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    Bike Tours: Guided or Self Guided?

    Author: Dawn Rainbolt, PR Manager
    More by Dawn

    Bike Tours in Ireland

    Cycling is a wonderful way to discover a new country or region. Pedalling offers the perfect compromise between covering more distance and the chance to explore a place in depth.

    Once you’ve settled on a cycling tour of Ireland, how do you decide which suits you better – guided or self guided? Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the differences between the types of bike tours to help you choose what works best for you and your group.

    Quick Access:

    Cycling Tours At A Glance

    View Comparison Chart Read More
    What’s Included on the Trip
    Self Guided plus+
    Qualified Expert Guides
    Guidance and Local Insights
    Support Vehicle
    Most Meals
    Gourmet Picnic Lunches
    Ride Snacks & Drinks
    Baggage Transfer
    Bike Maintenance & Care
    Premium Bike RentalOn Request
    Expert Bike FitOn Request
    Garmin GPS & Route Notes
    On Trip Support
    First Aid Cover

    Guide vs. Soigneur

    three cyclists uphill with a sandy beach behind

    All small group guided bike tours are led by two qualified and experienced Wilderness guides. One of these guides will cycle on the road with you each day. They will provide guidance and share local knowledge of the history, culture, landscape, flora and fauna.

    Your other guide acts as an all-round trip wizard. They will drive the support vehicle, shuttle your luggage and prepare gourmet refreshment stops. They’re also on hand to serve as your bike mechanic, take care of essential tour arrangements, and much more.

    Self guided plus+ cycling trips are supported rather than guided. A dedicated member of the Wilderness team will be on hand throughout your trip, performing the role of “soigneur”. They will take care of all the trip logistics, but they won’t be cycling with you.

    Throughout your self guided tour, your soigneur will drive the support vehicle, transfer your luggage, and provide route snacks and drinks. They will also shuttle riders where required, offer navigational advice, provide first aid and take care of your bikes at the end of the day.

    Pacing & Travel Speed

    Four cyclists along the turquoise waters of the Dingle Peninsula

    Questions about trip grading, travel speed and pace on a bike trip are commonly asked no matter the bike trip chosen.

    In a self guided trip, you’ll have more control over your pace, as you and your group can set your own pace for the whole day. If you want to power up the hills and whizz down the descents, you won’t have to worry about outpacing anyone. If you decide to take your time and include plenty of culture breaks and photo ops, you won’t feel like you’re holding anyone back. Whether you want an early start or a leisurely breakfast, you set your own pace.

    You’ll still set your own pace on a guided trip. The group isn’t obligated to travel at the same speed for the entire trip. However, there are still dedicated breaks and stopping points, such as lunch or guided activities. Additionally, the whole group will kick the day off at the same point.


    Cycling over a stone bridge in green ladscapes

    By their nature, self guided trips offer an increased degree of flexibility. The itinerary is set, but there is a wiggle room. Pedalling past a fascinating historical site that you’d like to check out? Want a few extra coffee breaks to refuel? Are you planning on plenty of photo ops? Self guided bike tours might be for you.

    Guided trips offer a little less individual flexibility, as you’ll be travelling in a group of around eight people. Of course, guided trips are accompanied by two guides. Your guides are experts at listening to the group and adapting the trip to meet the group’s interests.

    Travelling Companions

    Group of Cyclists in front of a waterfall

    How you prefer to travel is a significant consideration between guided and self guided trips.

    Choosing a self guided bike trip means you’ll only be travelling alongside your private group. Some travellers might prefer this option to pedalling along with lesser-known cyclists. It is worth noting that we run self guided cycling trips on fixed dates. This means that there may be other private groups of cyclists travelling along the same route as you on the same days.

    Our small group bike trips have up to eight cyclists on them. You might travel with eight other people if you are a solo traveller. Normally, the social element of cycling with like-minded travellers on the same trip offers a great social experience. Of course, it depends on what you want to get out of your trip.

    For safety reasons, we can’t run self guided trips for solo travellers. If you are planning to travel alone, take a look at our range of small group bike trips.

    Aerial view of two cyclists through remote Kerry mountains

    No one wants to get lost, especially not while on holiday. Instead, you want to spend your time exploring, discovering and immersing yourself in the scenery and culture of the land.

    Every cyclist on every bike trip is given a bike computer to attach to their handlebars. This contains a map, route directions and general information to help you navigate.

    The difference, of course, is the guides. On a guided bike trip, you’ll have two guides; one on the road with you and the other driving the support van. While you’ll have the route mapped out on your device to follow and consult when approaching a turn, you’ll also have someone on the road with you.

    On a self guided trip, you will still benefit from a support driver who is a qualified bike mechanic. However, without a guide on the road with you, you’ll be more reliant on the route mapped out on your bike computer.

    Storytelling & Local Knowledge

    Dolman and cyclist

    Your bike guide is more than just a driver or navigator. They are also storytellers, bastions of culture and history, and full of local recommendations. From oral myths to ancient history, personal adventures to the story behind various Irish culturalisms, having a guide on the road with you adds an augmented element of immersion.

    Self guided bike trips don’t benefit from this level of local knowledge. While your support driver will be on hand to answer your questions in the evenings, you won’t get the ad hoc stories and tales elicited from the landscapes as you pedal through them.

    Bike Rental

    We have three bike types: road bikes, hybrid bikes and e-bikes. All are produced by the renowned bike retailer, Trek. No matter your trip type, your bike rental choices will be the same. This is also true of all accompanying materials, such as helmets, saddle bags, and bike computers. Learn more about bike hire here.

    Eating in Ireland

    Ireland has an up-and-coming foodie culture. There is an increasing number of farm-to-fork, organic, creative and sustainable eateries. And, of course, a plethora of cosy pubs and cafes where the food is warm and cosy, perfect for a bike tour. No matter which trip you book, you’ll taste Ireland’s best culinary delights.

    Bike Tour Accommodation

    Similar to the food, no matter which trip you choose, we know where you rest your head is important. Whether you choose guided or self guided+, enjoy a place of comfort and relaxation after a day of cycling to rejuvenate for your next day’s cycle.

    The Logistics

    All guided and self guided trips have dedicated office support and 24/7 in-country support, should you need it. Your vacation should be a time of discovery and relaxation, so leave all the organisation to us. Sit back in the saddle and focus on having the time of your life while we sweat the details.

    Find Your Next Bike Trip

    Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

    American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.

    View profile More by Dawn


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