Overland SUMMER CAMPS FOR 4TH - 12TH GRADERS Family Login

European Challenge

4 weeks open to grades 9-12

Cross a continent, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, from the Netherlands to Spain. Discover Europe on a challenging ride of unsurpassed beauty.

From Amsterdam, we’ll head south through the Netherlands, riding along canals on bike paths dotted with windmills. In Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France, we’ll bike through picturesque villages and rolling farmland. Our route through Switzerland offers spectacular views of the snowcapped Alps, big blue lakes and deep green valleys. Cycling out of the mountains, we’ll cruise down to the Rhône River and along the south shore of Lake Geneva as we head back toward France.

In France, we’ll ride from village to village, through fields of sunflowers and past hillside vineyards. This countryside offers all a cyclist could ask for: varied terrain, quiet roads and beautiful vistas. On rides that average 70 miles a day, we’ll explore the timeless beauty of rural France. Climbing into the Pyrenees, we’ll leave France behind as we bike through stunning gorges and up winding mountain passes. We’ll enter Spain and then head down to the Mediterranean for a celebratory swim. At trip’s end in Barcelona, we’ll look back on four weeks of beauty, challenge, friendship and fun—an incredible month abroad.

“Overland was one of the best experiences of my life! The European Challenge presented me with new experiences and helped me achieve things I never thought were possible.”  Jessika Huang, Glencoe, Illinois

Highlights

  • Bike from the North Sea to the Mediterranean
  • Explore the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, France & Spain
  • Cross the Alps and Pyrenees by bicycle
  • Swim in the Mediterranean

Grade

For students completing grades 9-12 in June 2015
Students grouped by grade

Call us (413-458-9672) to check on current availability

Challenge Level

9 (1-10, 1 is easiest)

Start and End Location

Starts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Ends in Barcelona, Spain

Dates

4 Weeks

Sunday, June 28 to Saturday, July 25

Fees

$6195

What the trip fee includes:

  • All meals, group gear, accommodations, activities and transportation during the trip

What the trip fee doesn't include:

“We think Overland is the greatest program of its kind! It is so well organized from start to finish, and you feel very confident that your children are happy.” Susan Weaver, Darien, Connecticut

Trip Details

Students: Is This Trip Right for You?

Only you can answer this question. We suggest you start the decision making process by reading everything on our website about the trip. Then, email or call us with any questions you may have and talk to students who have completed the trip (we can give you references).

To start your thinking about the European Challenge, consider the following:

1. There are many kinds of challenge on the European Challenge:

  • Mileage: Long days on the bike-- typically 70+ miles a day.
  • Weather: Widely varying weather... from rain in Holland to cold nights in the Alps to sunny, hot days in Spain.
  • Minor Illness & Injury: over the course of four weeks there's a good chance that you'll catch a cold or that you'll fall off your bike and bruise an elbow or scrape up a thigh-- nothing too serious but still a challenge when you're far from home and working hard.
  • Homesickness: even if you've never had it before, there will likely be times when you long for the comforts and ease of home.
  • Camping Out: you'll get very comfortable sleeping out but you'll still miss the familiarity of your own bed, the ease and efficiency of screens and windows to keep bugs out, rain off and air-conditioned air in.
  • Group Living: group meals, group snacks, group cooking, group cleaning, group chores, etc. The demands of group living will be some of the most important challenges you'll face.

2. Are you ready to commit yourself to the training that is required for this trip? Think about whether or not you can commit yourself to completing the pre-trip riding—we've made it possible for even the busiest student to complete the training, but having the time and actually doing the riding are two different things.

3. Are you ready to commit yourself wholeheartedly to a demanding group experience? The European Challenge is all about the group succeeding, about the group completing the mileage, about the group enjoying the highs together (biking over the Alps!)... and sticking together through the lows (tough headwinds). Are you the kind of person who can put his or her own needs and wants after those of a group?

"It was better than I could have imagined!" Everett Wolf, Austin, Texas

Parents: What You Need to Understand

Every summer we get a handful of phone calls from parents who ask questions that reveal to us that they really don't understand what the European Challenge is all about.

These questions often put the European Challenge in the context of a bike tour for adults that stays in luxury accommodations (we camp out) and where fine dining is provided (we shop for our food every day and make meals for fourteen people using two small camp stoves). The parents who ask these questions simply have not paid attention (and they are relatively easy to get back on track).

The more difficult questions to respond to are the ones from parents who wonder why their son or daughter can't do what he or she wants. "Why can't my daughter just buy her own snacks (or lunch, or dinner, or dessert)." "Why can't my son ride ahead of the group... he's so much faster than the others?" What these parents haven't grasped is that the European Challenge is a chance for their son or daughter to see beyond his/her own needs and wants, to see the needs of the group before his/her own. In this way, the European Challenge is a chance to become a caring friend, a terrific group member and an exceptional leader.

