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Adventure Travel | Austin-Lehman Adventures | Backroads | BAC | Bike & The Like | Bike Switzerland | Bike Tours Direct | Blue Coast Bikes | Blue Marble | Breaking Away | Butterfield & Robinson | Ciclismo Classico | Classic Adventures | CycleItalia | Cyclomundo | Digngo | Discover France | DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. |Easy Rider Tours | Experience Plus | Far and Away | FreeWheeling Adventures | Great Explorations | I Bike Tuscany | Marty Jemison Tours | Pack & Pedal | Randonee Tours | Siciclando | Summerfeet | Trek Travel | Van Gogh Tours | VBT | ...... RIDER REVIEWS

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The Bike Tour Reviews
Fully Supported (guides, bikes, luggage transfer, route maps, et al)

Adventure Travel Group.  This company, started by a couple of seasoned tour guides, provides a more intimate travel experience and their tours are a very good value. Groups are limited to 14 people max,  they stay in smaller, more classic inns (2-4 stars) and the owners are the main guides. An added (and unusual!) perk: They will cater to couples where one is cycling and the other is just "coming along for the ride".   Companions – Many of their trips are setup for people that are serious about cycling (Giro d'Italia, Mt. Ventoux), so you are getting a somewhat more fit crowd. A  selection of "hot new" tour destinations (Croatia, Argentina) adds to a hipper vibe, too. Rider Reviews

Austin Lehman Adventures. These folks have been providing bike tours in Europe for over 30 years (under both this name and Euro Bike and Walking Tours) and have a wide variety of tour choices in over 15 countries. Each trip offers a mix of 3, 4 and 5 star accommodations (we are all in favor of this ... there is something to be said about going from authentic inn one day to 5-star luxury villa the next). Family Vacations and Private Tours are also available. The rides aren't super-strenuous. On most days they ride less than 35 miles a day. Austin Lehman, which provides adventure travel tours throughout thw world, was voted "Best Tour Operator in the World" by Travel+Leisure magazine. Rider Reviews

Butterfield & Robinson.  If you want to stay at the most luxurious accommodations, eat the best food, and be catered-to every step of the way, this is the company for you. Oh yeah, we forgot to mention: money is no object, right? Yes, you’re paying at least 20% more, but with B & R you are getting “The Ritz” in level of quality of service and accommodations. However, they balance every trip with home-hosted meals ... in places like Tuscany and Vietnam this kind of experience will be more memorable than any top-tier restaurant.   Companions – Get ready to meet 45-year-old heart surgeons and their wives (or husbands!). The typical client is a doctor, lawyer or business owner. No problem going single, but you do have to pay for a single supplement if going it alone. The group won’t be partying it up each night, but you’ll have your fill of foie gras, truffles and fine wine. Rider Reviews 

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Backroads. This company is arguably the largest with over 300 biking, hiking, multisport and cultural immersion trips available in 44 countries. But that doesn't mean that service is compromised. In fact, Backroads guides are trained to be extremely accommodating. And Backroads can be a good value: the trips are about 25% less than B & R, and if you choose the Premiere Inns option, you will often stay in the same accommodations.  A nice feature is that because you choose from multiple levels of accommodation options, you get a selection of prices to choose from. The "Casual Inns" tours stay at 3-4 star inns, with "Premiere Inns" jumping to 4-5 stars. There are also a wide variety of family-oriented and singles trips. Backroads clients are slightly younger, and more likely to have some experience with adventure travel. The typical client is a 45-year-old executive at a Fortune 500. There are always some strong riders on a Backroads trip, so you'll have company if you are planning on doing the supplemental longer routes. Going single is encouraged, and you don’t have to pay extra if you are willing to share a room. Backroads attracts guests who enjoy camaraderie so night time socializing is pretty good with this group
. Rider Reviews 

