More about Beanos
Some frequently asked questions

Covid-19

At time of writing, we are reasonably confident that we’ll be able to run our planned tours.

We expect that some extra precautions may still be required, especially in the spring and early summer – for example, extra cleaning, social distancing, mask wearing while serving food, splitting lunch stops between multiple cafes, reducing the maximum number of spaces available on the tour.

So long as we think we can run the tour while keeping safe and staying within any government regulations and guidelines, we will go ahead. 

If guidelines force us to limit the tour to fewer than the number of people who have already booked, we will first ask each participant if they would like to cancel and receive a refund. If after that we still have too many, we may have to cancel and refund the some of the most recent bookings.

If we consider that Covid-19 restrictions make it impossible to offer you something resembling the usual Bicycle Beano experience, we may cancel it. We would rather give you your money back than give you a substandard tour.

Changes in regulations and guidelines may make it impossible for us to run a group cycle tour; they may make it impossible for our accommodation venue to open; they may prevent the majority of participants from travelling to the tour location. All these things have happened in 2020! At the moment we can’t say for sure if they will happen in 2021 but we think it is far less likely.

If we consider that the conditions will prevent us from running the tour properly, we will cancel it and refund any payments you’ve made to us.

If we are able to run the Beano tour but you are unable to attend for Covid-19 related reasons, our normal cancellation terms apply. However please contact us as soon as possible if you are in this situation and we’ll come to a reasonable arrangement if we can. As always we recommend that have travel insurance to cover yourself against having to cancel for whatever reason.

Brexit: The UK has left the European Union.

Yes you can. According to the UK government:

“Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.

“EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will continue to be able to travel to the UK for holidays or short trips without needing a visa. You’ll be able to cross the UK border using a valid passport which should be valid for the whole time you are in the UK.”

See this UK government web page for full details: Visiting the UK from 1 January 2021.

We recommend that you also check for any guidance from your own government.

For citizens of countries outside the EU Switzerland and the EEA (European Economic Area) the rules have not changed significantly. Use this UK government web page to see whether you need a visa to visit: Check if you need a visa

How the tours work

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 and there are also longer detours for those who want extra mileage, so you could end up riding from 25 to 65 miles in a day, as you prefer.

Everyone is given a specially designed map and written instructions. The group tends naturally to split into smaller 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.

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.

After breakfast we give everyone a specially designed map and written route instructions, then briefly talk you through the day’s route and the things to look out for. We start the day’s ride between 9:30 and 10am.

Along the way we stop for rests, to visit somewhere interesting en-route, to look at a view, 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 Beanos that finish in the afternoon, the final day’s ride will be shorter.

On the week-long Beanos there is an optional bike-free day on the Wednesday.

It varies! See the individual tour descriptions for details. Generally, you arrive at the venue after 5pm on the first day to be greeted with tea and cakes, after which you can settle in and enjoy dinner. The first ride will be on the following morning.

Some Beanos finish in the afternoon; on these we go for a slightly shorter ride on the final day, returning to the venue in the afternoon for tea and cake (of course). After that you can shower and change before heading for home.

On others, after the last day’s riding we have dinner and stay a final night, leaving after breakfast the following morning.

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 usually 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.

Usually about a third of Bicycle Beano guests want to do a bit more than the average 30-40 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.

We have one or two helpers who cycle along at the back of the group and will be on hand (and on call) 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 every inch of the route. We think this would undermines the “green” aspect of a cycling holiday and create traffic on the quiet country lanes.

Unless otherwise notes in the holiday descriptions, our tours are fixed-centre: we stay in one venue for the duration of the Beano, so all you need on each day’s ride are the things you might need during the day. Of course you have to get yourself and your luggage to the venue at the start of the Beano!

Bikes and bits

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!

Our routes are mostly 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 for those who want it. Your bike needs to be suitable for riding on the road.

Because we seek out tiny country lanes, the road surfaces can be rough. If you normally ride a road bike with narrow 23mm-width tyres, you might want to consider swapping to 25mm or even 28mm if your bike has space for them. Mudguards (fenders) are also a very good idea. Consult your friendly local bike shop. If you haven’t got a friendly local bike shop, try the unfriendly one. Or call Andy for advice..

Sorry, we don’t have bikes for hire. However we know people who do. If you need to rent a bike, contact us for suggestions. On some Beanos we may be able to bring your hire bike with us.

