Cycling has come such a long way over the years, thanks to those who live, love and lobby for better biking. The movement has grown rapidly recently and, with the development of e-bikes, wanderlust on wheels has now moved up a gear. You only have to look at social media for a few minutes, however, to see that the anti-cycling movement can get fired on all cylinders about irresponsible behaviour on a bike. We find that the fiercest critics are actually cyclists themselves, however, who are frustrated by cyclists who give their beloved outdoor activity a bad reputation. Of course we are not seeking to preach to the choir by sharing our top responsible cycling tips. We only want to join the chorus of goodwill and share some thoughts with those who might be new to cycling holidays, but also as a gentle reminder to all cyclists to keep flying the flag for responsible cycling, both at home and away.
Share the love
We cyclists are often dressed up like power rangers ready for battle and can be moving at speed, and this can be intimidating to hikers and walkers especially if they are coming in the opposite direction. Being friendly goes a long way, so do say hi, slow down and whether it’s your right of way or not, make it easy to pass each other. If you’re cycling one of the caminos, for example, you don’t want to disturb people who are on a pilgrimage. Same goes for rural spots where farmers don’t want to push past a peloton to get to pasture, such as on our Sierra de Grazalema holiday in Andalucía or Cycling on Turkey’s Aegean Coast.
Also many of our natural adventurers are experienced cyclists, traversing the Pyrenees or the Alps without a moment’s hesitation. However, please remember that there are also newbies out there on your travels, who may be getting back in the saddle for the first time in a while on holiday. So, if you’re one of our more experienced riders, please be super self-aware and share the trails with care.
Our top responsible cycling tip is to cycle safely. A responsible cyclist is one who doesn’t put theirs or anyone else’s life at risk. We always recommend bringing your own helmet for comfort and safety purposes. The whole fluorescent look is a love-hate thing for a lot of riders. It does tend to make you look like the stereotypical commuter. However, choosing bright clothing or at least having access to it when riding on the road can literally be the difference between life and death. You might have an awesome stealth outfit, but it’s important to consider traffic when riding on roads. Lights and some bright clothing or a high-vis rucksack cover is a must for being seen, especially as the sun goes down. Talking of sun, you may also enjoy our blog on Winter sun cycling holidays.
We all love the feeling of freedom that cycling gives us, but with this comes a need to be self-reliant too. Even if we do offer local support and transfers on our cycling tours, it’s always important to carry spares to make sure you have a great day on the bike. A basic understanding of simple fixes means you can keep yourself rolling. Importantly, in the event you do have to change an innertube, fix a chain or swap your brake pads, be sure to pick up any debris left over.
Be realistic about your fitness levels
If you don’t have a lot of experience of cycling long-distance and for several hours in one day, you can either opt for one of our ‘easy’ cycling holidays, or give yourself a few months and get some training in. So, instead of booking Switzerland’s Valais à vélo or pedalling across the Pyrenees, you can break in a little more gently on a holiday with fewer preparation drills but just as many thrills. Our cycling holidays fall into one of five difficulty grades, so you have plenty of options: Easy, easy to moderate, moderate, moderate to strenuous and then strenuous. Read more in our blog on How to prepare for a cycling holiday.
Responsible cycling gear
We all love our gear as cyclists, whether we’re Lycra or baggies fans. Sustainable cycling gear is growing and, although there’s a risk of greenwashing out there, some companies are proving to be like leadout riders in the race to clean up their act. There are several ways to seek who the serious players are, and gaining B Corp status is a good start, where a company is monitored for its working standards and supply chain practices. Staark and Apidura two of the top B Corp cycling gear companies. Oeko-Tex is a certification that is awarded to those staying clear of hazardous and toxic components and Cadenzia is one of its leading clients, using bamboo and Oeko-Tex certified recycled polyester in their cycling jerseys, recycled ocean plastics in their tights, (not a line one gets to write very often), and Oeko-Tex certified materials in their cycling pads.
Scottish Endura is also striving for change, with more than a third of their road jerseys using recycled materials, as well as having an impressive tree-planting scheme abroad and in their own country. In addition, they have been PFC-free in their waterproofing since 2018, and you can buy biodegradable proofers from them too. We’d also like to give a shout out to UK company UPSO, who whip up handsome messenger, belt and pannier bags out of truck tarpaulins to give you sassy accessories for your sojourns.
Isadore, founded by Slovakian twin pro cyclists, Martin and Peter Velits, only use Oeko-Tex and Bluesign certified suppliers and manufacturers in their impressive list of gear, with recycled fabrics making up a growing part of their range. They also have an impressive repair service. The list goes on but, in short, shop around, shop sustainably and ethically.
Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace (LNT) organisation promotes internationally recognised practices of protecting the environment while enjoying outdoor adventures. They have seven principles all of which seem like common sense for those committed to cycling responsibly, but they are still worth highlighting as a quick reminder: Prepare in advance; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste responsibly; leave what you find; minimise campfire impact; respect wildlife; and be considerate of others.
The first two are less applicable to our customers, as we do a lot of the preparation for you, but you always need to check weather forecasts of course. For the others, some of the points worth remembering are – don’t pick wildflowers, do pick your poo spot properly, and avoid making excess noise. As for disposing of waste, don’t chuck anything on the ground even if you think it’s biodegradable, and the biggest cycling sin is, of course, chucking an energy pouch in the ditch. Cycling is a brilliant way to interact with nature and get up close and personal with the environments we are journeying through. But remember, just like Spiderman, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility”.
“When I’m riding, if I do see litter I try to remove it, whether it’s mine or not. Be a custodian of the trails and environments we move through.” – Victoria, cycling expert and Adventure Sales Specialist at The Natural Adventure.
Pants to plastic
Although many of us may be recycling experts, and know our polyethylenes from our polypropylene, in some parts of the world recycling still needs to be supported by the government and shared through educational means. So they might not have the recycling facilities you are used to. In short, avoid bringing single-use plastic into a country you are travelling to, remember to bring a reusable shopping bag and reusable water bottle with you, and try not to buy anything with plastic while you are there, especially if it can’t be recycled. Many of our accommodations provide picnic lunches too, paid for locally, and we work closely with them to avoid single-use plastics when packaging them. We also recommend that you bring your own reusable sealable lunch box and backpack cutlery set. If you’re walking, get sporking.
Washing your gear the green way
We find that our cyclists like to travel light and, even though we transport your luggage for you, in hot countries many like to wash their gear while away, especially as it’s quick-drying. Eco laundry-detergent sheets are a great green solution to washing both at home and on the go, such as those made by UK companies, Simple Living Eco or The Green Company, as well as True Earth in Canada and US company ECOS. They are, quite simply, single sheets of concentrated eco-friendly detergent that dissolve in water during the washing cycle.
Keep it clean
We hope that it doesn’t get too muddy on your cycling holiday but, showers happen. This can mean that you and your bike get beautifully decorated by nature, but please respect your accommodation owners by not carrying your debris in with you. They may not share your love of the outdoors quite as much as you do, and they don’t want their bathroom walls redecorated. Similarly, cafes and accommodations often have designated places for parking bikes, and some may even have hoses to wash them down. If this is the case, don’t just stash them against the closest wall, so that you can have your beloved bike in sight as you sip your beer. Your separation anxiety will ease once you’ve had your first sip anyway.
Skids are for kids
Good bike handling skills can really help to protect the places we ride. Make sure you are confident with braking and keeping traction to avoid eroding paths, especially on natural singletrack and wild trails. Some of our wildest cycling holiday destinations in, for example, North and Greek Macedonia or in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains are places where you want to turn down the speed and switch on to nature. Fun fact, though. Studies have shown that bikes actually create less erosion than walkers, especially in wet conditions. Bikers tend to go through puddles rather than round the outside which prevents paths from eroding outwards. Still, you don’t get a lot of hikers skidding, so we all need to do our bit.
Learn the local rules
Be aware of the rules and regulations of the different countries and areas you are riding in. In some places it’s the law to ride side by side on the road, in others it’s single file. Research is key when it comes to responsible cycling, and so here is some guidance for the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Croatia. In Australia, for example, it’s illegal to ride a bike without a bell in New South Wales.
Travel by train
If you enjoy the slow travel aspect of a cycling holiday, watching landscapes gradually unfold around you, and taking in the view as you traverse new terrain, then you will love travelling by train. We appreciate that it’s not always practical for all our natural adventurers and not always the cheapest way to travel either – although we do give good guidance on how to book cheap train tickets in this blog. By taking on one of our cycling holidays accessible by train, not only will your carbon footprint be substantially lighter, but you also get your adventure off to a gentle start by sitting back and watching the world go by. For more information, see our blog on Top cycling holidays reachable by rail, including the likes of Cycling along the Canal de la Garonne in France or the Coast to Coast cycling holiday in England.
Explore more of our cycling holidays here, and treat yourself to a real ‘breakaway’. For more tips on cycling holidays and responsible tourism, you may enjoy our blogs on Our favourite cycling cafes, Winter sun cycling holidays, Easy cycling holidays and Multi-country cycling holidays. For those who want a bit more power in the pannier, check out our Top e-bike holidays for pushing you up some of the tougher trails. On that happy note, we leave you with the words of HG Wells, who famously said “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”