What is Cycle Touring?
Cycling Touring, Bike Touring or Bicycle Touring is essentially traveling via bicycle over a period of days, weeks or even months or years, across a country or countries.
A person touring by bicycle will usually carry all they need for the duration of the tour on a specially designed touring bicycle. Some bike tourers choose to camp, other will stay in pre-booked accommodation.
The first thing to do is read our Introduction to Cycle Touring, with what to pack and where to go.
Cycle Touring Destinations
The sky is the limit when it comes to cycle touring! Many people will start off with weekend touring adventures close to home or in a local country. Bike touring in Scotland, France and Ireland are all popular destinations.
If you are looking for inspiration, you might want to use our Great British Road Rides or 10 Most Scenic Cycling Routes in the World as a starting point - you're bound to find something to get you excited!
You can even just pick one of the 10 Incredible Touring Holiday ideas we've put together. Simple!
If you want a route that's easy to follow and in the UK, then National Cycle Network by Sustrans is your friend. They've suggested 10 of the Best Long Distance Sustrans Rides to start you off.
Bike Touring Kit, Equipment and Essentials
Cycle touring requires some specific equipment, though for shorter excursions you can adapt regular bikes. You can buy specific touring bikes, cycle touring luggage, cycle touring shoes and clothing. Make sure you carry plenty of water!
You need to know where you are going and a handlebar mounted GPS is perfect. You can pre-program your route so it guides you as you ride. You can also opt for a map, and again you can get handlebar mounted map-cases.
Make sure you've got everything you need and nothing you don't: check out the 15 Essentials to Pack for Cycle Touring. If you are camping as you tour, it's also worth having a look at what you should Pack for Your Cycle Touring Holiday.
If you are traveling between countries, don't forget your passport, any visas you need, vaccinations and of course that all-important Cycling Holiday Insurance.
You might want to get a specific touring bicycle if you are planning a long trip. Touring bikes are designed to be robust and sturdy over long journeys carrying heavy loads.
We've found 10 of the Best Women's Touring Bicycles to help you on your way.
They will typically be made of a steel or aluminium frame, but at the high end of the price-range you can get lightweight and strong titanium frames. They will often have drop bars like a road bike, but may have an additional set of brake levers on the bars.
Touring bicycles will have a number of lug holes on the frame to allow you to fit luggage racks and mud guards on both the front and back of the bike. Some touring bikes come already fitted with luggage or pannier racks.
The wheels on a touring cycle are usually 700c in size, but will run with thicker tyres than a road bike for comfort. These tyres will be puncture resistant and robust.
Bike Touring Luggage
If you are going on a bike touring trip, you will want to get some specific cycle touring luggage that will fit on your bike. Wearing a rucksack is uncomfortable over long distances, so touring panniers are a better bet. These are usually made from a tough fabric and will either be waterproof or will come with waterproof covers.
Ensure you fit both front and rear panniers if you have a lot to carry, to distribute the weight evenly across the bicycle frame. You can also get frame bags that sit in the triangular space of your bicycle frame and provide additional storage.
At the front of the bike, a handlebar mounted bag is good for storing luggage you need to access quickly, and you can also get handlebar bags with integral map cases for navigation.
What to wear cycle touring
Cycle touring usually involves being in the saddle for many hours at a time, so comfortable kit is key.
Cycle touring shoes will usually look like road or mountain bike shoes, with space for a cleat on the sole so you can use clipless pedals on your touring bicycle. The cleats will sit in a recessed area, which means they don’t touch the ground as you walk. Finding ones for women can be a bit of a challenge, so we've sought out 8 of the Best Women's Cycle Touring Shoes for you - there's even a pair of sandals in the mix!
Padded cycling shorts for cycle touring are a must, to protect your nether regions for hours in the saddle, as is chamois cream. On top, a cycling jersey will be breathable and will have handy pockets. Merino fabric is perfect for cycle touring as it wicks sweat, dries quickly and avoids getting smelly so you can wear it for several days at a time.
Cycling gloves are also a must, to cushion and protect your hands. There are lots of cycling helmets available, and it's a question of personal preferences, but lightweight and with plenty of vents is best. Sunglasses will shade your eyes from the glare of the sun.
If you are planning to go bike touring in the winter, you will want to opt for cycling tights or trousers, and waterproof over-trousers and waterproof jacket, plus some warm layers, and winter cycling gloves. Our guide to choosing the Right Winter Cycle Clothing will help, and we've even got ideas for Winter Warmer Accessories.
Cycle Touring Hints and Tips
Feeling inspired and fancy trying Bike Touring? We’ve got all the Essential Tips for your Bicycle Touring Trip ready to go. Heading out to tour by bicycle on your own? Check out our Top Tips for Touring Solo, and you’ll be fully prepared.
Cycle touring blogs and inspiration
If you fancy a first-person perspective on what it's like to go cycle touring, we can help! There are loads of bike touring blogs, bike touring books and bike touring experiences to check out.
Cycle Touring Accommodation - Where to Stay
There are lots of different options when it comes to cycle touring accommodation. Many touring cyclists will choose to camp, traveling with a lightweight tent, sleeping back and cooking equipment.
Other cycle tourers will stay in pre-booked accomodation, such as cycle-friendly hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs. Our guide to Britain's Most Bike Friendly Hotels is a great starting point.
Another option is to arrange to stay in someones home as you travel, and the website Warm Showers is designed provide cyclists with safe, free accommodation as they travel.
Mountain Bike Touring
Mountain bike touring or off-road touring is less common but is becoming more popular. It usually takes the form of two or three day adventures in the wilderness, with the rider camping or bike bivvying. Although most hard-tail or full-suspension bikes can't be fitted with panniers, there are some solutions, such as off-road trailers, clamp on pannier racks and quick-release pannier racks.