Georgia Humphreys suggests some interesting routes for those cyclists who are not quite up to the Tour de France.
When Baron Karl Freiherr von Drais invented the bicycle 200 years ago — albeit one without pedals that was really more of a running machine — the German inventor probably had little idea he was (quite literally) starting a revolution. Since then, travelling by two wheels has become a popular leisure activity — some people even do it for a holiday.
Fortunately, not every cycling trip requires super-human levels of fitness and several pairs of race-ready Lycra shorts.
Try these tours if you want to enjoy the ride without feeling like you're taking part in the Tour de France.
1. PENEDES, CATALONIA, SPAIN
With its rich, red soil, long hours of sunshine and rolling vineyards, Penedes, an hour's drive southwest of Barcelona, is one of Europe's most diverse and exciting wine regions.
Try a self-guided Cava Country tour, for example, visiting famous wineries such as Condoniu and Freixenet, along with smaller family-run outfits, where bottles are still painstakingly turned by hand. The holiday ends in Sant Sandurni d'Anoia, where the first bottle of Cava was produced in 1872.
2. INNER HEBRIDES, SCOTLAND
Cycle along twisted ribbons of quiet island roads, soaking up the atmosphere of wild, dramatic landscapes. A seven-day cycling tour can take you from the Isle of Mull, through the Ardnamurchan Peninsula and on to the Isle of Skye. Highlights include exploring the ancient abbey on the Isle of Iona, dining on superb seafood in Tobermory, stopping off at a local smokehouse to stock up on fish, meats and cheeses for a picnic lunch, and a tour of Talisker whisky distillery.
3. ARUSHA, TANZANIA
Thought African wildlife could only be viewed from a 4WD? Wrong — you can actually safari straight from the saddle. A two-week ride through northern Tanzania offers both traditional game-viewing and vistas of remote African plains where few tourists go.
There's the lure of seeing big cats and black rhino in the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater (from the safety of a vehicle), and even a chance to walk through villages and learn about local Maasai culture. A warning: the terrain can be hilly and the climate is warm, so you'll need to be relatively fit.
4. THE ISLE OF WIGHT
Measuring 20km by 40km, the Isle of Wight is the perfect size for exploring by bike. It also has a cycle-friendly mild climate and largely unspoilt countryside — nearly half of the island is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It's also one of the few places in England where you can still see a red squirrel or Glanville fritillary butterfly, so the Red Squirrel Route is great for wildlife lovers. The ride starts at Cowes in the north of the island and finishes at Sandown in the east, and includes two long sections of a former railway path.
5. OTAGO RAIL TRAIL
New Zealand's oldest trail trail cover 150km of dry and rocky plains and deep river gorges from Clyde through to Lauder, Ranfurly and Middlemarch. It was once New Zealand's longest railway branch line, but it's since become a world-class bike track, attracting 10,000 to 12,000 riders each year. The reality of the dramatic Central Otago landscapes will be sure to exceed expectations — from the mountains to the brooding cloud formations, Stonehenge-like boulders, leaping lambs and circling hawks.
The spectacular Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail follows the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad line, established in 1914 to transport logs and milled lumber to and from the Westwood Mill. It starts in Westwood and ends in Susanville, cutting through thick woodland and traversing the Susan River Canyon, with numerous historic tunnels and trestles along the way. In summer, there are many opportunities for hiking, camping and fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the river. It's also a great trail for families, being smooth and nearly level.
Take in the sublime scenery of the Shimanami Kaido (Island-Wave-Sea Route), which runs from Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture and ends in Imabara in Ehime Prefecture. This 60km road network traverses the islands of the Seto Inland Sea, with nine bridges.
Known as a "cyclists' paradise", there are 14 rental terminals along the way, so you can pick up or drop off a bike and travel at your own pace. Along the way, you'll find plenty to delight your senses, including natural beauty, historic sites and cultural attractions.
The roads of Cuba are very bicycle friendly, there aren't many cars to contend with — and the ones you do see will likely be the iconic classic cars the country is known for. Cycling the length of the country from Havana to Santiago De Cuba, is a brilliant way to take in the music, beaches, architecture and revolutionary history of Cuba. You'll pass through plantations, fields and jungle and get a great view of the traditional way of life. And you don't need to be super-fit to join in — Cuba is quite a small country and aside from the three main mountain ranges, the landscape is generally flat. The time to do this trip is now — get there before cars take over.
9. BAVARIA, GERMANY
Cycling through the Bavarian landscape of hilltop castles and rivers is like riding through the pages of a fairy tale. There are also lively towns to visit filled with traditional breweries. The region is backed by the German Jura mountains and the route dissected by a network of beautiful rivers — look out for Pfraundorfer See, a popular local swimming spot where you can cool off. A stunning part of the route takes you from the charming town of Parsberg along the Schwarze Laber river, to the architectural beauty of Regensburg.
Staying safe on cycling trips
Planning your own overseas cycling experience? With the right preparation, it can be an unforgettable adventure for all the right reasons.
Before you go: A bike-bound holiday will require more planning than your average vacation. You'll need the right level of fitness, the right itinerary, the right gear, and the ability to pack like a pro. Taking those extra camera lenses may have seemed like a good idea, but when you're battling uphill with a slightly deflated back tire, you'll wish you left that extra 1kg at home.
When you're there: 5 quick tips
1. Know the road rules of each destination
2. Always wear a helmet
3. Don't underestimate the sting of the sun (even in cooler destinations)
4. Stay connected (a reliable and compact GPS can be a life saver)
5. Invest in a great quality bike lock, and where possible, only leave it locked up for short periods of time in busy, well-lit areas
For more great travel tips and advice, visit Southern Cross Travel Insurance.
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