For me, it's an absolute no-brainer. I love riding a bike, and I love being on holiday. What better way to up the pleasure levels in my life than combining the two?
And there are so many ways to have a cycling holiday, on a sliding scale of easy to epic.
You can rent accommodations in a scenic area and explore with day trips. You can traverse a rail trail at your own pace, away from cars, stopping at lodgings while a guide company leapfrogs your kit. You can join an organised group, be it the Great Vic Bike Tour or a fan's taste of the Tour de France.
You can head off alone or with friends, choosing your own route, with a change of clothes, toiletries and a credit card for hotels. Or you can pannier up with everything you need for self-supported nights in the wilderness.
The options are vast and the benefits many. Here are my seven reasons why you should saddle up for an upcoming holiday.
Blowing out the stress and torpor
I spend most of my work days sitting at a desk. The last thing I want to do on holiday is spend more time inactive – and I find it too easy to slump into inertia when on a break. On a biking holiday, I've a compelling reason to get up and go, every day. Sure, it can be physically taxing it's but a great way of resetting one's body and mind, restarting a lapsed fitness regime – and keeping your nose out of your phone.
Keeping down the costs
Car rental, bus and train tickets? Who needs 'em? Go by bike and you free yourself from the cost, constrictions and confusions of commercial transport. For me, this has worked on both ends of the economic scale. In Norway, biking and camping was a budget way to see a famously expensive country, while hostel-hopping on two wheels in Sri Lanka circumvented the need for rental cars or challenging public transport journeys.
Other road cultures can be an eye-opener
I once wrote a blog asking whether cycling was really so bad in Australia. That's open to debate, but it really is astonishing to ride in countries where the overwhelming approach is to give cyclists as much room as possible – or even better, their own room on a network of cycle paths. I've cycled in a dozen countries round the world … and it's fair to say I always have to "get my Sydney head back on" when I return.
See the sights in double-quick time
Covering long distances on a bike may take a while but for sightseeing in a city or town, a bike is frequently the speediest option. You can quickly cover distances that are tedious to walk, parking is everywhere, and views from the saddle are 360 degrees. I've been to London many times, and lived there for six months, but a recent visit by bike gave me a greater appreciation for the city – and how it's tied together – than ever before, with nary an Oyster card in sight.
Food for the road
In Baguettes and Bicycles, writer Stephen Herrick recounts how he offsets his fondness for fine dining with his efforts on the bike as he tours across France. Of course, it can depend on input and output and our bodies all react differently – a friend kept the same weight on a ride across Laos while the kilograms just fell off her husband – but if sampling the local fare is a favourite aspect of travel, it can help to be revving the metabolism in between. I always finish lighter and there's no skimping on the fuel.
A gear-buyer's paradise
"But I'm not going to load stuff onto my lovely bike," a friend told me recently when contemplating a two-wheeled holiday. Of course, there's a simple solution to that … buy another bike! Many cyclists love an excuse to go shopping and bike holidays bring untold opportunities: bikes, racks, panniers, tyre choices, touring shoes and pedals – and that's before you start into all the lightweight stuff you plan to carry.
Of course, bike riders aren't homogeneous, but the unifying interest in two-wheeled matters crosses a lot of boundaries. I've spent a week in a chalet with half a dozen people I've never met before, all bonding around our daily ride experiences. In a foreign country, it's easy to chat to and even team up with fellow travellers. I've been offered (and accepted) accommodation by roadside strangers, and there's even a website that offers homestays for riders around the world.
Fairfax journalist Michael O'Reilly has written the On Your Bike blog since 2011.
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