Pure Pedal Power – Brilliant European Bike Trails

There’s little else quite as exciting as travelling the world under your own steam. The thrill of the open road is even more alluring when you can say you conquered it with pure pedal power. In fact, long distance cycling is a fantastic way to escape the stresses of modern life – helping you to get in touch with nature. We got in touch with people from the UK biking community to share some of their top bike trails in Europe this summer.

Tarka Trail, Devon

Route 1 – Tarka Trail, Devon (UK)

Devon is a truly stunning part of the UK and has a number of spectacular trails. However, there’s nothing quite like a Great British pint to finish of your journey.

“The route crosses unspoilt North Devon countryside and follows the magical Taw-Torridge Estuary. Starting in Barnstaple, it’s just three miles to Femington where the estuary scenery is sensational. It’s up to you to decide how far you want to go; the route comes to an end in the small village of Meeth where you can enjoy a well-earned pint in The Bull and Dragon”  – Joanna Corfield, officer at Sustrans

Getting to Devon is simple with either bus or train from most major UK cities, including; Plymouth, Manchester and London.

Route 2 – Grand Union Canal from Birmingham to London (UK)

For a route that combines history and nature in one, then one of the many canal routes throughout England is the answer.

“For a cycling trip with a difference in the UK, I recommend a two day cycle along the Grand Union Canal from Birmingham to London. You’ll need to set off early and you’ll need a hybrid bike as the quality of the path varies. There’s a fascinating history to discover, as well as beautiful scenery all round. You can ride almost the entire length traffic free,…” – Andreas Kambanis, Founder of London Cyclist

Whether starting in Birmingham or London, you will find a wealth of bus and train connections from all major cities. Both cities also have international airports if you are travelling from further afield.

Route 3 – Camel Trail (Cornwall, UK)

“A route dear to my heart is the Camel Trail. It can be extended from coast to coast but this 18 mile section is the best and easy for anyone to ride”. – Steve Donohue Co-Founder at Headset Press

An 18 mile trek through glorious countryside on a well paved road, The Camel Trail in Cornwall is suitable for cyclists of all levels. A perfect choice for a family day out, the route can be as relaxed or demanding as you make it. However, if you’re a little more adventurous, you can take in two separate, spectacular coastlines that span some of the most beautiful landscapes found anywhere in the UK.

You can get to this part of Cornwall via Bodmin. Coach and train travel are your best options with international flights serving London.

Route 4 – Rome to Venice (Italy)

If you’re looking for something a little more exotic (and perhaps some better weather), Poppy Brett, Chief Executive at Life Cycle UK suggests the route from Rome to Venice. Full of sunshine, this spectacular route crosses acres of farmland and ancient Roman aqueducts. Cyclists taking on this challenge will be treated to rural Italy at its most undisturbed. Don’t be fooled by the laid-back, rural Italian lifestyle, though, this one is definitely for the more experienced cyclists out there.

Both Roma Ciampino and Roma Fiumicino serve Rome and flights can be bought cheaply from most major European airports. Coach, bus and train travel is also an option depending on your starting point.

Route 5 – Brenner Pass (Südtirol, Austria/ Italy)

Why not take a few days and enjoy the stunning scenery between Austria and Italy as you trek through the Alps. The landscapes here are epic and it is among the highest paved roads in Europe.

“The most memorable for sheer quality of roads, bike paths, scenery and welcoming local restaurants and hostelries is Northern Italy…Once we’d crossed the Brenner Pass into Italy we followed a glorious bike path which wound its way through old railway tunnels.” – Richard Spencer at Brompton

Getting to Brenner is simple with a train to Brennero Brenner from either Munich or Padova, or by plane from either Haarlem or Nienburg(Weser).

Route 6 – The Rhine Ride (Germany/France)

Two countries in one day. And what’s more, a relaxed ride that’s not too challenging will let you enjoy some beautiful forests and woodland in perfect tranquility.

“From my home in Karlsruhe it’s only a 20km or so trip down to the Rhine and over into France. It’s a beautiful ride though, with most of the journey meandering through Germany’s dense forests. If you want to kick it up a notch further, I’d highly recommend cycling down to Strasbourg from there, which equates to around 80km. ” – Pete Reynolds at The Discerning Cyclist

Getting to Karlsruhe is easy with Germany’s excellent rail network. For those coming from further afield then Frankfurt International Airport is your best bet.

