Will I need a passport?
You will need a passport for all tours outside the country you reside in.
What should I bring?
Once you sign up for a tour, we will send newsletters that give details about your destination, such as packing lists, safety tips, local currency, and tipping guidelines.
Do I need special insurance?
We are one of the few companies that includes basic medical and evacuation travel insurance for all of our trips. In other words, we cover you for any illness or injury which occurs during the tour (except while in the water for scuba diving, for which we recommend DAN insurance).
We also recommend that everyone on our trips have personal medical insurance, in which case the coverage included with our tours is secondary coverage, which is intended to cover deductibles, co-pays and other costs not covered by your personal insurance.
To protect your financial investment, we also encourage you to add trip cancellation insurance to the tour fee for your trip, at the time of your deposit, or within 14 days after the deposit is paid. The price varies by trip, so please request a quote.
This coverage can be useful if you, your traveling companion, your business or life partner, or a family member have an occurrence that causes you to need to cancel your trip. Please read our Terms & Conditions carefully so that you understand our cancellation policy.
Many other companies offer this coverage as well. Be sure to read the policy carefully, so that you know what situations are and are not covered by the policy.
Do I sign a waiver?
Yes, you do. The waiver is due within 10 business days after you sign up for the tour.
When is full payment due?
90 days before departure on most tours.
Is a deposit required?
Our checkout system allows you to choose between paying a deposit or paying in full. If you choose a deposit you have to pay the full payment when a trip is less than 90 days from departure.
Will the adventure trips be too strenuous for me?
Most of our trips are fun for anyone in good health who exercises regularly. A few are recommended only for people who have reached certain levels of fitness.
All of our tours have an at-a-glance rating system for physical challenge on their respective tour pages.
Whatever trip you take with us, you’ll enjoy it more if you get in shape for it. That means a few enjoyable weekends of biking or walking or other activity in the two months before the trip begins. We’ll send suggestions after you register.
What if I have food allergies or a special diet?
We will do our very best to accommodate your dietary needs or restrictions. We will send you documents asking about your specific needs.
How many people are in your average Out West Adventures travel group?
One of the distinguishing features of our tours is the intimacy of the group. We are an alternative for people who like companionship but cannot tolerate large buses and crowds of people. Our groups range in size from 6 to 14 participants. This makes a nice experience in traveling (no giant buses), restaurants can seat us at one or two tables, and we can move our groups easily through attractions and sites without the impersonal 1-2-3 sheep type counting.
What is an adventure tour?
An adventure tour gets you up and about. We spend less time in buses, and more time exploring. Adventure tours can include activities such as hiking, biking, water-sports, rappelling, canyoning, camping, and so much more. An adventure tour can also incorporate several cultural or culinary elements.
What’s the secret to biking in hilly areas?
Newer cyclists assume that going up hills is all a matter of having good leg muscles. That helps — but technique and mental attitude play a big role. We’ve had many Floridians on trips who were experienced cyclists but had never biked on hilly terrain. The first day, they had trouble on hills and were the last ones to reach the top. Within a few days, they were out in front. Their legs didn’t get that much stronger in a couple of days; their technique and approach changed. Here’s what they learned.
Use those gears! Switch to your lowest gears before you need them. If you’re spinning too fast, it’s easier to switch into a higher gear.
Adjust your weight properly. You want most of your weight on the back tire, to get traction, but you need to keep enough on the front to provide traction for steering. Experiment with different positions, to see what works for your body, your bike, and this incline. Many cyclists find that a semi-standing position, with their crotch just in front of the saddle and above the horizontal bar, works well.
Breathe! It’s natural to hold your breath during a tough stretch; but it’s self-defeating. Breathe deeply, exhale fully.
Look ahead! Watching each foot of road or trail as it passes below you is discouraging. Look at where you’re headed. This provides a psychological boost, and you’ll also steer better.
Aren’t those derailleurs just a sales gimmick?
