FAQ: frequently-asked questions about Bicycle Beano tours

Click on the arrow next to each question to see the answer.

Who are you?

We are Andy and Madelaine Key. For 33 years Bicycle Beano was run by Jane Barnes and Rob Green. They’ve now retired and have passed Bicycle Beano on to us. We’re delighted to say that Rob and Jane will be joining us as guests on all of the 2015 Beano holidays.

Andy has been running cycle rides and cycling holidays since the early 1990s, first as a tour leader for CTC cycle tours then more recently organising selected Beanos on behalf of Jane and Rob. He has been a helper on more Bicycle Beano tours than he cares to remember.

Madelaine is a freelance marketing professional who helps with the marketing and organisation and will sometimes be persuaded along for a bike ride or two. We live in beautiful central Hampshire though we love Wales and the Welsh Borders.

On each Beano we have one or two ‘helpers’ who cycle along at the back, sort out problems and generally make themselves useful.

Who comes on Beanos?

All ages are welcome. There are usually 18 to 30 people on each tour, depending on the size of the venue. On average there are equal numbers of women and men.

Usually about half the group are solo travellers, the rest are couples, and sometimes we have one or two families. Beanos work particularly well for couples where one partner is a stronger or faster cyclist than the other – see “How are the rides organised?” below.

In our experience, it does not seem to matter who comes on Beanos. The fact that we cycle together and socialise together creates a cohesive group. Some people have made life-long friends. For instance, one Beano reunion group has been meeting up every year since 1988.

What happens each day?

After breakfast we give everyone a specially designed map and written route instructions. We start the day’s ride between 9:30 and 10am, after a brief talk about the route options. We stop for rests, to visit something interesting en-route, to look at a view, or for morning coffee etc.

Lunch is usually between 12 noon and 1:30pm, mostly at country pubs or cafés where there is a choice of meat and veggie meals. After lunch, whether you are doing the short cut, main route or longer detour, we often meet up for tea or a late afternoon drink before returning to base (between 5 and 6pm) for tea and cake.

Dinner is between 7 and 8pm depending on the ride. On the week-long Beanos (the Snowdonia Beano in 2015) there is an optional bike-free day on the Wednesday.

How are the rides organised?

Each day we do a circular ride of 30-40 miles, returning to the same venue each evening. Mileage depends upon terrain: when it’s flat we do more, when it’s hilly we do less. Most routes have one or more short cuts. There are also longer detours for those who want extra mileage.

Everyone is given a specially designed map and written instructions. We are inclined to split into groups of people who cycle at the same pace as each other. You can choose whether to cycle with a group or on your own if you prefer. There is no pressure to keep up with the group.

Whether you do the short cut, main route, or longer detour, we all aim to have lunch and tea together. This means that couples who cycle at different speeds do not have to cycle together, but can still meet up en-route.

We have a non-macho approach to the rides.

We don’t generally have a car following your round the route. We think having a backup van undermines the “green” aspect of a cycling holiday. Instead we join in the rides and we have one or two helpers who cycle along at the rear and can help with simple mechanical problems. If your bike can’t be fixed by the roadside we’ll arrange transport for you back to the house.

When are the first and last rides on each holiday?

Somerset Beano: People arrive at the venue any time after 5pm on Monday afternoon for tea and cakes. Dinner is at 7pm (if you are going to be late, please let us know if you want dinner kept for you). The first ride is after breakfast on Tuesday morning. The last ride is on Thursday. Everyone leaves after breakfast on Friday morning.

Snowdonia Beano: People arrive at the venue any time after 4pm on Saturday afternoon for tea and cakes. Dinner is at 7pm. The first ride takes place after breakfast on Sunday morning. The last ride is on Friday. Everyone leaves after breakfast on Saturday morning.

White Horse Weekend: People arrive at the venue any time after 5pm on Friday afternoon for tea and cakes. Dinner is at 7pm (if you are going to be late, please let us know if you want dinner kept for you). The first ride is after breakfast on Saturday morning. The last ride is on Monday. At the end of the ride on Monday afternoon, there will be tea and cakes and you’ll have the chance to shower and change before you head for home.

Will I be fit enough?

You do not have to be super fit. As long as you can cycle at least 30 miles in a day without falling apart you will enjoy a Beano. Cycling with other people gives you energy – it’s easy to forget the miles when you are busy chatting and enjoying the views. We have lots of breaks en-route so you can have a rest from cycling. The beauty of cycling with a group is that there is always somebody else who cycles at the same pace as you.

Staying at just one venue for the holiday means that our routes are flexible. Our rides are roughly circular and return to the same venue each day. We usually have a moderate main route of between 30 and 40 miles a day depending upon terrain, with short cuts and longer detours available.

I am an experienced cyclist, will the routes be long enough for me?

Usually about a third of Bicycle Beano guests want to do a bit more than the average 35 to 40 miles a day, so we provide detours off the main route to accommodate them. On most of the beanos you can choose to do 50 to 60 miles a day. If you’re really keen we can usually suggest one or two “unofficial” detours to add even more miles.

What happens if I have a mechanical problem on the ride?

We have one or two helpers who cycle along at the back of the group and will be on-hand to help if anyone has a mechanical problem. If your bike can’t be fixed by the roadside we’ll make sure you can get back to the house.

