Guided Or Self-Guided? Which Cycling Holiday Is For Me?

If you have made the decision that you are going to tour a country by bike, then congratulations! No matter what your destination, you are embarking on a great adventure.

A wealth of experiences await; the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside.  Friendly villages and towns.  Chance meetings. The easy going pace, and the many chances to stop for photographs.  Each experience is a mini adventure that combines to make touring by bike so special.

So the question arises; “Do I join with a group for a guided cycling holiday, or would it be better for me to have a little more independence and do a self-guided bike tour?”

First a little bit about both.

Guided Cycling Holidays

  • Everything is organised for you.

  • Your accommodation, lunch stops, evening meal venues, etc. are all arranged as part of the tour package.

  • You cycle along with your group, leaving at the same time as everyone else. You keep your pace similar to the other members of the group.

  • Guided cycling tours normally include a support vehicle following behind the group.

  • A guide will explain the history, culture, etc.

  • Mechanical issues will be sorted by the guide or the person in the support vehicle.

Self-guided Cycling Holidays

  • Your accommodation is booked in advance.

  • You will be given maps and directions (and increasingly GPS tracks).

  • You follow the routes at your own pace.

  • Your luggage will be transported to your next destination.

  • Lunch and evening meals are not usually included, so you are free to stop where you like.

  • A repair kit is included to allow you to fix punctures, minor mechanical issues etc.

  • Most companies operating self-guided cycling holidays also have a hotline number to deal with bigger issues.

  • A guide book or guide notes will give you details of the local history, places of interest, places to eat, etc.

The advantages and disadvantages of both are obvious:

In a guided tour you have the comfort of being in a group. However the drawback of this is the lack of flexibility. You need to cycle at the same pace as everyone else. This can sometimes be tough on some group members, although the increasing availability of e-bikes has gone some of the way to addressing this issue. You will also be guaranteed company at your lunch and other meals.

The big advantage of being on a self-guided bike tour is the greater independence. You can leave at the time you want, cycle at your own pace, stop where you like etc. You simply need to be sure to arrive at your destination each evening.

When making the decision as to which one is best for you, it is a good idea to picture yourself on holiday. Do you see yourself in a group along with others?  Or on the other hand, do you picture yourself along with your family or friends exploring at your own pace?  Either way you are bound to have a great adventure.  Once you have toured by bicycle once you will be hooked, and you will be able to try out both guided and self-guided bike tours in the future. (There is a very good chance you will be quite happy to do either.)

At Ireland by Bike we have run only self-guided tours since our first season in 2010.  However for 2020 we are teaming up with to bring you a wonderful guided tour.  This has been chosen by Bike Tours founder, Jim Johnston, as one of his specially selected “Founder’s Tours”. This tour will be from 14 June 2020.  To see details on the website, click here.