Tour de Anywhere: A holiday on two wheels
Written by Kat Mackintosh
My first cycling holiday was born of necessity. We wanted to tour the wine region of the Loire but no one was volunteering to drive. You’re not supposed to drink and cycle, but the Loire’s not the kind of place where they stop people on bikes for random breath tests. The plan was that the cycling bit of the trip would be purely functional, we could get from one winery to another without anyone having to temper their tasting and testing and at the same time burn off the calories of the accompanying cheese. But for a purely functional mode of transport it became one of the highlights of the trip.
Riding a bike between the fields of heavy vines on a late spring afternoon, basket carefully balanced with wine bottles, thoughts pleasantly hazy from the mornings tasting was really very enjoyable.
Out civilized jaunt is only one kind of cycling holiday, before taking that trip I had in my mind it would be like one of those journeys across countries or continents that people make documentaries about, visiting remote villages with unique cultures and miles of quiet scenery flashing past in the background; the aim being to become as immersed in the culture as possible, the local people enchanted by the strange visitor who doesn’t seem to have anything they should be doing at home.
Or else one of those country lane, green and pleasant land, family breaks. Family all cycling in a smiling line as they roll between seaside villages, the Dad pulling one of those bike trailers – how we could have done with one of those in the Loire to tow our wine in so we didn’t worry about falling over into a mess of glass and grape juice. The Danube runs in the background, and generous, purpose built cycle ways flowing past under the tyres…
My more adventurous companions followed up our cycle with a mountain biking trip though through the glens, dales and Bens of the Scottish highlands. They came back muddy, saddle sore and invigorated, raving about careening down mountains at break neck speed and ploughing though streams sending walls of water flying. Both of them had war wounds, but nothing a draught of whiskey, a hot pub meal and a comfy bed couldn’t sort out – they stayed most nights in B&B’s they weren’t feeling that adventurous…
But apparently they’re already planning their next trip in the Atlas Mountains. That one will involve camping out and carrying everything in and out with them. They’re so keen they’ve already gone into training, carrying their wine and whiskey back home with them from the supermarket in panniers on the sides of their bikes, their now permanent modes of transport. For them it wasn’t just a really enjoyable two weeks of freedom in the sun drenched, chateau sprinkled Loire, but a herald from their new lifestyle calling – and as they keep reminding me, “It is the greenest way to see the planet.”.
This doesn't have to be the Tour de France. If you don’t have your own bike there are companies that will hire one out to you; if you don’t know the way they’ll guide you and if you don’t really want to carry your luggage some organised tours will porter it for you each day. In most cases you do need to pedal, but some companies provide a snack and rest van which follows the pack, and takes you in when you’ve had enough.
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