For cyclists, even the most textbook places open up from an unexpected angle. In addition, traveling by bicycle is easier than it looks. You don’t need to be an athlete to ride the European bicycle lanes or the Golden Ring cities. And if a little training, and the Himalayas are up to it.
Here are 10 cycling routes, from the simplest to the most advanced, and our advice on what to consider before embarking on a cycle trip. Read on and be inspired!
Season: March-June and September-October
The Italian Riviera beckons with the turquoise sea, elegant old towns and the air filled with the scent of cypress trees. It’s good to wander the winding streets, lounge on the beach, and then dine on pasta with pesto genovese sauce. Not adventurous enough? Then rent a bike and hit the local biking trails. There’s no need to break any records – the Ligurian coast is packed with trails that even kids can tackle.
A good place to start is San Lorenzo al Mare, where the bicycle path goes all the way to Ospedaletti. If you come across tunnels, don’t be surprised as this used to be a railroad line but was replaced by smooth asphalt. The whole 15 miles can be covered in a day, but if you get tired you can stop in any of the towns along the way. Just make sure you don’t miss Sanremo. Learn where Alfred Nobel lived, where in Italy is the temple of Christ the Savior and in honor of which Empress is named the embankment. And if you visit in March, you’ll get straight to the festival of flowers – consider it a reward for a cycling trip.
Loire Valley, France
Season: April to October
Rural roads with pastoral views, vineyards, charming towns and villages, incredible cuisine – that’s what cycling along the valley of France’s longest river is all about. The entire route along the Loire is 500 miles. You can choose any piece and come at least for a couple of days: ride between a couple of towns and look at the famous castles of the Loire surrounded by manicured gardens.
There are almost no climbs along the way, so even families with children can ride the Loire Valley. You can bring your bikes with you, but even better, you can rent them at one of the Detours de Loire outlets. You can return them to another city where you finish the route. Do not put too much stuff in the bag: firstly, it will be heavy, and secondly, it will not fit goat cheese and pink Anjou wine, which you will buy on the way anyway.
Route of the Hiawatha, USA
Season: mid-May to late September
On the border of Idaho and Montana lies the Bitterroot Range, part of the famous Rocky Mountains. There used to be a railroad here, but now it’s replaced by the 15-mile-long Hiawatha Bike Trail. A dirt trail through the pine forest on the mountainside would be good on its own. But the Hiawatha Trail, as a mountain railroad is supposed to be, runs over dizzyingly high bridges and dark-dark tunnels. The longest, the St. Paul Tunnel tests cyclists for 1.7 miles. It sounds intimidating, but even six-year-old children can cope with the road.
They usually start at the highest point, East Portal. Here you can rent not only bikes, but also helmets and flashlights, which you can’t do without in the tunnels. It’s nice to shout and listen to the echo in the tunnels, just try not to scare your fellow cyclists. The descent to the bottom takes about two hours if you take your time. A shuttle bus can take you back to the parking lot at the start.
Season: mid-July to mid-September
The Rallarvegen Road was used by workers when they built the railroad line from Oslo to Bergen in the early 20th century. The technical route would have become unnecessary if cyclists hadn’t been drawn to the fabulous place. Now the 51 mile-long Rallarvegen is Norway’s most popular bicycle route. The snow-capped mountains, green forests, clear rivers, lakes and waterfalls – the northern beauty is breathtaking.
Theoretically the whole route can be covered in a day, but it’s better to stretch the pleasure at least two or three days. The road Rallarvegen begins from Haugastel station at an altitude of one thousand meters, rises for another 1125 feet to the lake, and then rushes down to the fjord. In some places the path is so steep that you want to walk it, even if you’re going in the right direction – from top to bottom. In July and August there are still snowfields right on the road, but they are more fun than difficult to tackle. Bicycles are rented at Haugastøl, Finse and Myrdal stations, and returned at the end of the route, in Flom.
Across the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara, Morocco
Season: March-May, September-November
Getting out of Marrakech is not easy: the labyrinthine medina is as addictive as quicksand. But if you make an effort, you will find that outside the city is no less exotic and even more beautiful. The popular cycling route starts in Marrakech, climbs the Atlas mountains and then descends to the dunes of the Sahara, where enthusiasts can transfer to camels. Endless serpentine roads through fantastic mountains, oases and Berber villages, as well as mud-built kasbah fortresses and liters of sweet mint tea await you on the way.
Clothing is better to choose the lightest, but with long sleeves so as not to get burnt in the Moroccan sun. For a self-guided visit, it is worth taking a tent, which looks especially spectacular next to the cacti. Tours are more likely to stay in hotels. After the bike tour, allow yourself to relax in the hammam and haggle in the bustling bazaars.
Lhasa, China – Kathmandu, Nepal
Season: April-June, late August-mid October
The road from mystical Lhasa to relaxed Kathmandu literally flies under the clouds. The 500-mile-long Friendship Highway climbs three passes above 16,400 feet, offering unbearably beautiful views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and other highest peaks. Then the road suddenly collapses from the high, empty and deserted Tibetan plateau to the China-Nepal border at less than 6,500 feet: everything here is covered with subtropical forest. The remaining 71 miles to Kathmandu you never tire of being amazed at how different Nepal is from China, including the quality of the road.
In Lhasa it’s worth lingering: firstly, to adapt to the altitude, and secondly, to experience the atmosphere of one of the most impressive cities in the world. Join the crowd of Tibetan pilgrims going over the rosary and repeating mantras, and walk around the Potala and Jokhang, Lhasa’s two main shrines, in a circle. A travel agency will help you with the cycling program, because you can’t enter Tibet without it. Your travel agent can also arrange a Tibetan pass or English-speaking guides, an escort car, and everything else you need for a bicycle tour through the Snow Country.
Manali – Leh, India
In northern India, one of the world’s most spectacular roads snakes its way from Manali to Leh among the formidable Himalayas. It was built by the Indian Army to control the “difficult” borders with China and Pakistan. The strategic road is used for 4-5 months a year, the rest of the time the passes are clogged with snow. Off-road vehicles are the most common mode of transportation from Manali to Leh. Daredevils overcome 298 miles on motorcycles. It’s a feat to go all the way by bicycle, a feat to be proud of.
The first pass on the way – Rotang (13,000 feet) – is beloved by Indian tourists: take pictures on the snowfields and ride horses in funny rented coats. Few people go further than Rotang, so the other three passes, from 16,000 to 17,500 feet altitude, make for a chance to be alone. Don’t miss the signs put up by BRO roadies: ‘Peep, peep! Don’t sleep’, ‘Be gentle on my curves’ and others in the same style. If the climbs get tough, cheer yourself up with the fact that Leh, an ancient market town with Tibetan-Buddhist culture, is as perky and atmospheric as the real Tibet, awaits you.
For residents and visitors to New York City, there is an opportunity to enjoy an incredible bicycle tour experience without having to leave their city. Central Park Discovery is dedicated to providing these services.