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Guided or not?

Old 12-27-23, 10:31 AM
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Guided or not?

Just wondering how many people use guided (or even self-guided) bike tours as opposed to planning and doing it independently. Guided tours are pricey - are they worth it?
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Old 12-27-23, 12:01 PM
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I have done both. I've also done state rides, e.g. Ride the Rockies or similar.

Some tradeoffs I see and where I've done and not done supported rides:
- My primary use of supported ride has been overseas in areas where either I had multiple borders/languages (e.g. Tour d'Afrique across Africa or bikechina.com in Yunnan) or I have relatively short time (e.g. Spice Roads to Angor Wat/Thailand).
- My primary use of self-supported has been with English speaking countries (e.g. US, Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand) and also for extended multi-month trips (e.g. Across Russia, across South America).

Some tradeoffs I see:
- Self-supported I get to determine my own schedule, get to handle logistics like finding food and have flexibility to adjust as things come up. It is also less expensive.
- Supported ride can give me logistical help on things like language or African border crossings. It is a larger social experiment.

Is it worth it? It depends on circumstances and most places I am happier on my own self-supported trip. However a supported ride has also brought me to countries I could probably travel but wouldn't have been as likely.
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Old 12-27-23, 06:07 PM
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I have done two ACA guided trips. One was van supported, the van hauled our gear from campground to campground. The other was guided but no vehicle support.

I have done several tours with a friend where we did the planning ourselves. On these trips, we usually planned no further than two or three days in advance as we rode. These trips ended at our vehicle or ended at an Amtrak station. If Amtrak, we made our train reservation only a few days in advance of the end, that way we could be quite flexible for most of the trip schedule.

And have done two solo foreign tours of 4 and 5 weeks long. But, I spent the last week making sure that I would make it back to the starting point in time for my flight, with some contingency to spare. So, although my schedule was very flexible at the start, I was less so at the end.

Guided usually means that there is an itinerary that you have to keep, campgrounds have been reserved etc. Self planned, you have more flexibility to go as far as you want each day, as long as it is not so busy that you are turned away at campgrounds when you do not make reservations.

I have also done two guided REI tours in Europe where they provided the bikes, lodging, most meals, etc., but I do not think that is the type of trip you are talking about.

I built up my bikes from parts. And the tours that I did with a friend, he had built up his bikes from parts. Thus, we knew how to fix it if anything broke, but that meant we had to have our own tools, etc. Guided trips, you can't expect a guide to fix your bike if it breaks, but they often carry some tools that may be needed.

And if your bike breaks on a guided trip, the group may have to go ahead to keep the schedule, even if you are at a bike shop waiting for a part to be shipped to the shop the next day.

I do not think I will be doing any more guided trips in USA. But I would consider them for foreign travel. There is one Europe trip that I have been considering taking some day where they provide the bike, all lodging, guide, etc.
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Old 12-27-23, 09:25 PM
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Only you can answer your question.


Are organized bike trips worth the cost?
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Old 12-28-23, 09:05 AM
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that depends on so many factors.

how old are you?
any cycle touring experience?
any solo travel experience?
where are you considering traveling to?
is plan solo, or one or two riding partners?
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Old 12-28-23, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Only you can answer your question.


