Where is the World’s Best Region for Bicycling?
People everywhere are rediscovering the childhood thrill of pedal power—as well as enjoying the connection that bicycling creates with the surrounding landscape.
There is no better way to see a countryside than by bicycle. Walking’s good, sure, and will bring many of the same exterior pleasures. But you can cover much more terrain on a bike tour.
And it’s not a small pleasure that on a bike you can relive the giddy exhilaration of childhood by coasting downhill with brakes off and the wind buffeting your face. That on a bike, a good one, you can pump your legs like pistons and imagine for short distances that you are part of the peloton of the Tour de France. That on a bike you can simply coast on your momentum, achieving a forward progress for absolutely no apparent effort at all.
So where to ride and achieve this joie de vivre? I know what I like; how about you? Let’s swap some tales as if we were riding together for the first time.
Dordogne River Valley, France
I never forget tree-shaded roads in the Dordogne River Valley of France which track the river for long stretches. We’d ride swaddled in shade and shadow and then break out into plains where a 12th-century castle or fortified chateau would hover or even bristle above the river’s bend. We’d ride past goat cheese farms with their fermenting smells, past walnut and hazelnut orchards with their ancient mills nearby, past chapels and churches.
The Tuscan hills have always been the first defense of its towns since marauders and brigands had to march up them. You’ll have to pedal to reach the centre, and it’s a feat. And how good an Orangina will taste at a little café when you’re done! And how thrilling the scenery on a hot Italian day when the grapes are nearing the harvest, and you can see a Montepulciano from 20 kilometres away and know that you’ve got 19 clicks of pure pleasure and then one more of pure delicious agony.
Just remember: There’s no such thing as too low a gear!
Nantucket Island’s a different story, as flat as a calm sea. If you want to sweat, you’ve got to ride hard. And that’s a dumb play because the island’s only 14 miles wide, and if you ride hard, you’ll be to ’Sconset—as the locals call the eastern tip—before you know it. So slow down and enjoy this charming American retreat in all its Yankee idiosyncrasies. Hire a knobby-tired bike and bump around on cobblestones that have lain on the main street of Nantucket for two centuries. Ride out to Cisco Beach on a hot day in August and jump into the surf, and then quench your thirst with a Cisco ale, right at the brewery. Life can be this good if you do!
So now it’s your turn. Where are you going to tell me to try? Where is the world’s best region for bicycling?