Bicycles: not just for hipsters anymore. We’re all for sensitive types saddling up in the city, but you’ll need more than artfully groomed facial hair and tight chino shorts to survive these two-wheeled adventures.
These are the world’s best cycling routes. They’re relentlessly scenic, sometimes remote and occasionally arduous. They climb mountains, flow down coastlines, snake through forests and offer unprecedented up-close access to all the action. And they belong on every enthusiast’s bucket list.
West Coast vs East Coast | Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania’s diverse terrain is ideal for a range of cycling experiences, from quiet country roads with coastal views to intense hill climbs with challenging weather. The east coast offers pristine beaches, a temperate climate and flatter terrain. For more ambitious riders, the west coast is composed of brutal contours with a climate to match, but includes top Tassie sites like Montezuma Falls, Lake St Clair and Cradle Mountain.
Pacific Coast Highway | Canada & USA
The Pacific Coast Highway stretches from Vancouver to the US border with Mexico, passing through Washington, Oregon and California along the way. The route gets you up-close-and-personal with misty mountains, redwood forests, farmland, SoCal beaches and more of North America’s most beautiful landscapes. Completing the full passage takes more than a month, but sections can easily be cycled individually to match your skill level and timeframe.
The Danube River | Germany, Austria, Slovakia & Hungary
Follow the banks of Europe’s second-longest river on one of the continent’s most famous long-distance cycling trails. The most popular section of the route stretches from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria for a total distance of 320-km. The journey is superbly bike friendly, clearly marked, rarely plagued by high winds and largely flat, making it a perfect choice for cyclists who want a low-key, relaxed adventure.
National Highway 1 | Vietnam
This iconic road runs the length of Vietnam, between its two major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The 1,200-km odyssey isn’t a short one, but it is an immensely rewarding mix of rural villages, lush coastal foliage, hidden valleys and networks of rice fields. National Highway 1’s largest natural obstacle is the mighty Hai Van Pass, but the descent between pine-covered mountains and the South China Sea makes every second of struggle worth it.
Slickrock Trail | Utah, USA
There’s a good reason Moab is known as Utah’s adventure capital. In addition to rafting, hiking and off-roading, Moab is home to the Slickrock Trail – a roller coaster combo of steep inclines and electrifying descents across grippy Navajo sandstone. Thousands of cyclists make the pilgrimage to this rust-coloured mecca each year. Follow their tyre marks, or the white dots spray-painted onto the stone, and you’ll feel like you’ve cycled straight onto Mars.
Munda Biddi Trail | Western Australia, Australia
The completed Munda Biddi Trail opened end-to-end as recently as April 2013, but already it’s become a world-class cycling destination. Running for over 1000-km from Mundaring to Albany, the route is the longest continuous off-road biking trail of its kind. Cyclists travel through eucalyptus forests, dry bushland and river valleys, surrounded by indigenous wildlife. Sections vary in terms of difficulty and terrain type, but there are stages suitable for all abilities.
Luberon & Mont Ventoux | Provence, France
A round-up of the world’s best cycling routes wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Tour de France. While most of us aren’t cycling at a Lance-level (drugs or no drugs), it’s still possible to enjoy some of the Tour’s territory. Hilly Luberon offers well-signed bike paths, Roman ruins and medieval chateaux, plus the ultimate challenge for a serious cyclist: the legendary Mont Ventoux. Celebrate a successful climb with some of the area’s exquisite wine.
Friendship Highway | China & Nepal
High altitude cycling doesn’t get much better than somewhere known as the ‘Roof of the World.’ The Friendship Highway connects the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with the Chinese/Nepalese border, covering 800-km of incredible scenery in the process. Attempting the journey means passing through the highest mountain range on the planet (the Himalayas), so expect lung-busting climbs, exhilarating downhills and, on a clear day, a distant view of Everest.
Land’s End to John O’Groats | England & Scotland
This 1,407-km journey spanning the length of the UK has become an institution for cyclists. Between Land’s End in England and mainland Scotland’s northernmost point, riders are treated to rocky cliffs, rolling hills, charming farmland, pristine lakes and the mammoth Scottish Highlands. Most cyclists complete the route in ten to fourteen days. Some have even braved it on a unicycle, and earned a Guinness World Record for their troubles.
Death Road | Bolivia
It’s not so much that we’ve saved the best for last, it’s more that this devilishly dangerous road could easily be your last. The 60-km highway to hell was built by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930s to connect the Bolivian capital of La Paz with Corioco. The road is rarely more than 3 metre wide, despite traffic travelling in both directions. There are no guard rails between you and a 600 metre drop. Heavy rain and fog are frequent. But the sweeping views of the Amazon rainforest, and the lifetime of bragging rights, make ‘Death Road’ worth the fear.