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Guide to caravanning for cyclists

Introduction

There are many attractions to taking your holidays and short breaks in a touring caravan:

  • the freedom to come and go as you please, instead of following the routines of a hotel or bed and breakfast;
  • yet without forgoing the creature comforts, which camping under canvas too often lacks; and
  • above all, perhaps, that sense of liberation which comes from enjoying the great outdoors and the satisfaction of open air living.

Combine all these benefits with the freedom to explore your surroundings by bicycle – in a way that is as much fun as it is good for healthy exercise – and you might have what many consider the perfect match.

So, let’s take a closer look at just why caravans and cycles are such a great fit, and then consider some destination ideas for caravanning holidays on which you may also take your bike, before describing some of the cycling-themed holidays you might take on the next outing with your caravan.

Why caravans and cycles are a great fit

What are some of the attractions of both caravanning and cycling that makes them such ideal partners?

Caravanning

  • have you ever booked a two-week holiday somewhere, only to discover that from the moment you arrive, the place doesn’t match up to the eye-catching photos and descriptions you saw in the travel brochure or on the internet;
  • if only you had chosen some other destination;
  • if you are towing your own caravan, you can do just that – at a moment’s notice;
  • if you don’t like the look of one place or it doesn’t offer the opportunities and amenities you are looking for, simply hitch back up and take to the road again until you do;
  • dispel any old-fashioned ideas about caravanning, these days it is by no means as basic as you might think, insist outdoor specialists and suppliers Waudbys;
  • despite the more sumptuous accommodation offered by a modern caravan, though, one of the principal attractions remains the sheer value for money to be had through this means of mobile accommodation – nothing like the bill that would face you after a two-week stay for four at even a moderately-priced hotel;
  • when you turn up with a caravan in tow, you immediately become part of a community of like-minded souls, making this kind of holiday probably more social than many others – if you want it to be;
  • your pets can come too – the family dog, your cat, or any other animal friend is likely to be welcome at most caravan sites in the UK; and
  • then, of course, is your beloved bike – strapped to the back or carried inside your caravan for the journey, it is ready and waiting as soon as you arrive at your chosen caravan site;

Cycling

  • once you have arrived at your destination and the bike is unpacked, the fun and adventures may really begin – and all taken at entirely your own pace;
  • when it comes to exploring your surroundings, some places may be too far to walk, others too difficult to reach in the car, but your bike is likely to be able to tackle any terrain and open up places and vistas that otherwise remain hidden – you simply get to cover more ground on a bicycle;
  • whilst you are out and about having fun, you might also take comfort in the knowledge that it is also probably doing you the world of good;
  • an article in the Guardian newspaper on the 3rd of October 2017 gave a timely reminder of the importance of any kind of exercise – especially the more strenuous kind you are likely to find whilst riding your bike;
  • it is the kind of exercise which might help prevent depression, said the correspondent, and has been shown to keep your blood pressure steady and enables a better night’s sleep;
  • taking this kind of exercise for just one or two hours a week might even be a way to averting strokes, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, whilst more elderly cyclists might take comfort from the fact that your activities make you less likely to have a fall or suffer a hip fracture.

Transporting your bicycle

Whatever type of bicycle you choose – a folding bike to economise on space, for example, a standard “sit up and beg” road bike, a racer, or off-road mountain bike – it is likely to prove easy enough to transport it along with your caravan.

Any number of bike racks are commercially available – from suppliers Thule, for example – which are mounted either on the rear wall of your caravan or on the “A”-frame of the towing bar.

The Caravan Club, however, is not so keen on either of these solutions, suggesting that a rear mounted cycle rack may disturb the weight distribution of the caravan and create instability, whilst a rack mounted on the “A”-frame might lead to your exceeding the manufacturer’s maximum permissible nose-weight of the caravan.

If that is a concern, then most caravans are likely to be able to accommodate a bicycle (or two) inside, for the duration of your drive to the caravan site. If that is the solution you choose, you must make sure that the cycles are properly secured and not allowed to roll about whilst you are underway.

