Cycling holidays: explore the world on two wheels
Get on your bike with these amazing trips and experiences
A study commissioned during lockdown by Maier Sports revealed that Brits are keen to get outdoors and to book an activity holiday.
In the survey of 1,740 respondents, 30% said they have taken up a new activity with walking, running, hiking and camping the most popular outdoor choices.
Cycling has also become very popular: 23% say they are now more likely to book a biking holiday than they were before lockdown.
We pick out some of the best trips and experiences you can have on two wheels.
‘Round the Island’ route, Isle of Wight, UK
The Isle of Wight is home to more than 200 miles of traffic-free cycle routes through some of the most scenic countryside in the UK. Those up for an Isle of Wight two-wheel challenge should take on the circular “Round the Island” route which starts in Whippingham and offers 70 miles of superb on- and off-road trails. Lonely Planet rated the Isle of Wight as one of the best places in the world to explore by mountain bike, so visitors can expect a selection of fantastic natural trails with a wide variety of terrain and breath-taking views.
Isle of Wight ferry company Wightlink takes visitors from the mainland on to the island in 22 minutes, and bicycles come on free with foot passengers; wightlink.co.uk
Cycling tours of Loch Ness and the Highlands, Scotland
Besides the scenic views, which include multiple gorges, lochs and waterfalls, the Scottish Highlands offers cyclists superb bird-spotting opportunities of species such as ospreys, red kites, peregrines, buzzards and magnificent golden eagles. Eagle-eyed bikers may also spot red squirrels, red deer, pine martens and even dolphin sightings.
Headwater has a four-day Loch Ness & The Highlands Cycling self-guided tour starting from £915 per person including Scottish breakfasts, high quality bikes, GPS directions and luggage transfers between hotels; headwater.com
Self-guided cycling tours in the Cairngorms, Scotland
New for 2021, join one of Wilderness Scotland’s self-guided cycling trips in the Cairngorms National Park. Enjoying a combination of loop rides and point to point rides (with luggage transferred ahead), guests will discover the highlights of this region of the Highlands, as they cycle up to 25 miles a day on quiet roads through outstanding scenery. In their free time, cyclists will explore the local villages, nearby distilleries and a range of other local attractions, staying each night in carefully selected small hotels and guest houses, which reflect the character of this region.
From £850pp sharing, including five nights’ B&B accommodation, bike hire and luggage transfers; wildernessscotland.com
Denmark’s toughest bike route
The east Jutland town of Vejle in Denmark has plenty to offer two-wheel enthusiasts and will be the starting point of the third stage of the 2022 Tour de France’s Grand Départ. Denmark’s undisputed toughest bike route, a 230km (140-mile) trail with 3,000m of total ascent, is located on the outskirts of Vejle.
Other cycling initiatives include the newly-opened Vejle Bikepark in the forest of Sønderskoven. The bike park has five different levels of difficulty ranging from “easy” to “extreme”, including two-metre high jumps and almost 100 different challenges, and easy access nearby to an 8km (5 mile) mountain bike track.
Fjordmino cycling route in Kystlandet, Denmark
Escape to the Danish countryside and explore the new “Fjordmino” cycling route. The aim is for the route to officially open next year, and it will take you through the scenic and lesser known region of south east Jutland, an area called Kystlandet - the coastal land.
Located an easy 40-minute drive from either Aarhus or Billund airport, Kystlandet comprises the three small towns of Horsens, Odder and Hedensted and surrounding areas. The new 52km (32 mile) circular cycling or hiking route around the Horsens Fjord goes through forests, fields and villages, as well as along beaches. Circling back to the charming coastal town of Horsens.
The Fjordmino also includes a hop across a couple of small islands at the entrance to the Horsens Fjord. The islands Alrø and Hjarnø are served by a small ferry with room for 12 passengers and their bikes.
Passo Pompaego, Trentino, Italy
One of Trentino’s most famous cycling routes begins in Tesero and journeys through to Pompaego, offering majestic views in both summer and winter over the region’s dramatic alpine setting. When cyclists first set off they will be riding through history, as they cycle the same ascent as legendary cyclists Marco Pantani and Pavel Tonko when they famously raced towards the Giro d’Italia finish line in 1998.
This route is classified as having a high level of difficulty and is most suited to experienced riders. The trail will take cyclists down a route bursting with picturesque scenery and incredible mountainous views which make the challenging ascents worthwhile.
Mountain bike lessons in Andorra
Andorra - the country of the Pyrenees - is known for its winter activities; yet its rugged mountain landscape, natural beauty spots and sub-Mediterranean climate make it an ideal adventure playground during the summer and autumn too.
In recent years, mountain biking has become one of the most thrilling ways to enjoy Andorra’s breathtaking scenery.
Family-friendly Vallnord Bike Park is widely regarded as among the best in Europe for its facilities and circuits with trails and descents for everyone from beginner to expert. The park has used the natural mountain surroundings to create downhill circuits, a wood park, cross country and Four-Cross, in addition to a children’s wood park (from six to ten years of age) and a bike trial area.
A one-hour mountain bike lesson at the Vallnord Bike Park is priced from €31 (£27.60) per person for a private lesson; visitandorra.com
Mountain biking in Saalfelden Leogang, Austria
Saalfelden Leogang is the destination for mountain biking in Austria. It’s where professionals come to play, train and compete in events such as the UCI World Championships. It’s therefore no surprise that this legendary bike region is home to some of the world’s best schools, workshops and bike camps for beginners.
The Elements Outdoorsports Bike School has programmes designed for everyone from kids through to those looking to improve their freeriding and style skills. The Riders Playground - one of Europe’s largest bike parks for beginners - is perfect for getting to grips with new mountain biking skills safely and securely, enhanced by a range of recently introduced features.
Once ready, holidaymakers can venture out onto the region’s vast network of easy tours, drinking in the incredible alpine scenery - and a refreshing drink or two in one of Saalfelden Leogang’s friendly mountain huts - before returning for an evening of fun and relaxation at a specially designed bike hotel.
The Great American Rail-Trail, USA
This is an ambitious project making use of former US railway lines which are converted into long-distance walking and cycling pathways. The project launched in 2019 with the vision of creating an entire cross-country, car-free route which will eventually become the first contiguous multi-use pathway across America. The route is opening in stages, and once completed it will offer a safe, seamless and scenic cycle pathway across the entire country spanning more than 3,700 miles from Washington D.C. to Seattle, Washington.
One of the most picturesque portions of the trail, which is already open for cyclists to enjoy, is Montana’s 4.5-mile Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail where the vast openness of Big Sky Country gives way to backcountry pine tree beauty. Framed by the majestic Rocky Mountains, the route is roughly equidistant between two national parks - just a half-day’s drive from both Yellowstone and Glacier. The Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail is perfect for mountain biking in the milder seasons and fat-tire cycling in the snowy winter.
Explore sand dunes and the desert in Namibia
Adventurous cyclists looking to challenge themselves can book the Exodus Cycle Namibia trip which offers the chance to cycle across open sand dunes, between granite hills and over challenging rocky outcrops. Beginning in Windhoek, cyclists will visit the towering dunes of Sossusvlei and climb Dune 45 where the contrast of rusty-red sand against the blue sky is breath-taking.
Travelling north, cyclists will ride across the Tropic of Capricorn where they’ll zoom past ostriches, gembok and mountain zebras before heading to Swakopmund to try fat biking, where the wider tyres allow visitors to explore remote areas that traditional mountain bikes are unable to reach. Other highlights include spotting the “Big Five” on a safari in Etosha National Park before sleeping under the stars at a tented camp.