A cycling holiday can be a good way for a family to enjoy some quality bonding time together. The safer, traffic-free roads, plus fresh air and beautiful scenery make France a great destination for a family cycling trip. However, if you are taking the kids cycling you need to be prepared. Darren Parker, owner of Mountainbikebreaks.com finds that some families take unnecessary risks – especially if one or more of the parents is an avid cyclist:
“Usually, one of the parents has decided that their passion is now the family’s and has the full kit. The other parent and children turn up in unsuitable attire and lacking in basic skills. This is the first step towards disaster.”
“Secondly, they do not know the area but refuse to hire a guide or coach. This can be exceptionally dangerous. Mountain biking is classed as an extreme sport and whilst that can be an intimidating term, there are many ways that we can all enjoy mountain biking very safely.”
No matter what kind of cycling you plan on doing with the family, Parker’s top tips are:
- Ensure you have pads, helmet and gloves
- A well-fitted bike
- A local guide
- If you’re bringing your own bikes, get them checked over when you get to your destination
- Insure your family’s cycling equipment and your family’s safety with a specialist worldwide cycle insurance policy like Cycleplan
Keeping your bike secure
It’s always worth remembering, just because you’re on holiday, it doesn’t mean thieves are. You wouldn’t leave your bike lying around in the UK, so don’t do so in France either. Regardless of whether you are touring or mountain biking, Lawrie Jones, a road and touring cyclist who runs 42 group, a marketing agency for cycling and health brands recommends:
“At all times the bike should be locked when out of sight. I use two secure D locks. When touring, we share locks and stay in accommodation that offers secure bike storage.”
Darren Parker also notes that “It is very rare to hear of bikes being stolen during the day around the bike parks, as there seems to be a code of conduct where everyone looks out for everyone. This is not to say it won’t or hasn’t happened though, so it’s best to be safe and, most importantly, insured!”
What kit to take on a cycling holiday
If you are touring, Jones recommends taking the following:
- A small toolkit to use when you’re riding
- Spare tubes
- A helmet
- A CO2 inflator and a couple of cartridges
- A multi-tool with various Allen keys
- A chain tool
- A Sold Secure D lock
- A rear red light if you are cycling on mountain roads
- An E111 Health Insurance Card (we haven’t left the EU just yet!)
- A spare battery for your mobile phone
As for mountain biking, Parker wouldn’t go without:
- A helmet – ideally with full face coverage if you’re doing some serious riding
- Sunglasses – he uses mostly orange lens glasses due to varying terrain (in/out of trees/shadows.) If wet or cloudy, opt for clear lens glasses, common safety glasses can be surprisingly good, and cheap!
- All weather clothing – lightweight windproof/waterproof jacket and trousers
- Pads – he recommends a minimum of elbow and knee pads; although shin/knee pads are better for varied terrain as stones flick up and can “bloody hurt” on the shins!
- A toolkit (but this can be shared out with the group)
- Sun cream
- A sense of humour – everyone is there to have a good time. Ride well and be safe
What kind of insurance should you have?
Regardless of whether you are touring or mountain biking, insurance is essential, and not just for equipment theft. It is also wise to have Personal Accident and Personal Liability cover. At times, hikers and bikers can share paths and aren’t always expecting a group of riders to come hurtling round the corner at speed. However, such accidents are not exclusive to mountain trails and off-road paths. Road bikers and tourers can also have the same problems with pedestrians.
“I explain to clients that it is important to be aware of pedestrians and to slow down,” said Parker. “A lot of the time the pedestrian is distracted by their phone, listening to music, or walking a dog. Also, small children do not anticipate your direction on a bike and are prone to run into you. There are so many varying factors which can cause an accident.”
Cycleplan, the specialist cycle insurer, suggest a number of ways a cycle insurance policy can give you extra peace of mind abroad. Having Personal Liability insurance can cover costs for damage to another person or third party property, which can often include legal fees. Plus, Equipment cover and replacement bike hire provision are invaluable if you damage your bike by accident. All you have to do to be covered on your holiday in France is add Worldwide cover to your policy.
Personal Accident cover can help if you sustain a serious bodily injury and can also help cover the costs of medical expenses or physiotherapy treatment. Loss of Earnings cover is also something to consider to give you extra peace of mind. Again, the Worldwide cover add-on will enable you to enjoy this cover on holiday.
Cycleplan Managing Director John Woosey explains: “Specialist European or Worldwide cycle insurance is essential for cyclists of all ages and abilities when cycling abroad. One of the main reasons for this is bike theft. Cycling holidaymakers are prime targets for foreign cycle thieves. The thief can be long gone by the time you actually realise your bike has been stolen, find a local police station, explain about the theft and then provide a detailed description of exactly what’s been stolen. Not easy, especially considering there’s often a language barrier to contend with.
We also offer Public Liability insurance (up to £5m) to protect you in case you injure someone or cause damage to somebody else’s property, which can be easily done whilst cycling in an unfamiliar environment. Plus, our Personal Accident cover will protect you if you’re seriously injured whilst cycling.
With many cyclists going abroad this summer, you can rest assured that our European or Worldwide cycle insurance from Cycleplan covers you to ride abroad, hassle and worry free.”
How to keep your bike maintained during a cycling holiday
On a cycling holiday, your bike is probably being put through its paces more that it normally would at home, so expect punctures and some wear and tear.
“I carry all the tools necessary to maintain my bike at all times,” said Lawrie Jones. “If I’m driving to France then I will carry a full toolkit, including track pump and a bike stand – you never know when you might need it.”
For Darren Parker, it’s important to wash down your bike at the end of each day and check for loose bolts. “If you think there is a problem with your bike and you can’t fix it with the tools you have, take it to a bike mechanic.” Resorts such as Chatel will have specific areas to wash down bikes.
Cycling holidays are all about having fun! Here are Parker’s and Jones’ top tips on how to make the most of your quality bike time:
Jones: Get your bike serviced by a professional (or do it yourself if you’re confident) before you travel. Whether you’ll ride 10 miles or a hundred, a poorly-maintained machine will cause problems.
Parker: Hire a qualified local guide or coach.
Jones: You won’t be able to rely on your mobile phone for everything so have a backup plan. In the UK we’re well served with reception; in rural France, it’s not the same. Ensure your phone is fully charged and consider taking a small battery pack if you’re going on a long ride.
Parker: Ensure your accommodation owner knows the area well and can provide advice about mountain biking in the vicinity, particularly in regard to safety.
Jones: The correct clothing is essential. While it might be 30 degrees in a valley, at the top of a mountain it could be 10 degrees or lower.
Have you been lucky enough to cycle through France? If so, do you have any advice for people planning on a cycling holiday there?
Let us know when and where you’ve been and any top tips you have in the comments section below. Plus, make sure you’ve got your peace of mind packed with Cycleplan’s Worldwide cover. Get an instant quote today!
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