The European Challenge is a chance for your son or daughter to be challenged in ways that school and sports might never have. Riding a bike is not technically difficult—but riding across Europe with thirteen other people is one of the hardest sustained challenges we can imagine. For your son or daughter to succeed on and enjoy the European Challenge you have to be committed to the goals of the trip so that you can help your son or daughter understand what it is they are to be a part of.

“Both leaders embodied the Overland spirit to its fullest extent. They were great examples of the amazing quality of Overland personnel I have come to know.” Jacob Goodman, Pacific Palisades, California

Itinerary shown below subject to change

Day 1: Amsterdam

European Challenge starts at the Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport in the Netherlands. Once everyone has arrived, we’ll travel to a small town just outside of Amsterdam to set up camp and build our bikes.

Days 2-12: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Northeast France

The Netherlands are known for exceptional bike paths and bike routes, a perfect location for the beginning of our journey. We'll spend the first few days getting used to our fully loaded bikes as we head south. By the third day, we'll start riding through the Ardennes of Benelux - small, but steep hills, a good test for what's to come. Biking through northeast France in Alsace also contributes a few medium sized climbs. We'll ride through Luxembourg and then spend one night in Germany and swing back into France where we'll enjoy our first buffer day as we relax in the hills of Lorraine, resting up for the challenges that we'll face in the coming week as we ride through Switzerland.

Days 13 & 14: Switzerland and the Alps

As we ride into Switzerland, we'll head straight for Bern and the Bernese Oberland. We'll be faced with two 1,000 meter passes as we ride through green valleys and small Swiss towns complete with charming chalets and cows grazing on the hillsides. We'll ride through Gstaad and Chateau d'Oex before spilling out into the Rhone River valley to the shores of Lake Geneva on our way back to France.

Days 15-24: Provence and the Massif Central

We'll ride through the foothills of the Alps and into the heart of France, through vineyards and ancient cities. We'll head southwest through Provence, towards the Roman Amphitheater in Orange before skirting the Massif Central. We'll have a rest day in Carcassonne, one of Europe's best preserved Medieval walled cities, exploring its cobbled streets before heading into the final week of our trip.

Days 25 & 26: The Pyrenees and the Mediterranean

From Carcassonne, we'll head into the challenging, yet beautiful Pyrenees. After three weeks together on our bikes, we will be in shape and ready to face the challenges we'll encounter climbing through this spectacular mountain range. Our efforts will be rewarded as we cross into Spain (at over 6,000 feet) and make our way down to Barcelona for a well deserved celebratory swim in the Mediterranean.

Days 27 & 28: Trip End in Barcelona

The following morning, we'll pack up our bikes and prepare for our flights home. We'll then spend an afternoon exploring Barcelona and reminiscing about our month together riding across Europe.

Buffer Days

During each section of the trip, there are buffer days built into the itinerary to allow for delays en route. Most groups will find that they have some of these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes for rest, relaxation and exploration on foot.

“Overland has presented me with the greatest challenges of my life, but also the best groups of people and leaders to conquer them.” Josie Persson, Summit, New Jersey

Accommodations

  • 24or 25 nights (depending on the section) of frontcountry camping. All of these campgrounds have hot water sinks and toilets; most have showers. The majority of the campgrounds have areas set aside to hand wash laundry, while a handful have machines. The groups will do laundry once a week.
  • 2 or 3 nights (depending on the section) in a hostel in Barcelona. The hostels provide dormitory style accommodations with rooms broken down by gender, flush toilets, showers and laundry facilities.

Click thumbnails below to enlarge

Preparing for the Biking

Training ahead of time is essential to your success on an Overland bike trip.  Training will enable you to enjoy your trip this summer.  Please review the training guidelines below:

This is one of Overland’s most challenging trips due to its length and intensity.The European Challenge is rated a 9 on a scale of 1-10 (1 is easiest).

* 1500+ miles of riding
* 75 miles a day on average
* 28 days from start to finish
* Some days off of the bikes: arrival day, departure day plus two or three buffer days to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes)
* Riding begins at first light and ends in the late afternoon or evening

Past experience has shown the following:

(1) Your health and well-being for the duration of the trip will depend on the quality, duration and intensity of your preparation.

(2) Your enjoyment of the trip will depend on your understanding of and commitment to the European Challenge as a group experience—one that demands selflessness and teamwork.

Required Pre-Trip Training
You must be able to commit to a pre-trip training program that requires the following:
(1) two rides a week of one hour each in March (at least 12 miles over varied terrain);
(2) two rides a week of 90 minutes each in April (at least 18 miles over varied terrain);
(3) two rides a week of two hours each in May (at least 24 miles over varied terrain);
(4) four rides a week, two afterschool rides of two hours each (at least 24 miles over varied terrain) and two weekend rides of four hours each (at least 48 miles over varied terrain). All rides in June should be on fully-loaded bikes with all of your gear and clothing.

