Are you fed up of going out for a ride and coming home unable to feel your feet, which have turned to blocks of ice? January is traditionally the month to start flicking through the holiday brochures to give us something to look forward to during the unkind winter months. There's no better way of experiencing the culture, landscape and way of life of a new country than on a bike. What's more, you can come back feeling heathy and invigorated. Help is at hand as Ride Velo brings you our best holiday guides, starting with long-distance worldwide trips to whet your cycling appetites.
One of the biggest cycle holiday companies is Saddle Skedaddle who offer pretty much every kind of trip you can imagine on a bike. Nearly all the tours are totally supported too, and include food and lodging, unlike smaller dealers. Their prices are higher as a result, but if you want to be looked after on your travels, they could be the tour operator for you. You’ll still have to book your own flights though. They cater for road cyclists, mountain bikers, leisure cycling tourers and families too. Here’s our pick of what they can offer:
Saddle Skedaddle offer fully guided tours in Chile, Peru and Argentina from £1,995 per person for 11 days or more. The Peru trip features a wonderful route including visiting Machu Picchu, the Inca ruins, and biking through the Amazon! This really is a bucket-list trip of a lifetime. All holidays are graded between 0-5 and this 16-day trip is level 3 meaning: “For those who cycle regularly. Includes some steep climbs and distances of between 25-50 miles / 40-80 kms per day.”
Central America: Costa Rica and Cuba – the Caribbean, volcanoes and jungle including a road cycling special – Costa Rica coast to coast. For those budding Chaves and Quintanas out there, train like the Columbians on a road cycling holiday of the Emerald Mountains, coupled with Caribbean beaches. Heaven! Riding around the unspoilt Caribbean island of Cuba is a must before tourism ruins it and fills it with Starbucks and McDonalds; up hills, down hills and plenty of dirt road action too.
Why not try Morocco’s Atlas mountains cycling all the way to the desert on a mountain bike riding a huge variety of tracks and terrains? This holiday includes sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert and Saddle Skedaddle even throw in some camel riding and kasbah shopping time. At the other end of the continent, South Africa is stunning with a great climate for cyclists in the Cape Town region. Saddle Skedaddle run a 12-day road cycling tour of the Cape Province which boasts some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the world, along with views of the omnipresent Table Mountain, and of course plenty of delicious local wines to try out en route. This trip is £1,795 p.p., the next one leaving in March.
Our second featured holiday company is SpiceRoads who offer very similar packages to Saddle Skadaddle. They offer 130 different itineraries in 28 countries worldwide. The majority of their tours are in Asia, but they also offer tours in Africa, Eastern Europe and places as far flung as Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Pakistan! Tours include an English speaking guide, support vehicle, accommodation, most meals (except on the odd rest day) and snacks and drinks while riding. If you enjoy meeting people from all over the world, SpiceRoads is the tour company for you. On a regular trip you might have three or four different nationalities, but don't worry – everyone speaks English!
We spotted one holiday, cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia, which we liked the look of very much. Kicking off in Saigon, the trip has a flat start before driving up into the pine forested highlands, visiting the Chu Chi tunnels and touring through paddy fields to the historical temples of Angkor before finishing up in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This holiday is $2,750 and takes 13 days.
Also very tempting is the SpiceRoads Sri Lanka tour which will take you from tip to tip of this lush island in the Indian Ocean. The road ride leads you from the northern plains on flat terrain, exploring the Jaffna Peninsula and islands with its vibrant Tamil culture. Next riding south, cycling through the rice bowl of Sri Lanka on your way to Kandy, home of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic! Hills precede the tea country and then climbing on winding roads to the central highlands. You end your journey at the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka at Dondra Point. This holiday is US$2,850 and takes 12 days.
The rather weirdly named Art of Bicycle Trips is our final choice for worldwide cycling breaks. Also specialising in Asian holidays, they offer a great choice of cycling in India. These cycling tours are designed to give you a taste of Indian food, culture and heritage from close quarters as you pedal past the breathtaking countryside of India. Art of Bicycle Trips offer holidays to Rajasthan, Kerala, and Goa amongst others. "As to why we are named Art of Bicycle Trips, we'll share more about that when you come along on one of our rides. And as to what's included, well, we like to take very good care of all of our guests," says Ashwini at AoBT. "So food, water, refreshments, lodging, guide/mechanic, bikes, a support vehicle & a driver, all of that is provided in our cycling holidays. All that so that you can just bike for days on end."
Prices are dependent on the accommodation you choose, from Premiere down to Value Inns. We chose the Exotic India tour for its lakes, forts and palaces including Jodhpur, the City of Jaipur and, wonder of the world the Taj Mahal, ending up in the bustling metropolis of Delhi. The price is $2,995 p.p. for a fortnight.
So put away the overshoes and winter gloves and start planning your dream long-haul cycling trip. See the world the way it should be seen - on two wheels! Coming up next week: we pick out the best cycling holidays in Southern Europe.