9 must-ride trips for cyclists
Ian Dille, author of “The Cyclist’s Bucket List,” spent nine months compiling races and rides from around the world into one comprehensive guide. The publication boasts a detailed description of “75 quintessential cycling experiences” covering six continents.
“These are the sights, the smells, and the tastes that every cyclist should experience before they die,” he writes in the prologue.
Dille, a former professional cyclist, is hard-pressed to pick a favorite given how each trip appeals in its own way to his love for the sport.
“Every one of these, to some extent, became my favorite one as I was working on it,” he said.
Here are nine rides from the book that will leave you itching to grab your bike and take to the road.
Tour d’Afrique, Africa
Vacationers often stress over seeing everything a place has to offer, cramming their schedules to visit as much as possible. This transcontinental trip, crossing 10 countries from Egypt to South Africa, eases that worry for riders who are lucky enough to have four months to devote to riding the entire length of Africa.
The organized ride, which lasts from mid-January to mid-May, requires a hefty financial investment, too. The full tour runs nearly $16,000, although cyclists may also opt to ride only certain segments of the nearly 7,500-mile route.
You’ll pedal along the headwaters of the Nile River, through deserts and across the Equator, and that’s just the beginning of the sights.
Participants see some of Africa’s most famous natural landmarks, such as Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the biblical landscape of Ethiopia and Victoria Falls in Zambia.
This Cairo-to-Cape Town journey is not short on wildlife, either. Before reaching a picturesque harbor on the South Atlantic Ocean, riders have been known to encounter elephants, zebras and giraffes.
For more information, visit tourdafrique.com/tour-dafrique.
TransAmerica Trail, United States
Beginning in the hills of Astoria, Oregon, and ending along the Chesapeake Bay in Yorktown, Virginia, this ride appears to be inspired by the lyrics of “God Bless America,” crossing “the mountains, to the prairies / To the oceans white with foam.”
Fans of American history and those well-versed in road trips can expect the unexpected on the three-month ride.
“The common refrain of those who’ve ridden the TransAmerica Trail is that they learned more about our country in 90 days of bicycling than most people do in a lifetime,” Dille writes.
National and state parks, local cuisine and back roads abound for riders of this storied trail. Stops and eateries on the route accept cyclists with open arms, and many have journals in which visitors can read the reflections of past riders and log their own journeys.
Part of that journey includes passing ancient lava fields near McKenzie Pass in Oregon, the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains and some of America’s most picturesque farmland.
The first official bicycle route across the nation can be traversed in a race, though those interested in sightseeing can ride at their own pace and find detailed maps and travel descriptions online.
Leh-Manali Highway, India
Spin your wheels along the spine-tingling mountain highway that connects Leh and Manali in northern India. The nearly 300-mile route is one of the highest roads in the world, with a peak altitude reaching above 17,000 feet.
Dille was not familiar with the trip at first but had to investigate after it came up in conversation after conversation with avid cyclists. What he found was “one of the most extreme, adventurous things you can do,” he said.
There are views stretching from the tips of the windswept Himalayas down to the Indus River, which cuts through the mountains to fertile fields below. Along the route are spectacular monasteries and temples, including the four-story Hadimba Devi Temple.
Riders follow the Indus River south toward Menali, passing through the More Plains and near the Tso Kar, a large salt lake. Tibetan gazelles, foxes and wild donkeys roam around the lake and nearby marshes. Unusual rock formations await around every turn.
The roadway is open when the snowfall is light enough to be cleared, usually between June and October. Riders should check for road closures. Trucks and cars use the road as well, though they are infrequent.
Dille suggests setting aside six days for the trip. Travelers either bring tents to camp or stay in seasonal villages along the route. Tours are also offered through outfitters. The website himalayabybike.com is a good resource.
Western Tasmania, Australia
When the heart aches for complete remoteness and pristine wilderness, Western Tasmania satisfies that desire. The area’s ruggedness is more welcoming to 21st-century cyclists in search of adventure that it was to the convicts who escaped nearby Sarah Island in the 19th century.
Pass through the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which covers more than 1.6 million hectares. The rugged land features rock basins, ancient caves and expansive glacial lakes that reflect stunning blue skies overhead.
