Fancy a few sunny miles during winter? Here’s what to look for when choosing a training camp.
January in the UK is hardly the most conducive of places to get the miles in for the upcoming season.
Cold crisp clear days may be beautiful for photographers but unfortunately for us cyclists it usually means frost and ice. On rainy and cold days it takes some major willpower to get kitted up and get out (although saying that when out it’s usually not as bad as it may appear).
When it snows the best thing to do is get the mountain bike or cyclocross bike out and have a bit of fun and concentrate on handling skills rather than miles.
A very good way to get some quality early season training miles in without worrying about the weather is to pack the bike and head off to warmer climes.
A few hours flight will get you far enough south to at least only have to wear arm warmers rather than full thermal kit in the early months.
Choosing your camp
Some prefer the DIY approach by booking a flight and hotel then fending for themselves but many opt for a company to take care of everything for them so all they have to do is ride their bikes and not worry about planning or logistics.
There are many cycling training camp companies in various locations – mainly in Spain to be fair, as the weather is kinder early season – who organise everything from the minute you land until the minute you leave the airport at your destination.
Most things are taken care of for you when booking through a recognised training camp provider but to help you chose here are a few things you should take into consideration.
The most obvious question is whether flights are included in the price. Very, very few will be so for the purposes of this blog we have concentrated on the other questions that arise when you land.
Is your camp self catered, half or full board? Most organised camps are at least half board (breakfast and dinner) as you’re going to be out on the bike most of the day and will have lunch during the ride.
It’s good to be able to have a snack when you return from a ride (either supplied, bought or prepared by yourself) as dinner may be a few hours off so bear this cost in mind when choosing packages or locations.
Some camps include lunch at a cafe in the price so check to see what’s in yours.
Transfers to accommodation
Make sure the vehicles can take bikes, preferably still-boxed bikes.
Are transfers from airport to accommodation at destination included in the price? Most companies include the cost of transfers in their prices but make sure you check beforehand regardless.
Transfers can be very expensive by taxi or if you are taking public or shared coach transport make sure they take bike bags as some aren’t able to.
Secure bike storage and bike bag storage
You’d be surprised how many hotels don’t offer somewhere secure to store your bike. Taking them to your room is an option but sometimes frowned upon even if you leave it on the balcony.
A secure garage is best to keep prying eyes away even if it is a pain to keep asking for a key at reception. It’s also good if they can store your bike transportation bag out of the way securely as well without having to move it each time you want to get your bike out.
You should take at the very least the bare minimum of tools to rebuild your bike when at your accommodation like a multi tool and a mini pump.
Make sure your accommodation has at least a basic tool kit, a workstand and a track pump; you’ll never appreciate a track pump until you haven’t got one on a training week away.
Having more tools than this is a bonus and very useful if something more substantial like a BB works its way loose and some mechanically knowledgeable staff is a great asset.
Having bike washing facilities is also handy as you need to keep an eye on your bike as it’s going to get more use in a week than normal.
You’ll also happily clean dust and dirt of your machine after long hot sunny rides while those at home are cleaning grime from dirty wet roads.
It’s also nice to know if there’s a bike shop close by. Some tricky faults mean you could spend more time off the bike than you would like. A bike mechanic would be able to help you out for a small cost.
You’ll appreciate one of these!
No matter how much cycling kit you take with you there’s always a favourite pair of shorts or jersey that you’d like to wear more than once or to simply cut down on the amount of kit you bring you always seem to end up hand washing something.
Having a washing machine to use on site is a massive benefit as you can pile everything up and wash mid way through without the daily grind after rides of trying to wash and dry when you’re knackered and just want to lie down.
Are there guides who know the area well? This can make such a huge difference it mustn’t be underestimated. Local knowledge takes you on the best roads and often gets you out of trouble if you ‘bonk’ and need a shorter or less strenuous ride back.
They also know which cafes are best to stop at but the downside is they also know when to sprint for town signs. Make sure you know whether the cost of the guide is included in the price as it’s an option on some camps which must be paid for on arrival or each day.
Back up on rides
Some people think it’s unnecessary to have a vehicle following behind a group on a camp but it’s very reassuring and makes you feel like a pro.
Dropping back and getting bottles or passing a gilet back feels good and before long you’ll want one behind on every ride.
Even if there’s no vehicle following, there should at least be a point on the ride where the car will meet your group so you can refill or leave or collect clothing.
Some camps also offer free ride nutrition as part of the package. The cost of gels, bars, powders and recovery drinks for a week away soon adds up and you’ll be munching through them all way more than you’re used to as the week progresses.
They also add to a surprising amount of extra weight in your luggage. Check to see if it is included to save money and extra weight.
Bike shop nearby
A good workshop at your accommodation will sort all your minor niggles but for any major repairs or new kit needed you’re going to need a bike shop.
Having one nearby is very reassuring as no doubt someone in your group will have issues during the week that need sorting out there.
They’ll also know the best roads in the area and any decent cafes. Only downside is that you may well get caught up in the holiday mode and find yourself buying new clothing you don’t need but since you’re on holiday it’s ok.
Just remember when you get home it’s probably not shorts and short sleeves weather yet!
A good map of the area
You’ll be surprised how much time you spend looking at maps on a training camp. Even if you’ve been to a destination many times before there will nearly always be someone who hasn’t and will want to know where they are going.
It’s also handy for planning the night before just so you have it in your mind where you are going even if you know the place well. If you don’t know place then you’re really going to appreciate a good map of the area.
You’ll also be surprised at the lack of information on some maps even in popular cycling areas so be prepared to hunt around for a decent one with a good scale.
Holiday packing check list
Besides a load of cycling clothing…