All training rides that are unloaded (i.e., without your panniers, sleeping bag, etc.) must be at an average speed of between 12 and 15 miles per hour (or greater); all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of between 10 and 12 miles per hour (or greater).

Your Commitment to the Group
The European Challenge requires an extraordinary amount of selflessness and teamwork. Consider the following:

(1) Riding. There will always be a range of abilities in every European Challenge group. Successful groups are the ones where the stronger riders commit themselves to support the weaker riders and where the weaker riders work hard to improve their riding so that the group can stay as close as possible when on the road. For faster riders, the challenge is to slow down and enjoy the group experience of riding across Europe. For slower riders, it's important to pay attention to your speed on the bike during your spring training rides. If you cannot easily maintain the minimum speeds required (see above under Pre-Trip Training: unloaded rides must be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour or greater; all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of 10 miles per hour or greater), then you are going to have to train more—and harder—than the requirements that we have spelled out.

(2) Pace. Let's say an easy pace for you when your bike is fully loaded is 7 miles per hour. Do the math: 70+ miles a day at 7 m.p.h = 10 hours of pedaling—when you add in stops for snacks and lunch and delays and breakdowns your 10 hours of pedaling has grown to 12+ hours. Assuming the group is on the road by 6:00 a.m. that means you're rolling into camp after 6:00 p.m.—it's simply not a schedule that can be maintained, especially when the day's mileage is in the 80+ range. Plus, there will be a handful of riders who can easily maintain 16 m.p.h. In the spring, if you find that you are a slower rider, then you must work longer and harder to improve your speed and endurance.

(3) Meals. Experience has shown that it is absolutely essential that the group come together for meals, snacks and drinks... these are the times when friendships form and bonds are strengthened. These friendships and these bonds not only make the trip fun, they are the bedrock that provides the support for the most difficult days. Your group will work together to make sure that everyone has the kind of meals, snacks and cold drinks that they need to stay healthy and to have fun. You will find that you are eating and drinking constantly on the European Challenge—but you are doing it as a group; enjoying meals, snacks and drinks that the group chooses, that Overland pays for and that the group enjoys together.

(4) Time Together Off The Bikes. There's precious little time off the bikes, but when it comes, the group has to stick together, to include everyone... in everything—from chatting at morning snack to relaxing at lunch to reflecting on the day just before bed. Train hard for the trip, be prepared for an incredible challenge and come ready to be an important member of a close-working team.

Conclusion
The European Challenge is a spectacular experience full of beauty, challenge and fun. If you're excited about it, apply and get ready for one of the most incredible summers of your life.

“The trip was amazing; I had the time of my life.” Ari Brosowsky, San Francisco, California

Packing for Your Trip

  • Label the following items with your name, address and phone number.
  • Overland bicycle tours are fully self-contained—meaning there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords.
  • Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items will be mailed home.
  • Check out some of our favorite brands and retailers to purchase items on this list.
  • Please do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool like a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool. There are absolutely no weapons permitted on any Overland trip.
  • Please do not bring any items not listed on the packing list.
  • If you are flying, as you pack your gear adhere to the following instructions: (1) pack your sleeping pad and shoes in your bike box. (2) Please take your helmet and sleeping bag with you on the plane as carry-on items in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time. (3) Pack all your remaining items in your panniers. You can tape or strap your panniers together to check them as one piece of luggage.

Biking & Camping Equipment

  • Hi-Vis T-shirts and Vest
    Three t's and one vest. Synthetic preferred. Please visit the Overland Store if you need to purchase these items. Bike jerseys are acceptable but not necessary. The vest should be large enough to wear over warm layers while riding.
  • Touring Bicycle & Rear Rack
    A touring bicycle is required for this trip. One of the following bikes is required: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novarra Randonee. These bikes must be in excellent condition and have been purchased in the past 48 months. Other bicycles will not be accepted.
  • Panniers & Four Bungee Cords
    Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. For the European Challenge, you will want large panniers, 2400-3000 cubic inches total (for the pair), designed for touring. One large pannier has internal dimensions of approximately 17" x 13" x 7". You should be able to fit all of your belongings, besides your sleeping bag and pad, into your two panniers and have some space for group gear. Consider compressibility of clothing while packing for your Overland bicycle tour. Bungee cords should be 18-24" in length.
  • Spare Bike Parts & Tools
    • Four spare tubes that match your bike's tire size.
    • One pair of spare brake pads.
    • Four spare spokes that fit your wheels (two front, two rear).
    • One tire patch kit; tire levers; one spare tire.
  • Hydration System
    70-100 oz. bladder inside a small backpack (e.g., CamelBak). The simpler the better—the pack is used primarily to carry water and if it's too big and heavy or filled with other items, it will be uncomfortable to wear all day. Also be sure to attach one or two water bottles and cages to your bike frame.
  • Helmet
    Carry on the plane with you
  • Biking Gloves
    Well-padded for comfort
  • Shoes For Biking
    You have two options (most European Challenge participants choose option 2):
    • Ride in running shoes and have toe cages attached to your pedals.
    • Ride in bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and recessed cleats—these shoes clip into “clipless” pedals. A popular style of clipless shoes/pedals are SPDs. Please do not ride in racing shoes (they have hard soles that are uncomfortable to walk in).
  • Sleeping Bag
    Warm to 30 degrees or less. Lightweight and compact (when stuffed in a compression stuff-sack it should be no larger than 12" x 20"). Synthetic or down is acceptable. Carry on the plane with you.
  • Sleeping Pad
    Compact and either 3/4 or full length. Closed cell foam (thin and firm—e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest) is acceptable.
  • Utensils
    6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top; insulated plastic mug; spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils. A Rubbermaid (or similar) dish and regular utensils are fine.
  • Headlamp
    Small and lightweight--This comes in very handy in camp when it's dark and you're using both hands.

