ON YOUR BIKE
IF YOU’RE PLANNING WHERE TO GO ON YOUR HOLIDAY THIS YEAR, HOW ABOUT MAKING IT AN ADVENTURE ON TWO WHEELS? WORDS BELLA QVIST
10 of the best rides for cycling enthusiasts
Bicycle tourism is booming and as more and more of us decide to explore the world on wheels, DIVA takes a look at some of the best destinations out there with some tips from Emily Chappell, author and professional cyclist ( thatemilychappell.com). From adrenaline-fuelled rides along windy roads and steep hills to romantic slow travel, drinking in fresh air and spectacular views between regular stops at cosy inns; the beauty of being on your bike is that you can tailor your trip to your exact needs. You could set off right this moment if you wanted! The question is just: where to?
The windy city topped Bicycling magazine’s list of best US Bike Cities 2016 – and this spring it became the first major US city with a downtown network of protected bike lanes. With long beaches, a thriving gay district and great craft beer and food culture, this could make for a truly epic holiday. (Don’t miss our queer guide to Chicago and Illinois – coming to DIVA later this year!)
SHIMANAMI KAIDO, JAPAN
The Shimanami Kaido highway is essentially a network of traffic-free bike paths and awesome bridges, connecting Imabari and Onomichi between the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku – and Emily highly recommends it: “You can hire and drop off bikes at either end, and it makes a nice day-trip as it’s about 70km, or a long weekend if you spend some time exploring the smaller islands that you pass through.” A truly unique experience – though maybe not for the fainthearted.
It is perhaps no wonder that the latest Copenhagenize Index ( copenhagenize.eu/index) of the world’s most bike-friendly cities features three Dutch entries among their top 10: Utrecht, Eindhoven and Amsterdam. However, there’s more to the Netherlands than the hazy tourist lanes of the capital and you’ll find not only cycle lanes the width of British roads and a population in love with their “fiets” (bicycles), but a beautiful country full of great food, culture and dykes (ahem).
Located in the German midwest and bordering on Luxembourg, Belgium and France, the Rhine region dubbed “Romantic Germany” enjoys gorgeous scenery, wonderful wine, delicious local food produce and great biking opportunities. The 120km long Rhine Cycle Trail provides the perfect way of exploring the Rhine Valley’s natural and cultural highlights, and the route should suit both families and friends as well as loved-up couples.
Top of the 2015 Copenhagenize Index, which rates the most cycle-friendly cities in Europe, the Danish capital has made big efforts to push urban biking to another level. The city, which features three biking bridges (with four more to come!), is “light years ahead of any other,” as the authors of the Index put it, meaning there’s more than “hygge” to Denmark.
Cross the famous bridge from Copenhagen and discover the Swedish countryside in the county of Skåne. From the cool, laid-back harbour city of Malmö to the postcard-perfect, idyllic island of Bornholm, this flat but gorgeous region of southern Sweden is well-known for its local food and drink, and ideal for cycling – fuelled of course by regular coffee stops, known by locals as “fika”.
Why travel across the world when we have beautiful landscapes on our doorstep? Take on LEJOG, short for Lands End to John O’groats, a route that sees you riding 969 miles from the most southwesterly point of Cornwall to the northeasterly tip of Scotland. You can ride independently or join one of the numerous organised races that will guide and look after you throughout your challenge. Ride Across Britain ( rideacrossbritain.com) is the biggest and most professional race – and a fantastic way of experiencing the beauty of Great Britain. Other UK tours and festivals include Eroica Britannia in Bakewell ( eroicabritannia.co.uk), the London Revolution ( london-revolution.com) and the eco-friendly Pod’n’pedal tour in the Lake District ( podnpedal.co.uk).
France is another cycling classic. “Anything in France is really good,” enthuses Emily Chappell (she’s cycled the world, so she should know). “Just pick a bit and you’ll have an extremely pleasant experience,” she says, adding that Hannah Reynolds’ France En Velo ( franceenvelo.cc) is a guide book well worth checking out for inspiration.
“This is where all the pros go in the winter,” says Emily, putting this northeastern Catalan city top of her list of tips for road cycling trips. She recommends staying at family-owned and ecological sports hotel Mas Pelegrí ( maspelegri.com) as well as trying out hipster café La Fábrica in Girona. There are cheap flights into Barcelona (and Girona airport in the summer).
SLOVENIA AND CROATIA
Slovenia and the surrounding Balkan region offer fantastic opportunities for the more adventurous cyclist; it’s easily accessible and you could combine it with a beach holiday. “Fly into Ljubljana and loop through Slovenia, or cycle through Croatia, which is very friendly and has good coffee, reach the coast at Dubrovnik and then fly back from there,” says Emily, adding that Slovenia is a beautiful country with gorgeous vineyards and food, and great roads. “You could see the whole country in two weeks!”