Bike and the Like - This company provides guided tours in both the U.S., Holland and Germany. You will get hands-on service, as the trips are personally hosted by an American couple that has led over 130 tours in the past 20 years. Their keep their prices down (way down!) in Europe by providing barge trips so your accomodations don't change every night. You will still ride a hearty 40 miles a day, unlike many barge trips that provide only minimal riding. Touring in the U.S. is also a great way to save money, especially with current exchange rates, and these guys are experts in California (Pacific Coast/Napa), and the Northeastern Seaboard. Awards include "Voted Best by Bicycling Magazine" (Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket) and "Bicycling Magazine 15 Bike Trips We Love" (C & O Canal: Along the Potomac River). Rider Reviews

Bike Switzerland is Switzerland's premier bicycle tour company. Based in Geneva, and with a staff made up of educators living in Switzerland, this operator is devoted to intercultural exchange and cycling. If you are interested in biking this region, Bike Switzerland has an option for you, whether luxury or budget, beginner or hard-core. Accomodations are 3- and 4- star hotels (in our experience, equivelent to 4- and 5- star in other countries). Guided tours include a variety of cultural experiences: wine-tasting, cheese making, breakfast on a farm, mountain hikes and village festivals. The value-oriented self-guided option includes hands on service with cell phones and GPS guidance. On the heartier rides, there are options of 100 kilometer days and 1000 meter climbs with additional bonus miles (!). Non-riding spouses and partners, and those looking for easier mileage are welcome and are provided with train transportation options allowing them to explore the region. This company is willing to be very flexible and ensures that you will have a comprehensive experience of biking in Switzerland.

BikeToursDirect is a clearing-house for nearly 75 bicycle tour operators in Europe and around the world. They offer nearly 300 routes in 60 countries. We are big fans of this type of travel, especially since tours with regional companies are often 50-70 percent less than those offered by larger U.S. operators, and many offer the opportunity to ride with multi-national groups. Clients can contact BikeToursDirect for tour advice and planning or use the web site’s various search tools to find tours that match their interests, budgets and abilities. BikeToursDirect takes care of the complete booking and payment process. Founder Jim Johnson created this company based on his passion for bike touring in Europe while not wanting to pay the high prices charged by many American tour operators. He found he could enjoy the same experience at a fraction of the cost. Rider Reviews

Blue Coast Bikes Tours exclusive focus on Portugal make them the foremost choice if you're looking for an insiders passport to this bike-perfect country. They provide a wide array of both guided and supported self-guided options ... to name a few: Portugal's Atlantic coast, Vineyards of folkloric Alentejo, and the enchanting Douro River Valley. We like that you can choose between 3-, 6- and 8- day options. The rides average 35km in length, with a median age group of 55, and plenty of time off the bike to explore each area. In terms of value, you'll stay in many of the same lodgings as the higher priced tours, yet you'll have the added benefit of local area knowledge. This company has been “Highly Recommended” by Lonely Planet since 2009 and was selected as an A*List Top Vacation by National Geographic Traveler.

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Blue Marble.  Willing to take on a little more responsibility to save a couple of sheckles? If so, this is the group for you. There is no van support, but they get your luggage transported for you almost every day. However, there will be several days in the week where you must use panniers (saddle bags) to transport one day’s worth of clothing and toiletries. While most companies provide two group leaders (one to drive the support van, and one to bike with the group), this company just provides one. In many ways, this type of independence can provide a more rewarding trip and build camaraderie among the group. The 3-star accommodations are still quite nice (although you may find yourself at a one or two star through part of the trip), and food and wine are given high priority. Companions – This is where you will find the youngest clientele of any of the groups. The typical rider is a 32-year-old executive at Google. Blue Marble does a lot of advertising at universities, so many clients have just graduated from law school or an MBA program. Going single is encouraged, and you don’t have to pay a supplement if willing to share a room. Fun in the evening is a high priority with Blue Marble. Rider Reviews 

Breaking Away Bicycle Tours - This operator, specilizing in trips for the intermediate - advanced rider, is incredibly flexible. They offer RacePak trips where you will ride the great routes of the Tour
de France & the Giro D’Italia the same day as the racers and then you will view the competition later in the day. But they also provide “Best of Itineraries” for the cyclist who wants to ride many of these same historic routes but doesn't care as much about viewing the racing action, experiencing a more relaxed daily schedule. Each day you can choose from a variety of routes and difficulties, and they
encourage non-riding spouses and partners to join the trip. Self guided and customized trips are also available. Lodging is 3-4 star and although the provide the same services and are US-based (making pre-trip planning easier), the price is much more reasonable than the big international operators.
Rider Reviews