Clothing

Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items can be mailed home.

  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover & Long Fleece Pants
    To stay warm on cool nights. Your fleece can also double as a pillow.

  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom
    To stay warm on cool nights. Top can also be used as an extra layer while biking on cooler days.

  • Winter Hat & Warm Gloves
    To stay warm on cool nights, especially when we ride over the Alps and Pyrenees.

  • Waterproof, Breathable Rain Jacket
    Your rain gear must be waterproof (not just water resistant). Gore-Tex is one of the better-known waterproof, breathable fabric brands, but there are many to choose from. Ponchos are not acceptable. Bright colors preferred. 
     
  • Waterproof Rain Pants (optional)
    Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer when needed. Some students may find rain pants uncomfortable when riding, however, and simply choose to ride in bike shorts in inclement weather.

  • Padded Bike Shorts
    Two pairs--These are spandex shorts with a padded seat called a chamois. Bike shorts should fit snugly and feel comfortable to reduce chafing and any discomforts from sitting on a bike seat for long distance rides.

  • Around Camp Shorts
    One pair--athletic shorts work well around camp as they are comfortable to wear, light and compressible to pack.

  • T-shirt
    One synthetic shirt for around camp. 

  • Underwear
    Four--typically underwear is not worn under bike shorts, but you'll need some for around camp and days off.

  • Socks
    Four pairs--at least one warm, synthetic pair for inclement weather and around camp.

  • Pajamas
    One pair only--pajamas aren't required as many students sleep in shorts and a t-shirt.

  • Bathing Suit
    One only--boys should bring a Speedo as many pools in Europe require it.

  • Sport Sandals
    Good quality flip-flops or Crocs are a great option.

Miscellaneous Gear

  • Towel
    Medium size synthetic camping towel.

  • Plastic Bags
    Ten large ziplocks and five tall kitchen trash bags. The trash bags will be used to line your panniers and to wrap your sleeping bag and pad in. The ziplocks will be used to organize and waterproof the rest of your gear.

  • Toiletries
    All travel size (in a plastic bag). If necessary, you will be able to restock en route.

  • Sunglasses, Sunscreen (SPF 15+), Chapstick (with SPF protection) & Insect Repellent

  • Paperback Book and/or Personal Journal
    Optional

  • Digital Camera & Extra Batteries
    Optional, but great for documenting the trip. Make sure you bring a large enough memory card (1 to 4 GB).
  • Spending Money
    $50/week in cash or with a debit or ATM card. If you are flying home at the end of your trip, please bring additional money to set aside to pay the airline bike fee for your return flight.
  • Valid Passport
    Leave a photocopy of your passport at home

Cell Phones, Electronics and Personal Property

Please note the following important policies:

Our programs offer the opportunity to strengthen independence and self-reliance. To maximize these benefits, we do not permit phone calls to or from our students (except in the case of emergency).

If it is important for your son or daughter to be able to call you while en route to Overland, we recommend that you purchase an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. Please do not send an expensive smart phone like an iPhone or BlackBerry. On arrival we will collect all phones but we have found that safeguarding these phones is problematic given that our programs move from place to place. Despite our best efforts over $25,000 in phones have been lost, damaged or stolen in the last two years alone. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.

Communications

  • To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our students (except in the case of an emergency).
  • Your child will call home with our phones and assistance on arrival and departure if he/she flies to his/her program.
  • In the case of an emergency, we will make sure you are in touch with your child as soon as possible.

 Cell Phones

  • Cell phone use is prohibited on all Overland programs.
  • Any phone brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and returned at departure.
  • If you decide to bring a phone, do not bring an expensive smartphone (e.g., iPhone or BlackBerry); instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone.

Personal Electronics

  • We do not permit personal electronics (e.g., iPods, Kindles or iPads) except for digital cameras.
  • We do not permit emergency response or GPS tracking electronics.
  • Any electronics brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and mailed home or returned at departure.

