As an avid cyclist, I’ve always dreamed of randonneuring: enjoying the countryside with nothing but my bike, a bit of luggage, and the occasional stop in the shade. I’m of course trapped in bill-and-retail hell, so getting away is a bit difficult for me, but anyone who’s done any long-distance or day-touring on their bikes knows to expect warm welcomes from strangers and even the occasional free meal. Except when disrupted by the rare aggressive, shoulder-hogging driver, riding across the country on a bike is incomparably exhilarating.
As green ethics are slowly swaying das Zeitgeist toward a more sustainable lifestyle, people are making all manner of alternative life choices. From foods to vacations, “green” is the new term for “conscience,” and perhaps this is for the better. Debates over environmentalism aside, living greener means living healthier, and I can think of nothing healthier than a vacation on a bike.
Cycling is taking the spotlight again with this year’s 97th annual Tour de France. It runs from July 3rd to the 25th and, as usual, snakes its way across the picturesque French countryside. Of course, most of us aren’t competitive road cyclists, let alone able to do a 120k ride in a number of hours, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our own Tour de France (via travelinggreener).
UTRACKS, an international touring company, offers guided and self-guided cycling tours, among other things, in a wide variety of countries. In France, for example, you can take the Loire Valley Castles tour:
Based in a delightful family-run hotel in the small town of Chitenay you will be provided with a bike, maps and route notes to discover the surrounding forests, vineyards and medieval towns and the famous chateaux of Cheverny and Chambord.
You can also use UTRACKS to take you from Florence to Rome, if you’re looking for something a bit more Mediterranean.
There are other cycling tour companies as well, all with international tie-ins. Companies like Breaking Away, Velo Echappe, and Ciclismo Classico all offer a wide variety of tours for every level of cyclist. Some organizations even provide you with the bike, which makes traveling a lot easier.
If you’re connected to your bike at the hip (butt?), you don’t have to do a tour with a group. Riding all of the stages of the Tour de France at your own pace, for example, is a great way to feel out your abilities. You don’t have to go overseas to ride either. Buy a bike near your home and tour your own city, town, or countryside.