Discover North American places to travel on two wheels
Bicycle tourism is gaining momentum, and with good reason. Cycle tours are about so much more than just saving money on transportation. A bike offers a more intimate way to experience the places you visit. Riding past sights and shops takes longer, giving more time to see things. In small towns, people may greet a cyclist coasting through the center of town.
Bike friendly mega-cities like Copenhagen, Strasbourg, and Portland are well known. But when travel is restricted, people are looking for tours closer to home! Here are four of our favorite intriguing cycling spots in North America.
La Route Verte, Quebec
Visit if you like: old-world culture, pastoral beauty, historical sites, and French cuisine.
Quebec offers a French experience in North America. Beautiful historical sites are surrounded with shops and routes bursting with old-world charm. Although Quebec’s culture is distinct from that of France, its boulangeries and patisseries are still the best places in North America to find fine French baking. Traditional French cooking is combined with local traditions and ingredients to create a not-to-be-missed culinary experience.
La Route Verte (The Green Route) is a network of bike trails and facilities good for both day-trippers and cycle tourists. A wide variety of routes over La Route’s 3295 miles (5300 km) of cycle-paths allow travelers to plan a trip of perfect length and difficulty. Small looping trails allow riders to explore cities like Montreal and Quebec. Multi-day rides throughout Quebec allow riders to experience all that the province has to offer. Benefits of La Route Verte include well placed facilities, covered shelters for eating, and campgrounds with “no turn away policies” for riders, even when the camp is already full. (Check before going to make sure all campgrounds on your map are open for the season.) Check La Route’s website to find maps and guides to accommodations, campsites, and places of interest.
Sections of the Southern Tier, Texas
Visit if you like: a cycling challenge, original artisans, birdwatching, stargazing, and barbeque.
Experienced cycle tourists may enjoy the vast stretches of the Southern Tier routes offered by the Adventure Cycling Organization. These routes are best undertaken in the fall or early spring. Wide open spaces allow you to blow through landscapes with the tumbleweeds, bringing you through small towns with a distinctive mix of Texan cultures.
Section 3 and 4 of the Southern Tier (600+ miles between El Paso and Austen) touches on some of the best Texas has to offer, but also features a lot of remote expanses. You will need to be prepared for whatever portion of the trail you choose to take on. Unlike other states, Texas does not have a campground policy allowing cyclists to stay. Call ahead, plan where you are staying, and bring supplies.
However, this somewhat forbidding country pays off with the rugged beauty of the desert and in many places an uninterrupted view of the stars. Birdwatchers will especially enjoy this route during migration. Along the route, stop in Marfa, Texas: an eclectic town filled with artisans who make everything from custom boots to avant garde sculptors.
The Adventure Cycling Association has route maps and accommodations listed throughout the United States and is a great resource for planning the perfect cycle tour.
Sonoma County, California
Visit if you like: casual riding, wine tours, redwood trees, California dreaming, and ocean views.
Want a less sprawling route recommendation? Sonoma County has become a popular cycling spot, usually chosen for daytrips throughout the county.
Cycle-and-sip tours are the biggest draw to this region. Riders of all abilities looking for outdoor exercise and lots of delicious stops can plan their own routes or hook up with a local wine-tour cycling company. Wineries are prepared for cyclists to come sample their wares and explore vineyards.
However, Sonoma also offers interesting cycling for the diversity of terrain, from technical hills to ocean routes and flat trails amongst the redwoods. The Pacific Coast cycling trail is accessible from Sonoma County near the Pacific Ocean.
The George S. Mickelson Trail, South Dakota
Visit if you like: separated bike paths, American history, and Midwestern hospitality.
The George S. Mickelson Trail is a “rail-trail,” a conversion of an old rail line into a separated bike route through the countryside. The railroad was built during the gold rush and traveled by such historical figures such as General George Custer and Calamity Jane. Mickelson Trail is near Mount Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse memorial is just off the trail (although Crazy Horse Drive runs over the trail, and a hill must be climbed to access it.)
Camping is not available on the trail itself, and riders are required to have a trail pass. However, the trail offers 109 miles of separated lanes through the Black Hills of South Dakota, with trailheads near towns with lodgings or campgrounds for overnight stays. Converted railway bridges and stone tunnels dot the picturesque ride.
Bonus! International destinations—for when travel is an option
Visit if you like: Technology, art, architecture and design, and night life.
Eindhoven is the biggest and best known city on this list. It was recently recognized as the fifth most bicycle friendly city in the world by the Copenhagen Index. Despite its prestigious index ranking, Eindhoven isn’t a capital or mega-city, and it has a much smaller population (223,2200) than other cities in the top ten.
Visitors to Eindhoven can experience the famous Dutch bike culture without having to deal with the enormity or crowds of Copenhagen. That doesn’t mean that Eindhoven is just a smaller copy; it has its own distinctive character and points of interest.
Eindhoven industrialized late and grew quickly, resulting in an unusual prevalence of modern architecture. Much of that architecture was designed with bicycles in mind; Eindhoven was the first city in the world to install a floating bicycle roundabout. Instead of forcing cyclists to share the road in a busy interchange, the “hovenring” elevates cyclists above motorized traffic. That type of innovation and dedication to cycling is seen all over the city.
Eindhoven offers excellent bike infrastructure. Free guarded bike parking garages, bike rental, and protected bike paths are all widely available.
Eindhoven has a definitively modern character, but it isn’t entirely devoid of the old world; you can still experience a traditional village at the Historic Open Air Museum. In fact, museums abound in in Eindhoven. The Van Abbemuseum Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art features artists like Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, El Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, and Appel. If you have any interest in art, it’s a must-see.
Onomichi and the Shimanami Cycle Way, Japan
Visit if you like: Beautiful island scenery, hot springs, and traditional Japanese food.
Onomichi is a small coastal city in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan. It is a lovely city with parks, museums, shopping, dedicated bicycle hotels, and traditional temples – however, it wouldn’t come close to rating on this list if it weren’t for the Shimanami Cycle Way.
The cycle way is one of the world’s most incredible bike routes. Starting right in Onomichi, the Shimanami Kaido connects six islands in the Seto inland Sea. The route covers some of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and the beautiful island scenery alone is worth the trip.
At 70 kilometers, the route can technically be completed in a single day, but most visitors prefer to take their time over two or three days to fully experience the islands. The basic route is clearly marked and easy for beginners. More experienced or ambitious cyclists can take the longer intermediate or advanced routes. You’ll want to leave plenty of time for stops at museums, landmarks, and – of course – restaurants.