If anyone is going to be able to share some nuggets on planning the ultimate bike riding holiday, it's Toni Folque from Thomson Bike Tours. This team has been the official Tour Operator of the Tour de France since 2013, so they know how to get the ultimate guide of how to do a Bike Tour in style.
Toni has been on countless tours since starting with the company in 2009 and has seen the industry grow as more people broaden their cycling horizons. Thomson Bike Tours now provides trips to every major cycling event including the three Grands Tours, Spring Classics and Gran Fondo events scattered around the world.
His tour company caters for any level of fitness, and can be completely customised so that you get the best package for you. The recent success of the group’s VIP package, where you get to be in the Tour de France village and chat to the riders, shows you it isn’t always just about the bike.
Toni loves cycling and helping people achieve their dreams; he talks us through some of his experiences and offers advice to make the most of your bike tour.
Investigate the Tour Operator – compare the level of detail they put into their routes, see if they have rental bikes, ask about their staff to client ratio, check if they make provisions for weaker riders or inclement weather, ask if a bike mechanic will accompany the rides.
Book soon – tour companies need to organise accommodation, bikes, routes, food, travel arrangements etc… The popularity of these trips is increasing all the time, so avoid disappointment and book early.
Be a regular rider – Toni recommends being able to average 23-24kph for a 100km ride – so you don’t need to be super-fast or strong, but you need endurance and be able to keep resistance on the pedals. This is a very achievable goal for any cyclist. Obviously this figure will vary depending on the route and tour you choose, so tailor your training so you can enjoy the views and not think to yourself ‘are we there yet?’
Spend some time before and after the tour – if you arrive and get on the bike straight away you will still be tired, jet lagged and your legs will feel like cinder blocks. Get there early so that when the tour starts you are fresh and ready to take it all in. Same goes at the completion of your tour. The last thing you want to do is get off the bike and go straight onto a plane… Take the time to un-wind, see the country and get on the plane refreshed.
Trust the Tour Operators – the good ones have been doing it for a long time, they are experienced and have your best interests at heart. They know the area and what makes a good trip. Many people on Thomson Bike Tours have been coming back for 10 years or longer, and checking out their feedback page, you can see what organising a tour with a quality operator can do for you.
You don’t have to be a rider – Toni found there was a big market for spectator tours; people who weren’t necessarily interested in riding every day, but wanted to be a part of the race or the event and immerse themselves in it. So don’t let you lack of prowess on the bike hold you back from one of these once-in-a-lifetime journeys.
To hire or not to hire? Many companies will have bikes available as part of the tour package. Thomson Bike Tours has a partnership with Bianchi, and turn over their fleet every two years. Their current rental option is the Infinito CV – the bike Lars Boom rode to victory in stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France, giving you confidence if you go with the rental option it will be more than enough bike. If you are going to hire a bike, check they have a frame to suit needs. Thomson Bike Tours offer frames from 47 to 61cm which will cover almost everyone wanting to get on a bike.