Ciclismo Classico.  No doubt about it, if you want to go to Italy, you’ve got to look into Ciclismo Classico. Their level of expertise in all-things-Italian is unsurpassed, reflected in the more than 30 trips that they offer. Each trip includes lots of activities, and they even offer specialty trips that focus on things such as yoga and photography. In the past couple of years they have added additional countries, including a Tour de France trip. Companions – The main thing that Ciclismo Classico clients have in common is an interest in experiencing Italy to the fullest. That's a passion that crosses age, income and riding ability lines. Many of their routes are surprisingly long, so some of your companions are strong bicyclists, but there is no shame in using the SAG van, either. Night time socializing holds a high priority in Italy (food, wine and conversation are the national pastimes), so even though your companions may not have planned to, there will be plenty of fun nighttime activities. Going single is encouraged, and you don’t have to pay a supplement if willing to share a room. Rider Reviews 

Classic Adventures. This company began as in 1979 as "Bicycle Greece!" but since then has branched out to France, Austria, Germany, Canada, and some very interesting parts of the United States (the "hill country of Texas"?!!). Culture and history are really a focus with this group, and many of the guides are academics or have an extensive background in art. Companions: With reasonably short routes (although, like most other companies, they offer optional "longer extensions") and many cultural activities, your fellow riders will have plenty of priorities other than cycling. If you are interested in a different type of tour company where culture is a focus, take a look at this well-priced option. Rider Reviews

CycleItalia. Their motto is "Pedala Forte, Mangia Bene" which translates to "pedal hard, eat well". And that basically sums it up. The company is owned and run (VERY hands-on) by two ex-racers, and their trips are anything but wimpy. The shorter Tasting Serives trips (7 days) are an average of 70km, and the longer Classic Road and Legendary Climb trips average 100km as well as climbs, plenty of climbs. However, CycleItalia take s food and wine just as seriously. The owner-guides are experts in all-things-Italian and as the name suggests, this it the only country they tour in. However, they have many options. Companions - It is interesting that a company that advertises some of their rides as having daily climbs of 5-9,000 feet, also advertises the fact that they encourage couples that may have different riding abilities. In other words, they won't make you feel bad if you are in the SAG van for part of the ride, in fact, they providing some tours that cater to non-riding spouses. However, with the Classic Road and Legendery Climb series, you can be sure that the majority of your traveling companions will be very very strong riders. The emphasis on food and wine ensures that there will be plenty of fun in the evenings. According to our sources ... sometimes at lunch, too! . Rider Reviews 

Cyclomundo - France-based Cyclomundo offers a wide array of self-guided, guided, and customized cycling vacations in virtually all regions of France, as well as Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Utilizing local experts who have a love and passion for sharing their cultural, regional, historical, and gastronomical heritage, Cyclomundo's philosophy firmly supports sustainable development. A nice feature is that Cyclomundo specializes in creating “a la carte” customized vacations tailor-made to fulfill your special interests. Their website has a feauture called "Build your own trip" where you tell them the region, desired daily mileage, and accomodation type, and they will put a trip together for you. Good luck getting that sort of value-priced flexibility from the big dogs! Rider Reviews

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Digngo This company provides high-end luxury tours throughout France. They are experts in each area that they tour, and there are specialized excursions on each trip (balloon rides, winery visits, etc). There is a lot of personalized attention from the owner-operators, and the cuisine is very important, as they say on their site: whether you’re dining in a Michelin starred restaurant or eat at a local restaurant which turns out to be your most unforgettable meal, you will get to sample the region's most refined cuisine and its most rustic tradition. The tours are small by design (with a maximum of 14 guests) and they will also create specialized custom tours for families and other groups. Many of the reviews we have received are from guests that have travelled with them self-guided, but the hands-on attention is equivelent of the highest end travel companies (read: Butterfied or Abercrombie). Rider Reviews

