As someone once said: “Having a bicycle is the closest thing there is to have wings.” These days, a bicycle is much more than just a piece of sports equipment or a means to get from point A to point B, it has become an essential part of a lifestyle, the “slow bicycle movement.” And it’s not just for workplace commuting that people are reaching for their bicycles; travelers too, are reveling in this pleasurable mode of transportation, both for long cycling trips as well as easy little tours.
Many people shy away from multi-day bicycle tours, maybe because they don’t have a fully-equipped high tech bicycle, or because they don’t think they’re fit enough – but they couldn’t be more wrong! It doesn’t have to be the Tour de France, there are plenty of routes that are perfectly suited for casual cyclists. In this post, we’ll tell you what makes traveling by bike such an incredible experience, what you should look out for along the way, and even take the opportunity to give you suggestions for the best routes!
Right in the thick of things
There are lots of great reasons to travel by bicycle. For one thing, it’s excellent total-body training for people of all ages, while also being gentle on the joints and back, particularly compared to running. But it’s more than just your body that will thank you, as cycling is just as good for your soul. In comparison to traveling by car or train, bicycling puts you right in the action: you have direct, unfettered access to all the sounds and smells along the way, and you can make a spontaneous stop anytime the mood strikes you, whether it’s to chat with locals or because you’ve spied something interesting worth a closer look. At the end of the day, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment at how far you’ve come, all on your own power.
But there are practical reasons too. On a bicycle, you can get going surprisingly quickly – assuming you want to – and watch the cities and towns fly past. You can also set your own pace – 30-40 km per day isn’t generally a problem, even for average, unathletic travelers. But beware: if you aren’t used to pedaling long stretches, it’s a good idea to ease into it in the beginning and conserve your energy, so you don’t pull into your day’s final destination totally tapped out.
How do I go about it?
Just like with backpacking: less is more! The less you’re carrying, the more fun traveling by bicycle will be. It’s truly fascinating how little weight it takes to cause a big effect on your pedal power, even if you pack your ride like you’re a nomad packing their mule. Special bicycle bags, which can be quickly attached, removed and are – very importantly! – waterproof, are a particularly practical solution. While you should be as judicious as possible with your packing, it’s important not to skimp on the essentials for your bicycle, such as a patch kit, travel-sized tire pump, hand tools and a replacement tube.
Our two favorite routes
Luckily there are routes that are ideal for newbies to bicycle travel, as they are mostly free from motorized traffic and will take you through the unbelievably beautiful scenery. Here are a few possibilities:
The Ciclovia Alpe Adria: The total length of the Alpe-Adria Radweg stretches from the Austrian city of Salzburg all the way to Grado, but you can choose only the legs you’re interested in, for example, the section in Northern Italy. Here, the scenery, which ranges from the world-famous Alps to turquoise waterfalls to fields of wildflowers to tiny Italian villages, is impressive, to say the least. This stretch is also unique in that it follows along the tracks of an old railway, taking you through a train tunnel and past many forgotten train stations, and the route requires very little climbing.
Avenue Verte from Paris to London: The total length of the Avenue Verte is 406 kilometers, but of course you can select the portion of the route which appeals most to you. The scenery along the route is particularly breathtaking in France and will take you past the painterly village of Giverny and a number of castles, among other highlights.