Road Cycling

Bicycling Travel Awards 2022 – Bicycling

If traveling by bike has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no better way to experience the history, food, and culture of a region. The past year and a half put a damper on our travel plans and brought more isolation and anxiety into our lives. But it hasn’t pumped the brakes on our wanderlust. If anything, we’re more ready for a two-wheeled escape where our biggest concerns are the simple essentials: where to rest, find water and food, and ride next.

The cycling adventures on our list are long and short, local and international, self-guided and led by the pros. Whether you want to cruise singletrack for a couple of days and pass out in a hammock, or pedal your way through an entire country, drinking local wine and sleeping in luxury hotel rooms, there’s an ideal trip here for you. Start planning your dream ride now and experience more from the saddle of a bike in 2022.

BEST RAIL TRAIL RIDE –

1–3 days | 45–90 miles | self-guided | easy | road

There are thousands of reasons to love the W&OD, the 45-mile paved trail stretching between Washington, D.C., to its western suburbs and beyond—and only one frequent complaint about it: The trail’s popularity. If you don’t mind congestion closer to the city, pedaling this beloved rail trail is the best way to explore the quaint small towns and stunning wildflowers (they peak in spring) of northern Virginia. For a one- to three-day tour, start in D.C. and take the trail out to its endpoint in Purcellville, Virginia. From there, head back toward Leesburg to pick up the C&O Canal Towpath and follow the Potomac River back. Think of it as an ideal maiden voyage for the bike-touring curious. Campsites and lodging options abound along both trails, as well as eateries and bike shops.

BEST LAKESIDE RIDE

1 day | 28+ miles | self-guided | $18 shuttle ride | moderate to difficult | mtb

The Flume Trail isn’t one of Tahoe’s deeper cuts, but it remains iconic for views of the bright blue lake from a 4.5-mile ribbon of singletrack that clings to the ridge above. Primarily following smooth-ish fire roads, the trail has steep climbs with 1,000 feet of gain. Flume Trail Bikes in Incline Village, Nevada, will rent you a mountain bike and shuttle you to the ride’s start at Spooner Lake State Park. You can ride 14 miles of the Flume Trail round-​trip, or continue on for 24 more miles round-​trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail before shuttling back to Flume Trail Bikes again—refuel up at the Tunnel Creek Cafe next door.

BEST FOLIAGE RIDE

1 day | 14 miles | self-guided | moderate | mtb

The Laurel Mountain Loop is a Pisgah National Forest classic with steep climbs, wicked singletrack, and gnarly downhills through the most remote parts of western North Carolina. Ride the trails in mid-fall when the leaves are changing, and the views from the slabs of rock at the top make it hard to catch your breath. You can also link the loop to the Pilot Cove/Slate Rock trail for added mileage. After the ride, you can recover at one of Asheville’s dozens of craft breweries.

BEST WINTER ESCAPE

4–5 days | 311 miles | self-guided | moderate | road

If you live in the northern U.S., your mood level and vitamin D likely bottom out around February after months of gray skies, sleet, and trainer riding. That’s the ideal time of year to escape south and take on this 311-mile paved loop mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association. The route starts and ends in downtown Austin near the Texas state capitol, where you can down all the breakfast tacos you can handle at Veracruz All Natural. Next, you’ll head out to gorgeous hill country on mostly rural county and state roads, outlined by blankets of bluebonnets and other wildflowers. You won’t want to miss a stop in Fredericksburg, known for its wineries and German heritage sites. This route is easy to customize with numerous options to shorten your trip or add destinations like the otherworldly Summit Trail at Enchanted Rock.

BEST FAMILY BIKEPACKING TOUR

10–16 days | 255 miles | self-guided | moderate | mtb

My husband, Rob, our son, Max (then 8), and I started the ride at San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, and did the loop in a clockwise direction. Our average daily mileage was 20 to 25 miles, but some days were shorter, depending on the places to camp and scenic spots—finding that balance between type 1 and type 2 fun. It took us 16 days, with a couple of days at the front end and tail end to hang out and 10 days of actual riding.

For the first part of the trip, there were longer stretches between towns, and we carried water for up to two days. But then we started to go through towns at a more regular cadence—great for lunch tacos. The route has a mix of places to stay and awesome wild camping on secluded beaches.

