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Need an idea
for a trip with your husband or best friend? Late spring and early summer are
great times to book guided biking trips, especially in Europe this year.
Why? Besides the favorable U.S. dollar-to-Euro exchange (currently $1.10 to 1€),
early season in Europe—those weeks between spring and summer vacation and when the weather is more inconsistent—sees fewer people book trips. This means groups are smaller and fees are lower. The
weather may be dodgy, but the scenery and the experience stay the same.
preparation for an upcoming spring biking trip, I reached out to Gerry Slager, who,
since 1979, has been a lead guide on hundreds of biking trips with VBT
Bicycling and Walking Vacations (formerly known as Vermont Bicycle Tours).
with a cycling vacation is, the more you cycle before you go, the more fun you
are going to have on the trip," he says. "You can't just show up and think you
are going to be able to do it. You'll tire, you'll be in the van, you'll have
sore muscles, you'll miss seeing things and you won't put on as many miles. Yes,
we can shuttle you back to the hotel—there's always that choice. You just can't
do enough for yourself before you go."
If you can't get in the saddle on local trails and roads before a
trip, the next best way to get saddle time in is indoor training.
"If you are
going to do a bike trip, train on a bicycle. But if it's winter, and you can't
train outside, that means getting into the gym," says Slager. "Spinning classes
and the stationary bike are not the same, but those who train in spin classes
are going to do much better than no training at all. Get on any bike to avoid
the aches and sore butts. It's a vacation, why would you want to hurt?"
training in the months leading up to a trip, supporting the body with a clean
diet, Slager says, helps riders avoid blood sugar fluctuations and energy
crashes. Most guided trips will provide snacks, even for those with dietary
restrictions. Access to fresh local food is offered to clients on VBT
trips, he says.
Most guides are local to their destination and providing a small gift from your hometown is always a nice way to share your own culture, as they introduce you to theirs.
If you will be adding miles to your daily ride, he suggests bringing
a favorite packaged organic snack that your body responds well to. "We hope
more people stop and smell the roses, but leaders always have extra miles
if you want it," Slager says. "Even if you want to go solo, they will give you
pump, tire iron and tube as long as you know how to change (a tire)."
clothing in advance for all weather scenarios is also important, and it's all about layers. "Clothes that you can wash out at night and dry
out the next day are best," he says. "Guests always bring too many clothes. I only
bring two of everything and rinse stuff out in the shower."
For cool or
foul weather, Slager suggests a packable, lightweight rain jacket, arm sleeves, lights
without padding to put over bike shorts and, if possible, bright clothes so
people can see you. He recommends technical, synthetic clothing that let's your
skin breath, covered by a merino wool upper layer. For those who don't bring
their own bikes, a company's bike will be fitted for you. However, bringing
your own shoes, pedals, helmet and, in some cases, bike seat, will make your
rides just that much more comfortable.
cycling vacation, and you will be getting off your bike to explore. So if you
have mountain biking shoes, that will help you not walk like a duck. Or you can
throw a pair of slip-on shoes in your bag," he says.
Last but not
least, Slager suggests bringing a small token from home for your guide. Most
guides are local to their destination and providing a small gift from your
hometown is always a nice way to share your own culture, as they introduce you