Discover France. A proven (15 years) operator, and definitely the leader in providing tours in France. They go to 11 different regions, more than anyone else. All listed rides are self guided, which we recomended highly to any seasoned traveler and rider. There are many reasons to consider self-guided travel, including: 1. Much less expensive (usually 35-50% less than guided!) 2. Flexible dates ... you can start on any date you like 3. More customization. You still get emergency assistance and transfer of bags, so it's not like you are riding with 30 pounds of gear and sleeping in tents. Personally, we do at least half of our bike tours self-guided because we like the flexibility. Also, if you want a guided tour, Discover France will create a custom guided trip for you if you put your own group together.Rider Reviews

DuVine Cycling and Adventure Co. (formerly DuVine Adventures).  Want to stay in luxury accommodations and travel with a group that is slightly younger than the norm, but don't want to ride with gnarly club-rider types?If so, you should take a look at DuVine. They stay at many of the same places as Butterfield and Backroads, but this is an  owner-run company that emphasizes personal service and keeps the group to a smaller, more intimate size. Companions – The owner is a young, fun-loving guy and that is reflected in the clientele which includes many 30- and 40-somethings (versus the average bike tour rider who is in their 50's). The emphasis is on having FUN. The miles average to a non-grueling 35, but like most other tour operators, DuVine offers extensions for riders that want additional mileage. Going single is encouraged, but you do have to pay for a single supplement if you want your own room. Rider Reviews

Easy Rider Tours . This company has been providing tours "off the beaten path" for many years. They specialize in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, as well as New England and Canada. By offering tours in unusual regions such as the Azores, and Portugal's Costa Azul, they are able to keep their costs down. In addition, they do provide certain amenities which other companies don't, including wine at dinner and transportation to/from the airport at selected times. (We sure wish more companies would provide that!). The rides are somewhat longer than with most companies (although there are shorter options) and they provide a "Club Series" with daily rides of 50-70+ miles.   Rider Reviews  .   easyridertours.com

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Experience Plus! This is the family-owned “Bed and Breakfast” of the tour group companies, in operation since 1972. The founders each have PhD's, one in Geography and the other in Cultural History. While family-run, this operation provides a wide assortment of tour choices, and they focus on personalized service and a cultural experience. The food and accommodations are quite good, and the money they save from not having huge slick brochures gets passed on to you. An interesting and unique feature is that they use chalk arrows to mark the route, which allows riders to focus on the scenery, not the route sheets.Companions – Expect good conversation at dinner with an interesting, unpretentious group, but they won't be partying their brains out. Rider Reviews

Far and Away. Fascinating places (Vietnam, Corsica, Slovenia), great prices, and a very hands-on owner make this another stand-out company. Remember, you save a lot of money when you go with a company that doesn't send out full-color catalogs. We first learned about them through our "rider reviews" section. They have lots of repeat customers, which is a good sign, and makes sense since this is a company that caters to a special type of traveler. Most of their trips consist of longish (80-100km) days, and some have a lot of climbs. Companions - Far and Away customers are more adventurous travelers than the typical rider that chooses B & R or the other luxury companies. Most of the lodging is 2 and 3 star, which makes sense in the countries that they go to. It's not like you really want to ride from Aman resort to Aman resort if you want to immerse yourself in the culture, right? Rider Reviews

Freewheeling Adventures. Lots of interesting adventures are available, including Iceland, Israel, Czech Republic, Croatia, Japan, Canada and Mexico. Freewheeling goes to all the other, more common regions (Italy, France, Spain), but we counted at least 12 destinations that NONE of the major tour companies cover. They keep the group sizes small - usually less than 12. This is refreshing, as many other companies are letting group sizes creep up to 20. Also, they provide self-guided tours with a nice twist. They call them privately-semi guided trips. There is still a guide with extensive local knowledge that looks over the riders. We find this refreshing, as we have had problems with other self-guided companies not being there for us when we needed help. Freewheeling wins the contest for "most website pictures of people having loads of fun". With Freewheeling Adventures, the name pretty much sums it up. Rider Reviews

