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What could be more exhilarating than exploring a country from the seat of a bicycle?
The call of the open road; the wind at your back; the views that lie ahead. Every sense becomes stimulated: You become acutely aware of the scent of freshly ripened strawberries, the panorama of distant mountains, the jolt from every bump or defect in the road, the thrill of smooth pavement, the song of a bird and the taste of salt on your lips.
Bicycle touring is truly about both the destination and the journey. It will take you at just the right pace to meet the people, enjoy the views and savor the food and the culture of your chosen destination.
And what better way is there to combine fitness with something as pleasant as a bicycle tour?
The brochures show sunny days, smiling faces, gourmet lunches and plush accommodations. And while the sun may not always shine, the rest of the pictures can be a good reflection of a typical luxury bike tour (there are less plush tours for the budget-minded).
What is virtually certain is that you will immerse yourself into a new region that may come complete with new foods, wines and customs.
Fuel for the day's ride includes both food and vital information. At breakfast, maps may be disbursed and suggestions for the daily route and attractions are discussed. Somebody has already checked out the mechanical condition of your bicycle, but it's still OK to squeeze your tires and make sure that they suit your style.
Especially if it's an intended stopping point on your tour, you might find that your lunch has been prepared for you. (If you have dietary needs, notify your tour operator in advance.)
In many cases, welcome and farewell dinners are included as part of your tour. Depending on the tour operator and style of the tour, other meals may be on your own. But that provides the advantage of dining with whomever you want and at whatever time you want -- while enjoying the types of food and drink you prefer.
Don't think that because you are bicycling that you need forget about fine dining. Is there a Michelin rated restaurant in the area? How about a favorite wine that you would like to enjoy right where it is produced? What about a spectacular restaurant view that overlooks the region where you just bicycled?
Options provide guests with not only dining choices, but also with route choices. Are you looking for a leisurely shorter route with plenty of time for shopping, people-watching at a cafe or wine-tasting? Are you ready to challenge yourself and pedal long and hard to accomplish your own fitness goals? Do you want to take it easy one day and push yourself the next?
Keep in mind that your traveling partner, if you have one, needn't necessarily follow the same route and pace that you do. You’re likely to meet new people along the way and perhaps form new friendships in fellow cyclists or locals -- there’s just something about people on bicycles that makes them seem more approachable than other types of travelers.
At the end of the day, when you reach your final destination, you usually have free time to dine, explore or relax with your traveling partner, if you did take separate rotes or travel at different speeds.
Where do you want to cycle? Has following the Tour de France been a dream or yours? Or does Vermont immediately bring bicycling to mind? Perhaps you would like to enjoy a bike and barge tour or cycling combined with another sport. Maybe a long distance journey suits you best.
You may be surprised by the number of appealing destinations. Popular destinations include France and Italy, but almost every country in Europe offers cycling. The Netherlands offers relatively flat areas, while Ireland takes you through those thousand shades of green.
Riding along canals or waterways, such as the Danube River, is another pleasant possibility. Of course both the U.S. and Canada offer varied terrain for exploration, but don't forget more far-flung cycling destinations like New Zealand, South Africa, Scandinavia and parts of Asia.
Once you’ve weighed all your options and settled on the right bicycle tour for yourself, you’ll have the advantage of knowing just what to expect – and chances are your adventure will be exactly what you had hoped for and dreamed about.
Popular Bike Trails:
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Austrailia - 243 km; Route of the Haiwatha, Idaho-Montana, U.S. - 24km; Route des Grand Crus, Brugundy, France - 800km; Molesworth Road, Christchurch, New Zealand - 320km; Cycle Route 10, Amsterdam, Holland & many more.