seven bicycle tours to get you started

Since 2005 I’ve gone on a bicycle tour nearly every summer. On those trips that took anything between two and five weeks I crisscrossed Belgium, France, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Hungary.

I don’t think it counts, but I also biked two days in Slovakia and one day in Sweden. When I say crisscrossed, that doesn’t mean we biked across these countries randomly. All of these tours were somehow based on a published cycling route that will guide you to the best roads for cycling, places to visit and overnight accommodations. Which for us were always campgrounds.

We seldom biked more than 80 km a day, which is less than what I’m riding now on my own. This is partly because when you’re touring solo you can obviously completely ride your own pace. But another reason is that all those places we went to had so much to offer in terms of cultural heritage and history. For instance when you’re cycling the Danube river you simply have to visit the 900-year-old abbey in Melk. I’m not such a big fan of pompous Baroque architecture myself, but it’s truly a magnificent place. Not visiting is just not an option when you’re there, unless you want to be labeled a cultural barbarian of course. Talking about barbarian acts, the visit to the Mauthausen concentration camp during that same bicycle tour left another huge but different kind of impression on me. History and culture, two essential parts of traveling to me.

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In the text below I’ve tried to describe my seven bicycle tours untill 2012 in a few sentences with some photos and links to the route publications. I’ve deliberately kept the text short. But if anyone would have some questions about touring these bicycle routes or other places in Europe, feel free to contact me.

  • Danmark 2012

The Jutlandroute starts in Skagen, the Northern tip of Denmark, and follows old Viking trade routes through the quiet and green mainland of Denmark (Jylland/Jutland) and Northern Germany to finish in The Netherlands in Emmen. From there onwards we biked  to Nijmegen on some of the great Dutch long-distance cycling routes.

  •  Venezia 2010

A bicycle trip that brought us from Belgium to Luxemburg, through the French Elzas and Jura regions, and over the Swiss Alps into Northern Italy. On the path were many cities with a rich cultural heritage such as Luxembourg, Nancy, Bern, Bergamo, Verona, Padova and finally Venice. So much to be seen in just four weeks. Once again a journey based on one of those many excellent Dutch cycling guides: Fietsen van Amsterdam naar Venetië.

  •  England 2009

Another coastal bicycle tour. But on the other side of the Channel this time: a shorter trip through Kent and East Sussex. We biked from Belgium to the ferry in Dunkirk. Once in England the Sustrans National Cycle Network provided for a route from Dover to Eastbourne, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Rochester, Canterbury and back to Dover.

  •  Bretagne 2008

Back to France. Esterbauer makes excellent cycling guides for many European destinations. Just don’t try to ride them in the opposite direction like we did with the one for the French Bretagne region. We also partly followed the regional network of voies vertes. Highlights of this trip were Mont St.Michel, St.Malo and Carnac’s megalithic sites.

  •  France 2007

In five weeks we rode our bicycles through France and partly back. A Dutch cycling guide Onbegrensd Fietsen van Amsterdam naar Barcelona brought us from Belgium to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer at the Mediterranean Sea. Via Avignon we cycled back North to Lyon with De Groene Weg naar de Middelandse Zee. We took a train to Paris and after exploring the city by bicycle we made our own route back home based on some IGN Maps. France has so much to offer to tourists, whether that be on two, four or no wheels. Just go.

  •  Donau 2006

A bicycle tour that just couldn’t go wrong: virtually car free and no elevation, four countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia & Hungary) and cities such as Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest along the way. The Danube river played a vital role in European history and is home to many UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. No surprise that cycling the Danube is quite popular and many cycling guides are available. To get to the Danube we used the Limesroute which brought us from Frankfurt am Main to Regensburg on a route based on the Northern borders (limes) of the Roman Empire.

  •  Reims 2005

I honestly don’t remember how the idea came to us. Fact is that after I finished my university re-examinations in the summer me and my girlfriend at the time somehow decided to pack our bicycles and ride them from Dinant in Belgium to Reims in France in the next two weeks. Our route was partly based on a Dutch cycling guide that leads to Paris but at some point we made our own path. Just like our bicycles, our panniers were old and worn and not really waterproof anymore. But we ourselves were young and we didn’t care much about gear. Less was more. We had a blast. It was the start of a shared passion for bicycle touring that brought us to many European places in the years to come.

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