Route 7 – Dutch Coastline (The Netherlands)

“The Netherlands, from a ferry at Hook of Holland then superb cycle routes along the Dutch coast, through sand dunes and along dykes.”Peter Henshaw at A to B Magazine

Sandy beaches and iconic Dutch dykes typify this part of Holland. Some of the sand dunes here date back more than 7000 thousand years and there are plenty of ancient lakes that have long been used for drinking water. Here, you can join the 6000 km North Sea Cycle Route which takes in the UK, Belgium and the easternmost part of Scandinavia. However, you could also just take it easy and enjoy a lazy day exploring this excellent route.

The Hook of Holland can be accessed from the UK by ferry. Train and bus travel is also available.

Route 8 – Route 8 (For the Mountain Bikers!) Port Du Soleil (Switzerland)

If awesome peaks and adrenaline fuelled drops are your thing, then the Alps is most certainly the place to be.

“Nothing beats a trip to the Port Du Soleil in the Alps for delivering lots of mountain biking fun for very little effort. You’ll be whisked up the mountains by lift and free to explore the alps until you run out of steam. Just don’t miss the last lift back over to Morzine at the end of the day!” – Jamie Edwards at Wide Open Magazine

Geneva is extremely well connected and can be reached by bus, train or plane.

Biking Tips from the Pros

If you’re hitting the open road with only yourself to depend upon, then it’s worth knowing a little something before you head out. Here are some top tips from the pros to get you started.

1. “Learn basic bike maintenance. I’d suggest knowing how to change tubes, repair punctures, replace a chain link and adjust derailleurs and brakes are all essential!” – Joanna Corfield, Sustrans

2. “If you’re travelling with a basic cover for your bike, which doesn’t have wheels, I recommend preparing your bike for the flight once you reach the airport. On a bike trip to Germany, this was a mistake I made. My friend and I worked up a real sweat trying to get our bikes to the airport!” – Andreas Kambanis, London Cyclist

3. “From experience, it’s a very simple thing. Visit the local tourist information site. There is so much information in these places that is relevant and up-to-date, they often have useful maps of the area too.” – Steve Donohue, Headset Press

4. “Take as little gear with you as possible otherwise you will be weighed down with useless items that you are forever unpacking and repacking.”

5. “Take a credit card for those emergencies when you just want to debunk from your tent to a little luxury in a hotel!”

6. “Check before you travel if you’re taking your bike on the train. When there’s a biggish event like the Tour of Cambridgeshire the local train firms can put in restrictions, making it hard to get there by train. Lots of train operators are pretty good, but checking ahead or even booking a space for your bike can save you some stress/heartache on the day.” – Jonathon Harker, BikeBiz

7. ”Keep eating and drinking all the way, this is your excuse to explore local villages a little and soak up the atmosphere rather than just whizz through. Have your big feed in the evening though, not halfway to where you’re going!”

8. “Bring lights, even if you don’t intend to use them – tunnels, filthy wet days and unforeseen delays can leave you feeling vulnerable if unlit.”- Richard Spencer, Brompton

9. “One of the key things I’d recommend for cycling longer distances is trying to avoid wearing a backpack. It can get pretty uncomfortable and sweaty when you do, so I’d 100% advise that you invest in a solid pannier rack and bags to carry your stuff around. Make the bike do the work, not you.” – Peter Reynolds, Discerning Cyclist

10. “Decent tyres (the best ones shouldn’t puncture) and a couple of spare spokes.” – Peter Henshaw, A to B Magazine

11. “Choose your camp spots carefully, particularly making sure there is a local shop or restaurant. There’s nothing worse than arriving on site after a long ride to find there is nothing to eat.“ – Poppy Brett, Life Cycle UK

12. “The Netherlands and Denmark are both great destinations for family cycling holidays, as the excellent infrastructure means you can enjoy cycling without having to worry about traffic. Plan your route in advance, taking into consideration how far your child can cycle (or sit in a seat or trailer) per day. Consider what attractions there are for your kids along the way and at the end of each days riding. Always have a plan B in case they can’t cycle the full distance, or the weather turns nasty.” – Karen Gee, Cycle Sprog