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Going on holiday? Leave some of the chaff behind and pack your bike, you won't be disappointed.

Planning for a week away, plan, plan, plan... pack all your stuff, don't forget iPads, chargers, every item of clothing that the kids own, just in case of every weather eventuality and for when they inevitably fall in water, get muddy, rip something (or all of the above).  Packing your cycling stuff and getting your bike in the car is probably last thing on your mind. 

If you’re anything like us, family holidays in the UK are usually done by loading up the car with most of your belongings and are generally focussed on 'relaxing' with the kids.  Easier said than done when you seem to spend the preceding week preparing for armageddon  - ticking off your to-do list at work, staying late to ensure everything goes smoothly when you’re away, and the packing… the dreaded packing.  Getting everything to fit in the car is the worst, it’s the biggest game of Tetris invented - Car Boot Tetris - to get 3/4 of your worldly belongings into the back of an estate car (it was brutal when we owned a hatch-back).  The only thing that would make it worse is if you had to fit a bike in there as well... but hey everyone likes a challenge!

I’m precious about my bike, it's something I really value, it doesn’t go on the roof of the car and I won’t put it on a bike rack so the only option is to reconfigure the boot space to make sure I can take it. (I should've taken a picture of it as I was pretty proud of the boot once I'd finished!)  The pre-holiday plan is that I’ll ride every day for an hour, just an hour to keep my legs ticking over and stave off some of the booze/food/merriment that comes with a week away.  I rarely stick to the plan.

So the car gets packed to accommodate the bike, the bike gets dragged somewhere in the country, if it’s a small place that we’re staying then there’s always a bit of a head-scratcher as to where to leave it - certainly not in the car (told you I’m precious about it), and somewhere that it’s not going to get messed with by a four year old who loooovvvveeesss spinning the pedals on daddy’s bike... usually gets put in the bedroom, until I'm instructed to take it out and the process begins again.

The first day of holiday is unpacking, it comes and goes without a ride.  The second day it’s tipping down, I consider riding for an hour, but don’t want to work out how to try and dry my shoes in time for tomorrow.  Swimming in a heated pool with the kids is way more appealing.  The third day dawns windy and a dull, I convince myself that today probably won’t be that great for riding either.  Eventually I decide it's now or never, cram myself into my kit and head out.  I’ve no idea where I’m going and the only navigation I have is an iPhone with no reception and a photograph of the local area taken from the AA Road Atlas out of the car.

The "flat route” I take seems full of sodding hills, and it’s a headwind, but the scenery is stunning.  It’s not like it is round home, there are views that I recognise from driving along the A1 that runs nearby, roads that I’ve seen when passing and thought “I wonder where that goes?”.  Now I’m on them and I’ve still no idea where I am.  I head in the general direction of a village that I’ve set as my turning point, when I get there it's a bit further than expected and it’s taken me longer due to the headwind and the hills.

As I turn back towards where we’re staying, the tailwind picks me up and makes everything easy again, it’s wonderful flying along backroads surrounded by the sights and smells of the area, there are familiar names from signs off the A1, places I feel like I know having passed the road end so often but never had time or inclination to investigate.  I keep thinking that I’ll stop and take a picture, but I’m enjoying myself so much and tell myself I’ll stop at the next view that catches my eye.  When I do stop, I take a terrible picture of the landscape that fails to catch what I’m experiencing, and an intriguing picture of a small, handmade gate hook.  The landscape on the macro scale, the gate hook, (down a small side road on the way to some standing stones that I didn’t actually get to because it was halfway across a few fields) on the micro scale.  It’s doubtful that I’d have seen either if I hadn’t brought my bike.

All the packing, the wrangling, the bartering to get an hour or two on the bike, it’s all worth it to feel that small piece of hand-made metal attached to a chain, next to an unnamed road.  The cognitive map that I build from getting on the bike and pedalling around for a couple of hours will stay with me.  I saw and experienced more of Northumberland in those forty miles than I would have from inside a car; the sights, smells, sounds and topography.  Ok, it’s not cyclo-touring, which would have undoubtedly have given a greater understanding of the place, but I don’t have the luxury of being able to go on a weeks holiday away on the bike.  What I do have is a lack of regret, it's all been worth while.

If you've not done it before: pack your bike and steal a couple of hours, you won’t be disappointed.

13 comments

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sm [405 posts] 4 years ago
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Nice post, I know what it is like trying to ride wherever you travel, whenever you can. I'm off to Madrid soon and already thinking how I can cycle there... Without taking my bike. All hail city hire bikes!

Good to know there's someone as precious about their bike as I too. Even though it is ancient!

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srchar [654 posts] 4 years ago
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What's wrong with sticking it on the roof?

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Simon E [3097 posts] 4 years ago
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Quote:

the only navigation I have is an iPhone with no reception and a photograph of the local area taken from the AA Road Atlas out of the car.

Buy a second £1.99 AA road atlas and rip out the page you need. Slip it into a polypocket and stuff that in a jersey pocket. Navigation sorted.

Often it's the details that capture the imagination. That gate hook image is far more intriguing (and memorable) than any panorama of distant hills.

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SamShaw [267 posts] 4 years ago
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Simon E wrote:
Quote:

the only navigation I have is an iPhone with no reception and a photograph of the local area taken from the AA Road Atlas out of the car.

