Yes you can! Lycra or no lycra, Brake the Cycle rides are open to all. Cycle touring isn’t the preserve of cycling clubs and the super fit, and is a great way to see the world as our very own Tom Shakhli explains.
At Brake the Cycle we genuinely believe that cycle touring is for everyone. What’s not to like about spending hours every day outside, riding at your own speed, stopping at interesting points and of course, the vociferous appetite and enjoyment of good food along the way. However, we know that many people associate cycle touring as being something solely practiced by members of cycling clubs and the super fit, the kind of people who seek out exercise on a holiday. We want to dispel that myth and give a few reasons as to why cycle touring is going to be your new favourite thing.
Me, on a cycling tour? Really?
Yes, really. We like to think of ourselves as offering the most accessible cycling tours by any provider out there. That’s not to say that they are a doddle. It’s more a statement that reflects the help that we give you before and during the tour to give you a little boost. Provided that you can cycle, you have a serviced bike, and you’re able to commit to a couple of training rides beforehand just to give you a bit of saddle time, then trust us, you can do it. We are on hand to talk to you throughout the time leading up to your tour, to consult over bike choices, and to give you training ideas. Once you’ve arrived with us on a tour, and there’s no turning back, you will soon be part of a supportive environment with other riders watching your back, and by the time you’ve made it to the end of day one, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think about doing a cycle tour years ago. You’re already on your way.
So who goes on Brake the Cycle tours?
For quite a lot of people who cycle with us, it’s been their first experience of touring. When registering for a tour, we ask you to fill in a form to tell us a bit more about your background and experience on the bike. We quickly find out who will want more support and information and who is more ready to go. We’ve had people on our tours who are members of cycling clubs and on certain tours (particularly those in mountain regions), they have told us that they’ve found the ride challenging. However we’ve also had newbies on some of the hardest tours. By the end of the trip the gap between the fastest and the slowest narrows as muscles as well as confidence grow. We always cycle in groups, making sure that everyone is in a group that they find comfortable in terms of speed. It’s not a race, and you’re never left behind.
Is everyone together, like, all the time?
No! We're well aware that while it's great to make friends and support one another, for pretty much everyone who comes on tour with us having some time alone is an important part of their trip. Nobody is forced to be part of any group activity, whether that's eating, cycling, or sharing a space. For some people, the time you spend on the bike is essentially alone time, where you might be near other riders but in your own space, and that's enough. Most people bring their own tents and so the time at the end of the day in their tent is a chance to spend a bit of time by yourself. Nobody is judged if they want to spend an evening by themselves, go for a walk, or sit in silence. We all have our reasons for wanting to go away and challenge ourselves with this type of trip, and we know that being part of a group is not always what people need.
Do I need to wear lycra or be a young gun to take part?
Lycra shorts are pretty helpful for long rides as they’re generally more comfortable and lightweight. What you definitely don’t need to do is go full lycra. You’re more than welcome to of course, but a typical Brake the Cycle tour is a mixture of people wearing t-shirts and cycling jerseys, depending on the weather. Whilst you don’t need to be whipping the hairs off your legs just yet, we think it’s highly in your interest to do some training before coming on a tour. Again, you don’t need to turn yourself into a cycling machine to be able to cope with a Brake the Cycle tour. It’s more so that you can enjoy it, especially in those first few days where you might otherwise be feeling a bit sore. With a bit of training and those first few days with us under your belt, you’re totally set.
In terms of who comes on our tours, we attract a diverse bunch. Our eldest participant has been 65 and our youngest 19, the average being 34. About 55% of riders are women.
How far do we cycle each day?
It depends on the day and the tour you're on. Some days are designed to be shorter, either to offer active recovery after a hard ride day or to give us more time at an interesting project. But the average is about 55 miles or 90 km. Generally what makes a day more challenging is the amount of climbing we have to do. Tours with more climbing are graded 4-5 whereas flatter ones will be 2-3. You can see the various cycling grades and which tours are in those grades here.
What about the bike, do I need to have a road bike?
We'd highly recommend a tourer, road bike or hybrid. 95% of our cycling will be on tarmac roads with the remaining 5% being dirt or gravel tracks to access projects. For tours which are grade 3 or more, we’d recommend considering the gearing available to you and making sure it’s as friendly to climbing up hills as possible. If you’re unsure about your bike, by all means get in touch with us, perhaps with a photo of it and we can give our honest opinion.
We have a bike rental scheme which we can discuss should you need one. You can find out more about bikes and kit on our kit list page.
What training do I need to do?
It depends on your current level and which challenge you're joining, but generally as a guide you should be able to cycle 50-60 miles with 2,000-3,000 feet climbing and it not overly trouble you (with a few breaks, of course). An equivalent ride would be something like London to Brighton. To get to that point, you would probably need to do 3-4 shorter rides building up to it. Any supplementary training you can do, such as a spin class, would be a bonus.
Do you run any training weekends or rides?
Yes we run weekend rides over the summer and tour taster weekends down in Dartmoor. Check out our facebook events to keep up to date with these and to book on.
Full disclaimer: I own a road bike and wear lycra, but on a Brake the Cycle tour I wear a bright Hawaiian shirt (with cycling shorts) as soon as the sun is out!
Still wondering which is the ride for you? Check out our cycle grades page to see all our rides listed in order of difficulty