Exploring Europe by bike is a wonderful adventure. You can see more, travel at your own pace, stop whenever and wherever you fancy. Instead of limiting yourself to few specific locations, you may discover whole routes and everything situated along them. Not only the most tourist spots will be on your way, but also hidden villages, lovely forests and secluded beaches. Does it sound like your thing? To make this experience not only venturesome, but also easy and stress-free, here’s a list of useful tips you should remember of.
If you’re a beginner, ride before the departure
Are you dreaming of traveling through Europe by bike, but not feeling fit enough? That’s a wonderful reason to start practicing at home, before you begin the journey, use the time between making the decision about the trip and beginning it. Grab a bike and ride around your home-town, neighborhood or nearby villages. You’ll not only get fitter, but also more confident, which means avoiding lots of stress in the first days of your journey.
Take the right equipment for your bike
Laws vary depending on the country, but in most of them reflectors, a bell, rear and front lights are obligatory to have. Reflectors should be with you all the time, while the lights are mostly useful at night. A bell will come in very handy when you’ll be riding through busy cities. If you’re not familiar with this requirement, ringing a bell might sound silly, but as soon as you’ll get inside of a compact, crowded European town, you’ll see it actually makes sense.
You’ll surely need some equipment, but don’t take too much of it. Same applies to clothes, gadgets and other items. The less you pack, the more comfortable you’ll feel during the journey. Remember the rule: each time you’re about to put something inside of your backpack, ask yourself if you really need it and then answer honestly. Bring some light clothes, wear layers and don’t forget about a swimsuit. When you ride along the coast, or in areas dotted with lakes, it’s great to stop once in a while for a quick, refreshing swim.
In large cities it’s usually easy to find people who speak English, yet traveling through Europe by bike means passing countless villages and small towns, where it’s not commonly spoken. Of course you don’t have to learn all European languages, but if you’re going to spend a lot time in one region, consider memorizing a few useful phrases. Besides, the method “I speak my language, you speak yours, but we can both gesticulate” usually works out pretty well. Count on the body language, stay open and try to communicate as much as you can with the people you meet on the road, even if they don’t speak the way you do. It’s going to be a fascinating and fun experience.
Ride at your own pace and don’t rush to reach some appointed destinations. It’s supposed to be relaxing, not tiring and frustrating. If you’re a beginner, don’t try to ride like an experienced cyclist. Have you just seen a beautiful scenery and want to enjoy it for a while? Do you feel exhausted? Take a break!
For many cyclists, wild camping is a natural part of their trips. In Europe it all depends on a country. Each country has its own rules and understanding of wild camping. In some places, even if it isn’t officially legal, wild camping is culturally acceptable and unless you’re very unlucky, nobody will mind you putting up a tent on a forest glade. In other places though, you definitely shouldn’t try it without permission of the landowner. Scandinavia is great, you can camp nearly everywhere. When you already have the route, check the rules in the countries you’re going to visit. As for campsites, you’ll find them everywhere. Get a good map or ask on the way and you’ll surely spot many cozy sites.
Mind the weather
The best time for traveling through Europe by bike is spring, late summer or early autumn. In July and August most countries are hot, especially those in the south. In might be uncomfortable to travel around Italy or Spain in mid-July, keep it in mind. If you can only go for a trip during the European summer, consider choosing cooler places in central or northern Europe.
Don’t plan too much
Be spontaneous. Make a basic route, check what places you’ll pass on the way, think of what you’d like to see the most, but keep some time for surprises. Don’t push yourself to ride 100km a day if you really feel like to take a break. You’ll pass many gorgeous places and meet interesting people. It’s a pity to leave it behind without stopping for a while, because you’ve got a strict schedule, all accommodations booked and each step of your journey carefully planned. Sometimes you may also get lost or your bike will refuse riding. Don’t panic, it’s a part of the experience. Stay calm and solve upcoming problems without stress or rush.
If you need another kind of transpiration, use trains
Bikes are usually allowed on European trains, but if you need a train to get to the airport, better check carefully. In most cases you’ll be able to take a bike on board, but last thing you want before your flight back home is trouble, so better make sure. Trains are also great if you want to rest a bit from riding a bike. There are some scenic routes across Europe.