The natural beauty there is overwhelming. On a beach walk we watched a little baby sea turtle make its way from the beach into the ocean. We saw whales multiple times. One morning, we woke up to this crazy jackhammer sound, and it was manta rays flying out of the ocean and then slapping the water.

My biggest advice is to take it at a leisurely pace if you’re traveling as a family. Give yourself time to enjoy the areas and be flexible. I also suggest fatter tires—like 2.6-inch. It might look daunting or overwhelming, but once you’re out there on bikes together, it’s really a pretty simple thing to do as a family. —Dawn Rae Knoth, bickpacker and trend forecaster

– BEST NATIONAL PARK TOUR

2–3 days | 92 miles | self-guided | moderate | gravel

See the wonders of Alaska’s Denali mountain from the saddle of a gravel bike—along with everything you need to survive for a few days bungeed to the back. The park has one paved and gravel road that runs for 92 miles from the east entrance to Kantishna in the west, so you can get lost in the spellbinding views of untouched wilderness without missing turns. Once you ride past the Savage River rest area at mile 15, the only vehicle traffic is from buses. You can do the trip as an out-and-back, or catch a bus or shuttle from any of multiple campgrounds along the route. Make campground reservations in advance or bring a backcountry permit if you plan to wild-camp.

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Pacific Coast North Bicycle Route

15 days | 200 miles | $1,899 | moderate to difficult | road

Start in Bellingham, Washington, and bike to the Canadian border, then head south along Puget Sound toward Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park.

BEST RIDE FOR FOOD AND WINE

7 days | 182 miles | $869 | easy | hybrid

This supported, self-guided tour from BikeTours.com rolls through the Rhine River’s wine country. Spanning the Alsace region of France and the Baden and Palatinate regions in Germany, the route passes through medieval villages and vineyards. Six days of light riding, primarily on bike paths, is ideal for veteran and rookie cyclists alike—you’ll want to go slow and take in the cinematic beauty of Strasbourg, Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. BikeTours.com offers bike rentals, gear transfers, and two levels of hotel accommodations. You can rest easy about the logistics and focus on the top-shelf dinner spreads and local wines.

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Northeast Italy and Slovenia

7 days | 350 miles | $3,695 | moderate to difficult | road and gravel

Feast on farm-to-table meals after crushing the finest gravel and paved roads in Carso, a vineyard-rich region on the Slovenia-Italy border.

BEST CROSS-STATE RIDE

10–20 days | 750 miles | self-guided | moderate | road

If “bike across an entire state” sounds like a must-ride goal, New York is ready to assist. On Dec. 31, 2020, the state opened a 750-mile multi-use trail that stretches from Manhattan to the Canadian border, breaking off like a wishbone near Albany to also connect west to Buffalo. The system is a mix of road-bike-friendly trails such as the Hudson Valley Green-way and the Erie Canalway Trail, as well as low-trafficked road sections, with 75 percent of the route on trails. You can ride the route in segments using the train to get back to your car (there are Amtrak stations in 20 spots along the route), or explore the whole length from south to north, or south to west. The trail’s promoters want to make it as easy as possible for you to plan your tour, with an online mapping system that points out parking, camping, state parks, and other sites. If beer is your recovery drink of choice, there’s even more to celebrate about this ride: The New York State Brewers Association created an Empire State Trail Passport on their app so you won’t miss any of the dozens of chances to pick up a postride shower beer.

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Katy Trail

5 days | 240 miles | self-guided | easy | road

Cruise across Missouri on a crushed-limestone trail that traces the Missouri River from Machens outside St. Louis in the east to Clinton near Kansas City in the west.

In 2010, web developer Judi Desire learned to ride a bike as an adult. Already a couch- surfing world traveler, Desire’s adventures suddenly turned to bike touring. Since then she’s ridden through South Africa, Spain, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Australia. Here, she shares her advice to start seeing the world on your own two-wheeled terms.

Design a Route by Its People » I go where the wind blows, but always use Warm Showers to find hosts. That’s how I make my routes.If I see a host in the middle of nowhere, I think, “I should go visit that one.” Then I always ask locals what I should see, and I ride there.

Start on an Island » I recommend anyone pick an island as their first trip. If you try to go through land, sometimes you realize you’re lost after you’re 20 miles off-course. On an island, you’re OK if you can still see water. Pick an island and do a little circle—you’ll figure it out!

