Never mind the Tour de France – we pick Europe’s 10 greatest cycle rides
Electric bike tour of Tuscany & Chianti Hills, Italy
Take the strain out of cycling around the cypress-lined cycle tracks of Tuscany and the Chianti Hills by using the secret weapon that’s now revolutionising cycling across Europe: the electric bike.
Watch the idyllic Tuscan countryside glide by whilst your e-bike does all the hard work leaving you the arduous task of deciding which vineyard to stop off at for your next wine tasting sesh. You’ll only be in the saddle for three or so hours a day max, leaving plenty of time for long, liquid lunches and swanning around the local sights.
One week’s tour of Tuscany & Chianti Hills costs from £1,055 half-board based on two people sharing www.cycling-for-softies.co.uk
Family cycling around Texel, Netherlands
Lying a mere 20 minute ferry ride off the north coast of the Netherlands, the island retreat of Texel (pronounced Tes-sel) is a pedaling paradise even by Dutch standards (and that’s saying something). Easily accessible from nearby Amsterdam, Texel is a chilled oasis of cycling calm. Flat as a Dutch waffle with an extensive network of cycle paths, the island is an ideal place for a day of safe, family cycling.
You don’t even need to pack a picnic as there are countless cutesy cafes, bars and restaurants strung out along the cycle paths. Simply pick up your rental bike from the shop close to where you hop off the ferry and head off into the countryside. Here the only sounds disturbing the peace will be the tweeting of the birds and the breeze murmuring through the pine trees. Bliss.
Pre-book your rental bike from: www.fietsverhuurtexel.nl
Neckar and Rhine river boat & bike tour Germany
Europe’s vast network of rivers and canals are perfect for newbies to cycling holidays as many have a top-notch network of cycle paths running alongside them making for gentle, effortless biking.
Some of the best of these riverside cycle paths are found in Germany. There are no heart-pumping uphill climbs along the dedicated cycle paths that run alongside the Neckar and Rhine rivers which is why they’re ideal for first-time cycle tourers and families.
For a little over 200 easy kms you’ll encounter historic German towns, castles and fortresses. And you won’t have far to go for your bed for the night as you’ll be sleeping on board a comfortable boat that will be following your progress along the river.
Plus you’ll have the option of checking out a local vineyard which naturally involves sampling the latest vintage.
A week’s bike & boat tour along the Neckar & Rhine rivers costs from £710 full board www.biketours.com
Paris to London
Opened in 2012 the London to Paris Greenway is a specially signposted 400km route along quiet country lanes and dedicated cycle paths linking two of Europe’s greatest capitals. Beginning in Paris the trail heads north following the Seine and Oise rivers into Normandy and the Channel port of Dieppe from where you’ll hop across to Newhaven.
From here the trail uses the existing Sustrans cycle network to reach Brighton from where the trail heads north through the South Downs before ending up at Westminster Abbey in central London. The whole trip takes six days and expect to cycle around 60km a day.
Whilst you don’t have to be super-fit cyclist to complete the ride, couch potatoes would struggle – though you can rent an electric bike to give you some va-va-voom up the hills.
Cycling the Paris to London Greenway costs £755 & includes all hotels, luggage transfer & Channel ferry. www.biking-france.com
Picos de Europa, Spain
Whilst known to a handful of walkers, the Picos de Europa National Park on Spain’s northern coastline still remains one of mountain biking’s best kept secrets.
The 200km circular tour winds its way through the high limestone peaks and flower-strewn meadows on remote trails, a fantastic mix of singletrack and vehicle-width paths.
What makes this a standout ride is that unlike many other mountain areas of Europe, the Picos is mercifully free of any scarring ski developments or any other trappings of modernity giving the whole ride an exciting and genuine sense of wilderness.
And whilst the ride isn’t technically difficult, there’s just enough bite and edge to keep you on your toes.
One week’s tour through the Picos de Europa costs from £1,195 full board & is fully guided and vehicle supported www.skedaddle.co.uk
Riding the Col de la Madeleine, French Alps
Climbing the lung-busting cols of the French Alps whilst being cheered on by adoring fans are the altars upon which Tour de France legends are made.