Are organized bike trips worth the cost?
I thought I remembered a discussion on the same question! Thanks for looking this up.
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Old 12-28-23, 01:29 PM
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Never used one, don't think they are worth it for me.
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Old 12-28-23, 02:58 PM
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One "advantage" of the unguided tour is the planning activity, which here in New England can take place in the winter months when riding is less than appealing, and can, thus, take the place of touring. Even before the planning one can spend weeks deciding on what to plan.
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Old 12-28-23, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt
One "advantage" of the unguided tour is the planning activity, which here in New England can take place in the winter months when riding is less than appealing, and can, thus, take the place of touring. Even before the planning one can spend weeks deciding on what to plan.
After my cross-US tour I spent a lot of the winter planning my tour is Spain. Spent many hours with my guide book and map on the coffee table figuring out what I wanted to see and how to get from place to place. Ended up highlighting the roads on the map. It was a lot of fun, especially since we got a good deal of snow and ice that winter.
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Old 01-02-24, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Scotty0424
Just wondering how many people use guided (or even self-guided) bike tours as opposed to planning and doing it independently. Guided tours are pricey - are they worth it?
where are you from? What organizations have you looked into?
They can be good for those who are more comfortable with things being done for them, and thats okay, its up to you.
A lot more expensive than on your own, but that's fairly evident so it's up to you.
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Old 01-03-24, 07:31 AM
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The only guided tour I’ve ever considered is the Tour d’Afrique, Cairo to Cape Town, as I doubt if it’s safe or even possible to do solo.
Even so, I can’t justify the price to myself.
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Old 01-03-24, 10:58 AM
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Much like the generality of cooking at home or going out for dinner, the variability is so significant that others' opinions are worthless. Individual competencies around cycling and travel and personal preferences regarding desired levels of support and budget are unknown. As mentioned earlier, I actively do fully self-support solo long-distance rides, such as Lisbon to Paris and have participated in relatively luxurious guided trips in the Dolomites. Each was awesome but a completely different experience.
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Old 01-03-24, 11:42 AM
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[QUOTE=Atlas Shrugged;23118186]Much like the generality of cooking at home or going out for dinner, the variability is so significant that others' opinions are worthless. Individual competencies around cycling and travel and personal preferences regarding desired levels of support and budget are unknown. As mentioned earlier, I actively do fully self-support solo long-distance rides, such as Lisbon to Paris and have participated in relatively luxurious guided trips in the Dolomites. Each was awesome but a completely different experience.[/QUOTE]

Agree with all of that, and as for the last sentence, I too enjoyed the guided trips I've done, but must importantly because the organisation and people are fun, like minded folks, plus my partner really enjoys them, so that is a total bonus.
I personally prefer doing it on my own though.
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Old 01-03-24, 02:09 PM
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For others who might read this thread, group size is something to consider. Something like the former Cycle Oregon week tour, with its sometimes 2,000+ people, might not be your sort of bag, baby. Sometimes having to fight for good tent real estate and lines for showers at times, can be frustrating.
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Old 01-03-24, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
For others who might read this thread, group size is something to consider. Something like the former Cycle Oregon week tour, with its sometimes 2,000+ people, might not be your sort of bag, baby. Sometimes having to fight for good tent real estate and lines for showers at times, can be frustrating.
Good point, though I consider that kind of tour more of an "event" than a guided tour. But it's often amusing to see something that big roll into a small town where the cyclist will double (or more) the size of the settlement overnight.

Something I hadn't thought of before I talked to one of the operators: how far do they have to drive the PortaPottys' contents to find a wastewater treatment plant that can handle the (ahem) load? Small town treatment plants usually don't have that much margin.
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Old 01-03-24, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
Good point, though I consider that kind of tour more of an "event" than a guided tour. But it's often amusing to see something that big roll into a small town where the cyclist will double (or more) the size of the settlement overnight.

Something I hadn't thought of before I talked to one of the operators: how far do they have to drive the PortaPottys' contents to find a wastewater treatment plant that can handle the (ahem) load? Small town treatment plants usually don't have that much margin.
I think that porta potties have a lot of chemicals in them, so a large plant might be needed to be able to handle the non-natural part of the "load".
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Old 01-03-24, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb

Something I hadn't thought of before I talked to one of the operators: how far do they have to drive the PortaPottys' contents to find a wastewater treatment plant that can handle the (ahem) load? Small town treatment plants usually don't have that much margin.
On Cycle Oregon, Roto-Rooter dealt with the “blue rooms.” They were pumped out by septic tank trucks. No idea where they emptied the trucks.

The worst part about so many of them is that if you were camped anywhere near a group, you were often woken at night by people letting the doors slam despite requests at the evening meetings that they not do so.

Don’t ask me why, but one year I had some yellow Post-It Notes on me. One night we had to camp close to a bank of them. I wrote reminder notes and stuck them on the doors. Limited effect.
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Old 01-03-24, 05:24 PM
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so Beam me up, do you live in the States, Canada, England?
Hope you come back to pipe in.

