Inspired by our Olympians why not consider packing up your bike and heading to some of Europe's best cycling destinations. With local quirks and challenging terrain, we've canvassed our team to offer some of their top tips for anyone planning to take the plunge with their first European cycling adventure.
What to expect
Clearly cycling on the wrong side of the road is an obvious transition you need to get used to, and fast! But other than that Europeans are far more accommodating of cyclists, generally speaking, with cycle lanes through the cities and café's with bike racks where they'll offer to fill you water bottle up for free!
There are of course hills everywhere! It's easy to forget how much hillier Europe is to the UK, with much higher inclines to truly test your strength. Not only that, the profile of the climbs is different. Rather than roads heading straight up the hill in the UK, European road builders offer a bit more fitness with road design, weaving lanes going around the mountain and hairpins galore which makes for ideal cycling roads.
Think about choosing the right terrain and destination for your riding ability and travel with an experienced Tour Operator like Alp Cycles as they will have the best knowledge of the area and experienced guides. They will do everything they can to ensure that all you have to do is enjoy riding your bike.
The heat combined with long climbs means you sweat an awful lot more than you would in the UK, so taking on board an energy drink with electrolytes is essential in order to stay hydrated and replace anything you lose through sweating. Plus an insulated bottle nothing worse than warm water two hours into a hot ride.
A map. We've winged it on several occasions but it's always nice to have a safety net, especially when you can't get reception on your phone.
A good lightweight gilet which can come in handy in lots of situations. If you're on a long mountain climb, the descent is going to be cold and the weather can change very quickly.
If you're taking your own bike a good quality bike box is essential to make sure it arrives as it left. Hiring a bike may be convenient but it can often be almost as expensive as a bike box. You'll enjoy cycling abroad so much that your first cycling holiday certainly won't be your last. A bike box is a solid investment.
Just in case your bike box gets lost in transit, carrying your helmet, shoes, pedals and one set of kit in your hand luggage means you won't be waiting for days to get started on your ride.
Where to go
Pretty much anywhere in Spain - there's a reason the pros head there for the winter. Fantastic tarmac, incredible scenery, awesome weather and very little wind. In particular head to the main climbs in the Marina Alta region. A 150km loop going over Vall d'Ebo out to Castell de Castells and over the Coll de Rates before a lung busting effort up the Cumbre Del Sol. Every great ride features a café stop and the shops by the beach in Javea are perfect for ice creams and coffees.
Definitely worth a visit is Mallorca for its super smooth roads, punishing climbs and amazing views, the lighthouse ride is exceptional. There is also a very famous loop from Pollenca taking in Col d' Orient, Col d' Honor, Col d' Soller and finishing off with a climb to the islands highest road Puig Major.
The French Alps are also a must ride for the sheer enormity of the climbs, the stunning backdrops and riding on legendary roads that your heroes have battled on. Try the classic Marmotte route over Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and finishing off with a climb up to the ski station at L'Alpe D'Huez is hard to beat for severity of the ride and the long sweeping descents. Another lovely track is a lap of Annecy lake, the Col de la Forclaz on one side, along the cycle track by Annecy lake and then climb the Semnoz via the Col de Leschaux - a high peak with amazing view up to Mont Blanc. A super-fast descent into Annecy and straight to the plage for a dip in the crystal lake waters! Perfect.
Also Italy where the passion for cycling is fantastic, stop at a café for coffee and Panini and the locals will be discussing your bike and equipment with you in no time.
If you find cars beeping at you on your Alpine climbs, it's usually locals offering their encouragement rather than trying to get you out of the way. Just enjoy it!
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