Get your own piece of Tour glory by riding the Col de la Madeleine in the very heart of the French Alps, one of the most famous climbs in the history of the Tour de France.
The col climbs to a dizzying altitude of just under 2,000m and has been featured in the Tour 25 times, first in 1969 and most recently in 2013, when Pierre Rolland triumphed on stage 19 in a race won by Chris Froome.
The Col de la Madeleine is widely recognised as being one of the toughest climbs in the Alps and can be ridden as part of a route which takes in several of the area’s famous climbs, including the Col Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon and La Toussuire.
Ride the Col de la Madeleine as part of a week’s Alpine cycling & costs £670 per person based on two sharing www.cyclehame.co.uk
Slow cycling in Romania
If an obsession with speed leaves you a tad deflated, why not drop the pace with some slow cycling instead?
The Oxford-based Slow Cyclist company offers bike tours which are about more than just cycling and put the emphasis on pottering along dusty back roads rather than pounding up some monster hill.
Don’t expect to win any time-trials with an 80 mile pootle through the quiet country lanes and forest tracks of Romania’s Transylvania this autumn, though you could end up with some prize-winning truffles.
The tour through UNESCO-protected villages and ancient oak forests comes complete with the chance to follow Transylvania’s top truffle hunter and his trained dogs as they snuffle around in the undergrowth for culinary gold.
A four day tour and truffle hunt through Transylvania costs £1,210 full board & includes bike hire www.theslowcyclist.co.uk
Tour around Luberon, Provence, France
For the country that gave us the Tour, it’s perhaps no surprise that France is widely considered to be the best country in the world for cycling.
A biking holiday in Provence demonstrates just why France is judged to be numéro un for biking: exceptional weather, beautiful scenery and refreshingly empty roads.
Plus let’s not forget the cuisine, the cycling-mad locals and, of course, the wine.
Head to the Luberon for a proliferation of scenic hilltop villages where a week-long 250km tour takes in the spectacular landscapes that inspired the likes of Cézanne and Van Gogh.
For those wanting to work off the wine, there’s an option to conquer the legendary Mont Ventoux, which some say is the hardest of all the mythical Tour de France climbs.
A week’s tour of Luberon costs £2,095 including full board & cycle hire www.frenchcyclingholidays.com
Transalp mountain bike race from Austria to Italy
Mountain bike adrenaline junkies will get a fix of a lifetime with the Transalp, one of the world’s most gut-wrenchingly exciting mountain bike races.
Beginning in the Austrian Tyrolean town of Mayrhofen, the race snakes its way through some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the alps before ending up on the shores of Lake Garda 550kms away to the south.
Over a thousand riders from around the world sign up for the challenge every year which must be completed in seven, heart-pumping stages.
With around 18,000m of climbing the Transalp is a serious undertaking but for those who make the finishing line the rewards and sense of achievement are worth every last drop of sweat.
Transalp 2017 runs from 16 July to 22 July. Entry fee is £690 http://bike-transalp.de
Winter cycling in Lanzarote
The endless dreary drizzle of a British winter can deter even the most diehard bikers from venturing outdoors.
Savvy cyclists however wave goodbye to the puddles and instead head south to the blue skies and sunshine of Lanzarote, arguably the most stunning of the Canary Islands.
With its 20 degrees temperatures virtually guaranteed in winter and an extensive network of near empty roads, Lanzarote has long been a haven for storm-lashed cyclists fleeing northern Europe.
An ever popular and suitably challenging route involves heading to the hilly north of the island where you’ll get cracking views of the nearby tiny offshore island of Graciosa.
If you’ve still got enough fuel left in your tank, rather than retracing your ride south, head home through La Corona natural park and its (extinct) volcano.
Cycle Friendly offers a six-day cycling holiday in Lanzarote,for £975 full board, vehicle support & bike hire www.cyclefriendly.org.uk