Cycling River Cruise
2016 Cycling River Cruise with Phil Anderson
There are some things about a cycling trip that are standard. There are of course the rides, the planning, the bike, the kit and the like-minded friends who share the passion.
The Cycling River cruise is 2 proven products meshed into one. I loved the idea of a tour where you didn’t have to unpack, haul luggage, bikes but I hadn’t cruised and I wondered if I was ready for it all. Bringing together all the elements of a cycling trip onto a river cruise boat and itinerary took some planning and as we near the end of the trip all I can say is it is fantastic.
Having raced mostly in Europe our start in Bupapest took me to destinations unknown from the outset. The rerouting started from the get go, a fantastic town but not for our first ride.
Our rides were mapped a long time ago, some reconnaissance after the Spring classics allowed for fine tuning and once we left Buda and started cruising the real riding began to unfold. Port to port then into the villages and small country roads that are quintessentially Europe.
Break the group down to suit the riders and off we go.
There are many things about the Cycling River Cruise that are not standard in terms of a cycling trip. The comfort and mood after each ride is just brilliant. Our team is being assisted and ushered around by the Cruise staff as guests. We are welcomed on board with juice, towels. The crew on board are fascinated, part of the team and helping with all the loading of bikes on and off.
Our Good Ship, the Avalon Panorama, Avalon our sailing partners for this cycling river cruise experience.
Then there is the space: up on deck we have 70 bikes and 10 of the ship’s cruiser bikes. Our team have set the bikes up so that they are not impacted by the low bridges, 4cm is pretty close and a couple of seat posts had to be adjusted. We have a work station set up with room to service – wash the bikes with hot running water on the top deck. There is the occasional welcomed interruption but with so much space only the occasional cyclist’s heads up to talk bikes. Let’s face it, you get back from the ride, the bikes are whisked away, loaded, serviced, stacked; the bike talk is in the bar.
There is an atmosphere on board that is relaxed and exuberant. I expect the good crew have never quite experienced cruisers quite like us. There so many things to do, the standard tourism options that go hand in hand with a cruise. Adding a ride to the mix we head out in the morning and with the tours/walks options ‘or not’ in the afternoon. The ‘or not’ choice is baffling the Avalon crew as the chill factor sets in and guests choose no options at all. They have never quite experienced the relaxed attitude of the cyclists after the energy is expended.
Avalon has responded to every request, the early breakfasts for the light eaters have been superseded by the cyclists feast and the crew are now ready for the lunch frenzy. I suspect the buffet has never before been cleaned out so quickly and as we have ridden further the crew have responded accordingly.
Riding through historic towns and villages our rides are taking us over the ridges and beyond the horizons that we see from our staterooms. Our cruise takes in over 2000km of waterways including the Danube and Reine rivers which are connected by the Main canal and river system which provide sensational platforms to start each planned ride.
When we started this project the goal was not only to cater for the cyclists, classic weekend warriors of every level but the providers of the leave pass. Recreation ride options were created for partners. The response has been amazing an on the non-ride days we created some Rec Riders challenges. On the last ride the partners joined us and I suspect there will be a few converts to the road along with some happy bike shops as the partners upgrade to better bikes. The bulk of these riders were the ladies and to be honest they were great. A clean slate they soaked up the information and improved in one ride, smart formations on cruiser bikes and hooking along the paths at a fair pace. Awesome.
As our tour nears its end I am now sure. I will do this again. There is so much time for great riding, the occasional run, whip through the villages, shopping.
The general style and care factor, brilliant. The demographic – high energy.
Written by Phil Anderson