by Tara Nolan

I know just the place…

While Canada has a pretty spectacular backdrop for road riding, sometimes you just have to get away. If you feel you need a change of scenery or are planning your next vacation, take a look at these top road cycling destinations for your next two-wheeled holiday. One of them will have just what you are looking for.

…to ride for miles without seeing a car

Croatia

Croatia

Photo credit: Victor Caho

In 2015, Mike Garrigan held an inaugural road riding tour through Croatia’s northern islands. The Canadian cyclocross champ, who learned all the roads and routes during his own training, decided he wanted to share this quiet gem, which sees very little rain, with other roadies. “I felt like I really wanted to show people how beautiful and remote it is,” Garrigan says. Following that first successful trip, Garrigan created OKOLO cycling tours.

This year’s trip will last 10 days, which includes two travel days. Garrigan recommends flying in through Venice as the tour leaves northeastern Italy and heads through southern Slovenia for Istria, Croatia on the first day of riding. Despite the low population, the quiet roads are very well maintained. Garrigan compares them to riding on a driveway.

Accommodation includes three nights at an organic farm, which serves as a home base for a few of the ride days. Last year’s cyclists rode between 50 to 100 km a day. A support vehicle and van trail the pack to help with bike repairs and to shuttle riders who might need a break, especially for the bigger climbs. A private, chartered boat is also docked and ready to transport bikes and tourists to various islands, such as Cres and Lošinj.

Even though the northern islands are less developed as far as tourism goes and most people go to the Dalmatian Coast, the cars with roof racks that Garrigan sees in this area prove that the bike culture is growing. (okolobike.com)

…to conquer elevation and climbs

Colombia

Croatia

Photo credit: Paula Diez

Elevation and lung-busting climbs are not elements that everyone has to deal with during local club or training rides. In Colombia, however, many of the major urban centres are nestled in the Andes mountain range providing ample hill-climbing opportunities. It’s no wonder that Colombia has produced some of the world’s top cyclists, such as Nairo Quintana who has placed second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015.

Medellín to Bogotá (or vice versa) is a popular cycling route. If you’ve binge-watched Narcos on Netflix, then you were reminded that Medellín was at the epicentre of the Colombian drug trade in the ’70s and ’80s. These days, this city – nicknamed “City of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate – is on the rise and working on its cycling infrastructure. Bogotá, meanwhile, has more than 300 km of ciclorutas or bike paths.

“Is it any wonder that Colombia is continually ranked one of the happiest places on the planet?”

Both cities make for interesting, cultural, urban end points that frame the climbs and descents through the rural towns and villages in between. The entire trip is roughly 440 km, which takes about seven days to complete. A few tour operators will organize the ride for you if you don’t wish to plan it out yourself.

With so much ground to cover and road riding considered to be the country’s national sport, is it any wonder that Colombia is continually ranked one of the happiest places on the planet (colombia.travel)

…for island hopping on two wheels

Norway

Norway

The Atlantic Road has been listed as one of the world’s best road trips, but imagine riding it not in a car, but on your bike with a strong Atlantic breeze whipping at your Spandex. The word “scenic” seems like an inadequate way to describe this 8.3-km stretch of road that has also gained distinction as one of the best cycling routes in Norway. Eight bridges connect small, flat islands that afford amazing views of fjords and the mainland’s mountains.

Now, of course, you’re not going to travel all the way to Norway to ride less than 10 km. This scenic jaunt is merely one small section of the country’s established national cycle routes as well as the European Cyclists’ Federation’s EuroVelo routes which run throughout Europe. For example, you can wrap this ride into a 200-km journey with ferry crossings and side-trip detours that will take you from Molde to Kristiansund. (There is even a special family-friendly route.) Fun fact: If you’re into jazz music, Molde hosts Europe’s oldest jazz festival in July.

The word “scenic” seems like an inadequate way to describe this 8.3-km stretch of road that has also gained distinction as one of the best cycling routes in Norway.

Other to-dos between rides include renting a cabin in an 18th-century fishing village, booking a fishing tour, shopping for handicrafts and sampling the region’s maritime cuisine. Be aware that angry seas could potentially put a damper on your plans, so be sure to consult weather reports and local bike shops before pedalling off. Autumn seems to be the season when the storm chasers visit. (visitnorway.com)

…for sips and stage race routes

Australia

Australia

Photo credit: Corey Roberts

If you missed Adelaide’s Bupa Challenge Tour (the recreational portion of Australia’s Tour Down Under that takes place at the end of January), but still want to recreate a little TDU action on two wheels, plan a cycling trip based on the race’s interactive route maps. The Tour Down Under website features different maps, including one that is GpS-enabled, so anyone, really, can enjoy either a leisurely or training-oriented ride around Adelaide and other parts of South Australia. The maps also display the distance and elevation, so you can prepare for your rides accordingly.

Adelaide is a bike-friendly city that offers plenty of bike lanes that allow you to explore. There are also bikefriendly cafés that offer places to lock up while you grab a coffee. You can even find them by the beach so you can enjoy a little sand and surf before you hit the road.

Since the TDU happens to zip through the area’s surrounding, popular wine regions, why not make time to explore them at your leisure? For example, three winemaking Barossa Valley-area towns – Lyndoch, Cockatoo Valley and Williamstown – set the scene for the final circuit of the TDU’s first stage. The winemaking area of McLaren Vale pops up on the map as the starting point for the fifth stage, which ends on Willunga Hill.

If you’d like a little assistance in the planning and luggage department, self-guided tours allow you to pedal at your own pace each day to pre-determined locations where your suitcases – and showers – will be waiting for you. (tourdownunder.com.au)


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