By KEIR PLAICE
Some of the most beautiful places on earth are best explored on two wheels. You can go at your own pace and stray far from the tourist trail. Here are some of the best spots for a cycling vacation.
If you want to experience the real Wild West, head to Chihuahua, Mexico. Cowboys on horseback outnumber bike riders by far in the rugged, mountainous state.
Nevertheless, it is a spectacular place for a cycling adventure. Long climbs rise past scrubby pines and desert to well over 2000m, before plunging down switchbacks and back into forests.
Make sure you visit Copper Canyon, which is larger and deeper than America’s Grand Canyon, and sample all of the street food when you do come across a town or village.
Locals call it The People’s Republic of Boulder. Located 50km northwest of Denver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, is a haven for tech types, academic hippies, and Bobo athletes.
On its paths, you’ll come across Olympians and Ironman champions, though you likely won’t be able to distinguish them from the locals, as Boulderites are about the fittest people on the planet.
For a real challenge, take on the Fearsome Foursome, climbing Flagstaff, Sugarloaf, Magnolia and Sunshine for 2600m of climbing in 80km. There is plenty of pleasant riding around too.
Circling Cape Breton Island, off Canada’s Atlantic coast, the Cabot Trail passes through fishing villages where Gaelic is still spoken, Miꞌkmaq reserves and Acadian towns.
It winds through old-growth forest to the edge of rust-coloured bluffs, before dropping hundreds of metres to sandy beaches and picturesque ports, where the locals sell fresh lobster and chowder.
Whether you do the 300km loop in a day or a week, the Cabot Trail is one of the best bike rides in North America. Go in the spring or fall. It's busy in summer, and winter is, well, winter in Canada.
A southern college town with one of the best music scenes in the United States, Athens, Georgia is nestled at the centre of an awesome array of roads, which get even better when you stray onto dirt.
The local cycling community is as friendly and welcoming as can be. Keen riders head there in December, January, and February to enjoy the pleasant weather and build fitness for spring.
Join them for a segment or two of the Winter Bike League, a series of Saturday group rides that take in the best routes and gas-station stops. Or just head out and enjoy the beautiful countryside.
Visit Amsterdam and you’ll be stunned by the number of cyclists you see: bankers in expensive suits; students carrying crates of beer on handlebars; or grandmas doing their shopping on e-bikes.
A day touring the canals and Vondelpark, visiting a couple of the city’s excellent art museums, and then cycling from restaurant to bar will give you a respectable number of kilometres.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of Amsterdammers pedal wherever they want to go. Join them, but stay sharp. Navigating Amsterdam’s busy bike paths can be like riding in a peloton.
Good weather, quiet roads, nearby mountains, not far from the Mediterranean coast – it’s no wonder so many professionals call it home. The colourful city sometimes feels as if it's a cycling resort.
There are so many top-notch bike shops, tour companies, and cafes that cater specifically to cyclists in town, not to mention the grand tour riders who will race past you on climbs.
There's lots more to discover. After your rides, walk around the old city walls, visit the cathedral, or have a soak in the Roman baths, before heading out for a good meal and night on the town.
Riding amid Norway’s rocky, windswept mountains, waterfalls, forests, and cavernous fjords will leave you humbled by nature’s sheer scale and power. Perhaps that is why Norwegians are so friendly.
Stavanger, a mid-sized city on the southwest coast, is a great place to start a Norwegian cycling adventure. The countryside is magnificent. You can even take a ferry to the bottom of Lysebotn.
There you'll find a wonderful switchbacked climb that rises for 9km from the sea up onto a rugged plateau. From there, it is about a 120km loop around the fjord back to the city.
The likes of Bradley Wiggins, Lizzie Deignan, and Chris Froome have inspired hundreds of thousands of Brits to take up cycling over the past the decade.
The UK still isn’t well known as a cycling destination though. That should change soon. Quiet country lanes in places like Yorkshire are as enjoyable for riding as Europe’s more famous roads.
Up in the Dales, the hills are steep; after an hour or two, you will want to stop for tea and scones. The town of Harrogate, host of the 2019 world championships, is a great place to stay.
The North Shore is a legendary place to ride mountain bikes. A short drive from the city centre, steep tracks twist through red cedars, aided by a range of man-made bridges and teeter totters.
Seymour are home to the most renowned and difficult trails. For those looking for gentler rides, don’t worry; there are lots of cross-country trails about as well.
Siena is famous for the Strade Bianche, an early-season race that twists and turns over the surrounding region’s hilly, white gravel roads, before arriving at the finish on the Piazza del Campo.
Riding those same roads at an easier clip is about as fun as cycling gets. It’s like being on a cypress-lined rollercoaster through vineyards and olive groves.
You will want a bike with wider tyres, so you can enjoy the views and worry less about keeping the rubber on the dirt. After exploring the countryside, enjoy a hearty Tuscan meal.
To learn more about the best places to bike around the world, take a look at our best-seller below.