Choosing a Bike Touring Company for Your Next Cycling Adventure

Most bike touring companies fall into one of two categories–cycling on vacation or cycling for vacation. What do you get with each type? And what if you aren’t necessarily looking for a vacation but rather a cycling adventure?

Type 1 Bike Touring Companies–Cycling on Vacation

If you’re headed to a popular tourist destination and looking for a bike touring company, chances are the offerings you’ll find are of the “cycling on vacation” type. These bike tours tend to be designed for people who are already planning a vacation to the destination and think it might be fun to experience the place by bicycle. 

In order to accommodate a wide range of experience, ability and fitness levels, the daily distances are modest. Routes will be fixed so that the bike touring company can control all the variables and ensure a high level of nearly constant support to all guests. And sightseeing and other cultural excursions will be built into the itinerary.

Don’t ride too fast on these “cycling on vacation” bike tours because the guides and support vehicles will be attending to the mid- and back-of-the-pack riders. Some bike touring companies in this category might tell you that you’re welcome to ride ahead of the group. But the reality is you may find yourself at the lunch stop or the end of the route waiting for the van to arrive with the food and your luggage.

Type 2 Bike Touring Companies–Cycling for Vacation

Bike touring companies that offer “cycling for vacation” trips usually focus on destinations that are popular among cyclists. Your trip will likely be built around well-known routes. These trips tend to be concentrated in popular cycling destinations: the Alps and Pyrenees or Tuscany and Girona in Europe, or maybe the Rockies or California wine country in the case of North America.   

The experience, ability and fitness levels of riders on these trips is likely to be higher than on “cycling on vacation” trips. But you’ll still be on fixed routes that are very popular. Not keen on riding the Stelvio on with thousands of other cyclists, motorcyclists, and cars? Sorry, if your bike tour has you riding it on a weekend then that’s what you can expect. 

When you strip away the bells and whistles…what do you get? And what do you want?

Type 1 and Type 2 bike touring companies are great fits for many riders. Do your homework and you can even find ones that put the effort into developing unique routes and that offer flexibility. You’ll also find a wide range of offerings in terms of levels of luxury. Want to ride a Pinarello Dogma with SRAM RED eTap AXS and be guided by a former pro who has won atop Mont Ventoux? You can do that (at a cost of $10,000).

When you strip away the bells and whistles–whether a free kit, fancy bike, spa accommodations, or wine tastings with meals–what do you get? And what do you want?

Beyond Category ‘bike touring’ with Comova

At Comova we think more in terms of the cycling experience being delivered than the “trip” being taken. There’s an exhilaration–and sometimes even a shift in perspective about what’s possible–that comes from getting comfortably outside your comfort zone.

Since everyone’s comfort zone is different, rather than bells and whistles we invest in understanding your interests and abilities and then carefully craft a trip where you’ll be challenged and, more importantly, grow from the experience.

This means we anticipate and plan for all of the uncertainties that come with going where you’ve maybe never been.  That’s why our groups are small–as small as two with private groups and never more than eight, even on our social trips.

Additionally, we’ll often ride without the SAG vehicle that most bike touring companies use. Learning to anticipate the layers you’ll need on a long ride and how to pack them on the bike, rather than relying on a nearby support van, are part of the adventure. You may even need to carry a water filter on some of our rides–like the routes we’ll cover on the Heart of Humboldt and Gifford Pinchot Gravel Gala trips. 

Self-sufficiency puts us into closer relationship with the people we ride with and the places we ride through

Ingredients of a Cycling Adventure

Uncertainties and unknowns. Without these you have no adventure. So our emphasis is on learning what “getting outside your comfort zone” means to you, and then designing an experience that supports you getting to that place where actual adventure lies.

Willie Weir once wrote in the Adventure Cycling Association’s Adventure Cyclist that “most people want adventure without the risks, hazards, and discomforts. In other words, most people want adventure without the adventure.”

At Comova we offer adventure with your adventure. That’s what makes us different. A certain level of self-sufficiency on our rides is a key ingredient. It allows us to adapt to the uncertainties and unknowns and it puts us into closer relationship with the people we ride with and the places we ride through.

Our planning and preparation mean you have just the right amount of support you need to get comfortably outside your comfort zone.  This allows you to stay open to the joys (and frustrations) of the adventure.

These are not your typical bike tours. They are guided cycling adventures that can serve as pathways to your own self-supported adventures. Every guest who wants it can leave our trips with the confidence to venture out on their own self-supported cycling adventure–whether a one-day epic ride, a DIY destination cycling tour, or a multi-day bikepacking-style trip.

Our upcoming Comova Social Trips are a great way to get started. Or check out the local events we’re hosting if you want a smaller taste. Either way we have a full calendar of offerings this spring and summer that can help get you comfortably outside your comfort zone.