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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

6 of the Best Bike Tours In Europe

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Medium Bike Tours

These European cycle routes will take most people around the two week mark to complete. Perfect for a longer adventure.

Rhine Route

Pictured: Oberwesel on the middle Rhine In Germany

Distance: 1500 km / 930 miles

Location: Switzerland, Germany, France, Netherlands

Theme: “It’s All Downhill from Here”

The Rhine Cycle Tour, also known as EV15, tracks the 1200 km of the Rhine as closely as it can, from its source in the Swiss mountains to the North Sea. Although, purists will have to ditch the bike and hike up to Lake Toma for the official Rhine start point (well worth it).

The route is a curious mix of rural and industrial, cities and villages. You’ll watch the Rhine expand from a clear mountain stream to an enormous river full of cruise ships and barges. Although it’s technically downhill all the way, the reality is a lot more lumpy. 

For more on the Rhine Route, head here

Jura Route

Pictured: Lake Geneva, a significant natural landmark on the Jura Route

Distance: 700km / 430 miles

Ascent: 7000m

Location: Switzerland

Theme: Lakes and Forests

For lovers of big hills and smooth tarmac, the Jura Route in Switzerland is right up there with the best European bike tours. Almost entirely on roads and incredibly well signed, you can relax into it and enjoy the ride (except when you’re slogging up an alpine pass).

This route is a loop, starting and finishing in Geneva, so you know you’ll win back every climb in a speedy descent at the end. If some 17 km of downhill to the finish line isn’t enough, there’s also alpine meadows, pine forests and an inordinate amount of cheese.

For more on the Jura Route, head here

Route des Grandes Alpes

Pictured: A snaking, stunning, road in the French Alps

Distance: 682 km / 433 miles

Ascent: 12,314 m

Location: France

Theme: Alpine Passes

Fancy yourself in the Tour de France? The Route des Grandes Alpes is something of a monster bike tour from Geneva to Monaco. There are no fewer than 16 passes to be tackled as you cross the French Alps, requiring quads of steel – or a lot of patience pushing your bike uphill.

Better still, you’re cycling towards the sea and the hot sand of the Cote d’Azur. The route is entirely on roads and steeped in cycling history.

For more on the Route des Grandes Alpes

Long Bike Tours in Europe

Pictured: An adventurous mountain biker up in the Dolomites

If a week or so isn’t enough to scratch your manic adventure itch, there are still plenty of options on the cards. A huge number of bike tours in Europe have been joined up and connected into the Eurovelo Network. You can browse the map, pick places that sound interesting or take on the whole of a themed route.

If that’s not enough, investigate specific countries – or don’t plan anything and buy a one-way ticket and a road atlas. This is exactly how I ended up cycling across France using mostly the angle of the sun to navigate.

Most European countries have some cycling provision, although not all of them shout about it – from the renowned but extremely confusing numbered signpost system in the Netherlands, to the empty gravel tracks in Germany. You might find you want to go off-piste from a standard bike tour and that’s great too. These are only starting points.

Even More Inspiration

Finally, if you’re still looking for inspiration, there are lots of cycling folk to check out on the internet. Many people have cycled around the world and you can borrow from the European part of their route.

Some circumnavigators include Al Humphreys, Leon McCarron, Mark Beaumont, Jenny Graham and Vedangi Kulkarni. Tim and Laura Moss not only did that and wrote a book about it, they also give out small grants for adventures and organise the Cycle Touring Festival.

“Between 2015 and 2018, Ed Pratt cycled around the world on a unicycle”

On the records front, Sean Conway cycled across Europe from Portugal to Russia in just under 25 days.

If none of the above has caught your eye, you’re a difficult person to impress. Here’s our last curveball suggestion, an idea that might, just maybe, inspire your next adventure. Between 2015 and 2018, Ed Pratt cycled around the world on a unicycle. Yes, a unicycle!

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