Bicycle camper

An especially ingenious solution to any such problem – and one that might appeal to more serious cycling couples – is the mini-caravan or Bicycle Camper that can be towed by your single or tandem bicycle.

Thanks to a smart design, in which the back half of this micro-home slides over the front half, it folds up into a bicycle trailer which is only 159cm long (less than 5ft), 97cm wide (just over 3ft) and 175cm high (about 6ft 5in).

Unfolded, it stretches to a full 285cm (approximately 9ft 3in), or a caravan big enough to sit 4 people around its collapsible table or a sleeping area and bed for two people.

A special outdoor and kitchen package allows you to cater for all your cooking needs outside.

Bike hire

Of course, you don’t have to take your bicycle with you, but pitch up on a caravan site where there is bike hire nearby – there is a growing number of them – and just as easily explore the world around you on two wheels.

Destination ideas

The world really is your oyster when you are towing a caravan and take along (or hire) enough bikes for you and the family.

Practically anywhere in the country – or on the continent, if you are travelling further afield – is suitable for making the perfect match of a caravanning and cycling holiday. Just to whet your appetite, however, here are just a few destination ideas, for those looking forward to a leisurely, ambling pace on two wheels or the more serious and adventurous biker.

The New Forest, Hampshire

England’s most recent addition to its stunning selection of National Parks is the New Forest.

It is readily accessible from London – or anywhere in the south of England – and offers a gently undulating landscape unlikely to tax even the least experienced cyclist. It has many off-road tracks winding throughout the forest and a number of low speed limit public roads, making exploration of this ancient heath and woodland especially safe for bike outings with the family.

There are no fewer than 16 camping and caravanning sites – run in partnership with the Forestry Commission – dotted throughout the forest. Choose, for example, from:

Hollands Wood Campsite

  • set in the heart of the New Forest, near the village of Brockenhurst – where you can also hire bicycles – Hollands Wood Campsite spreads over 22 acres of forest and has all-grass pitches for up to 600 caravans and tents;

Setthorns Campsite

  • only a few miles away, in a slightly more wooded setting, Setthorns Campsite has 235 pitches, some on hardstanding with electric hook-ups – although beware that there is no toilet or shower block on the site;

Holmsley Campsite

  • if you are looking for a more open site located mainly on typically New Forest heathland, Holmsley Campsite – with 600 pitches and its own caravan rally field – is set on a former airfield and gives excellent access to the western parts of the forest and to the beaches of Highcliffe and the town of Christchurch.

Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

From one National Park to another – but one which might not be a first choice for a novice or inexperienced cyclist, given that reference to Wales’ highest mountain in the title.

But there is no need for such trepidation because the Park is so extensive that it includes many very gentle rides, along with the more adventurous and challenging mountain trails:

Coed-Y-Llwyn Caravan Club Site

  • access to the full range of cycling opportunities is easy if you choose a pitch at Coed-Y-Llwyn Caravan Club Site, at Gellilydan, near Blaenau Ffestiniog in the heart of Snowdonia National Park;
  • it has 90 pitches for touring caravans – some on hardstanding and some with electric hookup;

Cefn Cae Campsite

  • Still within the National Park, but closer to the coastal estuary at Conwy is Cefn Cae Campsite, a small gem of a site with all-grass pitches for just 15 caravans.

Aberdeenshire, Scotland

If you are travelling north of the border, the capital town of the Grampian Highlands, Aberdeen, might not appear the first choice for novice cyclists.

Once again, though, first appearances might be deceptive, since there are still more gentle and sedate bike rides possible along the meandering River Dee, before you take to the more hair-raising trails of the mountains:

Silverbank Caravan Club Site

  • the Caravan Club’s Silverbank site, at Banchory on the banks of the River Dee, for example, provides the perfect example;
  • here you may enjoy some of the magnificent countryside as you cycle along the gentle slopes of the riverbank as it makes it way slowly to the city of Aberdeen;
  • the caravan site itself has 70 pitches – 62 of which are on hardstanding;

Ballater Caravan Park

  • also in Royal Deeside, close to the conservation town of Ballater is Ballater Caravan Park, which has 40 hardstanding pitches for touring caravans, all with electric hookup;
  • Ballater is close to the Royal Castle of Balmoral and the terrain has fast become a favourite for both walkers and cyclists.