Personal Property

  • Overland is not responsible for any student’s personal property—including but not limited to: phones, electronics, cameras, equipment, bicycles and clothing. Please schedule all expensive items on your homeowners insurance policy to ensure that your child/ward’s personal property and equipment is covered against loss, damage or theft.

No Reimbursements for Lost, Damaged or Stolen Phone, Electronics and Personal Property

  • Despite taking precautions, some phones, electronics and personal property brought by students (and collected by us) have been lost, damaged or stolen. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.
  • Please leave all valuable items - for example, jewelry or an important keepsake - at home while traveling with Overland.

Questions or concerns? Please call us. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

 

FAQs

What's a typical day like?

We'll get up before sunrise every morning and be on our bikes shortly after first light. We'll bike for a couple of hours before stopping for a morning snack. We'll bike until 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. before we stop again for another snack and then continue until 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. before we stop for lunch. The afternoon riding is broken up by a snack stop or two. Depending on the day's mileage and delays en route, the goal is to pull into our overnight accommodations (typically a campground) between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. There will be shorter days and longer days—if the day gets too long, we'll change our plans and stop for the night before reaching our planned destination (and we'll make up the mileage in the coming days).

How much weight does each person carry?

Students carry all of their personal gear in addition to some group gear (part of a tent, cooking utensils or pots and pans, for example) and some group food. In total, each student will carry about thirty-five to forty pounds. Keep in mind, however, that the bike carries the brunt of the load, and they’re designed specifically for this task. When you’re packing, it’s important to recognize that you will carry everything you bring on your bike.

What kind of bike do I need?

A touring bike is required for the European Challenge. These have wide tires, strong steel frames and gearing engineered to keep you moving even with a heavy load. These bikes are designed specifically for long distance, fully-loaded rides over varied terrain – perfect for the European Challenge. The Trek 520 and Surly Long Haul Trucker are two great touring bikes. Check out the The Right Bicycle for Your Overland Trip for more detailed information.

How often can I take a shower?

Groups stay at frontcountry campgrounds with modern amenities; most have showers.

How often can I do laundry?

Groups will typically have an opportunity to do laundry once a week. Most campgrounds do have laundry facilities, but dryers are not prevalent in Europe. Clothes will have to be air-dried.

What’s the weather like?

The climate in Europe is similar to the East Coast in the summer, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 degrees. So it can be hot, but it never gets as hot and dry as the American Southwest. Students should also be prepared for some rainy, gray days.

What is the terrain like?

You should prepare for long, challenging climbs, but this is part of what makes the European Challenge such a spectacular ride. The route begins in the relatively flat terrain surrounding Amsterdam. You will encounter more and more rolling hills as you work your way south. The route climbs up and over the Alps, in Switzerland, and the Pyrenees, on the border of France and Spain. Know that we’ve designed the itinerary such that the days with especially strenuous climbing typically have shorter mileage.

What are meals like?

Breakfasts are generally made up of yogurt, muesli, cereal, croissants, fruit and juice. A typical morning snack is bananas and granola bars, or, if your group happens to be riding past a boulangerie, croissants and pain au chocolat. Lunch is usually a fresh baguette with a variety of fillings (jam, nutella, cold cuts, French cheeses) plus fruit and vegetables. Salty foods such as pretzels and crackers with fruit are a common afternoon snack. Popular dinners include pasta, chicken and stir-fry.

Overland's goal is to always provide more food than is needed so that everyone—no matter how big their appetite—gets enough. Each group will plan and prepare their meals every day. Over the course of the first week or so groups develop a comfortable routine around meals and their favorite meals become established. The European Challenge offers the unique opportunity to experience the culture, sights and tastes of Europe. Our groups will have the opportunity to sample the local fare, savor the cuisine and visit traditional shops (e.g. boulangerie) while remaining focused on preparing their own meals and dining together as a cohesive unit.

Please tell me about safety at Overland.

Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making—from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety—no program can. Biking and other recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. For example, we require our campers and leaders to ride with helmets; we ride as a group with a leader at the front and the rear; each bike has a bright orange safety flag; and we carefully review our routes. Beyond these and other important practices, we work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so that they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.

Prepare & Pack

Preparing for the Biking

Training ahead of time is essential to your success on an Overland bike trip.  Training will enable you to enjoy your trip this summer.  Please review the training guidelines below:

This is one of Overland’s most challenging trips due to its length and intensity.The European Challenge is rated a 9 on a scale of 1-10 (1 is easiest).

* 1500+ miles of riding
* 75 miles a day on average
* 28 days from start to finish
* Some days off of the bikes: arrival day, departure day plus two or three buffer days to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes)
* Riding begins at first light and ends in the late afternoon or evening

Past experience has shown the following:

(1) Your health and well-being for the duration of the trip will depend on the quality, duration and intensity of your preparation.

(2) Your enjoyment of the trip will depend on your understanding of and commitment to the European Challenge as a group experience—one that demands selflessness and teamwork.