Gears make your life easier!
The basic idea is to shift lower in both gears (front and back) if you’re having trouble pedaling fast. (For both front and back derailleurs, the inner gears are for going uphill; the outside gears when going faster. On most bikes, however, the gearshift motion that puts your front derailleur into a higher gear will put your rear derailleur into a lower gear.)
The basic shifting rules:
Shift down (to the inside gears) before you start up a hill.
Shift up (to the outside gears) when it’s too easy to pedal.
Shift down before the hill, before you’re putting a high strain on the pedals. Shifting while you’re straining to go up a hill is not only hard to do; it can also break the chain.
Don’t have too slow a cadence. Experienced cyclists aim for a steady 80-100 revolutions per minute; for beginners, it’s enough to know that the best cadence is slightly faster than what feels normal. If you can’t easily go that fast, shift down. This faster cadence conserves energy. It also reduces strain on your knees and back. Use your derailleurs to keep a fairly constant cadence.
Shift only while pedaling forward. Don’t shift when the pedals are stationary, or while pedaling backward.
Don’t make the chain angle sideways too much. If the chain is on the inside (smallest) gear in front, and on the outside (also smallest) gear in back, that forces the links to bend slightly in a sideways direction which they weren’t meant to go. The chain will rub, creating extra friction and work for you, and it won’t change gears as easily. You can get the same effective gear ratio by using two middle gears, with less strain on yourself, and on the bike. Likewise, avoid using the outside (biggest) gear in front and inside (biggest) in back.
If gears are so unfamiliar to you that none of this makes sense, then print out this page, take it along, and read over it occasionally as you get experience with gears and derailleurs. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief by quickly learning to use them properly.
How high should by seat be?
Seats that are too low (or, less often, too high) are a common cause of fatigue. Your legs should be almost, but not quite, fully extended at the downstroke. Your local bike shop can help make the proper adjustment to your own bicycle.
While you are on our bike tours, we will provide a properly sized bicycle and our guide will happily fine-tune the fit. Occasionally seats slide down during a day or week; if you’re tiring out, re-check your seat height.
What are some good stretching exercises for cyclists?
We recommend that you stretch for five minutes before you start biking. Here are two good exercises:
1. Find a buddy (or, lacking that, a tree) to hold for support. Now reach back with your right hand as you bend your right leg at the knee. Grab your foot and pull gently toward your butt, then hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with left hand and left leg. Then repeat again but crossing over — left hand pulls up your right leg, and vice versa.
2. Kneel down on your right knee, putting your left leg well in front of you, foot flat on the ground. Now drop down, bringing your right thigh closer to the ground, but without letting your left knee make less than a 90 degree angle. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
Stretch again at the end of the day — and you’ll be ready for the next day.
What if it rains?
Fortunately, the odds are that rain won’t be a big concern. On average, we’ve had one day of light rain or less on most of our week-long biking trips. We schedule our tours during the region’s dry season, where possible.
But there are no guarantees, of course. You should bring a lightweight rain jacket, just in case. On a hot day, you may well find that a brief shower offers a welcome opportunity to cool off. If there’s a full day of light or moderate rain, you’ll probably want to stick with one of the shorter routes each day, spending only a few hours in the saddle, and spend more time indoors at cafes, museums, or castles.
We do not advise riding in a heavy rainstorm. Generally, if that develops, you’ll want to take cover until it blows over. And if a heavy rainstorm lasts all day? That’s when you’re very glad to have the van — but as of this writing, with all the trips we’ve done, it’s never come to that
How does the support van work?
The support van and driver fill several functions: Carrying your luggage to the next hotel; shopping and setting up a picnic lunch on selected days; and helping cyclists who have encountered unexpected problems, be it fatigue, a mechanical failure, or one too many pastries at lunch.