Buy a second £1.99 AA road atlas and rip out the page you need. Slip it into a polypocket and stuff that in a jersey pocket. Navigation sorted.

I navigated my way around Yorkshire with that method for the TdeF last year - alas, I've yet to replace the map I cut up!

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Colin Canski [15 posts] 4 years ago
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Nothing wrong with putting your bike on the roof, until you enter a multi-storey car park.

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trekker12 [42 posts] 4 years ago
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Or.....

Put a few of your worldly belongings on a pannier rack including a tent and make the journey, the holiday and a bike ride all in one!

Alright we don't have kids but as alluded in the main post I'm a recent convert to cycle touring - last weekend was our first attempt and we loved every minute of it.

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SamShaw [267 posts] 4 years ago
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trekker12 wrote:

Or.....

Put a few of your worldly belongings on a pannier rack including a tent and make the journey, the holiday and a bike ride all in one!

Alright we don't have kids but as alluded in the main post I'm a recent convert to cycle touring - last weekend was our first attempt and we loved every minute of it.

That would be good, but not an option when meeting inlaws for a week away. One day, when kids are older/moved out it'll be achievable! Already got a list of places I want to go  1

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SuperG [120 posts] 4 years ago
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Would not put a carbon bike on the back or top of car.
You only have look at how they sway around when you are driving behind somebody.

Obviously it works for race teams (top mounted) but thats a different level of rack investment and the riders don't pay for their bikes!

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jenoola [2 posts] 4 years ago
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I entirely agree that having to go on holiday without the bike would be quite a wrench. I am from Devon (though living in London at the moment) and love going back home to cycle, although I always forget how hilly it is.

This time of year lots of people take to the unfamiliar roads of the countryside, and it's great that they have the opportunity to do so. Following a recent issue during a visit "home" I wanted to highlight for any holidaymakers that rural road etiquette does differ slightly from the towns. We are used to having farm machinery, horse riders and stock using roads at a slower pace than cars are used to.

On single carriage lanes, it is generally considered good manners for the slower user (whether horse, cyclist or pedestrian) to pull into the verge/gateway/lay-by to enable cars to pass. (We all know tales of tractor drivers who don't do this but highlighting that point is much like blaming all cyclists for the few who do go through red lights at junctions!).

I am a pedestrian, cyclist, horse rider and car driver and offer up the above advice having seen a couple who were obviously out of town occasional weekend cyclists holding up cars on a back lane for several miles - they were obviously lost and were doing approx 10mph (less at times) but did not pull over to let the backlog pass (much to the embarrassment of the cyclist in me) despite many opportunities. It is important for all road users to show courtesy and I completely understand that town dwellers might not be aware of country manners: hence this comment which I hope helps people enjoy their holidays!

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BigManLittleHair [47 posts] 4 years ago
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Last time I was in Madrid, 1 year ago, it was still utterly shite for cycling. I love that city dearly but when buses are hitting 60-70kph within a foot of the pavement... The parks are good, the old historic centre OK but too many 4 lane roads with crazy Spanish driving connect the dots. G'luck.

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simon.thornton [44 posts] 4 years ago
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That's why your other bike should always be a Brompton which will tuck away inside one of those blue bags from Ikea. And if you took a folding bike trailer for the 4 year old together with their bike and a bag of old crusts for the ducks, you could earn sufficient Brownie points to last all week .....  21

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morseykayak [67 posts] 4 years ago
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plan, plan, plan...

Sometimes, planning is not required. I know for some they cannot go anywhere without a fifteen page spread sheet, and fair enough not knocking that, but it does restrict slightly the spirit of adventure. New lanes, new climbs, new descents, new excursions; I have found, all have a neat habit of presenting themselves to you. When travelling to new and far flung destinations, to research, and, for specific routes/races you may want precise road/track/lane details.
I've had some great rides just cycling out of town/campsite/hotel in new destinations and explored all day long, finding true gems of rides.
One of the best rides came from the most unexpected. A wedding took me to Alicante and a hop on the train (small gauge coast network, stand at a location and put your hand out, like it's a bus) took us up to the Spanish megladom resort of Benidorm. A quick sprint along the drag strip and then sweep away from the sea to the mountain ridge behind. And, within minutes the crassness of English tourism (of which I am one) and genetically modified tomato fields are left behind, replaced with arid hillsides, vine grown toms, rustic restaurants, limestone reveals on high arêtes, small villages where Hola replaced Hello, and tapas replaced chips and gravy.

Tomorrow I'll buy a ticket to cross to France, will drive to somewhere near Bourg d'Oisan and set up camp, ride whichever direction takes my fancy for a few days. Then hop over a couple of valleys, take a few uplifts, and explore some more. Just need to do a quick service on the Road bike and VTT, bung stuff in a bag. Actually, I guess that is a plan, albeit sparse...

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Rooster123 [17 posts] 4 years ago
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Going to Brittany this summer as a family, I want to take the bike.

We have a roof carrier, but the ferry was booked without this provision. We have a rear bike carrier, but it will obscure the brake lights and I have no lighting board as yet.

So, will the road bike make it into the boot ??

I would happily sacrifice taking ANY clothes (except cycling clothes).

It's an MPV style car, a Mazda 5 in fact.

I reckon it might go in.

It better.