Inspired to get active and make a cycling holiday your next adventure? Here's some expert (and amateur) advice.
Deputy Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes completed her first bike holiday in January. She learned a few things along the way:
1 Choose wisely
Cycling holidays are perfect if you want to challenge yourself, burn some energy and feel like you've achieved something at the end of each day. But they also stick to an organised itinerary, and although there will be some downtime each day while you're on your bike, your guide is in charge. If you'd rather do your own thing, choose a different type of holiday.
2 Pick your location
Do some research before you choose your destination so you're fully aware of the terrain and whether it's going to suit your style of riding. If you hate hills, for example, don't pick a trip through the Pyrenees.
3 Practise, practise, practise
The more training you can do before you depart, the better. Not only to increase your fitness, but also to get your butt used to being in the saddle for multiple consecutive days. It's good to get some road training in as well, so you're confident riding with traffic around you.
4 Get the gear
You don't need to kit yourself out like a total Mamil (middle-aged man in lycra), but a few key pieces of kit will make you more comfortable. Try a gel seat cover, padded cycling shorts (possibly the ugliest item of clothing you've ever owned but you will thank me for this tip) and gloves. And a comfortable, well-fitted, high-quality helmet goes without saying.
5 Enjoy the ride
Don't just focus on the physical effort it's going to take to complete each day's ride — make sure you take time to enjoy your surroundings, and the feeling of freedom that comes with travelling on two wheels.
Frank Cheshire, Intrepid Travel's cycling product manager, has some great tips for cycling Sri Lanka
1 Bring your appetite
Sri Lanka has some of the best food in the world, from exotic fresh fruit to enjoy while riding, through to delicious (and mild!) curries to refuel on at night.
2 Don't be afraid of the rainy season
When it's raining down south, the north of the island is often bathed in sunshine. From May to June we switch itineraries and visit lesser-known but equally beautiful destinations such as Jaffna and Trincomalee as well as old favourites like Kandy, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, and Colombo.
3 Be prepared to sweat
As one of the premier tea growing countries Sri Lanka is naturally hilly so some days involve some challenging climbs. But what goes up must come down, and the views are always amazing.
4 Size matters
Cycling is growing rapidly in Sri Lanka but the "law of the biggest" still applies. Keep to your side of the road, especially on tight corners, and make space for larger vehicles to pass and your cycling experience will be a lot more enjoyable.
5 Know your limits
Don't worry about being able to complete all of the riding. Cycling in Sri Lanka is for everyone and between the support vehicle and the option to hire an e-bike, you're covered. Just relax and enjoy the ride.
Editor Winston Aldworth is a big fan of cycling holidays. Here are his tips:
1 Always do what Frank says ...
I've been lucky enough to cycle with Intrepid's Frank Cheshire twice — once in Tanzania and once in Vietnam. If your cycle trip has a professional guide, follow their advice on safety, smart cycling and rehydration. And never race them.
2 . . . except when you don't do what Frank says
Sometimes it pays to break away from the peloton. Take the opportunity to get ahead of your fellow riders and be the first one into a small town or village, the sense of riding a new road and breaking new ground brings a lovely adventurous buzz.
3 Get electric
My hot tip for the coming trend in travel: super-lux electric cycling tours. The boom in cycling infrastructure in big Western cities and the rise of electric bicycles has reopened the public's eyes to just how great biking is. If getting a battery under you is what it take to make cycle touring a realistic option, do it.
4 Don't burn out too soon
Take it easy on the first day, and park the competitiveness throughout.
5 Hills schmills
Set yourself a great goal, for one of the final days — maybe a 100km day, or a particularly arduous hill climb. On my cycle tour of Vietnam my final day saw us knock off the daunting Hai Van Pass, on the tail end of an 80km ride. The thrill of achieving something way out of my comfort zone added a little magic to the journey.