Required Pre-Trip Training
You must be able to commit to a pre-trip training program that requires the following:
(1) two rides a week of one hour each in March (at least 12 miles over varied terrain);
(2) two rides a week of 90 minutes each in April (at least 18 miles over varied terrain);
(3) two rides a week of two hours each in May (at least 24 miles over varied terrain);
(4) four rides a week, two afterschool rides of two hours each (at least 24 miles over varied terrain) and two weekend rides of four hours each (at least 48 miles over varied terrain). All rides in June should be on fully-loaded bikes with all of your gear and clothing.

All training rides that are unloaded (i.e., without your panniers, sleeping bag, etc.) must be at an average speed of between 12 and 15 miles per hour (or greater); all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of between 10 and 12 miles per hour (or greater).

Your Commitment to the Group
The European Challenge requires an extraordinary amount of selflessness and teamwork. Consider the following:

(1) Riding. There will always be a range of abilities in every European Challenge group. Successful groups are the ones where the stronger riders commit themselves to support the weaker riders and where the weaker riders work hard to improve their riding so that the group can stay as close as possible when on the road. For faster riders, the challenge is to slow down and enjoy the group experience of riding across Europe. For slower riders, it's important to pay attention to your speed on the bike during your spring training rides. If you cannot easily maintain the minimum speeds required (see above under Pre-Trip Training: unloaded rides must be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour or greater; all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of 10 miles per hour or greater), then you are going to have to train more—and harder—than the requirements that we have spelled out.

(2) Pace. Let's say an easy pace for you when your bike is fully loaded is 7 miles per hour. Do the math: 70+ miles a day at 7 m.p.h = 10 hours of pedaling—when you add in stops for snacks and lunch and delays and breakdowns your 10 hours of pedaling has grown to 12+ hours. Assuming the group is on the road by 6:00 a.m. that means you're rolling into camp after 6:00 p.m.—it's simply not a schedule that can be maintained, especially when the day's mileage is in the 80+ range. Plus, there will be a handful of riders who can easily maintain 16 m.p.h. In the spring, if you find that you are a slower rider, then you must work longer and harder to improve your speed and endurance.

(3) Meals. Experience has shown that it is absolutely essential that the group come together for meals, snacks and drinks... these are the times when friendships form and bonds are strengthened. These friendships and these bonds not only make the trip fun, they are the bedrock that provides the support for the most difficult days. Your group will work together to make sure that everyone has the kind of meals, snacks and cold drinks that they need to stay healthy and to have fun. You will find that you are eating and drinking constantly on the European Challenge—but you are doing it as a group; enjoying meals, snacks and drinks that the group chooses, that Overland pays for and that the group enjoys together.

(4) Time Together Off The Bikes. There's precious little time off the bikes, but when it comes, the group has to stick together, to include everyone... in everything—from chatting at morning snack to relaxing at lunch to reflecting on the day just before bed. Train hard for the trip, be prepared for an incredible challenge and come ready to be an important member of a close-working team.

Conclusion
The European Challenge is a spectacular experience full of beauty, challenge and fun. If you're excited about it, apply and get ready for one of the most incredible summers of your life.

“The trip was amazing; I had the time of my life.” Ari Brosowsky, San Francisco, California

Packing for Your Trip

  • Label the following items with your name, address and phone number.
  • Overland bicycle tours are fully self-contained—meaning there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords.
  • Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items will be mailed home.
  • Check out some of our favorite brands and retailers to purchase items on this list.
  • Please do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool like a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool. There are absolutely no weapons permitted on any Overland trip.
  • Please do not bring any items not listed on the packing list.
  • If you are flying, as you pack your gear adhere to the following instructions: (1) pack your sleeping pad and shoes in your bike box. (2) Please take your helmet and sleeping bag with you on the plane as carry-on items in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time. (3) Pack all your remaining items in your panniers. You can tape or strap your panniers together to check them as one piece of luggage.

