Fully-Guided Versus Fully-Independent Bike Tours
If you like the idea of spending your holidays on a bike tour in Ireland, there are a number of options to choose from in terms of what type of tour you will be doing. These include Guided Bike Tours; Self-Guided Bike Tours; and Fully Independent Tours.
With a fully guided bike tour, the bike touring company takes care of all the organisation. This includes accommodation, routes, meals, and activities. This is very convenient for because it means all the organising will be done for you by a local expert. On the other hand, a fully independent bike tour gives you much greater freedom to do and see the things you’re most interested in. It also lets you cycle at your own pace and choose where to eat.
Self-guided cycling tours give you the best of both worlds – the tour company uses their local expertise to arrange routes and accommodation for you while also giving you flexibility about what attractions to visit and where to eat. You can cycle at your own pace and there will be options for add-on cycles and detours if you’re feeling extra energetic. Read on to learn all about self-guided bike tours.
What is a self-guided bike tour and how does it work?
Self-guided bike tours or cycling holidays are also referred to as self-led bike tours and sometimes non-guided tours. Essentially everything that is included in a guided bike tour is also included in a self-guided bike tour. The main difference is that you do not have a tour guide to lead you and your group on each cycle.
Will I be part of a group?
You choose your group, it might be you on your own, it might be your family or possibly a group of friends. It is up to you. It is possible that you may be following the same routes as others who are also doing the tour, this is especially likely at peak season. At other times you may find that your group is the only one on the road.
Will the daily distances be too much or to little for me?
Most cycling holiday companies grade their tours based on what distance you cycle each day along with other factors such as hills etc. There are tours out there to suit virtually level of cyclist. Ireland by Bike offer bike tours including The Yeats Country and Lakelands Tour and the Treasures of Coast and History Tour where the average daily distance is between 25 and 35 km (15 to 20 miles). At the higher end our North West Grand Tour covers distances of up to 80 to 90 km (50 to 56 miles) each day.
How do I follow the routes?
Routes are planned for you, Some cycling holiday companies provide you with turn by turn directions along with route maps. Alternatively you may get a GPS unit with your routes pre-programmed (sometimes at an extra cost). Another alternative favoured by some bike tour companies is to use an app such as Ride With GPS allowing you to download the routes to your mobile (cell) phone.
At Ireland by bike we give a detailed set of turn by turn directions, along with route maps. We also provide a GPS unit with routes pre programmed at no extra cost.
Do I need to keep to a set pace?
A real advantage of self-guided cycling tours over fully guided cycling tours is that you can travel and explore entirely at your own pace. There is no need to be conscious of a guide telling you that you need to be at this café or that attraction at a certain time. So if you pass a beautiful beach and you want to go for a swim – go for a swim. If you want to stop for a coffee – stop for a coffee. No one is going to complain that you have held up the group.
Another of the great advantages of choosing a self-guided cycling holiday is that you are free to explore as many or as few side trips as you like. Take for example Ireland by Bike’s Treasures of Coast and History Tour. On the day you cycle from Donegal to Killybegs you have the option of cycling to the lighthouse at the end of the St. John’s Point peninsula. This adds a total of 15 km to the days cycle. However as this is a self-guided tour whether you choose to do this or not is entirely up to you. This and all other possible side trips are detailed in your tour notes and directions.
Can I taylor my self-guided bike tour?
In many instances it is possible to add extra days. Very often bike tour companies will give you the option of choosing where along the route you would like a day without cycling. Again this is one of the big advantages of self-guided bike tours over guided bike tours.
How will I know what attractions are along the route?
Most bike tour companies will give you guide notes. The Ireland by Bike tour notes give you a very comprehensive guide to everything worth seeing along the way.
What about my luggage?
The vast majority of cycling holiday companies include luggage transfers as part of the tour package. This gives you the freedom to enjoy each day, safe in the knowledge that your luggage will be waiting for you when you arrive at your next accommodation.
What if I have a problem or a puncture?
A backup service is normally included. At Ireland by Bike we use the most puncture resistant tyres available so punctures are very very rare. We also keep our bikes in tip top condition, so like punctures mechanical problems are also almost non existent. To be absolutely safe we provide you with a puncture repair kit as well as a spare inner tube.
If however you still do have a problem we provide a back up phone number and we will get you safely back on the road again.
Can I choose my own start date?
In many cases the answer to this is yes. Again because you are not tied to travelling with a group choosing your own start dates is often possible. This may vary from one cycling holiday company to another and also from one tour to another. At Ireland by Bike we have start dates available for most of our tours. In our case the only exception is The Causeway Coast Tour where Monday is the arrival day for this tour.
Will I meet someone from the cycling holiday company?
Very many cycling holiday companies include a welcome or orientation meeting as part of the service. Others simply arrange to have your bicycle, tour notes, etc delivered to your first accommodation. Here at Ireland by Bike we arrange to meet you on the morning of your first cycle, or occasionally on the evening you arrive. We give you your bicycle and make sure it is set up properly for you. We explain how to follow the tour directions and use the GPS. We also answer any questions you may have so that you are totally at ease before you set off.
If I am using an electric bike how will it be charged?
Your e-bike charger is quite a small unit. You will be given this at the start of your tour. You can then have it transported along with your luggage and it will be available when you arrive at your next destination.
Are the routes safe?
This question is especially important if you are a woman travelling alone. Well, thankfully for self-guided tours in Ireland the answer is yes. While nowhere in the world is entirely crime free, in rural Ireland the crime rate is very low. At Ireland by Bike we have had numerous solo female travellers over the years, all without problems.
Any other questions?
If you are considering a self-guided bike tour in Ireland hopefully this will have answered most of your questions. If there are more questions you would like to ask please contact us and we will be more than happy to help. Alternatively browse our list of self-guided bike tours in Ireland.