Cycling is more popular now than ever. From lyrca-clad commuters to mud-drenched downhill mountain bikers, it seems that everyone is getting on two wheels.
Cycling is not only healthy, but immensely liberating. Travelling by bike allows you to set your own pace and your own route and to discover the sights and sounds you may otherwise miss. This is particularly true when travelling abroad, with cycling holidays offering the chance for real adventure.
Here we look at some of our favourite routes in Europe, from challenging Alpine ascents to urban cruises and unforgettable rural rides.
The Black Forest
The Black Forest in south-west Germany offers varied and challenging ‘apres-cycle’. Though the region doesn’t feature the death-defying heights of the Alps, it does include a range of quick ascents, which should not be taken lightly. Extremely picturesque, the Black Forest benefits from well sign-posted trails and a range of extracurricular activities. This being Germany beer and bratwurst are high on the list, but so too are rock climbing, rafting and wild camping.
The Great Swiss Passes
If the Black Forest is characterised by dark, slightly mysterious woodland, the Great Swiss Passes are all about spectacular snow-capped mountains and dynamic road racing: not for the faint hearted, climbs here can be extremely steep and descents lightning fast. The Great Swiss Passes have seen an explosion in popularity and more and more weekend warriors seek to test themselves on some of Europe’s highest roads. The Gotthard, Susten and Grimsel are feats of engineering brilliance, but are to be underestimated at your peril.
A popular holiday destination for sun seekers, Majorca is a varied mix of mountain and sea and is home to an abundance of memorable vistas. The island’s roads provide a great introduction to mountain climbing, while costal paths will no doubt appeal to those who prefer a gentler pace of life. With a temperate climate and diversity of terrain, it is little surprise that Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has opted to train on the island, and while we can’t promise that a holiday there will lead to a yellow jersey, it should provide an unforgettable experience.
Arguably the most beautiful of the Canaries, with a spectacular volcanic landscape, Lanzarote is popular as a winter break for cyclists with year-round temperatures hovering above 20C. These conditions have given rise to a thriving cottage industry of shops and workshops, meaning you’re never far from a mechanic if necessary. The island is relatively small in size, but features not only smooth roads, but limited traffic. Popular sites such as the La Corona national park are accessible by bike, as are the beach resorts of Puerto de Carmen and Costa Teguise and with a thriving night-life, there are few locations that offer as much all year round.
Amsterdam is one of the world’s most bicycle friendly cities, with over 60 percent of trips made by bike. An intricate and sophisticated network of cycle paths, some 400km in length, bisects the city, offering cyclists a unique chance to explore an urban environment on two wheels. The most popular style of bikes are the ‘omafiets’ – ubiquitous roadsters that promote an upright stance for comfort over style. Unlike some cities, cycling in Amsterdam favours a slower pace, so even those who are a little out of practice can enjoy the city by bike. Similarly, a plethora of rental options are available, from hour-by-hour to weekend deals.
Britain, Coast to coast
Britain’s most popular long-distance route begins at Whitehaven in Cumbria, before weaving its, occasionally challenging, way along old railway tracks and minor roads. The route takes in the glorious expanses of the Lake District and is punctuated by charming towns and villages, like Penrith and Nenthead along the way. Helpfully there are a number of fine bike shops too, so you can stock up on inner tubes if required.
Ideal for a long weekend, the route runs at 140 miles in length, but can be divided into three, or even four sections if you choose to adopt a more leisurely pace.