Biking & Camping Equipment

  • Hi-Vis T-shirts and Vest
    Three t's and one vest. Synthetic preferred. Please visit the Overland Store if you need to purchase these items. Bike jerseys are acceptable but not necessary. The vest should be large enough to wear over warm layers while riding.
  • Touring Bicycle & Rear Rack
    A touring bicycle is required for this trip. One of the following bikes is required: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novarra Randonee. These bikes must be in excellent condition and have been purchased in the past 48 months. Other bicycles will not be accepted.
  • Panniers & Four Bungee Cords
    Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. For the European Challenge, you will want large panniers, 2400-3000 cubic inches total (for the pair), designed for touring. One large pannier has internal dimensions of approximately 17" x 13" x 7". You should be able to fit all of your belongings, besides your sleeping bag and pad, into your two panniers and have some space for group gear. Consider compressibility of clothing while packing for your Overland bicycle tour. Bungee cords should be 18-24" in length.
  • Spare Bike Parts & Tools
    • Four spare tubes that match your bike's tire size.
    • One pair of spare brake pads.
    • Four spare spokes that fit your wheels (two front, two rear).
    • One tire patch kit; tire levers; one spare tire.
  • Hydration System
    70-100 oz. bladder inside a small backpack (e.g., CamelBak). The simpler the better—the pack is used primarily to carry water and if it's too big and heavy or filled with other items, it will be uncomfortable to wear all day. Also be sure to attach one or two water bottles and cages to your bike frame.
  • Helmet
    Carry on the plane with you
  • Biking Gloves
    Well-padded for comfort
  • Shoes For Biking
    You have two options (most European Challenge participants choose option 2):
    • Ride in running shoes and have toe cages attached to your pedals.
    • Ride in bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and recessed cleats—these shoes clip into “clipless” pedals. A popular style of clipless shoes/pedals are SPDs. Please do not ride in racing shoes (they have hard soles that are uncomfortable to walk in).
  • Sleeping Bag
    Warm to 30 degrees or less. Lightweight and compact (when stuffed in a compression stuff-sack it should be no larger than 12" x 20"). Synthetic or down is acceptable. Carry on the plane with you.
  • Sleeping Pad
    Compact and either 3/4 or full length. Closed cell foam (thin and firm—e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest) is acceptable.
  • Utensils
    6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top; insulated plastic mug; spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils. A Rubbermaid (or similar) dish and regular utensils are fine.
  • Headlamp
    Small and lightweight--This comes in very handy in camp when it's dark and you're using both hands.

Clothing

Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items can be mailed home.

  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover & Long Fleece Pants
    To stay warm on cool nights. Your fleece can also double as a pillow.

  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom
    To stay warm on cool nights. Top can also be used as an extra layer while biking on cooler days.

  • Winter Hat & Warm Gloves
    To stay warm on cool nights, especially when we ride over the Alps and Pyrenees.

  • Waterproof, Breathable Rain Jacket
    Your rain gear must be waterproof (not just water resistant). Gore-Tex is one of the better-known waterproof, breathable fabric brands, but there are many to choose from. Ponchos are not acceptable. Bright colors preferred. 
     
  • Waterproof Rain Pants (optional)
    Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer when needed. Some students may find rain pants uncomfortable when riding, however, and simply choose to ride in bike shorts in inclement weather.

  • Padded Bike Shorts
    Two pairs--These are spandex shorts with a padded seat called a chamois. Bike shorts should fit snugly and feel comfortable to reduce chafing and any discomforts from sitting on a bike seat for long distance rides.

  • Around Camp Shorts
    One pair--athletic shorts work well around camp as they are comfortable to wear, light and compressible to pack.

  • T-shirt
    One synthetic shirt for around camp. 

  • Underwear
    Four--typically underwear is not worn under bike shorts, but you'll need some for around camp and days off.

  • Socks
    Four pairs--at least one warm, synthetic pair for inclement weather and around camp.

  • Pajamas
    One pair only--pajamas aren't required as many students sleep in shorts and a t-shirt.

  • Bathing Suit
    One only--boys should bring a Speedo as many pools in Europe require it.

  • Sport Sandals
    Good quality flip-flops or Crocs are a great option.

Miscellaneous Gear

  • Towel
    Medium size synthetic camping towel.

  • Plastic Bags
    Ten large ziplocks and five tall kitchen trash bags. The trash bags will be used to line your panniers and to wrap your sleeping bag and pad in. The ziplocks will be used to organize and waterproof the rest of your gear.

  • Toiletries
    All travel size (in a plastic bag). If necessary, you will be able to restock en route.

  • Sunglasses, Sunscreen (SPF 15+), Chapstick (with SPF protection) & Insect Repellent

  • Paperback Book and/or Personal Journal
    Optional

  • Digital Camera & Extra Batteries
    Optional, but great for documenting the trip. Make sure you bring a large enough memory card (1 to 4 GB).
  • Spending Money
    $50/week in cash or with a debit or ATM card. If you are flying home at the end of your trip, please bring additional money to set aside to pay the airline bike fee for your return flight.
  • Valid Passport
    Leave a photocopy of your passport at home

Cell Phones, Electronics and Personal Property

Please note the following important policies:

Our programs offer the opportunity to strengthen independence and self-reliance. To maximize these benefits, we do not permit phone calls to or from our students (except in the case of emergency).

If it is important for your son or daughter to be able to call you while en route to Overland, we recommend that you purchase an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. Please do not send an expensive smart phone like an iPhone or BlackBerry. On arrival we will collect all phones but we have found that safeguarding these phones is problematic given that our programs move from place to place. Despite our best efforts over $25,000 in phones have been lost, damaged or stolen in the last two years alone. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.

