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. After a good pedal, local dishes taste so much better. Here are some of the best places to go on a cycling vacation in 2020.
1. Siena, Italy
In the cycling world, 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 and a few glasses of Brunello.
Vancouver’s North Shore is a legendary place to ride mountain bikes. Situated a short drive drive from the city centre, steep tracks twist down through old-growth red cedars, aided by a range of man-made bridges and teeter totters (see-saws). The riding there will leave you giddy with laughter if your skills are up to it. Mt Fromme and Mt 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.
Read more: The best places to mountain bike in Australia
3. Yorkshire, England
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 might not be as long as grand tour cols, but they are as steep as heck and come one after the other. After an hour or two, you will want to stop for tea and scones. The spa town of Harrogate, which hosted the 2019 world championships, is a great place to stay.
4. Stavanger, Norway
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 prosperous mid-sized city located on the southwest coast, is a great place to start a Norwegian cycling adventure. The surrounding countryside is magnificent. From its tidy harbour, lined with colourful wooden buildings, you can even take a ferry to the bottom of Lysebotn, 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.
5. Girona, Spain
Good year-round weather, quiet roads, nearby mountains, not far from the Mediterranean coast – it’s no wonder so many professional cyclists call Girona home. The colourful Catalan 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 such as Els Angels and Rocacorba. There is a tonne of local heritage to discover as well though. After your rides, go for a walk around the old city walls, visit the cathedral or one of the museums, or have a soak in the Roman baths, before heading out for a good meal and night on the town.
6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Visit Amsterdam, and you’ll be stunned by the number of bikes you see on the streets. Bankers in expensive suits, clattering over the Dam square on rusty rattletraps; students carrying crates of beer on their handlebars and girlfriends on their rear racks; grandmas doing their shopping on e-bikes; whole families travelling together on cargo bikes – every day, hundreds of thousands of Amsterdammers pedal wherever they want to go. Join them. A day touring the canals and Vondelpark, perhaps visiting a couple of the city’s excellent art museums, and then cycling from restaurant to bar (or coffeeshop) will give you a respectable number of kilometres. Stay sharp though. Navigating Amsterdam’s busy bike paths can be like riding in a peloton.
Read more: How to spend a perfect weekend in Amsterdam
7. Athens, USA
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 in the region. Or just head out and enjoy the beautiful countryside at your own pace.
8. Cape Breton, Canada
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 can get very busy in summer, and winter is, well, winter in Canada.
9. Boulder, USA
Locals call it The People’s Republic of Boulder. In many ways, it is a place unto itself. Located 50km northwest of Denver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the home of the University of Colorado is haven for tech types, academic hippies, and Bobo athletes. On its bike paths, you’ll come across Olympians and Ironman champions, though you likely won’t be able to distinguish them from the other locals, as Boulderites are about the fittest people on the planet. Pros and faux pros alike have been coming to the city for decades for its altitude and college-town vibe. 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.