Yes, e-bike riders are very welcome. Please let us know when you book that you’ll be bringing an e-bike and tell us if it needs special charging arrangements. (For instance, does the bike need to be parked near a mains power socket, or can the battery be removed and charged elsewhere?)

Please make sure that your e-bike is ‘street legal’ in the UK: any e-bike bought from a reputable dealer in the UK or the EU will meet the legal requirements, but some grey imports may not do. If you’re not sure, see this guide.

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. 

If you normally wear one while cycling, we suggest that you wear it while on the Beano. (Only when you’re cycling, though – don’t wear it to dinner.)

There are pros and cons to helmet wearing: for more information please see this briefing from Cycling UK, the national cycling charity.

If you have strong views on the subject that’s fine, but please do not lecture other participants on a Beano or seek to force your own preference onto them.

Food and drink

All the meals provided by our venues are vegetarian. They are home-made and freshly-cooked. Some of our venues even use fruit and veg from 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.

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 might include fresh fruit crumble and custard, home-made fresh fruit trifle, bread and butter pudding, and chocolate roulade with cream. Yum!

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.

All the breakfasts, afternoon teas, and dinners provided by our venues are vegetarian. The recommended lunch stops on our routes offer vegetarian options.

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.

Yes – but please let us know when you book, so we have as much time as possible for the cooks at our venues to prepare. As lunch stops are at local pubs and cafes, the choices may sometimes be limited, though we always try to find places that cater for a variety of dietary requirements.

Most of our venues are happy for us all to bring our own drinks with us for dinnertime. One or two are licensed to sell alcohol so may expect you to buy theirs. We provide details in the joining notes before the Beano.

Other stuff

Yes, as long as you can cycle in some way you will enjoy a Beano, and you’ll be very welcome. Rooms with level access are available on most Beanos. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

We’ve had quite a few families on Bicycle Beanos through the years. Our own daughter has been coming on Beanos since she was a toddler! Although Beanos aren’t designed as family holidays, we’ve found that many children enjoy them as much as the grown-ups.

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 any 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.

  • 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.
  • Access to bike repair tools and basic emergency spares.
  • Plus lots more.

The prices appear at the end of each tour description page.

Our venues are usually within about 15-20 miles’ cycling distance of a railway station. Fellow Beanoers can sometimes offer lifts back to the station at the end of the Beano. Most taxi firms have ‘people carriers’ or minibuses that can carry bikes (ask when booking the taxi).

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

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

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

We’ll be happy to arrange a one-off tour for individuals or groups. See our bespoke tours page for more information.

About Bicycle Beano

We are Andy and Madelaine Key. For 33 years Bicycle Beano was run by Jane Barnes and Rob Green. They retired in 2014 and passed Bicycle Beano on to us. We’re delighted to say that Rob and Jane continue to join us as guests on some of the Beanos.

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.

All ages and abilities 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 or groups of friends, 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 doesn’t 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. Some have even got married!

The word ‘beano’ was in use long before Bicycle Beano started in 1982, and before D. C. Thomson first published The Beano, a popular children’s comic, in 1934.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of a beano is ‘a merry time or spree’. The word beano is derived from ‘beanfeast’, an annual celebration or party which originally included a meal of beans and bacon.

In the 18th century landowners provided an annual feast for the farm labourers and their families. The celebrations, with much cider drinking and dancing, lasted all day and the centrepiece was the beanfeast.

Later, the mill and factory owners of northern England adopted the same benevolent streak. The bosses rented trains or convoys of charabancs to take the whole workforce on a day trip to seaside resorts such as Blackpool, Skegness or Scarborough.

Enormous quantities of beer and sandwiches were provided, and there was much frolicking, singing and drunkenness. It was a big event in the workers’ lives. This was probably the only holiday they were likely to get, so they looked forward to the works’ outing, or beano as it became known. Works’ outings continued well into the 1960’s.

So Bicycle Beano somehow seemed a fitting name for our cycling holidays – a mixture of good veggie food, sociability, and a brilliant holiday.

A beano charabanc
Factory workers off on a 'beano'

Our tours

Somerset Beano

9-12 May 2021

South Downs Beano - crossing the ford
South Downs Beano

4-7 June 2021

Snowdonia Beano

18-25 September 2021

Bespoke tours

Find out more

Map and route sheet