The specific van schedule varies day to day, based on a number of factors: the route, whether there’s a picnic that day, and whether riders are all likely to be on the same road, or off on different options. Typically, the driver stays with or behind most of the group until about lunchtime (or earlier, if there’s a picnic to set up), then drives ahead to deliver luggage into your rooms.
If most of the group is likely to be on the same road, the driver may then circle back to see if anyone needs the van. However, we suggest various optional routes each day, and many people on our trips like to explore independently. That means cyclists may be spread out over many miles, and over several routes. In most cases, we find that a cyclist who needs help will get it fastest by calling the driver at the hotel or calling their cell phone, rather than waiting for the van to patrol all the spots where cyclists could be riding.
We’ll go over the details in more depth at the briefing when the trip starts. On paper (or on a computer screen) the system can seem uncertain because so many variables are involved. In practice, it works out well. There are many weeks when no one ever needs the van. If you do need assistance, generally you’re able to get to a cafe or other comfortable spot while you wait for help.
Will I be the last one to finish every day?
Somebody will be the last one in. Usually it’s one of the most experienced cyclists, because they’ve gone off and biked along some of the extra options. And somebody will be the first one in, and everybody else will be somewhere in between. The important thing is we’re all here to have a good time. It’s a vacation, not a race. You’ll quickly appreciate that no one sees it as a race, and as long as you’re enjoying your vacation, no one cares or pays much attention to who arrives when.
What is bike touring all about?
A biking vacation brings you the best of many worlds. Cycling lets you move fast enough to enjoy a wide range of sights and terrains in a single day, yet you can easily stop to enjoy a view, to pick cherries in an abandoned orchard, or just to smell the flowers. It’s easier to meet people when you’re on a bike, particularly in countries like France, where cycling is a national sport. Enjoy a healthy, guilt-free appetite when you sit down to dinner, and return home feeling and looking better than when you left.
Do I need cycling clothes, shoes, or accessories?
We recommend cycling shorts. The padding will make your ride more comfortable. But they’re certainly not essential. Two pairs are plenty; you can rinse them out and in most cases, the synthetic fabrics will dry overnight. (In humid weather, shorts with thick padding may take a little longer.)
Likewise, cycling jerseys are designed to improve your biking experience, and they’ll do so. Most of them are also made from quick-drying synthetics, so one or two will get you through the week. However, you’ll also be fine if you only have t-shirts for riding, except in cooler weather. To reduce your luggage, shirts that are 50/50 cotton/polyester, while not trendy, will dry faster if you’re sweaty, and if you rinse them out overnight.
You can buy special cycling shoes with a stiffer sole, which are slightly more energy-efficient than walking shoes. For the distances we go, we feel these don’t generally justify the extra luggage weight.
Finally, a helmet is required; sunglasses are highly recommended as protection against both sun and insects (preferably wrap-around style); and padded cycling gloves will make your days more comfortable.
Can I do my training rides on a stationary bike?
Stationary biking is a big help, especially for your legs and cardiovascular system. An hour of continous pedaling in the gym can provide as much of a workout as several hours of normal biking, in which you’re often coasting. A spinning class keeps the hour interesting. Yet there are some things a stationary bike just doesn’t train you for:
- Getting used to being seated on a bike for several hours at a time. The bikes we provide have upright handlebars, so you’re in a fairly comfortable position. After several hours, however, your neck (which is bent back a bit more than usual) and butt may get uncomfortable, if the position is completely new for you.
- Other general bike skills — steering, braking, avoiding potholes, remembering to put your foot down when you stop — don’t get any practice. Granted, these aren’t neurosurgery, but it’s helpful to have some practice.
New Yorkers, more than anyone, seem to have trouble finding the time, the bike, and the uncrowded roads to get out for a few training rides. Many people have joined us, with nothing but stationary bike experience, and had a great time. But we encourage you to see if you can’t get in at least a couple of afternoon of actual biking, before the trip. If the last bike you were on had coaster brakes and you haven’t biked for years, then we’d say it’s essential to get some on-the-road experience.