Seeing the world from the saddle tends to reveal things you hadn’t noticed, even in your own back yard (metaphorically speaking!). So with some great weeks of summer still ahead of us, there’s never been a better time to explore a new area of Britain — or abroad — by bike.
For families there is a wide and growing range of different safe cycling venues. From the Forestry Commission (link: www.forestry.gov.uk/cycling), to the National Parks (link: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/outdooractivities/cycling) to bodies such as the National Trust (link: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/cycling), more and more organisations are marketing themselves as perfect places for riders young and old.
There are also some great public routes up and down the country. For example, the Bristol to Bike Railway Path is an easy entry into city-to-city cycling. The Camel Trail in Cornwall is a 19-mile beauty on mainly traffic-free roads. And further north, there’s a superb on-road Four Abbeys route around the Scottish Borders. Even if you’ve already got a holiday destination booked, you could use Sustrans’ National Cycle Network (link: www.sustrans.org.uk) map to discover safe cycle routes wherever you’re headed.
You could even go on a cycling ‘staycation’ right from your front door. Fill a couple of panniers with clothes, strap a lightweight tent on your rear rack, put a guide to British campsites in your handlebar bag, and go adventuring. For these kinds of tour, the CTC — Cyclists Touring Club — (link: www.ctc.org.uk) could be a massive help. The CTC also has a selection of great overseas routes and a wealth of advice resources should you want to venture further afield.
France, the spiritual home of the bicycle has a great cycling culture and is a particular favourite for British riders. In fact, while people talk about the cycle challenge of Land’s End to John O’Groats — Britain’s end-to-end route — a far more enjoyable version exists just over the Channel. Starting in St Malo, you could ride right across France to the Mediterranean in anything from a week to a more leisurely fortnight. A new book — France En Velo (link: www.franceenvelo.cc) — explains how to fully make the most of this great ride, and offers alternative, less time-demanding routes along the way.
Of course France isn’t our only near neighbour that loves the bike. Head to Belgium or the Netherlands, or even a bit further to places such as Majorca or the Danish capital Copenhagen, to see how bicycles have become a fully-fledged part of daily life.
For even more adventurous pedallers there’s a big, wide world out there to explore. English-speaking countries such as Australia and the United States can be traversed on two wheels, and exotic rides through South America or the Indian sub-continent are very possible. Africa has a surprisingly vibrant cycling scene as well. In fact, there are very few places that can’t be conquered by bike.
Again, you don’t have to go it alone, though. Companies such as Ride 25 (link: www.ride25.com), Classic Tours (link: www.classictours.co.uk) and Saddle Skedaddle (link: www.skedaddle.co.uk) are all great places to start planning your expedition.
And, of course, wherever you’re headed with your bike, don’t forget to organise sufficient insurance for it. Cycleplan’s range of policies, including European and Worldwide cover, will help keep you cycling whatever adventures the ride throws up.