It’s the time of year when looking out of the window frequently prompts either feelings of despair or an unquenchable burning desire to pack the bike and go somewhere warm to ride in the sunshine.
At the very least, it can lead to long, intense periods of Google harassment in the hope of discovering the best cycling holiday daydream fodder out there for later in the year, thereby distracting from the thought of yet another turbo session.
Not everyone is looking for the same from a cycling holiday, but I’ve compiled a list of my personal favourites which should provide some food for thought for most types of cyclist, or even just a jumping off point.
Jordan - Dead Sea to Red Sea
Comprising some 70% on road and 30% off-road, this is one for fat tyres and semi-slicks with a good level of fitness ideally. The climbs are long and the temperatures are on the warmer side, but there’s something incredibly special about passing through places whose names you recognise from Sunday School.
Highlights include several days of challenging desert riding - tip, sand is NOT your friend - a dip in the Dead Sea, a rest day timed perfectly to enjoy the amazing sights of the ancient city of Petra and the chance to meet and interact with Bedouin and sleep out under the stars in the Wadi Rum.
France- Loire Valley
The ultimate in laid back riding, one of the best things about riding in the Loire Valley is that it’s so well signposted you can either take your own bike and do it totally unsupported, staying at glorious guesthouses and hotels along the way (or camp), or you can do it with a tour company fully supported, enabling more chateau visiting time. Or why not go for something between the two - hire bikes on a day to day basis and use the local luggage courier service that’s available. It’s French touring at its best.
The scenery and chateaux are incredible, the route is predominantly flat (with the odd hiccup) and large chunks of it are either traffic free or on quiet roads. It’s so brilliant that I’ve been back several times and will continue to do so! What’s not to love about cheese and wine “fuel” stops? Look out for the fabulous Anjou Velo Vintage cycling event in June too.
Level: Perfect for novice tourists through to hardcore riders looking for some relaxation.
One of the best ways to experience the unique (and increasingly popular) country that is Cuba, is to travel through it by bike. Plentiful and incredibly cheap Casas Particulares (rooms in private houses) along the way mean that it can be done by intrepid self-supported tourers, but the easiest way by far, given how hot it can get is to choose a supported tour.
The riding is mostly on road, the terrain largely flat or undulating but rarely hilly, apart from the mountainous area in the east where Castro conducted much of his guerrilla warfare during the early days of the Revolution.
And this is one of the very special things about Cuba: the overwhelming sense of history all around. The country still lives and breathes its revolutionary past, even if many package tour holiday makers never get any further than the mojitos and sand of Varadero or the endless Hemingway hotspots in Havana. Tip: take a bottle of Tabasco with you, the food tends to be quite bland.
Level: Relaxed riding with some hills
Germany/Austria – Danube Cycle Way
Like the Loire Valley, this is European bike touring at its most relaxed. The Danube Cycle Way takes it up a notch further still, with the vast majority of the section between Passau and Vienna - the most popular stretch - completely traffic free.
It’s one of the best feelings ever to ride alongside a friend or partner and actually be able to chat as you ride, rather than being forced to bellow at each other as you go. As with the Loire, it’s perfectly possible to ride this unsupported, but using hire bikes and the local luggage courier system does make it accessible to even the least energetic of rider and it’s great for families.
It’s almost entirely flat and incredibly well-signposted all along the way. Highlights include the scenery, cake/coffee and sausage/beer stops and the beauty of the towns along the way, including UNESCO World Heritage old town of Krems. Those who do not enjoy a good sausage may want to consider a different route.
Utterly relaxed and accessible riding
Photo: Tenerife Tourism Corporation
Mallorca has become a bit of a victim of its own success for winter road riding breaks. If you’re of the opinion that this sunny Ballearic island is a little passé and the roads just too crowded, why not consider heading to Tenerife instead?
The Canaries enjoy year round sunshine and good temperatures, and the climb from the coast up to the jawdropping volcanic centre of the island is quite literally breathtaking. Once you’re up there, the almost lunar landscape is as bizarre as you’re likely to find for cycling, and then there’s the descent to look forward to!
Off-road is also growing in popularity on the island, although a fall may not be advisable, given the jagged volcanic rock everywhere. Flights are cheap and hotels or villas away from the fleshpots on the coast can be charming and inexpensive. The traditional wrinkled potatoes make an excellent post-ride feed, and the wine is excellent too!
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