Great Explorations. The owner of this boutique operation has been leading trips for over 25 years, so you are getting the best of both worlds: flexible high-end service combined with the knowledge accumulated from years of experience. They go to some unusual destinations such as Turkey, Morocco and Asia, but they provide tours in Italy and France, too. The rides (without optional extensions) are reasonably easy (25 - 40 miles). They stay in mostly 3-star hotels , which allows this company to provide good value. Meals are considered important ... you will likely eat at a Michelen-starred restauarant if there is one in the region. Rider Reviews

I Bike Tuscany. Tuscany is arguably the most popular bike touring region in Europe, and this company, founded by a Florentine ex-bike-racer, is expert in all things Tuscan. This company is something of a hybrid so you get the best of both worlds: the personalized service of a locally based company (small groups and the founder rides on many of the tours) but with an office in Los Angeles and 800 phone number where you can receive US-based assistance before your trip. The personalized service from I Bike Tuscany is a great example of the why we love to travel using locally-owned companies. They are very flexible, and willing to customize a trip for your special needs. Providing self-guided and fully supported trips, and rides from one day to one week. Each year they add to their list of regions that they tour, now including Cinque Terre, Lake Maggiore, Sicily and the Dolomites. Rider Reviews

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Marty Jemison Cycling Tours. Founded by Marty Jemison, who rode 8 years professionally in Europe (seven with the US Postal team). They provide an array of European and U.S. tours, including the typical Tuscany and Burgundy trips, but also tougher rides such as French Alps, Giro d' Italia and Moab. Most of their rides are longer than the average tour (40-60 miles a day, with plenty of climbs) but they are also very accomodating for riders who would like to take shorter options (read: partners of gnarly riders). This small grass-roots operator is run by a very fun group of young, experienced riders who provide hands-on service. Marty rides on many of the trips. The logo says it all ... a rider on a racing bike that morphs into a fork (I guess if you're going to ride that hard, you should be able to eat that hard too!

Pack & Pedal Europe has specialized in Bike & Boat tours as well as road bike tours for over 10 years. By going through a European-based operator, you can take advantage of huge savings and With over 100 tours in 20+ countries (France, Germany, Italy, Holland, et al), there are many many options including
new trips in the United States and Canada. If you want to find out the hot new biking destinations, check out Pack & Pedal's website. In recent years they've added Croatia, which seems to be the new #1 new biking region, as well as Montenegro, Slovenia, Greece and Turkey. You can choose from luxury ships rand barges to budget trips. Their website has detailed about each boat, so you will know what to expect. Rider Reviews

SICICLANDO Active Holidays This tour company was created in 2000 by two friends passionate about biking and passionate about their homeland of Sicily. They provide custom tours with options for hiking, cooking, and yoga.  Guests can choose from self-guided routes or small group tours with van support.Tours are surprisingly affordable. Choose from Sicily, Sardenia, Tuscany, Umbria, Puglia, the Amalfi coast and Matera/Basilicata. From their site: “To run one of our tours is something profound, it is made of colours, tastes, smells, emotions both simple and intense. To discover the world through our eyes means to love it as we do.” As I say, Sicilians are just like everyone else … only more so! Rider Reviews

Summerfeet operates in three of our favorite bike touring regions:: New England, Nova Scotia and New Zealand. They focus on giving you rare "behind the scenes" glimpses into these areas, with their expert guides providing activities and trips to out-of-the-way spots which are usually privy only to locals. There are a wide array of options, such as a a 3-day or 6-day Maine bicycling adventure, a 7-day Nova Scotia cycling trip or an extended 13-day New Zealand bike tour. As with many of the boutique operators, Summerfeet is willing to work with you on customizing the trip to fit your desires.Rider Reviews

