Tucson bike travels, notes from the road, #1: Bicycle tours and range of abilities

Did you read about my recent Arizona cycling holiday? I’m still thinking lots about it as I wait out the weeks until outdoor riding starts at home this spring. You might be wondering, is this something I could do?

The first barrier is financial of course, not fitness. It’s probably the most daunting obstacle. Biking holidays where other people make the arrangements, carry your bags from place to place, print out the maps each day and follow you around in a bright green bus full of snacks don’t come cheap. It’s a couple of thousand dollars a person, including accommodation and meals. (But not alcohol. As a non drinker, I like that.) You also need to get you and your bike to Arizona or rent a bike there. So not a poor person’s holiday, pretty self indulgent as these things go.

It’s out of our range except as an occasional treat. In this case we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary a year late. Not much celebrating happened last year. See Rough times, tough choices and Death changes everything for the back story.

Now we’re thinking of organizing a trip ourselves. Six people, rent a van, six days of riding and we each take one day off to drive rather than ride. And of course you can also do the type of bike holiday where you carry your own stuff. We’ve done some of those too. See here.

The second big barrier is fitness. You can’t go from nothing to a cycling holiday. But that said there was a pretty big range in the group. Three of us had been riding trainers regularly. Others have been doing other kinds of cardio exercise. But the point is, that everyone had been doing something, around three times a week. Most of the crew had done cycling holidays before. A few like us were old hands at it.

But really there’s a very wide range of speeds and abilities. The most common group of non cyclists I meet on these tours are distance runners. Some are in mixed marriages, runner meets cyclist. Then there’s the injured runners who’ve given up and are moving on to other activities.

They tend not to be great group riders. Mostly people ride alone or with another person. But that makes sense to me. Think about who they attract. Affluence is a factor, yes, but they’re also not serious bike racers. The serious group riders are also in Tucson this time of year doing training camps. They’re not being tourists. Instead they’re staying in one place doing more organized training rides with a coach.

Also age is interesting. This isn’t a young person’s holiday. It’s not a wild nightlife holiday nor extreme adventure. It’s a gentle day’s riding followed by a good dinner and night in a b and b. I think young me would’ve still loved it but young me couldn’t afford it. Also, kids would have gotten in the way.

Pretty much everyone there had kids and some of us had grandkids. The “kids” are all in their teens, twenties, and thirties…Again, if you have younger children, chances are your vacations are family vacations and while they might involve bikes (ours did) they don’t start with a flight to Arizona during the school term!

Have you done cycling holidays? Did you love it? Hate it? Where did you go? Share your stories in the comments.

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