as per the last comments about the big big supported trips being more like an event--the one my wife and I have done is certainly like that. Usually between 1500-2000 cyclists, and yes, the old "grab a good beach spot" thing is universal with these big events, and I take it in stride and is part of the atmosphere---now yes, sometimes that atmosphere means Mr or Mrs Snore-a-rama like a friggin freight train just 6 feet from you, and or the slamming port a potty doors .......but you just have to take that with being sometimes part of the experience.
We do a Quebec one, and its generally a real gas, a fun atmosphere, but yes, you have to be aware of the scale and shared space aspect of it, but thats pretty obvious and event photos from previous years show it like it is.
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Old 01-04-24, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
We do a Quebec one, and its generally a real gas, a fun atmosphere, but yes, you have to be aware of the scale and shared space aspect of it, but thats pretty obvious and event photos from previous years show it like it is.
Le Grand Tour, by any chance?
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Old 01-04-24, 07:50 AM
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I think the large event rides are fun, though my tolerance for standing in line for everything (showers, toilets, food, etc) starts to outweigh the fun aspects of the event after a week. I've done Ride the Rockies four weeks and also a slightly smaller Pedal the Plains ride four times. Pedal the Plains was only three days and even more than RTR had novelty of visiting these small towns on eastern plains of CO. Unlike some of the mountain towns that can be used to

We had one night in Pedal the Plains when the sprinklers came on the camping (football) field in Fort Morgan in middle of the night. Seemed like eternity but probably only 10-15 minutes while the town hosts figured out who to call to get the water turned off. Unlike some mountain resort towns that occasionally have big events - these towns on the Colorado plains typically have few big events per year (e.g. rodeo/fair) so the arrival of ~1000 cyclists and hanger-ons was a big deal. We came into Holly Colorado (population ~840) in 2019. They had an home football game (8-man) where we helped fill the bleachers to cheer on the Wildcats and the announcers couldn't stop thanking PTP. Unfortunately they were behind 62-0 at end of 3rd quarter and not much better at end of the game.
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Old 01-04-24, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Le Grand Tour, by any chance?
Oui monsieur
I recall a few of you lot have done it.
and why I asked where this scotty fellow lives.

re tolerance for lines for toilets, showers, food. We learned to avoid the longest lines by getting timing better, and while sometimes it was a drag, a lot of times in lines people were good natured and fun, so it made the time go easier. Thats a French Canadian thing though, being outgoing and enjoying life, a big part of why we like living here.
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Old 01-04-24, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
For others who might read this thread, group size is something to consider.
My old scoutmaster emphasized this. He did a gap year in Europe and the large group he was with really sucked the fun out of the trip.

To be fair, his group was Patton's 3rd Army...
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Old 01-04-24, 10:16 AM
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This is my opinion only, you mileage may vary:

I’ve done a few small group tours…Bike and Barge, for example…and a lot of unguided tours. I’ve never even considered doing Ride the Rockies or other similar events even though I live in the state where Ride the Rockies is held.

The small group tours are okay but they suffer from a few things. I like the fact that I don’t have to carry my stuff and that I’m in a foreign country with linguistic back up. Food is great. Some of the people in the group are wonderful and others aren’t. My biggest problem with guided rides is that the itinerary is set. If I want to spend time going off route or stopping at an interesting town for a while, I can’t. I have a schedule to keep.

With an unguided tour, I set my itinerary. I can go as far or as short as I like. I can stop where I want to and go when I want to. I’m not on someone else’s schedule. It can be lonely, however. I often go for days without talking to anyone. I’m not terribly outgoing in the real world so striking up a conversation can be a bit of a challenge for me. I’m comfortable with that after years of having to deal with it.

It also takes a lot of courage to go out on your own. You are responsible for everything. That can be daunting for most people. Baked into our DNA, we scared little monkeys worried that leopards are going to eat us. Few people want to venture outside of the cave. Here’s a hint: there are no leopards
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Old 01-04-24, 10:28 AM
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there are lions and tigers and bears however, don't forget that.

(good blurb you wrote, I hope it helps the person)
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Old 01-04-24, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
Oui monsieur
I recall a few of you lot have done it.
and why I asked where this scotty fellow lives.

re tolerance for lines for toilets, showers, food. We learned to avoid the longest lines by getting timing better, and while sometimes it was a drag, a lot of times in lines people were good natured and fun, so it made the time go easier. Thats a French Canadian thing though, being outgoing and enjoying life, a big part of why we like living here.
I did 2008, which was the year it rained virtually every day on the road and people who parked in the field (not I) had to have their cars towed out of the mud by tractors. But I still enjoyed myself. We had duck for dinner the first night. And the people were definitely pleasant.

Timing things helps a lot. When you get to camp and there’s no shower line, think about doing that first. Go to dinner at off hours.

The easiest I ever did was CANDISC, in North Dakota. Only a couple of hundred people, and my friend and I were in the top 1% speed-wise. We got the best tent turf and never had to wait for showers.
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