Don't you just love biking? It's about the closest you can get to flying like a bird, with the wind in your hair, sun on your shoulders and bugs in your teeth. If you like to spend your free time on two wheels, consider spending your next vacation the same way.
Cycling can take you across rough or easy terrain, over bridges big and small and through tunnels both modern and ancient. Given this, coupling bicycles and sightseeing seems as natural as pairing peas and carrots.
No one knows for sure when this active mode of vacationing first started, but by 1878, recreational cycling was enough of a trend for cyclists in Britain to form the Bicycle Touring Club, later dubbed Cyclists' Touring Club, which still exists today. The Adventure Cycling Association was formed in the United States in 1973. Those names shouldn't intimidate you—such tours are not just reserved for hardcore cyclists. More and more, it's a form of active vacationing that is speeding up in the United States and in Europe, across all age groups and fitness levels, thanks in large part to the popularity of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and the surge of spinning classes in gyms everywhere.
Some people liken bicycle tourism, or cyclotourism, to backpacking on a bike, with varying degrees of difficulty. The more leisurely tours involve daylong bike rides carrying minimal equipment, with overnight accommodations in hotels. Some tours even arrange for a vehicle to carry riders' equipment from place to place. More intense tours entail stocking up on food, cooking equipment and a tent for camping and following a guide through remote areas.
The distances of bike tours vary, but there is something out there to match your fitness level and, perhaps more important, your desired vacation spot.
Bike Off the Beaten Path
The hills of Tuscany and countryside of Great Britain are among the better-known bike vacation destinations. In the United States, the quaint and scenic byways of New England have always drawn cyclists. But you might be surprised to learn that you can cycle from Thailand to Laos, throughout Southern Africa or around the wine regions of Portugal, and along the route of the Tour de France (just like Armstrong did).
If you find the wealth of tours overwhelming, consult your travel agent, who can help you sift through your options. Given the amount of variables on such a vacation, working with a travel agent will assure you that the tour is run by a reputable company. It's likely the agent has worked with the tour operator for some time and can guarantee that the quality of the accommodations and the difficulty level of the route will match your needs.