We don’t generally have a backup van following you round the route. We think having a backup van undermines the “green” aspect of a cycling holiday and creates traffic on the quiet country lanes.

What sort of bikes do people ride?

Most people bring road bikes, touring bikes, hybrids, folding bikes, or mountain bikes fitted with road tyres. Occasionally people bring tandems or recumbents – we’ve even had a unicyclist!

All our routes are on tarred roads, apart from some sections of gravelled cycle path and a few short sections of easy-going off-road. We sometimes throw in an optional off-road detour or two. Your bike needs to be suitable for on-road riding.

Can I rent a bike?

Sorry, we don’t have bikes for hire. We may be able to put you in touch with a bike rental company; contact us for details.

What do I wear?

You don’t have to dress in Lycra! It’s usually warm enough to ride in shorts and t-shirts, May to September. Cycling shorts with a padded insert are more comfortable than ordinary shorts. Cycling gloves or mitts will also improve your comfort.

Wear layers so you can peel them off when necessary. Carry a fleece, and a lightweight waterproof (preferably breathable). Lightweight long stretchy trousers are useful. Shoes should have a hard sole – specialist cycling shoes will be more comfortable over the course of a whole day’s riding, but ordinary trainers (sneakers) will do. Don’t cycle in jeans – they have uncomfortable seams and are inflexible. Other suggestions are a hat with a small peak and sunglasses.

Helmet wearing is not a legal requirement in the UK – it is your choice whether you wear one or not.

I am not a vegetarian – will I like the food?

Yes. The food is so delicious, you won’t even notice the lack of meat. It is home-made, freshly-cooked, and often uses organic vegetables and fruit from the venue’s own garden (see a typical menu below). Lots of meat-eaters return to Bicycle Beano Cycling Holidays again and again because they like the food. Even though all the food served at our venues is exclusively vegetarian, we don’t ostracise carnivores!

A choice of meat and veggie meals are available at the lunch stops.

I am a vegetarian

All the breakfasts, afternoon teas, and dinners provided by our venues are vegetarian. Vegetarian food is also available from the lunch stops on our routes.

Can you provide vegan food?

Our venues are happy to provide vegan food but you must request it when booking. Vegan options may be very limited at the pubs and cafés we use as lunch stops.

What's a typical menu?

All the meals provided by our venues are vegetarian. They are home-made and freshly-cooked, using organic fruit and vegetables whenever possible. Some of our venues even have their own organic gardens.

Breakfasts are self-service veggie buffets of cereals, muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit, toast, spreads and jams etc. A range of drinks are available including fruit juices, herb teas, ordinary and decaffeinated tea and coffee. At some venues we also have boiled free-range eggs or hot porridge.

Vegetarian evening meals are lip-smackingly designed to satisfy cyclists’ appetites – delicious, nutritious, and plenty of it. Main meals can be anything from moussaka, roasted vegetables, stir-fry and noodles, Hungarian goulash, to hazelnut roast with all the trimmings. Puddings include fresh fruit crumble and custard, home-made fresh fruit trifle, bread and butter pudding, and chocolate roulade with cream. Yummy!

Can you take people with disabilities?

Yes, as long as you can cycle you will enjoy a Beano. Wheelchair access is available on the Snowdonia and White Horse Beanos; ground-floor accommodation is available on the Somerset Beano. Please contact us to discuss practicalities.

Where are the prices for the tours?

The prices appear at the end of each tour description page; they’re also on the Prices and Availability page.

How do I get to the Beano?

Our venues are within cycling distance of a railway station. Fellow Beanoers can usually offer lifts back to the station at the end of the Beano. Most taxi firms have ‘people carriers’ or minibuses etc that can carry bikes (ask when booking the taxi).

The Somerset Beano is in Sparkford, about 7 miles from Castle Cary railway station by quiet lanes.

The Snowdonia Beano is in the village of Nantlle, a flattish 20-mile ride from Bangor station, much of it on dedicated cyclepaths.

The White Horse Beano is in Charney Bassett, a 12-mile ride from Didcot Parkway station or a pleasant (if more hilly) 13-mile ride from Oxford station.

If you’ve booked for a Beano we’ll send you detailed travel instructions in advance.

If you are coming by car and can give another Beanoer (plus bike) a lift, please let us know.

There is ample car parking space at the venues. Bikes are parked under cover.

What's included in the price?

  • Delicious vegetarian meals – buffet breakfasts, evening meals, and tea & cakes after the rides. (Lunches and coffee stops while out on the ride are not included in the price.)
  • Accommodation.
  • Detailed daily route sheets including specially designed maps and written instructions, places to visit, good views, and other useful info.
  • Cycling guide and back-up. We cycle along too.
  • Bike repair tools and basic emergency spares.
  • Plus lots more.

What about children?

Under 18-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult and have good road sense. If you want to bring children, please contact us first to discuss possibilities and safety issues. The following discounts apply for children who share their parents’ bedroom and are attached to an adult’s bike: 60% discount for 3 to 5-year-olds, 20% discount for 6 to 12-year-olds, babies free. Children aged 13 upwards are charged the full rate.