Comparing bicycle tours

By Nancy Gatland
This item appears on page 18 of the September 2016 issue.
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Jim Johnson’s article “Biking the Backroads — What a Wonderful Way to Travel!” (June ’16, pg. 22) is right on. His descriptions on the various types of tours are excellent.

My husband, Robert, and I have taken many biking trips in Europe. We’ve taken fully guided tours with Hindriks Bicycle Tours, supported tours with Vermont Bike Tours and what I’ll call semisupported tours with Bike Tours Direct. All have pros and cons, of course.

We were introduced to Hindriks Bicycle Tours (Austin, TX; 512/705-1597, http://hindrikstours.com) through Over the Hill Gang International (Colorado Springs, CO; 719/471-0222, www.othgi.com).

We biked for five years with OTHGI, taking five Hindriks trips during that time: around the Bodensee in Switzerland (2003); Flanders, Belgium (2004); Mosel River Valley, Germany (2005); Loire River Valley, France (2006), and Dolomites, Italy (2007). A sixth OTHGI trip to a Greek island (2007) was with a bike-and-sail company.

We loved those tours, as we were always with a very knowledgable guide, so we never got lost. If we got a flat tire, it was fixed. If we were tired or hurt, the sag wagon picked us up.

We also did a fully guided tour with what is now Road Scholar (Boston, MA; 800/454-5768, www.roadscholar.org), biking along the Elbe River from Berlin to Prague (2008).

With Vermont Bike Tours, or VBT (Williston, VT; 800/245-3868, www.vbt.com), you’re given a map and can leave the hotel on your own time. If you’re uncomfortable with this, there’s a guide, but you’ll have to wait until everyone has departed, which can lead to a later start. There is also a sag wagon. 

We biked with VBT in Tuscany, Italy (2010), and in Bordeaux, France (2012). (We didn’t do any bike tours in 2011. That’s the year I had my knees replaced.)

With Bike Tours Direct (BTD) now called BikeTours.com (Chattanooga, TN; 877/462-2423, www.biketours.com), you’re on your own with a map. The company makes all hotel reservations and transports your luggage. 

PRO — You can start when you’re ready in the morning, riding at your own pace and stopping to see sites of interest (as you can with VBT). There’s no pressure to get anywhere on time, as there are no places to be at a particular time or dinners to attend. 

CON — You have no guide or sag wagon. If you get a flat, you fix it yourself. If you get lost, you ask directions until you get to your destination. It’s cheaper to go this way and very enjoyable if you’re a bit adventurous. It’s definitely the best way to meet the local residents of towns you bike through.

We biked with BTD from Passau, Germany, to Prague, Czech Republic (2009).

All in all, we’ve enjoyed the various types of bike tours. However, our favorites were those of Herman Hindriks. The past three years, we’ve contacted Herman, ourselves, and let him know what kind of tours we wanted. He agreed to set us up whenever we had eight riders. We biked Andalucía, Spain (2013); Austria’s Tauren region (2014), and Normandy/Brittany, France (2015). 

We also were able to request a favorite guide, Colin Blunt, along with his wife, Bette, whom we love.

NANCY GATLAND

Wilton, NY

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Jim Johnson’s article “Biking the Backroads — What a Wonderful Way to Travel!” (June ’16, pg. 22) is right on. His descriptions on the various types of tours are excellent.

My husband, Robert, and I have taken many biking trips in Europe. We’ve taken fully guided tours with Hindriks Bicycle Tours, supported tours with Vermont Bike Tours and what I’ll call semisupported tours with Bike Tours Direct. All have pros and cons, of course.

We were introduced to Hindriks Bicycle Tours (Austin, TX; 512/705-1597, http://hindrikstours.com) through Over the Hill Gang International (Colorado Springs, CO; 719/471-0222, www.othgi.com).

We biked for five years with OTHGI, taking five Hindriks trips during that time: around the Bodensee in Switzerland (2003); Flanders, Belgium (2004); Mosel River Valley, Germany (2005); Loire River Valley, France (2006), and Dolomites, Italy (2007). A sixth OTHGI trip to a Greek island (2007) was with a bike-and-sail company.

We loved those tours, as we were always with a very knowledgable guide, so we never got lost. If we got a flat tire, it was fixed. If we were tired or hurt, the sag wagon picked us up.

We also did a fully guided tour with what is now Road Scholar (Boston, MA; 800/454-5768, www.roadscholar.org), biking along the Elbe River from Berlin to Prague (2008).

With Vermont Bike Tours, or VBT (Williston, VT; 800/245-3868, www.vbt.com), you’re given a map and can leave the hotel on your own time. If you’re uncomfortable with this, there’s a guide, but you’ll have to wait until everyone has departed, which can lead to a later start. There is also a sag wagon. 

We biked with VBT in Tuscany, Italy (2010), and in Bordeaux, France (2012). (We didn’t do any bike tours in 2011. That’s the year I had my knees replaced.)

With Bike Tours Direct (BTD) now called BikeTours.com (Chattanooga, TN; 877/462-2423, www.biketours.com), you’re on your own with a map. The company makes all hotel reservations and transports your luggage. 

PRO — You can start when you’re ready in the morning, riding at your own pace and stopping to see sites of interest (as you can with VBT). There’s no pressure to get anywhere on time, as there are no places to be at a particular time or dinners to attend. 

CON — You have no guide or sag wagon. If you get a flat, you fix it yourself. If you get lost, you ask directions until you get to your destination. It’s cheaper to go this way and very enjoyable if you’re a bit adventurous. It’s definitely the best way to meet the local residents of towns you bike through.

We biked with BTD from Passau, Germany, to Prague, Czech Republic (2009).

All in all, we’ve enjoyed the various types of bike tours. However, our favorites were those of Herman Hindriks. The past three years, we’ve contacted Herman, ourselves, and let him know what kind of tours we wanted. He agreed to set us up whenever we had eight riders. We biked Andalucía, Spain (2013); Austria’s Tauren region (2014), and Normandy/Brittany, France (2015). 

We also were able to request a favorite guide, Colin Blunt, along with his wife, Bette, whom we love.

NANCY GATLAND

Wilton, NY