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

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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?

CHICAGO, US

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.

THE NETHER­LANDS

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).

RHINELAND, GER­MANY

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.

COPENHAGEN, DEN­MARK

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.

SKÅNE, SWE­DEN

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”.

GREAT BRI­TAIN

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

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.

GIRONA, SPAIN

“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!”

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