Whether you're looking for a relaxing sightseeing cycle, a family biking adventure or a hilly pedalling challenge through Alpine mountain passes, here are six of the best cycling holidays, by Yvonne Gordon
As well as the beautiful scenery, culture and heritage to experience, Cuba has very little traffic and mostly flat terrain, so cycling along the quiet roads is an ideal way to see the island. An eight-day Highlights of Cuba cycling tour with Explore starts in lively Havana before visiting colonial towns like Remedios and Trinidad. You can relax on sandy beaches, swim in the Caribbean and visit the famous Bay of Pigs and Che Guevara's mausoleum in Santa Clara. The trip averages 40km per day and bike hire, a guide and a support vehicle are included. From €2,075 including flights, see Explore.co.uk.
For a fun adventure, a cycling trip in the desert and along the coast of Morocco is ideal for combining cycling with other family activities like camel rides, surfing and treasure hunts in souks. Cycling specialists Saddle Skedaddle's Morocco Desert, Coast and Mountains trip has a mix of activities, including mountain biking from a ski resort, zip lining, camping in the desert and surfing on the Atlantic coast, as well as the sights and sounds of exotic Marrakesh. The eight-day trip costs €1,349, including most meals, with bike hire €190 per adult and €135 per child. Ryanair flies twice weekly to Marrakesh. See skedaddle.co.uk.
For serious cyclists who want to tackle some of the Tour de France, the Upper Provence, Ventoux and Luberon tour is a six-day challenge in the heart of Provence. Starting in Avignon, views are magnificent all along the route. The trip's best climb is the famous Mont Ventoux (1912m), a Tour de France regular (the race has finished several times at the summit). The tour also snakes through the Gorges de la Nesque and through rolling Provence countryside, with stops in acclaimed wine-making towns and beautiful villages such as Gordes. Cyclemundo's self-guided tour costs from €995 per person, including accommodation, some meals and luggage transfers. Bike rental from €145. See cyclomundo.com.
Long-distance: South America
If you're hearing the call of the open road or have lots of spare time, join a long-distance cycling expedition for anything 10 days to five and a half months. Tour d'Afrique's South American Epic, which starts on July 11 of this year, is the longest supported cycling tour on the planet, covering 13,641km and traveling the entire continent from Columbia to Argentina. You can join stages such as the Chile Lake District (13 days, €1,904) or the Carretera Austral in Patagonia (27 days €3,174). Other nice long-distance tours include Africa, Shanghai to Singapore and Delhi to Goa, India. Trips include support vehicles, accommodation and food. See tourdafrique.com.
Weekend: The Great Western Greenway
If you'd like something easy for all the family and close to home, the Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo is an off-road trail and one of the most scenic cycling routes in Ireland. Set on the old Achill to Westport railway line, the 42km-route is broken into three stages: Westport-Newport, Newport-Mulranny and Mulranny-Achill. Although it can all be done in a day (and starting from either end), take your time and stop for a night along the way. Clew Bay Bike Hire (from €15 per day, clewbaybikehire.ie) has bases at each stop and a handy shuttle service between stages. See greenway.ie.
If cyclist Danny MacAskill's amazing film The Ridge (see YouTube) has made you want to throw a mountain bike around the hills of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, first check out Macs Adventure's self-guided Isle of Skye Cycle Tour which covers 318km over eight days and will challenge you with a few highland hills. Skye's narrow roads take you past breathtaking coastal and mountain vistas like the unusual Quiraing and Old Man of Storr, and into villages like Portree, with plenty of bird and wildlife along the way. The tour includes accommodation and baggage transfers, from €759 (bike hire is €135), see macsadventure.com.
Advice and tips on how to stay safe while cycling on Irish roads from the Road Safety Authority:
* Never cycle in the dark without adequate lighting - white for front, red for rear
* Always wear luminous clothing such as hi-vis vests, fluorescent armbands and reflective belts so that other road users can see you
* Wear a helmet
* Make sure you keep to the left. Always look behind and give the proper signal before moving off, changing lanes or making a turn
* Follow the rules of the road, never run traffic lights or weave unpredictably in and out of traffic
* Maintain your bike properly - in particular, your brakes should work properly and your tyres should be inflated to the right pressure and be in good condition
* Respect other road users - don't get into shouting matches with motorists; stop at pedestrian crossings; don't cycle on the footpath
* Watch your speed, especially when cycling on busy streets and going downhill
* Steer well clear of left-turning trucks: let them turn before you move ahead
For more information on road safety see rsa.ie