Cycling Trips for All Types
You probably have a bicycle. Maybe you look forward to spring thaw in anticipation of the months ahead where you regularly pedal around your neighbourhood, local paths or perhaps weekend jaunts a bit further afoot. And maybe you glance at it in the garage nestled amongst boxes and bins knowing you might jump on your bicycle only a handful of times this summer.
The beauty in the bicycle is that it’s one of the world’s most accessible forms of transportation after two feet; and as a result there is a whole class of small group and self-guided cycling tour options built for anybody who can ride on two wheels. You’ll find these trips in the French countryside, in Vietnam, in South Africa…even in India. Really, it’s cycling for non-cyclists — or at least those who are not nuts about it.
‘Why cycle if you’re not a cyclist?’ you may ask. Well, it seems that when people travel to exotic locales, they like to do things that take them even further out of their element. Things that challenge them just a little bit and allow them to feel they have ‘earned’ some of what they are passing through.
From Vietnam to the Loire
Imagine this: You are cycling the quiet side roads of northern Vietnam, through rice fields and amid towering spires of limestone dripping greenery. There is water everywhere, with rivers and wet fields, small stone houses and water buffalo plowing furrows in front of thin farmers. The breeze blows warm and humid, carrying the scent of growing things. You push over a low rise into the town of Tam Coc, where roadside braziers and hawkers begin to dot your passage. As you pass villagers on bicycles carrying plants and chickens they smile in greeting, sometimes raising a hand in salute. Once in town, you use gestures and smiles to negotiate the purchase of a delectable coffee and a roll from a street side stall — a culinary tradition left over from the French colonial era. Mop your brow, change into fresh clothes and we’re off on a paddleboat onto a lake ringed by sheer limestone mountains.
If you simply replace rice fields with orchards of fruit, substitute chickens and plants with baguette and berets, and you could as easily be enjoying an easy day’s cycle along the Loire.
Something for Enthusiasts
The other kind of trip is cycling for cyclists. People who cycle at home like to cycle abroad. Whether it’s mountain biking singletrack trails in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains or pumping through stages of the Tour de France, hardcore and not-so-hardcore cycling adventures abound. Our guests on these tours tend to bring their own (rather nice) bikes, although rentals are always available. Very little of what we have to offer involves stuffing your sweaty self into a tent at the end of a 60-mile day. You may delight in getting your heart rate up past 160 beats per minute, but this is, after all, a vacation. That means comfortable accommodation, good food and a soft bed.
Picture this: Awaken to sunshine and birdsong at your pension in Massat, France. Stretch out stiff legs and enjoy a coffee, a croissant, a selection of fruit, meats and cheeses before checking over your bike. Say goodbye to your luggage the support van pulls away from the curb, and you climb aboard for yet another fine day in the saddle. Join the crew on a first light climb winding out of Massat and into the Pyrenees proper. With fresh legs you will barely notice the incline to the Col du Portet d’Aspet, among summer fields and ancient farmsteads. The breeze freshens on a descent through mixed forest, carrying scents of pine, last year’s oak leaves, rock and columbine. Stop at a café for more water and fuel, then ascend Col de Mente on which all but the most powerful cyclists need to engage first, second or third gear. Pause for a heartbeat to enjoy the magnificent view, then feel the sweat evaporate on the winding descent into the spa town of Luchon. After up to 75 miles (122 kilometers) of travel and 7450 feet (2270 meters) of ascents, you’ll be ready to soak in the thermal baths that made this town famous, indulge in a well-deserved dîner and share the day’s highlights with your fellow travellers.
Options for all
Your choice of where to cycle might be based on terrain, on a famous race like the Tour de France, on a culture you have yet to experience, or the history of the place. Wherever you would like to go, chances are that we have an adventure that will spin your wheels. To find it, visit adventurecenter.com and choose ‘Cycling’ under ‘Activity’ in the Adventure Search on the left. The trips on which we based our fictional days in this story are Cycling in Laos & Northern Vietnam, Loire Gastronomic Cycling and Classic Cols of the Tour de France. Our adventure travel specialists in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton would love to help you; call us toll-free 866.338.8735 or find us at adventurecenter.com for more information.