Choosing a mountain bike holiday requires looking at many factors including destination, fitness level, terrain, type of bike hire, time of year and guiding options.
Off-road cycling or MTB holidays are increasingly popular both as a healthy activity holiday and because it’s an ideal way to explore a country away from tourist crowds.
There are thousands of different MTB holidays ranging from beginner to advanced in all corners of the globe but choosing one from the huge variety on offer can be difficult.
Mountain Biking Destinations
Where to go is usually the first thing to consider when planning a cycling holiday. Do a little research on each country’s terrain, likely gradients and climate before making a shortlist. Read tour company trip profiles to get a better idea of how much climbing and descending is required and over what type of terrain.
Match Experience and Fitness Level to the Mountain Bike Trip
For off-road cycling holiday first timers, “How fit do I need to be?” is usually a huge question that needs to be answered. Fitness means different things to different people so first look at trip gradings in tour company brochures. They are there for a purpose, to match each trip to levels of ability, so there is no point in booking an advanced level trip requiring high levels of technical skill unless already experienced.
If unsure after reading the small print, give the tour company an idea of how often, over what distance and what terrain normal rides at home take place. They will then have a better idea of whether your experience matches their trip profile.
Mountain Bike Terrain
Depending on the location chosen, terrain will vary from fire roads with gravel or loose dirt to rocky tracks, gnarly single-track and asphalt sections. Remember that each type of surface will feel different after rain with soft surfaces heavier to climb and rocky surfaces more tricky to descend so consider terrain in line with time of year of travel.
Best Time of Year for a Cycling Holiday
Whilst many people choose the summer months for their main holiday, remember that cycling in the heat can be debilitating for those not used to riding in extreme conditions. Check the likely temperatures in your chosen destination and consider a visit in low season months to avoid the heat. Cycling in hot countries like Cyprus or Morocco, for example, is best done between October and April when the climate is perfect for mountain biking with warm sunny days in the early to mid 20s Celsius.
Guided or Self Guided Biking Holidays
Most mountain bike holidays are guided tours as in many countries it is difficult to find routes without getting lost especially when detailed maps are not available. Riders wanting to cycle at their own pace and take in the scenery may well be better suited to a self-guided cycling holiday incorporating large sections of road riding. Alternatively, choose a fully supported, guided trip allowing riders to take a rest in the support vehicle if required.
Bike Hire Availability
Many first timers will choose to hire a bike whilst experienced riders often ship their own bikes or at least take their own saddle and pedals. Check the standard of bike available to hire. Most companies will either rent bikes in the chosen country or alternatively, ship hire bikes with the group on the outward flight.
Other Considerations for a Mountain Bike Holiday
- Vehicle support availability. High levels of hydration are necessary in hot climates so a support vehicle will eliminate the need to carry lots of water.
- Cycling holiday accommodation. Some companies offer cheap holidays where the riding takes priority and accommodation is in group dormitories offering little privacy for couples or single females. Read the small print! Fortunately, there are now more mountain bike companies offering luxury post-ride accommodation with sauna, jacuzzi, a pool and en suite bathroom facilities.
- Evening meals. Does the location have a variety of restaurants for eating out and other activities available for rest days?
- How big is the group size? Small is usually more friendly although some people prefer a larger group.
Choosing the Right MTB Holiday
Choose a mountain bike holiday that matches experience and fitness level before necessarily choosing the location first. Understand the varying weather patterns in the chosen destination to plan what to pack and pick a time of year that is not too hot unless experienced at cycling in extreme conditions.