Why I Love Cycling When I Travel

cycling holidays

Biking in Bolivia

When I was younger, cycling was one of my favourite activities. It probably sounds unlikely to those that know me now, given that I’m a lot lazier these days than I used to be, but until I was about sixteen I was out on my bike all the time. And I loved cycling on holiday more than anything. There were childhood holidays in Cornwall with my friend’s family, riding the Camel Trail or taking our bikes on long treks through stunning pine forests. Better still were the weekends on Dartmoor with school, with mountain biking around muddy trails and, once, cycling around a huge, beautiful reservoir on a surprisingly sunny winter’s day. It always seemed to be so exciting to cycle somewhere nebike travelw, the perfect way to explore, so when I saw this cool infographic on cycling in the Algarve from James Villa Holidays, it brought back all those lovely holiday biking memories.

Sadly, after I left home my passion for biking (or doing anything active) faded a little, and as of last year it had been almost a decade since I’d last ridden a bike. Suffice to say, then, that getting back on a bike for the first time, only to cycle it down winding mountain roads through thick mist, from a peak of over 4,300m above sea level was something of a shock to the system. I was in Peru, embarking on the mildly terrifying first challenge of my Inca Jungle Trek, but it really is true what they say – you never forget – and after the initial thrill of fear I enjoyed myself immensely. That first reunion with biking – throwing myself back in at the deep end – led to more bike trips in South America, the culmination of which was that backpacker’s right of passage, cycling Death Road in Bolivia.

cycling holidays

Death Road, Bolivia

An uneven gravel track, no wider than the length of my bike in some places, marred by sharp corners, the shrapnel of recent rockfalls, and occasional waterfalls over the road, Death Road was a real test of my courage. And I almost failed: after a loose bit of rock almost threw me off my bike, I couldn’t face the stomach-churning drops to my left any longer and had to hitch a ride on the tour group’s van for the worst section of the road. Getting back on the bike further down the track, facing up to my fear, and ultimately enjoying the ride, is one of the things I’m most proud of myself for doing in perhaps my entire life.

Since then, my relationship with cycling has been far less rocky. While I’ll be avoiding death-defying bike routes for a while, I am very much stabike travelying back on my bike. It’s such a wonderful way to explore a new place and can be a really good way to immerse yourself into the culture of a city. Especially in The Netherlands, where my boyfriend and I spent a month housesitting at the start of the year and where cycling is the favourite mode of transport. The excellent system of bike roads was impossible to resist, and one glittering January morning I cycled from Dordrecht to Maasdam on the hunt for those iconic Dutch windmills. It was freezing cold and fairly uncomfortable, but it was also beautiful, with the iced blue sky overhead and watery sunlight falling on the beautiful farmland around us.

cycling holidays

Barcelona bike tour

These days, bike tours are my favourite way to explore new cities, especially those like Buenos Aires – which I toured with the fantastic Biking Buenos Aires last year – that are simply too big to walk around. In Barcelona, another city which favours cycling over walking, I headed out with J.R and Gaston from the awesome Barcelona Experience on a tour of the old quarter by bike. Quicker and less tiring than walking, exploring a city by bike is so much fun and really is the perfect way to travel. My heart is set on taking a cycling holiday later this year and exploring an entire region by bike – perhaps I’ll take that infographic as inspiration and head to The Algarve, or maybe I’ll just go back down to Dartmoor and find that reservoir again. Either way, I’m determined to cycle as much as I can when I travel from now on.

Where was the best bike ride you’ve ever taken? I want to hear all about it – so leave a comment and share! 

About Emily Luxton

An award-winning writer and travel blogger on a mission to explore the world through deeper, more intelligent travel. Seeking out adventure, cultural exchanges, food experiences and more as she attempts to get to know the world. Lover of the great outdoors, sunsets, good food, and the odd bit of luxury!

14 Comments

  1. My husband is a huge fan of cycling and insists that we do a bike tour in every city we visit. I, on the other hand, am not the most confident cyclist and a very memorable cycle ride was being chased through the streets of Soweto in Johannesburg by lots of very excited children who were determined to high-five me. However I knew that if I took one hand off the handlebars I would fall off! I am slowly getting better, but not sure whether I’d ever be able to commit to an entire cycling holiday (to my husband’s great sadness…)

    • Bless you!! However it is quite a funny story now so there’s a plus 🙂 There’s a simple solution to the cycling holiday – get a tandem bike and just sit at the back with your feet up while your husband deals with the actual cycling part of it all! Or get one of those attachable trailers…

  2. I’m exactly the same, I was glued to my bike in my teens then my twenties happened and I totally lost touch with how awesome it feels!

    I’ve cycled quite a bit on my travels, no huge trips, mostly round cities and the odd scenic ride such as along the Yulong River nr Yangshuo, China (which was amazing).

    My favourite has to be cycling around the Phong Nha region of Vietnam, those memories will stay with me forever.

    I can’t cycle too much though, as I’ve discovered with all this adventurous riding (on rickety, badly maintained bikes) that my knees don’t enjoy it as much as the rest of me does!

    • Wow I bet that Vietnam bike ride was amazing! I took a lot of scooter rides there with my boyfriend driving, which was amazing – I could just lean back and look at the views!

  3. worldjourneysdiscover

    yeah I agree, but… sore bum!

  4. Hi Emily! I also have really fond memories of riding a tandem bike along the Camel Trail! People just don’t know how truly amazing the south west of the UK is 🙂 I’m really excited because next month I’m off to cycle around Taiwan. I usually drive a motorbike (my best trip so far was 3 months biking around Vietnam) but I can’t wait to get back to using manpower to enjoy the views.

    • Wow, that will be amazing! I’d love to take a longer cycling trip, there’s something so simple and relaxed about it – very different to the normal way of travelling!

  5. I love bike tours big and small. City tours are great when you want to get a quick lay of the land upon your arrival. We’ve done weeklong bike/boat tours in Greece and Vietnam and both were stunning. Also did a self-guided tour through Puglia in Italy. Biggest benefit is burning off some of the calories you consume while on holidays.

    • Ooh I bet the tour in Vietnam was amazing – I’ve spent a lot of time there and love that country! I just got back from a week of cycling through Catalunya, which was incredible. Such a great way to see the region – and you’re right, it meant I could feel a little less guilty about all the food I was eating!

  6. Great article Emily! I also enjoyed cycling in Netherland. Denmark and Netherland were my favorite countries cycling in Europe! There are bicycle ways everywhere!I’m from Spain and I cycled from Madrid to North Cape (Norway) and going down Lapland until Helsinki. last summer. I was 5 months traveling by bicycle and I did 9 500km.

    • Thanks Ruben! The Netherlands are definitely a great place for cycling, I love that they have separate bike lanes. Makes cycling much safer and easier!

      Your trip sounds AMAZING! I’d love to cycle around Europe but I need to improve my fitness levels a little first – I’ve definitely lost touch!!

  7. Not fit? So, less kilometers per day. It’s not a problem. You will get fit during the trip as the same time that you enjoy your trip!

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