Communications

  • To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our students (except in the case of an emergency).
  • Your child will call home with our phones and assistance on arrival and departure if he/she flies to his/her program.
  • In the case of an emergency, we will make sure you are in touch with your child as soon as possible.

 Cell Phones

  • Cell phone use is prohibited on all Overland programs.
  • Any phone brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and returned at departure.
  • If you decide to bring a phone, do not bring an expensive smartphone (e.g., iPhone or BlackBerry); instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone.

Personal Electronics

  • We do not permit personal electronics (e.g., iPods, Kindles or iPads) except for digital cameras.
  • We do not permit emergency response or GPS tracking electronics.
  • Any electronics brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and mailed home or returned at departure.

Personal Property

  • Overland is not responsible for any student’s personal property—including but not limited to: phones, electronics, cameras, equipment, bicycles and clothing. Please schedule all expensive items on your homeowners insurance policy to ensure that your child/ward’s personal property and equipment is covered against loss, damage or theft.

No Reimbursements for Lost, Damaged or Stolen Phone, Electronics and Personal Property

  • Despite taking precautions, some phones, electronics and personal property brought by students (and collected by us) have been lost, damaged or stolen. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.
  • Please leave all valuable items - for example, jewelry or an important keepsake - at home while traveling with Overland.

Questions or concerns? Please call us. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

 

Travel Information

Families are responsible for making travel arrangements to Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport and from the Barcelona-El Prat Airport. Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome students at trip start and to assist with departure at trip end. Please note that students flying into Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport , as with any international airport, need to proceed through customs before meeting their Overland leaders.

If your child is flying:

Flight Arrival Window:
Amsterdam-Schiphol Int'l Airport (AMS) between 6:00 am and 11:00 am on Sunday*

Flight Departure Window:
Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) between 8:00 am and noon on Saturday

If you're picking up and/ or dropping off your child:

Trip Start Drop Off:
Amsterdam-Schiphol Int'l Airport (AMS) arrivals area 3 at 8:00 am on Sunday

Trip End Pick Up: 
Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) Terminal 1 Departures check-in area at 9:00 am on Saturday

*To arrive on Sunday morning, flights must depart from the U.S. on Saturday night. If possible, please choose a flight that does not connect in Europe (i.e. fly nonstop from a U.S. airport).

Flight and Travel Information

Traveling With Your Bicycle

For alternative travel plans or questions, please call us at 413-458-9672 or email
travel@overlandsummers.com

Mail Stops

Specific Instructions for Letters:

  1. Use United States Postal Service Air Mail only. Avoid express mail, DHL, FedEx, UPS or any other express mail service or courier.
  2. Please do not send overnight letters: Many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back (for this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery).
  3. For sending mail internationally, please count on two weeks minimum.

More detailed information about sending mail to your student will be posted on the Overland Portal in May.

Helpful Reminders

Help Your Child Prepare Adequately

Once your child is enrolled you will be directed to the Overland Portal. Please take the time to read through all of the pre-trip information and prepare appropriately. All programs—not just our outdoor trips—require thoughtful preparation and good fitness. It is important to stay active and fit through sports and exercise. In addition, hikers need broken in boots and bikers need to practice safe riding.

Summer Photos

We will upload photos of every group during the summer. Details will be provided in the spring. We’ll also upload all the leaders’ photos from the summer by mid-August (which you can download for free).

We're Here for You

Once our programs start the Overland office is open seven days a week from 8:30am to 8:30pm. After 8:30pm, for all routine calls, please leave a voicemail, and we will call you back as soon as we return to the office. In an emergency, follow the instructions on the answering machine to contact our answering service, and we will return your call promptly.

Expectations, Cell Phones & Electronics

EXPECTATIONS & RULES

Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. Our students are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of each other and of their leaders; they are expected to have chosen an appropriate trip for their interests and abilities; they are expected to have prepared adequately so that they can keep up physically and participate in all of the group’s activities; they understand that smoking, using any tobacco product, drinking alcohol or using any drugs (other than prescribed medications) is strictly prohibited. We reserve the right to dismiss any student for any reason whatsoever-- including but not limited to: rule breaking, a poor attitude, misbehaving, an inability to fully participate or to keep up physically. Students who are dismissed receive no refund and all costs associated with the dismissal are the sole responsibility of the parents/guardians.

PHONE CALLS, CELL PHONES AND ELECTRONICS

To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our students; the exceptions to this are: (1) your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance and (2) in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to his/her Overland program, please do not bring an expensive smart phone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone or calling card. Please do not bring personal electronics (e.g., iPods, Kindles, iPads, GPS or similar devices) except for digital cameras. Any cell phones or electronics (except cameras) brought by a student will be collected on arrival and mailed home or returned at departure.

Anytime a student is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director calls the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with the child.

 

Leader Profile

Susie Gurzenda

Susie Gurzenda

Hometown
Somerset, Pennsylvania
School
Kenyon College
Leadership
California, New England Coast
More about Susie »

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