Travel Guide Cycle tours

Cycling

Share

Cycling is an incredibly versatile activity – because a bicycle is a means of transport and a piece of sports equipment in one. It doesn't matter whether you go on a leisurely touring trip, fight your way up steep pass roads on a road bike or ride your mountain bike over flowing trails and through rough terrain.

Responsible for this content
Outdooractive Editors


Highlights

All regions

The history of cycling

The father of our modern bicycles is the German inventor Karl von Drais. In 1817 he made the first prototype of his two-wheeled vehicle – the "draisine" named after him.

Around 50 years later, the Frenchman Pierre Michaux developed the Velocipede, which had a pedal drive attached to its front wheel. This was followed by the high-wheel bicycle, which didn't last long because it posed a great risk of falling, and later by the safety bicycle with chain drive on the rear wheel and pneumatic tyres.

Draisine, 1817
Draisine, 1817
Photo: Arnaud 25, CC BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26827420

A selection of different types of bicycles

  • Classic bikes are the all-rounders among bicycles. While the slightly more stable versions are suitable for use in the city (city bikes), the lighter versions are ideal for longer bike tours (trekking bikes). On a classic bike you sit almost upright, the saddle is well padded. Thanks to the stable luggage carrier, saddle bags can be attached on both sides. Especially in city traffic, baskets on the carrier or on the handlebar are popular.
  • Road bikes convince sportsmen with their light construction and thin tires for less friction resistance. They are only suitable for use on asphalt roads.
  • Mountain bikes are ideal for off-road use. They are divided into hardtail mountain bikes (front suspension fork, non-suspended rear wheel) and full suspension bikes (both tyres with suspension).
Mountain bike hardtail
Mountain bike hardtail
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com
  • The e-bike can be operated with muscle power as well as with an electric motor. Both systems can be used independently. With some e-bike models, speeds of up to 30 mph can be reached, for these you need a driving licence. The pedelec combines the muscle power of the cyclist with a powerful electric motor. In contrast to an e-bike, the motor only starts when you pedal at the same time.
  • As the name suggests, touring bikes are designed for longer journeys. They place high demands on stability and load-bearing capacity, because even with luggage weighing more than 110 lbs it must still be possible to ride safely and above all to brake.

The structure of a bicycle

The structure of a modern bicycle
The structure of a modern bicycle
Photo: CC BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3538762

The right bicycle for every size

  • 18 inches for 112 to 125 cm body size
  • 20 inches for 125 to 140 cm body size
  • 24 inches for 140 to 160 cm body size
  • 26 inches from 160 cm body size
  • 28 inches from 170 cm body size
Children on bicycles
Children on bicycles
Photo: pixabay.com

The right equipment

No matter what reason you are using your bike – you should always wear a helmet. A helmet saves your life in an accident. Other items differ according to how and where you ride your bike.

 

The following tools should always be on board in the event of a breakdown:

  • air pump or CO2 pump incl. cartridges
  • repair kit
  • replacement tyre
  • three tyre levers
  • different sizes of hex keys
  • chain tool

 

If you want to ride a bicycle on the road, it must meet the following criteria:

  • two independent brakes
  • a noisy bell
  • one white headlamp, one red taillight (must be permanently operational)
  • yellow reflectors on the pedals and in the spokes
The roadworthy bicycle needs a noisy bell.
The roadworthy bicycle needs a noisy bell.
Photo: pixabay.com

If you use your bike for sports, the following accessories are advantageous:

  • (weatherproof) cycling clothes
  • cycling gloves
  • click shoes for click pedals
  • drinking bottle and sufficient amount of water
  • repair tools
  • mobile phone
  • first aid kit
  • backpack (with rain cover) for additional equipment
  • catering such as muesli bars, fruit, chocolate
  • sunscreen
  • GPS device with track, map, compass
  • optional extra equipment for mountain bikers or downhill riders: full visor helmet, elbow/knee protectors and back protector

Training for cyclists

Cycling keeps you fit! From the cardiovascular system to muscles and joints – exercise on the bike is an all-round health package.

Regular cycling reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases by a factor of 20, because it brings blood circulation and percussive performance up to speed and increases blood volume. Cholesterol, which calcifies our veins, is also broken down. At the same time, the movement regularly fills the lungs with fresh oxygen and the respiratory muscles also benefit.

For the joints, which are moved during this sport without great strain, short intervals are sufficient to supply their cartilage with oxygen. And also the muscles thank already journeys on short cycle routes. Almost all muscle groups are trained when cycling: above all, of course, the leg muscles are trained by pedalling, but also the abdominal, back, arm and shoulder muscles are strained.

Regular cycling consumes up to five calories per minute. For a positive effect on fat metabolism, longer exercise times (from 45 minutes in the saddle) are more effective than fast cycling. Last but not least, cycling strengthens the psyche and reduces the risk of cancer.

 

How to train well

  • Building endurance: Not short laps at a fast pace, but longer stages promote endurance. You should not be at your limit, but be able to talk at any time. One guideline is the heart rate – up to 75 percent of the maximum frequency is beneficial, more over-excites the body.
  • Pedaling frequency: This is the guideline to follow in order to evenly load the body and thus have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Those who get 80-90 kicks per minute cycle most effectively.
  • Intensive intervals: These one to two-minute inserts at the personal stress limit are the ideal supplement for endurance training.
  • Regular training: Above all regular training is important and brings the best effects. Three to four sessions a week, 60 minutes each, should not be a problem. Those who train more should observe the following rule of thumb: The harder the training, the longer the body needs for regeneration. After that, however, the body has recovered beyond its previous performance status.
Cyclist on an asphalted road
Cyclist on an asphalted road
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

Eat and drink in when cycling

During training, three aspects are particularly important for the body: carbohydrates, water and salt.

