If you think of cycling holidays you probably think of leisurely treks through the countryside far from the madding crowd, yet some cyclists long for the razzmatazz of city life. With raised awareness of road safety, the world’s cities are becoming increasingly cycle friendly. Here are four consider visiting:
This world famous American city is actually built on 43 (count them) hills so at first glance it’s not the obvious destination for a cycling holiday. Avid fans will be relieved to know that San Francisco conceals a number of impressive cycling routes. Choose between the Golden Gate Park (where you can take part in the unusual sport of bike polo) and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. There’s no better way to truly get to know this spellbinding city. As a bonus for touring cyclists, lessons on best cycling practices are freely available. By the way, be sure to cycle down the spiralling vertical descent of Lombard Street but don’t forget to apply your brakes!
Didn’t Katie Melua warble something about eight million bicycles in Beijing a few years ago? The majority of the Chinese people can’t actually afford a car (can you imagine the congestion if they could?) so a bike is the favourite mode of transport here. It’s a great way to explore the alleys of this enigmatic city and join the Chinese people in the bike lane for a day. On a cautionary note, cycling through Beijing is not necessarily relaxing due to the sheer volume of cyclists. Take it as a leisurely pace and if you’re unsure about whether to give way to an oncoming cyclist, it’s probably best to do so and avoid a collision.
Another popular cycling destination is the historic Norwegian city of Trondheim. Home to the world’s only bike lift, the Trampe, around 18% of Norway’s population use bicycles on a regular basis. Trondheim offers extensive rental facilities for cyclists but it’s important to be aware of tram tracks that could unseat you. Travel at the right time of year and you can cycle through the midnight sun. If you do head to Trondheim don’t miss the coastal trail leading to North Cape heading out from the striking Trondheim Fjord.
We haven’t forgotten that cycling fanatics often holiday with nature loving companions. Norway provides the ideal solution for families forced to compromise with its unique brand of safari holidays. Placate your loved ones with the promise of musk ox safaris. A trip to see these half-ton beasts in all of their natural glory will fascinate even the most city-centred cyclist. Just remember to stay at a safe distance; musk oxen can travel at speeds of up to 60 kph and they are quite hefty beasts. Apply cycling principles and remember to give way to the oncoming traffic.
Never mind the famous tulips, Amsterdam has – at the last count at any rate – around 600,000 bicycles for a population of 750,000. Holland‘s flat landscape is ideal for cycling holidays and the Dutch capital is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Nevertheless, it’s important to be sensible and observe safety precautions. Don’t jump red lights and watch out for the tram rails which can take you by surprise and unseat many an unsuspecting cyclist. Oncoming trains also have the right of way over bikes, but then, who would argue? Cycling is a great way of familiarising yourself with Amsterdam’s ubiquitous bike lanes. As bikes are permitted on public transport it’s also a good excuse to hop on a train and head out to the countryside in search of the iconic Dutch windmills.
With most major cities providing cycling-friendly routes and bike-only spaces, a cycling holiday is becoming an even more popular way of seeing the world. Saddle up today and head out to your favourite city – just don’t forget to keep the family happy too.
Kate Smedley enjoys cycling holidays that avoid musk oxen.