Are you a bike rider? I try – but don’t do very well. But I am very envious of those who undertake these adventurous cycling trips to exotic places like Thailand or those who tackle the hills of Tuscany. I can’t imagine anything more lovely that touring some of these places by bike.
However, it is not without its dangers as frequent bikers will tell you. I read an interesting article about a protocol that is being introduced in the Netherlands encouraging drivers to open their front door with their right hand after parking alongside the road. Think about it – to open the door with your right hand you have to lean over and this encourages the driver to check if there is anyone coming up alongside (like someone on a bike) and helps to avoid this –
With the number of bikers on the roads of Holland this is good advice. If you have ever visited Amsterdam you will know just how many bikes are out there. It is amazing. People catch the ferries from suburbs across the waters and then park their bikes in huge bike parks like this –
And the Dutch people are so cool when they bike to work. You will see working moms ferrying their children to day care before heading into the office. You see dads doing this too. And did you know you can cycle with high heels on? Well you can.
Well you might be able to but I certainly could not. But seriously if you are an avid cyclist where would you go for a biking vacation? Well ideally you would want somewhere with not too many cars. How about Asmara? Mmmm – now where is that? Capital of Eritrea. Good article on this “cycling heaven” here https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47709673
It sounds like an interesting place to visit – and relatively unvisited due to the prolonged 30 year war of independence with Ethiopia. The country is very poor so that is why bikes are the preferred and sometimes the only available transportation. This has made the Eritreans remarkably good riders and their team is now competing internationally.
So let’s say you get the old bike out of the back of the garage, spruce it up a bit, pump up the tires and decide to start practising. Once you get good enough to go round Fish Creek Park a couple of times are you ready for a biking vacation?
Well first of all you need to choose the place to go biking – preferably with bike paths (especially for the inexperienced). Most tour companies rate the effort of each bike trip so go easy on yourself to start with. Spoil yourself by choosing a tour with a back up vehicle so you can “give up” when you feel like it and just get in the van. No Shame here! It’s also great to have that same vehicle carrying your bag so all you need on your back is a light day pack. Bad enough lugging your ass around without having to lug a week’s worth of clothing! And maybe you want to consider an electric bike? Yes I know it’s cheating but so what? It’s all about the experience, right?
And lastly – what to wear. Listen you don’t have to dress like Lance Armstrong but you might want to consider a pair of padded cycling shorts. They look ugly but they feel great – take it from one who wears them to spin classes. It takes a bit of getting used to. The first little while you feel like you have pooped your pants – but your butt will thank you in the long run.
My goodness – I have almost talked myself into this? Should I? Should I?
You never forget, right? I guess that is true for last week was the second time in probably forty years I have ridden a bike. Although I was a bit nervous at first, having an expert on hand to fit me to the right size bike was certainly handy. When I had used one of the river cruise bikes in Holland a few years ago I quickly realised that it was way too big and heavy for me so now I was all set up with the right size bike. Ready steady go!
As I cycled the streets of Victoria I gained more confidence as I realised that the drivers there were very courteous and drove slowly past giving me a wide berth. Mmm I had to wonder how that would go down in Calgary after seeing so many people speeding through the 30 zone in front of my house. Some countries even legislate on the space you should give a cyclist when overtaking.
Road sign from Tenerife
My husband had suggested that we ride on the pathway as that would be easier. NOT. Trying to dodge lamp posts and pedestrians on this narrow pathway with an ominous looking kerb waiting to “get” me was not that easy. I said I would rather ride on the street. OK he says, then ride facing the traffic, it’s much safer. That didn’t work very well as within a few minutes I was faced with oncoming traffic which was in fact two spandex clad guys on flashy looking bikes. I stared at them bewildered as to what to do. They screamed past and I caught the comment from one to the other…”British”.
YES – BRITISH!
Biking is so popular now – especially with us baby boomers – that there are special tours out there that are fully guided, luggage transported from one place to another with five-star accommodation waiting where you can rest up your aching bum.
If you feel you are not up to doing a whole week of biking then why not consider a day or two. There are some great places to bike – Holland of course is famous for its biking lanes. The country is flat which is a help (none of those gear clacking, thigh busting hills that I experienced in Victoria). So many people in Holland bike to work so it is not unusual to see women in suits and heels riding to work – or even taking the kids to day care on their way.
Many of the river cruises today carry bikes and even offer guided tours in places of interest. Just a recommendation however – follow my lead and get some practice in before you go. Remember – unless you are very well experienced then rather stick with a guided group. The rules of the road are different in Europe, the road signs may be incomprehensible to you,
and don’t forget about those damn cobbled stone roads.
No I did not make that up – it was coined by a journalist reporting on the World Travel Market and it seems that these Middle Aged Men in Lycra are going to be a force to be reckoned with in world tourism.
Here is the post –
“As for the middle-aged men in Lyrca, WTM is predicting that cycling will rival golf for leisure time of middle-aged men in the Americas. Golf is in a decline, dropping from 25 million players in the early 2000s to 19 million in 2013.” (Alexandra Talty)
Well if that is the case one can only hope that the MAMIL’s (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) have more dress sense than their golfing buddies.
Well maybe that is a little unfair – there are some pretty handsome golfers out there.
No – not that one – that’s not even a proper outfit Mr Daly.
But men in lycra – even middle aged…. that has a different ring to it.
(This is actually Tony Abbott who was the 28th Prime Minister of Australia. You see anyone can be a MAMIL and he does it rather well.)
So how does this growing trend affect us “other” travellers? Well first of all I am sure they won’t be wearing lycra on the flight. Will they? Probably not! But if they are serious cyclists they are going to want to take their own bike which takes up quite a bit more room than golf clubs.
And if you happen to be married to a MAMIL and travel with them then where the heck are you going to store that bike in your hotel room?
Other difficulties abound. Either you are going to arrive in Europe and then cycle around from place to place which means carrying a back pack with all your belongings (i.e. extra lycra outfits, casual lycra for country pub evenings out, formal lycra and then those spare helmets in matching colours). You would probably end up looking like this.
Hey guys – where’s the lycra. I think the trick is with the MAMIL’s is that they don’t ride across country – they just do day rides. That way they can get to a nice hotel and spend a comfortable evening. That’s what middle aged people do. No need to be cycling the roads with all your worldly possessions lashed onto you and your bike.
Now there is a way to do this – to kill two birds with one stone. Get together with some like minded lycra clad people and go on a top class cycle tour. This way you can enjoy the roads during the day, stay in super little boutique hotels every evening and have your luggage schlepped from one place to another. Now that’s sensible. And think how much pasta you can eat when you have been pedal-pushing all day! An incentive I can live with.
Now that’s better – RWDMAMIL’s…
(in other words – Relaxed Wine Drinking Middle Aged Men In Lycra)