Local Experiences

Fat Tire Tours’ Guide to Cycling in Europe

women smiling and riding around the Grand Canal in Versailles, France

By Anne McCarthy

Ah, nothing quite like the open cycling road, especially in the lovely spring and summertime weather! Biking in Europe is a special experience. Professional road racing cyclist Mark Cavendish perhaps said it best: “To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

If you’re a keen cyclist, be sure to visit us at Fat Tire Tours to get your cycling fix! We have incredible bike tours throughout Europe, including Paris, London, Barcelona, Munich, Berlin, Rome, Florence, and Milan.

Here are some of our top tips for mastering the art of cycling – especially in Europe.

What You Should Pack

If you’re hitting the open road, take a camera or a phone (with a camera) along with you to capture your travel moments. These items can fit in a small pocket or saddle bag.

A jacket or sweatshirt is a good idea, too. Even though the temperatures are warmer lately, evening hours can become cooler. If you get cold easily, pack a warm hat, too. Pack a baseball cap to keep the sun out of your eyes – just make sure it’s tight and secure so the hat doesn’t fly away and into the road when you’re breezing down a hill, the wind whipping through your hair!

In a small bag, carry the essentials: your mobile phone, a map, identification (like your driver’s license), cash and a credit card, and a water bottle. You may also want to put in items that make the journey more comfortable: ChapStick, sunscreen, sunglasses, extra socks, and high-protein snacks, like nuts and protein bars.

Presuming you’re not from a European country and yet you’ll be cycling in Europe, carry a copy of your passport on you, or keep a picture of your passport in your phone. Don’t forget your phone charger and an adapter.

Health & Safety Tips

Be sure your bike light is in good working order. Also, pack an extra set of batteries for your light! Don’t forget a puncture repair kit and spare inner tubes.

You’ll hopefully have packed your sunscreen in your bag. Slather on the sunscreen while you’re cycling outside, even on a cloudy day. Sun damage and sunburns can occur even through clouds. Skin cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in the U.S. Protect yourself by protecting your skin. Pack a small first aid kit for your cycling trip, too, with Band-Aids, Tylenol, gauze, Neosporin, and other typical first aid kit fixings.

You might consider getting comprehensive travel insurance for your journey. Comprehensive travel insurance will cover you in the event something goes wrong on your trip.

Enable “share my location” on your iPhone if you use an iPhone. Send your location to loved ones so someone always knows where you are. If you’re a woman cycling solo, consider extra safety precautions to protect yourself, such as carrying pepper spray and other self-defense-related tools. Regardless of your gender, stay alert while traveling on your own. 

Speaking of phones, avoid using your phone while cycling unless you must. It can be a safety hazard, just like texting while driving.

Before embarking on your journey, check to be sure that your bike is the appropriate size for your height and weight. Not having a bike suit you physically is like asking for an unnecessarily less pleasant ride.

Always review the “rules of the road” for the country you’ll be cycling in. Be aware of which side of the road motorists will be driving on (for instance, in England and throughout other parts of the UK, motorists drive on the other side of the road than in the U.S. If you’re with other cyclists, when possible, cycle single file, especially if there are cars nearby. This will help to keep you safe.

If you still have lots of miles ahead of you, avoid alcohol. But if you enjoy a tipple, treat yourself to a hearty beer or smooth glass of wine after the journey! (If you’re a beer lover, check out our Oktoberfest Festival Tour and London beer tours!)

Water & Wild Dogs

If you’re going to be cycling through the countryside (versus in more metropolitan areas), you’ll likely encounter some stunningly beautiful scenery that can include lakes, rivers, and natural springs. Avoid drinking water you come across in lakes, rivers, and springs unless you have boiled the water or used purification tablets.

Yellow and orange houses along the edge of Lake Como with hills in the background

This said, do be sure to stay hydrated with water from water bottles you’ve packed. This is especially critical during hot days and warmer summer months, like August.

In many parts of Europe, there are stray dogs and wild dogs. You might consider getting a rabies show prior to your cycling journey, just to be extra safe. Speaking of animals, you might want to pack insect repellant, too.

Helmets, Clothes & Chafing

Frequent cycling can cause chaffing, particularly if you’re wearing shorts. Avoid this by using Vaseline or cream to problem areas. Chaffed skin is no fun, especially on a long trip!

Pack your helmet. Your head is a precious part of your body – don’t take any chances with your beautiful brain!

Woman wearing silver cycling helmet

Your cycling attire with likely include cycling-specific gear, like cycling shorts, shirts, or maybe a tee shirt. If it’s cool out, pack gloves, too, to protect your hands. Bring a lightweight jacket with a hood for windy days. (Don’t forget to check the weather forecast for the areas you’ll be cycling before you go! If you experience a thunderstorm with lightning, get off your bike and seek shelter.)

European Cycling Trips Inspiration

Some highly recommended river-side riding includes Austria’s stunning Blue Danube, which is filled with cyclists, and thus, has tons of amenities specifically for bike riders. To enjoy the most ideal routes, begin west of Vienna in the town called Melk, then onward to the village called Krems. If you’re cycling in Austria, pop over to Germany to visit us in Munich and Berlin.

French people are enthusiastic cyclists (perhaps you’ve heard of the Tour de France?). In the Loire River Valley in France, there are many cycling routes to choose from. It’s recommended that Blois is centrally located and thus a good starting point for cycling trips into the countryside.

A lake in Rixdorf, Berlin

If you’ll be in France, don’t miss out on our ever-popular, bestselling Paris bike tours, like the enchanting Paris Night Bike Tour (a personal favorite), and the Versailles Bike Tour.

Note that in many European countries, you can find bike rental facilities near train stations. Countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France, make this especially easy.

Unplug & Enjoy the Journey

Sure, in this interconnected day in age, most people can’t unplug completely, due to the demands of family and work, and the expectation to be accessible. However, to the degree you can, consider using your cycling time as meditative “me time.” Silence your notifications and texts on your phone and soak up the beautiful journey.

Enjoy the gorgeous sense of pride that comes from doing something bold and daring.

Anne McCarthy
 is the Editor in Chief of the Fat Tire Tours Blog. She is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Variety, Wired, and many more. She splits her time between the U.S. and Europe.

Explore our preferred partners around the world.

See More Destinations
A family by the eiffel tower.