Riding on the waves of Tour de France and Olympic success, British cycling has never had it better. The huge success of road and track cycling has helped drive more interest in all cycling disciplines and get more people on their bikes.
The boom in interest has created a desire for many to seek out adventure cycling holidays rather than just soaking up the sun on a beach somewhere in the Costa del Sol.
Whilst Britain has increasing numbers of world-class trail centres and miles of off-road routes, with Europe on our doorstop, areas such as the Alps continue to draw numbers looking for an off-road challenge.
Having the right cycling gear is obviously important, but if you’re planning on driving to Europe with all your kit, it’s also important to have the best vehicle for the job.
With so many to choose from, we’ve picked the best in each class to help you on your way…
Van – VW Transporter T5
2003 – Present – Available new from £20,670
A favourite of surfers, campers and tradesmen across the globe, the transporter has won numerous awards including VW Transporter T5 the prestigious International Van of the Year in 2004.
Available in both petrol and diesel engines, from 1.9 to a 2.5 litre TDI, the transporter has enough going on under the bonnet to easily cope with miles of European roads.
Being a van, storage isn’t an issue. There’s room in the back for all your gear, a couple of bikes and a bed, but if you’ve got the time you could convert the van to add cooking facilities, seating/sleeping areas and a TV.
Pure 4×4 – Land Rover Defender
1983 – Present – Available new from £24,255
A British icon, the defender has been around in some form or another since 1948. Land Rover have kitted out the defender range with a selection of diesel engines from 2.2 to 2.5 litres and a 3.9 litre V8 petrol engine.
Although it’s not the best ride you’ll get on the road, the defender is highly regarded as one of the best off road 4x4’s available on the market, which makes it ideal for off-road trekking around the alps carrying all your gear and a couple of passengers. If you still need further storage, it’s possible to fit a roof rack.
MPV – Ford S-Max
2006 – Present – Available new from £22,800
If you’re travelling with a couple of passengers, the S-Max from Ford could be the vehicle for you.
The S-Max is a 7-seater people carrier that’s been on the market since 2006. Combining comfort with practicality, the S-Max offers the choice of 1.6 to 2.2 litre turbo diesel engines that will handle the faster speeds of European driving.
Seats in the S-Max fold flat giving you more room for carrying gear, but unless you’re travelling on your own or with just one passenger; you’ll have to make use of roof racks or a rear-mounted carrier to transport your bikes.
SUV – BMW X-3
2003 – Present – Available new from £28,965
Named as WhatCar? Magazine compact 4×4 of the year in 2012 and 2013, the X-3 has been on the market in its first generation form since 2003 but got re-styled as the second generation in 2010.
As expected with BMW, the X3 comes well built using a range of top-quality materials to create a comfortable but practical family car.
With a 5 seats and a decent amount of boot space, there’s plenty of room for all your kit, but you’ll have to make use of a rack or carrier for transporting your bikes.
Estate – Ford Mondeo Estate
1992 – Present – Available new from £19,350
The Ford Mondeo has been gracing the roads of Britain since way back in 1992.
Currently on its 5th generation model, the latest estate version secured itself top spot as WhatCar? Magazine’s Estate of the Year 2013.
The Mondeo has a huge boot and 5 seats, providing plenty of room for passengers and luggage. The 1.6 ECO version is capable of a combined 65.7mpg though a bigger engine may be more preferable for covering the amount of miles you’ll have to travel to reach the Alps.
Fitted with seven airbags and ESP (electronic stability control) as standard, you can travel safe in the knowledge there’s an abundance of safety features to look after you and your passengers should you be involved in an accident.
Head to head
It’s not really a fair comparison pitting each of the five against each other, as each is suited for the trip in different ways, instead, choosing which vehicle to travel to the alps may come down to budget constraints.
With that in mind we took a look at the cost of the base model for each vehicle, the cost to tax it and then insure it.
Whichever vehicle meets your needs the best must be the one to go for, but if money is no object, and comfort is what you’re looking for the X-3 will serve you well, but it’s worth bearing in mind that for a much more reasonable £20,000 you could have a Mondeo with room for you, three or four passengers and all your gear.