Self-Guided vs Guided Bicycle Tours – Compared
We’ve been organizing cycling tours in Europe for 50 years (since 1972!) and we truly believe the best way to discover the magic of Europe is by bike, helping you slow down to experience culture, food, landscapes and people as they come to life before you. Based in Italy with offices in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, we leverage decades of experience in designing both guided group tours and self-guided tours throughout Europe. We offer well curated routes and hotels, and we take care of the myriad planning details, so that all you need to pick is where, when, and how.
How to pick the right type of bike tour for you
When thinking about how to choose a trip, you’ll want to think about a few key things:
- When to travel (spring and wildflowers, summer and the cooler Alps, fall cycling among vineyards or along Mediterranean coastline…).
- Where to travel – browse the website and you will find a variety of destinations to dream about in our country pages.
- What difficulty level is right for you (do you want to take it easy every day, pedaling slowly among dreamy landscapes and medieval towns; or do you prefer to ride harder and tackle hillier or mountainous destinations). Read about our tour ratings here.
- What type of support do you prefer – if you are deciding on a guided (supported) versus a self-guided bike tour, you can compare the differences below.
In this blog post we compare the differences between guided and self-guided bike tours. Don’t forget to check out our bicycle tour FAQ’s for more detail on what our bike tours are like.
Ready to find the right tour for you? After reading through our comparisons below, click on the orange button and start checking out our itineraries.
Benefits of Self-Guided Tours
Self-guided cycling is perfect for those who want flexibility and who love the idea of not having to plan the routes or hotels themselves while still being able to choose their own dates and be on their own time. We know the best routes, as well as the great hotels and inns, and we are happy to do the planning for you!
Self-guided does to a certain extent mean self-supported. When it rains, you should have rain gear. If you get a flat, you or someone in the group should know how to fix it. Cycle Europe provides updated, highly detailed navigation tools (our digital roadbook includes both GPS routes and step-by-step navigation instructions, along with all types of helpful information), as well as additional activities that make for a richer experience (like a private tour of a parmesan cheese factory or learning how to make – and taste – Italian gelato!). We also offer the possibility to personalize and even customize our self-guided itineraries – some travelers have even “linked” different self-guided tours back to back, thus experiencing more than one region of Italy at a time. Our detailed pre-travel information will help you prepare for your trip, and a detailed briefing and bike fitting with our English-speaking, local staff helps ensure that your tour gets started on the right note.
Benefits of Guided Tours
As the ideal destination for bicycle travel, people from the world over have been bike touring in Europe for as long as bicycles have existed (including Europeans themselves!). As a pioneer in the world of guided cycling tours (The Cycle Europe family might have been one of the first to organize bike trips in Italy, since 1972!) we are thrilled that the guided, fully-supported bike tour concept has since become very popular. Joining a supported, guided bike tour is not just helpful for when you get a flat and don’t know how to fix it, or because you can get on the sag wagon when you’d rather not pedal up that hill. Most importantly, you benefit from the insights and knowledge of a local guide, making your travel experience much richer. You will also join a group of like-minded travelers, meeting new people with whom you’ll share the experience and the fun along the way!
More details and comparisons in the chart below.
Self-Guided Bike Tours
Dates: choose your own dates
Level of Support: after your welcome briefing you are on your own. Our telephone support is always available – when you have trouble, we will provide support and indications over the phone first, and if necessary point the way to a local bike mechanic or have one come out to you. Our quality bikes are kept in top shape by our professional mechanics so serious issues on the road are very rare. That said, you should be able to fix your own flat. We transfer the luggage from one hotel to the next.
Riding Pace: pick your own pace, it is your day and your ride! You can leave when you want each morning and enjoy detours and side trips along the way.
Navigation: detailed tour information and route navigation tracks are provided through the free smartphone app Ride With GPS – our “digital roadbook” – which includes daily routes, maps, elevation profiles, and ride descriptions; schedules and hotel itinerary; cultural and sightseeing information, visit suggestions; emergency numbers and more, all stored in one organized, easy to use app. Downloading the app content also allows for offline mode navigation. Participants can also upload the routes to their own GPS device, and even print the detailed route notes before leaving home; or rely completely on the detailed roadbook that we will print for you and deliver at tour start. GPS device rental, as well as a printed roadbook, are available at an optional extra fee.
Local Interpretation: our route information includes plenty of insights and recommendations on things to see and do, as well cultural highlights (customers have given us very high marks on our roadbooks). On our Classic self-guided tours, we provide a welcome briefing where we explain the roadbook and gps use, as well as fit your bikes. On our Casual self-guided tours, we provide this information through our app, sent to our customers prior to their arrival.
Flexibility: add on extra itinerary options and activities to personalize your experience (see specific tours for optional add-ins, or ask us). Start when you want every day (only limitation is the luggage transfer schedule). Self-guided tours may also be shortened or lengthened, and personalized in various ways.
Solo travelers: if you prefer to cycle on your own entirely this is the right type of tour for you. If you are looking for others to cycle with, let us know and we’ll try to find a departures with other participants looking to form a group.
Previous tour experience: if you’ve never been on a multi-day tour before, you will ideally want a companion coming along that has.
If you are curious about the difference between our Classic and Casual self-guided tours, click the link to read the detailed blog.
Guided Bike Tours
Dates: select from specific departure dates.
Level of Support: You’ll have a our local guides cycling with you every day, as well as van support on all or most days (check your specific itinerary for details). The van carries luggage from one hotel to the next, and tired cyclists if needed!
Riding Pace: generally, you’ll be cycling in a group led by our guide. We will provide navigation tracks so if you prefer to ride ahead or fall behind, you can navigate with those tracks. On most itineraries there can be extra optional rides with the guide.
Navigation: since you’ll have a local guide you can cycle with them or you can download the tracks on your GPS device or your smartphone. We’ll also provide maps.
Local Interpretation: you’ll be led by our top-notch local guides, sharing their insights and knowledge about culture, history, cuisine, local customs and so much more! You will also receive a digital roadbook (provided via the Ride With GPS smartphone app), with daily navigation routes and some cultural and travel highlights.
Flexibility: depending on the itinerary, some organized group activities may be included during the cycling, or after the cycling is over (check your specific itinerary).
Solo travelers: perfect for solo travelers looking to join a group of like-minded travelers on a scheduled departure.
Previous tour experience: first time on a multi-day bike tour? Our affordable group tours provide an excellent introduction.
Where do I get started? Click the orange button below to start browsing our tours by country or tour type, or get in touch with us – our team of specialists will help answer your questions and help you find the right tour.
If you want the insights and experience of a past bike tour customer, please ask us and we will be happy to put you in touch with a past customer reference. They can share what they liked, and what they didn’t, about tour they chose.
See you on the road!