Mark the bicentenary of the birth of the bike – or ‘velocipede’ as Karl Drais called his invention in 1817 – with these multi-day off-road cycling adventures.
Alps 2 Ocean Trail, New Zealand
From the shapely ankles of New Zealand’s highest mountain, mighty Aoraki (Mt Cook), the new 301km (188-mile) Alps 2 Ocean Trail (alps2ocean.com) cascades through the foothills of the Southern Alps, sending cyclists past great lakes and along rivers wending across the Canterbury Plains, until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. The final sections of this magical mixed-terrain trail are slated to open in 2017. Allow four to six days for all nine stages. There are camping facilities along the route.
If you’re armed with chunky tyres, the tortured terrain of Iceland is ideal for epic off-road sagas, with adventures aplenty to be had amid a volcanic landscape fringed by fire and snow. The elements are in charge, so keep plans loose, but an excellent loop links the Fimmvörðuháls and Laugavegur trails between Landmannalaugar’s hot springs and the glacial valley of Þórsmörk, via the stunning Skógafoss waterfall. Allow four to five days for the 85km (53-mile) circuit. There are huts and campgrounds along the route (volcanohuts.com).
Dartmoor and Exmoor, UK
Southwest England’s Dartmoor and Exmoor boast brilliant biking trails and beautiful bivvying spots (Dartmoor is the only part of England where wild camping is officially permitted). Link them with a multi-day meander along bridle paths and across open terrain shadowing the Two Moors Way, a long-distance trail from Lynmouth on the North Devon coast to Ivybridge. Not all of the 160km (100-mile) Two Moors Way is rideable, but you can plot your own course (devon.gov.uk/walking/two_moors_way.html).
Kokopelli Trail, USA
Linking two mountain-biking meccas, Colorado’s Fruita and Utah’s Moab, this 240km (150-mile) rocky route is a roller-coaster ride across the desert plateaus and mountain passes of the American West, rearing from 1200m to almost 2740m. Almost entirely off road, the terrain ranges from technical single track to sandy paths. Expect leg-crushing climbs and rubble-rousing descents. Allow three to six days to ride the route independently, or check out the annual four-day race: bikerpelli.com.
Munda Biddi Trail, Australia
Meaning ‘path through the forest’ in the tongue of the Noongar people, the Munda Biddi Trail (mundabiddi.org.au) is an unparalleled off-road odyssey that cuts a serpentine route across 1000km (600 miles) of stunning hinterland from Mundaring on Perth’s outskirts right down to Albany. Rolling through river valleys, aromatic eucalypt forest and beautiful bushland, the non-technical trail takes three weeks to cycle in its entirety but is divided into multiple standalone sections. Avoid summer. Cycle-friendly campgrounds and huts line the route.
Scotland’s excellent outdoor-access code (walkhighlands.co.uk) allows you to (respectfully) rough ride and wild camp anywhere, including Highland mountain passes. Complete a stunning loop of Britain’s second-tallest peak, Ben Macdui, by combining the classic Cairngorm trails of Lairig Ghru and Lairig an Laoigh for a 59km (37-mile) overnight adventure. Not for the faint-hearted, this fair-weather-only route requires the odd bout of boulder-field hike-a-bike action but also offers some sublime single-track and fantastic downhill sections. Stay in Corrour Bothy or camp.
Monkey Puzzle Trail, Chile
Dirt roads and aorta-busting Andean ascents are signatures of this stunning 233km (145-mile) trail, which leaves Melipeuco and ducks below the curious and colourful umbrellas of Araucanía’s monkey puzzle (araucaria) trees in Reserva China Muerta, before climbing above Chile’s Lake District and traversing an alpine pass on the high flanks of Volcán Lonquimay in Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello-Nalcas. Horse trails provide off-road options through the twin reserves, or ride the rough road to Ralco. Allow four days (bikepacking.com).
Dragon’s Spine, South Africa and Lesotho
Follow pedalling pioneers David Bristow and Steve Thomas, authors of Riding the Dragon’s Spine, on this epic 3840km (2400-mile) rolling romp across South Africa and the highlands of Lesotho to the Zimbabwean border. The 58-stage route traces unsealed trails from Cape Town and the Western Cape vineyards, past Swaziland and through the rarefied air of the high country to the banks of the great grey-green Limpopo River. Download free GPS tracks here: dragontrax.co.za.
Basque country, Spain
The hinterland and hills of Basque country arguably offer Europe’s tastiest trails, from sublime single track hugging surf-soaked coasts to rolling rosé-hued routes through the Pre-Pyrenees. In summer, take a tarp and splice together a multi-day mission around a 450km (280-mile) loop, beginning in Bilbao, heading west along the coast and a section of the Camino del Norte to San Sebastián, before turning inland and pedalling uphill to explore Aralar, Urbasa and Gorbea national parks. Allow eight days (basquemtb.com and tourintune.com).
Unsurprisingly, the land of Chinggis Khaan, famous for free-range horse-trekking adventures, also offers brilliant backcountry bikepacking. Steer your steel-framed steed across the steppe in any direction, negotiating equine-etched trails between friendly yak-and-yurt villages and pitching your tent wherever you please. In the Central Mongolian aimag of Arkhangai, a fantastic 480km (300-mile) route loops around Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake) in the Khangai Mountains near Tariat Sum. Allow six days (bikepacking.com).