Cyclists are more than the mild-mannered, middle-aged men in Lycra taking up half of your street on a Sunday morning. When it comes to travel, cyclists are a hedonistic, danger-loving mob, craving nothing more than the thrill of the ride.
1. Cyclists are the bad-ass renegades of travel.
Whilst you are cruising the English countryside from the air-bag-equipped, seat-belted safety of your Ford Focus, cyclists are battling tempestuous winds, blazing heat, pounding hearts, chafed nipples, and a plethora of dodgy road-users, all in the name of vacation.
Last year, whilst overall the Australia road toll dropped by 8 per cent, accidents involving the death or injury of cyclists doubled. It’s actually getting more dangerous to cycle, which is not surprising when you consider hard-core cycle tourists can travel over 130km a day of “mostly undulating terrain” (read: up hill) through blistering deserts, across dangerous mountain paths and along truck-filled highways.
Even your average run-of-the-mill tour can span 100km a day, at times through scarily remote locations. For cycling tourists, there’s a special thrill in the arrival at your destination being hinged entirely upon if you can actually physically survive the journey, or whether your cramped calves will see you left behind, curled into the fetal position and considering just how bad setting up camp in the middle of a cane field might be.
2. Cycling is drug-like in it’s effects
Risking life and limb pushing a bike through the gut-melting heat and humidity of tropical North Queensland is not your average holiday-maker’s idea of a “good time”. So why don’t cyclists conform to the time-honored couple of nights at the coast, a nice dinner, and a day at the theatre/amusement park/shopping centre formula? The answer: cyclists are staunch hedonists.
According to Phil and Susan McDonald, directors and owners of All Trails Bicycle Tours, cycling is the only way to really feel your travels.
“Being on a bike is the only way to really get the endorphins going. The smell of the ocean, the wind in your face, the taste of the road, can’t get that in a car, plane or bus. All of your emotions and senses come alive when you’re cycling; touch, smell, feel, taste. There’s nothing like it,” said Phil.
According to studies, the longer and harder you cycle, the greater your “plasma endorphin levels” become. For a cycle-tourist, the combination of mass physical exertion and a touch of danger culminates in a ecstasy-like high – all the sweaty euphoria you could ever want, minus the inconvenience of potential brain damage.
3. The world of professional cycling is full of stalking opportunities.
Die hard cycling fans will travel to the ends of the earth to meet their bike-loving, lycra-clad heroes. According to Phil and Susan, the big three events in the cycling world are the Tour de France, Giro D’Italia, and Vuelta.
All of these tours start at around 11am (the best time to maximise TV coverage, apparently), but the cyclist’s route can be sectioned off days before the event even starts. This leaves ample time for cycling enthusiasts (or wannabes) to get a head start and actually do the tour, before their beloved pro cyclist idols.
All Trails Bicycle Tours offer tours catering for cycling fan’s stalkerish tendencies. One of Phil’s favourite tours starts in Istanbul, Turkey, and passes through Greece, Italy and Rome, before heading on through to Paris, just in time for the Tour de France.
Cyclists coming for the last leg of the journey have the perfect opportunity to flash their heroes whilst donning body paint and bizarre Borat/devil costumes, not once, but twice. Handy traveller’s hint: Google image search “Tour de France fans” for more great ways to stand out when Niki Terpstra comes around the corner.
4. Cyclists love to live large.
The world of cycling tours is not all about increased heart rates, near-collisions and battling the elements. Many cycling tour companies are now offering “luxury” packages.
After a hard day of cycling on a bike, which has everything from the handle bar width to seat cushiness customised, many cyclists want nothing more than to be greeted at their 4 1/2 star hotel with a glass of wine and a wind-down massage.
For the yuppie-cyclist hidden deep within us all, Australian Cycling Holidays offers a seven day tour, with five days of cycling, one day of walking, an afternoon cruise, and boat transfer to the swanky hotel, or bed and breakfast of your choice. All for the price of only $1700 per person.
They’ll even transport your luggage from one posh hotel to the next, an added bonus for those tourists who like the bike riding, minus the survivalist themes.