A cycling colleague recently asked me about easy European Bicycle Touring Routes. You see they had joined me on previous journeys in Europe and those particular routes had been very hilly.
Whether you are a beginner to cycle touring in Europe; a senior or someone just wanting more recreational level of riding these choices should appeal to you. Some are signed and others are regions popular with anyone on a cycling vacation. All offer guided and self guided options from travel companies or you are easy to arrange yourself.
My Easy European Bicycle Touring Routes
Danube Bicycle Path – most cyclists take the well signed route between Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria which takes about one week. For a second week continue through Slovakia and Hungary to Budapest but you will need a guidebook as the route is not signed. In Austria and Germany hotels are used to those bicycle touring and have facilities for bike lockups.
Anywhere along this route you will meet like minded cyclists to ask directions or advice on restaurants. There are a few small hills in Austria’s Wachau wine area and slightly higher hills departing from the resort town of Tata in Hungary for a few kilometers but otherwise it is not challenging. Note: if making your own arrangements reserve accommodation on weekends in Austria as it can be busy and in Hungary as there is limited hotel space.
Expect to see a lot of other cyclists: cathedrals (Passau, Melk, Vienna, Esztergom); vineyards (Wachau, Hungary); bike ferries (Austria); castles; walled towns (Krem); funiculars (Budapest); horses (Babolna) and the river boats along the Danube.
Around Lake Constance – a popular ride of 260 km (161 miles) with easy riding on signed the route around this scenic lake bordered by Switzerland, Austria and Germany making for interesting sightseeing. It should take you about 4 to 5 days for this cycle vacation assuming you explore the various towns along the way.
Expect to see castles, medieval towns, vineyards, boats on the lake and a backdrop of the Alps.
You can extend your cycling holiday by continuing to Zurich, across southern Bavaria like I did but expect to encounter some hilly terrain or a popular option is to head up the bike route along the Rhine River via Basel.
Rhone Bike Route – you never expected I would include a route in Switzerland did you? Well this one starts in Geneva and follows the shores of Lake Geneva including Lausanne and Montreux before continuing up the Rhone River Valley to Sion and Brig with mountains bordering you on either side. Although signed the route jogs quite a bit so you will require a map. There are only a few small hills in the Lausanne area but otherwise it is quite flat. We stopped at the International Cycling Association World Headquarters for a coffee and to watch the riders in the velodrome, it is right on the bike path so you can’t miss it.
You can expect to see a lot of vineyards around Sion and just past Lausanne; promenades with colorful flowers (Vevey, Montreux, Lausanne); castles (Chillon in Montreux, Sion); museums (Lausanne, Geneva); statue to Freddy Mercury (from group Queen); International Cycling Association WorldHQ); great scenery along Lake Geneva and in the narrow Rhone Valley with a mountain backdrop.
Dordogne Cycling Routes
France offers so many bicycle touring regions it is hard to pick one. My favorite is this area of southern France along and between the Dordogne and Lot Rivers.
Sights include prehistoric caves, castles from the 100 years war, a town hanging from the side of a huge ravine, the prettiest town in France (or so they say) plus the compulsory excellent food and wine. Lots of walnut plantations and a great bicycle museum too.
Bicycle Touring France, of course, includes the famous Tour de France routes which changes each year. Roads are usually closed a few days before the event for local cyclists.
Loire Valley – this region of France is the first introduction to European cycling for many. You can expect to be cycling short distances on quiet roads as you explore the vineyards and chateaux dotted along the route. Don’t expect any significant ascents or descents along the river, however many cyclists do head into the surrounding hills as there are many possible routes in the area.
Besides the chateaux highlights are sure to include the fine cuisine. If wanting to see the south of France the Canal du Midi route from the Mediterranean Sea in Provence to Toulouse and continuing to the Atlantic is also an option.
Veneto Region of Italy – I started in Vicenza on a guided tour which included Bassano del Grappa well known for the liqueur Grappa and with the Dolomites in the distance before continuing to historic Padua and Venice. We continued along the Laguna Venice before heading inland through the edge of a wine district. There was only one hill heading up to Asolo in the wine country and it really wasn’t too bad. A lot of cyclists had taken the self guided option but you will need a map as the route is unsigned.
You can expect to see numerous museums in Padua and Venice; canals everywhere (not only in Venice); vineyards; historic bridges (Bassano), ancient cathedrals. We had a ferry pass to get us from Venice allowing us to hop and cycle the various islands along the Adriatic Sea.
Netherlands – when I say I am going bike touring in Europe everyone assumes it is to the Netherlands as this is a region well known for the popularity of cycling and plenty of bicycle lanes both in the cities and countryside. Although it is flat you can expect to face strong winds at times. There are not as many guided tours so if you plan your own don’t worry about getting lost as almost everyone speaks English.
The Netherlands is well known as a bicycle touring haven with numerous paths. The town of Valkenburg is located near the German, Belgian and French borders and is the center of cycling in this country and a great place to base yourself. Bicycle touring in Holland will be along bike paths but expect windy days. Can easily be combined with Belgium (make sure Bruges is on your itinerary).
Yes, there are flowers to see, cheese of course, quaint villages, windmills, castles, museums and perhaps Delft pottery depending on your route.
Other easy routes exist along the Moselle River (Germany/France); Neckar River (Germany) and in Denmark but you will need to do the planning yourself as there are no guided options. the book Cycling Along Europe’s Rivers can assist with planning some of these trips.
This Spanish town is located only 30 km (18 miles) from the Mediterranean and 90 km (56 miles) from Barcelona and yet this town is where many of the professional cyclists train and live in the off season. The area offers a great variety of daily bicycle touring options from flat to hilly, coastal to mountain routes.
A cycling vacation in Europe can be an interesting even if an easy bicycle touring route is chosen.
A cycling friend was seeking advice on the great bicycle touring routes of Europe. There is a a cycling culture in Europe that makes it easy to tour with many hotels having lock up rooms, many other cyclists on the routes and long distance bike touring routes.