Caravanning for cyclists

A caravan gives you the freedom of the open road – taking your bike along too gives you the freedom of every path, bridleway, forest trail or, indeed, any stretch of open ground.

Although some destination ideas have been suggested, there is no practical limit to the type of cycling-themed holiday or short break you might take when you take a bike along on your next outing with the caravan – or hire the two wheels once you get there.

If you are into cycling in a bigger way, for example, the Camping and Caravanning Club has devised four tours – of around 100 to 200 miles each, which even the average cyclist might cover in 4 or five days – that amount to a veritable tour of Britain:

South of England

  • one of the longer tours, for example, takes you from Sennen Cove in the far southwest, through the heartland of Cornwall and up along the north Devon coast;
  • the southwest of England is one of the favourite tourist destinations, of course, so there are plenty of caravan sites along the way – either for another member of the family to catch up with you in the caravan or simply to give yourself a well-earned break by missing out some stages of the grand tour;

Midlands

  • one of the shorter tours, manageable by even the least experienced cyclist, is also one of the most varied and takes you through the heart of the Midlands;
  • you get the general idea of the unexpected variety of the Midlands from the very start – the Clent Hills campsite, set in the most peaceful countryside of rural England, yet only a stone’s through from the hustle and bustle of urban Birmingham;
  • so, in one direction you have the challenge of cycling through the traffic-heavy streets of what many claim as Britain’s second most important city, and in the other, some 440 acres of woodland and heathland that make up the Clent Hills;
  • the two-day tour ends at Ashbourne, near the stately home of Chatsworth House, in the Peak District;

Wales

  • having already mentioned the cycling opportunities in Snowdonia in the north of Wales, now it is the turn of South Wales for a more adventurous cycling tour that takes you from St Davids in the far southwest to the small Priory Mill caravan site near Brecon;
  • the tour takes in both the Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons National Parks, on a route extending for around 130 miles and estimated to take a fairly leisurely 4 days and five nights – depending on the stopovers that attract you, your bike and your caravan along the way;

Scotland

  • don’t be put off by the description of this tour of the Scottish Highlands – all three legs involve little mountain climbing and instead follow the easier terrain of coastal plains and river valleys;
  • the starting point is the Speyside Camping & Caravanning Club Site at Aberlour, then along the coast to Nairn and Dingwall, before taking to part of the National Cycle Network to the Club’s caravan site on the Moray Firth at Rosemarkie;

Europe

  • If you are planning to take your bike – or bikes – on a caravan tour to anywhere in Europe, of course, that is likely to open up a whole new chapter of possibilities, destination ideas and adventures.

Summary

A yearning for the freedom of the open road and life in the great outdoors is already likely to be in your blood when you take up the pastime of caravanning.

Take your bike, or bikes, along too, and you give even greater rein to those freedoms to explore any and every road, trail and path that takes your fancy. After a day – or just part of the day – exploring your surroundings on two wheels, you have all the comforts of a fully-equipped touring caravan to retire to come the evening. A little sleep, and you might choose to saddle up again the very next day.

You don’t have to seek out the most strenuous or extreme routes – unless that’s your choice, of course – since there are many caravan sites that give immediate access to gentler and less challenging rides.

Whatever your experience on two wheels, and whatever your taste for the strenuous workout or more sedate pottering about, you might take special comfort in the knowledge that cycling is good for you – exercise whilst on holiday is just as healthy for body and mind as the kind of routine you might set yourself whilst at home.

This short guide can offer no exhaustive list of ideas – and devising your own caravanning and cycling holiday is likely to be part of the fun and adventure – so you might want to discover for yourself just what a perfect match might be found by combining the two.