape if you are to compete with the pros, who finish in less than 4 hours.

If 160km with +/- 300m elevation doesn’t sound like much of challenge to you, then you’ll be pleased to know that there is more on offer. The 320km Enduro will see you cycling around New Zealand’s largest lake twice, while the 640km Maxi Enduro will see you spinning around the lake a whopping four times, but it is an official qualifying ride for the Race Across America, so if you are thinking of taking part in the “World’s Toughest Cycle Race” in 2019 – this could be the perfect warm up!

Of course, New Zealand is a long way to go for a one-day sportive, and so most international entrants combine the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge with a self-drive holiday visiting both the North and South Islands. The good news is, New Zealand was made for cycling holidays, so you can rent bikes and bike racks on one island and leave them on the other.

Where will your next cycling adventure take you?