Dille suggests taking the Lyell Highway from Queenstown to Strahan, near Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Here, dense rainforests above and twisting rivers below awe visitors.
Riders then head north to Zeehan and and on to Mount Murchison, the tallest peak on the western part of the island. Eventually, the road winds back to Queenstown, altogether a 150-mile loop.
The area may be “some of the last true wilderness on earth,” Dille writes.
Outfitter Soigneur offers luxury guided trips of the region.
Basque Country, Spain
Some of Spain’s most defiant people live in the Basque Country. An indigenous people with a distinct language and rich culinary tradition, the Basques became an autonomous community in the late 1970s.
Perhaps even more than the mountain ascents, bicyclists enjoy the area’s restaurants and bars.
“For many cyclists the most memorable meals occur deep within the region’s valleys and along its rural mountainsides,” Dille writes.
Reaching some of the more off-the-beaten path locales serving pintxos, a version of tapas, and Txakoli, a sparkling white wine, requires pedaling along the area’s winding roads. The peak of Jaizkibel and the mist-shrouded mountain pass known as the Puerto de Urkiola are popular spots for cyclists.
Outfitters including bike company Orbea offer tours that pair cycling with fine food and wine.
DuPont State Forest, North Carolina
Take a mountain bike ride deep into Appalachia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and find yourself at the breathtaking waterfalls featured in the movies “The Last of the Mohicans” and “The Hunger Games.”
Putting North Carolina’s DuPont State Forest on the big screen was no mistake: it is beautiful. Water flowing down the Little River passes the forest’s mighty oaks and pines, which create a brilliant collage of color in fall.
Trails curve across rocky expanses, offering some of America’s best mountain biking. The Big Rock Trail provides the challenge of a 500-foot climb up a granite rock face, while the Cedar Rock Trail descends quickly before paralleling the Little River.
There is no lack of options for trail riders: Almost 100 trail segments create a network of more than 80 miles. And the terrain is just as varied. Paths run beside boulders and open rock faces before darting into dense forests.
Mountain biking site mtbikewnc.com offers information on routes and trail conditions.
The Leadville 100, Colorado
Conquer the Wild West on your bicycle by riding the mountain bike trails of the highest incorporated town in the North America. At an elevation of 10,152 feet, Leadville is a historic mining town nestled in the Rocky Mountains.
The Leadville 100 MTB began as a running race in 1983. A similar version for cyclists, 100 miles across the area’s most extreme terrain, was launched for avid mountain bikers 11 years later.
The sport’s most daring can enter the annual race by paying to enter the online lottery, qualifying at a different race, participating in a specific biking camp or being sponsored by a charity after meeting a fundraising goal.
This August event is credited for inspiring 100-mile races across the country. Its name is famous among the mountain biking community, and completing it is a badge of honor among riders.
New York City and environs, New York
Most think of New York City as a maze of streets packed with cars, honking horns and irritated drivers. Getting from one end of the city to the other tests patience and provides headaches. Thanks to recent improvements, however, cyclists can skip some of those aggravations.
“Numerous cities have made improvements for cyclists,” Dille writes. “But no municipality has done as much as quickly as New York.”
Find popular trails online or discover your own along the 296 miles of new bike lanes. Bicycle traffic lights and the Citi Bike bike share program are among other amenities designed for cyclists.
For those who do not own a bike, rental services offer an affordable solution. And there’s no shortage of guided city bike tours.
Camino del Muerte, Bolivia
Daredevil mountain bikers on the Camino del Muerte, or “Road of Death,” white-knuckle their way along this terrifying road that descends nearly 12,000 feet.
The name is no joke; roadside memorials mark spots where motorists or cyclists have plunged off the Andean cliffsides. A new bypass and professional tours have diminished the danger factor a bit.
The ride typically begins in La Cumbre, amid snow-topped mountain peaks. A breathtaking cliff face awaits around every turn, including some that drop more than 3,000 feet. As the road grows closer the sea level, the temperatures rise, and the route dips into the rainforest outside Coroico and La Senda, two options to conclude the ride.
Visit gravitybolivia.com for more information.