Trek Travel Bike Tours.  A relative newcomer to the industry (they started business in 2001), Trek Travel does everything with an utmost level of expertise. In many ways it is as if they have analyzed the best aspects of the top companies, and incorporated these into their tours. The guides are top notch, the two levels of pricing accommodate a variety of budgets, and the large selection of  tours cover a wide range of  rider levels. As they are the only operator owned by a bike company, you can always be assured that the bikes are top notch and in perfect condition. Companions –  Hey, even if he says "It's Not About the Bike", this is the company that makes Lance's ride, so bikes and gear are front and center here. In other word, don't expect to see lots of folks in the SAG van. This is a pretty fit crowd. However, they do provide a large range of ride types, some as short as 30 miles a day (and some that include such challenges as Mt. Ventoux), so the large variety of rides, as well as price levels, lead to a wide variety of clients.  Rider Reviews

 

Van Gogh Tours. Another family-owned “Bread and Breakfast”, like Experience Plus, but an even better deal price-wise. How these guys can provide great support and 3-4 star accommodations at such cheap prices eludes us (although simpler brochures and the fact that the owners lead the vast majority of the tours has a lot to do with it). The self-guided tours where they provide baggage transfer and lodging are even better deals. The only drawback is they don’t have a huge variety of tour choices (about 10 spread through Italy, France, Holland, the U.S. and Austria). Companions – Van Gogh also offers lots of walking tours, and they don’t pile on the mileage, so the clientele is a little older than with other groups. And you’ve got to pay a supplement if you want to go single. Rider Reviews 

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VBT Tours. You'll get a lot of bang-for-your-buck with this tour group. The accommodations (3-4 star) are very good, and the support (guides and extra activities) is great. In addition, they have a wide variety of trips to choose from. Their special airfare deals and add-ons for pre- and post-trip accommodations are good values, and a way to save money on your entire trip.  Companions – Here is where you’ll find the high-end bargain shoppers. Lots of folks in education (school teachers and professors), as well as your typical mix of lawyers and business types. Clients come from all age groups. A VBT tour may include both 20-something college students as well as some 70-something retirees. Going single is encouraged, and you don’t have to pay a supplement if willing to share a room. Evening socializing can be pretty good, as you’ll have such an eclectic group of folks. Rider Reviews 

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Self-Guided (No SAG van or guide, but everything else is supplied)

Like the tours listed above, self-guided tours provide the bikes, route sheets, baggage transfer, accommodations and most dinners and breakfasts. The main difference is that they don't have a trip leader or SAG van. This means that should you choose a self-guided tour, you must be at least somewhat familiar with basic bike repair, such as changing a flat tire or adjusting the seat. Self-guided tours are ideal for the rider who has already taken a group tour, and doesn't mind the idea that there won't be a "bail-out" van or a leader to help with repairs. An additional perk, is that you can schedule the trip to begin on any date that you want. 

Randonnee Tours.   This group also has good prices, and the extra perk of letting you choose between "classic" accommodations (3 and 4 star hotels and  inns) or B&B (bed and breakfasts). The B &B option is about 20% less expensive. A third "Luxe" option has been added, which allows riders who are looking for the freedom of independent riding combined with the luxury of 4 and 5 star hotels. A big plus is that Randonnee is willing to work with you on customizing your tour to fit your needs, whether that means tacking on (or taking off) days from the trip, mileage, or additional areas to visit in the region.  Rider Reviews 

And One That Can't be Categorized (SAG van and guide, but it's a group effort)

Bicycle Adventure Club. If you’re experiencing a little “sticker shock” at the prices of a supported bike tour in Europe, this might be a good alternative. Riding with these folks will cost less than half the daily price of the average tour group (about $100 a day for most of their tours). So what’s the catch? First of all, this is a non-profit group, and volunteers put together the tours. Second, you’ve got to bring your own bike. Third, most trips are two weeks, versus the typical one week that the other groups offer. BAC tours have van support, although on some of them the participants have to share van-driving duties. The biggest catch is that they don’t offer a huge choice of trips, and you have to plan WAY in advance, because many of the trips fill up quickly.   Companions - With this group you’ll be riding with much more independent, experienced cyclists. Expect to meet lots of teachers, small-business owners and other self-sufficient types. Each tour varies so much in quality level (some are 2-star, some 4-star), that the same is true of the average participant.

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