Carbohydrates are the number one source of energy. They are found in sandwiches, in certain fruits (e.g. bananas, dates) or in muesli bars. The maximum value for the intake of carbohydrates is 80 g per hour – the body cannot use more.

Water ensures that the nutrients obtained from the carbohydrates reach the body cells quickly. In addition, water promotes the production of sweat and thus cools the body. Salt helps the body to bind fluid and prevent cramps.

The isotonic drinks widely used in sports combine carbohydrates, water and salt. However, they are particularly suitable for competitive athletes – water and strongly diluted fruit juices are the better alternatives in the leisure sector. In order to replenish the body's own memory after the training session, you can also grab a glass of cocoa: This provides protein, carbohydrates and the most important amino acids.

Cyclists at a market stall
Cyclists at a market stall
Photo: Outdooractive Editors

Cycling with dogs

A dog can be your partner in bike trips.
A dog can be your partner in bike trips.
Photo: Parker Knight, CC BY, flickr.com

If you not only want to keep yourself fit, but also your four-legged friend, you can combine going out with your dog not only with sports such as jogging or hiking, but also with cycling. If some aspects are taken into consideration, both the owner and the dog will have a lot of fun on their trips together.

The joint and bone structure of the animals must be fully grown and therefore fully resilient. Depending on the breed, this is the case at an age of one and a half to two years. Dogs that are too old or have joint problems should also not be taken on bike tours.

The underground should not consist of asphalt or gravel, because this damages the paws of the animals. In addition one should avoid roads, because the exhaust fumes make breathing difficult for the four-legged friends.

The first rounds with dog and bike should not be too long and not too fast, because dogs like to overestimate each other. Like his master, the dog must first of all build up a certain physical condition in order to be able to hold out longer distances beside the bike without problems.

In addition the four-legged bicycle beginners must be accustomed slowly to the sport equipment at their side. It is best to take the bike with you a couple of times when you go for a walk and push it along. So the dog gets used to it and after a few practice rounds the first ride should not be a problem anymore. The best way to equip the wheel-dog team is if the dog is not wearing a collar, but a chest harness. The leash can be attached to the bicycle frame with a so-called "dogrunner" so that the cyclist has both hands free.

Traffic rules for cyclists

Although you don't need a driving licence to ride a bike, you still have to adhere to the valid traffic regulations – otherwise you could face fines and in some areas even get points on your driving licence.

Marking of a bike lane in Germany
Marking of a bike lane in Germany
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

On the sidewalk, on the bike lane or on the road?

Whenever there is a marked bike lane, cyclists are required to use it. In Germany, for example, these lanes are marked with a sign showing a white bicycle on a blue background.

If this sign is missing – or if the use of the bike lane is restricted by parked vehicles, snow, etc. – cyclists may ride on the road. In many cases, driving on the road even makes sense because cyclists are better visible there. For this reason, many cities and municipalities waive the obligation to use bike lanes.

Cyclists always use the right-hand side of the road – and thus also the bike lane to the right of the road. Caution: within cities, bike lanes may usually only be used on one side.

Only children are allowed to ride on the sidewalk. When crossing a road – whether at the traffic lights or at the zebra crossing – they must dismount. Some pavements are cleared for use by cyclists. But beware: cyclists have to adapt to the speed of pedestrians and give way.

Bicycle boulevards

As the name implies, bicycle boulevards are traffic routes in a city specially designed for cyclists. In contrast to the rest of the traffic network, special conditions apply to cyclists on bike lanes, even riding side by side is permitted there.

Bicycle boulevards are partly open to motorised traffic, but cyclists always have priority there. Motor vehicles have to adapt their speed.

Cyclists riding next to each other
Cyclists riding next to each other
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

Are cyclists allowed to ride two abreast?

Of course this depends on the road traffic regulations of the respective country. It is widespread, however, that two cyclists can ride next to each other as long as they do not impede other road users. This is usually the case in traffic-calmed areas, as drivers are not allowed to go faster than bikes anyway.

If the speed limit of a road allows more pace, it must be possible for motorized vehicles to maintain a distance of at least 5 ft from cyclists. If this distance cannot be maintained due to the width of the road, cyclists must ride in single file. Moreover, if the road is very busy, cyclists riding side by side would unnecessarily obstruct traffic.

Faster on the road with a superlight bike?

The myth that a lighter cyclist on a lighter bike can ride faster is only partially true. Yes, the weight affects the performance. But if you are really faster, depends on whether you're riding uphill, downhill or on a track without any incline.

Riding downhill, a higher weight is even advantageous because it can counteract the air resistance that brakes the rider. A light bike helps a little in flat terrain, so does a light body. But you can't hope for miracles there. According to a study, 6.5 lbs less weight save between 5 and 25 seconds over a 25 mile distance.

Only going uphill, you will notice the impact of weight. An athlete can gain up to 3 minutes on the same distance compared to an opponent who weighs 6.5 lbs more.