Roll Slow » My biggest advice to new bike tourists is that it’s not the Tour de France. One island in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius, literally takes eight hours to bike. But I took a whole month, to the point where everyone on the island knew me as “the girl on the bicycle.”

Test Your Packing » Put everything on your bike and do a 30-mile ride first to see how it feels. If it feels good, then you’re ready! If you’re the type to pack the kitchen sink, the first place you’ll visit on a tour is the post office to send stuff home.

Don’t Train » Say you’re going to ride in some country that has 15 million hills— riding around Central Park is not going to prepare you for that. In some countries I’ve been to, like Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, everything is high-altitude. That’s just not something you can train for at sea level. But if you can bike 60 miles, you can adapt to anything.

BEST RIDE FOR HISTORY

3 days | 98 miles | guided | $1,802 for 4 riders | easy to moderate | mtb

This mellow, flowing double-track tour through Navajo Nation in Arizona blends stunning desert landscapes with indigenous culture. Local guides from Dzil Ta’ah Adventures lead riders through three cities: Kayenta, a hub for restaurants; Dennehotso, an outdoor recreation gateway; and Chilchinbeto, which is likened to a mini Santa Fe. Each day includes two hours dedicated to the history of the area, such as the fighting between the Navajo and Spaniards, who were trying to enslave the Navajo. Riders come away with a Native perspective on history, while appreciating the beauty of their land and richness of their hospitality.

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Historic Atlanta

1 day | 10 miles | guided | $65 | easy | road

Explore Atlanta’s legacy of resistance and rebellion while rolling through (and stopping in) its tight knit neighborhoods.

BEST SINGLETRACK TOUR

4–6 days | 161 miles | self-guided | difficult | mtb

Mapped by Kenny Williams of Bikepacking.com, the 161-mile Ouachita Triple Crown loops together three IMBA Epics—Womble Trail, Ouachita Trail, and the LOViT—for a hat trick of destination-worthy trails near Little Rock, Arkansas. About two-thirds of the ride takes place on singletrack, both on long, swoopy, flowing sections and occasional steep uphills with hike-a-bike portions. Start and end on the Womble Trail at the Northfork Lake trailhead and ride clockwise. There are ample spots for wild camping, free camping, and overnighting in free backcountry shelters along the Ouachita Trail portion of the route. The trails are well-marked and easy to follow, but bring food and water for the more remote OT section. Give yourself five days to explore and enjoy the ride.

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Black Hills Singletrack Trail

5 days | 61 miles | guided | $1,395 | moderate | mtb

For those who love camping and days of single-track, this rolling dirt tour of South Dakota’s twisty Centennial Trail and Deerfield Trail is heaven.

BEST ROAD TOUR

6 days | 173–202 miles | guided | $1,859 | moderate | road

Follow the smooth, flowing ribbon of pavement that wraps around Cape Breton Islands National Park at the tip of Nova Scotia, Canada. The route feels like it was purpose-built for bike travelers, with long climbs, sweeping descents, spectacular stretches of rolling terrain overlooking the sea, and next-level whale-watching. Join this six-day guided tour from Pedal and Sea Adventures—or opt for their self-guided tour ($1,535). The company will haul all your gear, cover breakfast and dinner, and set you up at hotels like the Castle Rock Inn, which overlooks the ocean.

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Australia’s Great Ocean Road

3 days | 155 miles | self-guided | moderate | road

Pedal Australia’s scenic stretch of pavement early in the morning and midweek, when the traffic is lighter. You’ll be rewarded by coastal views from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific.

BEST DAY RIDE

1–2 days | 43 miles 
(86 miles round-trip) | self-guided | easy | road

The Onomichi and Imabari regions of Japan near Hiroshima have put great effort into making this 43-mile bikeway a seaside paradise for devoted cyclists as well as for those who have never pedaled more than 10 miles. Start in the picturesque port town of Onomichi at the ONOMICHI U2 bike hotel, which also houses a bakery, restaurant, and bike shop in its big, renovated warehouse. Then set out on the route, which threads together six islands with a mix of bike lanes, paved separated bike paths, and majestic suspension bridges in the Seto Inland Sea between the Japanese main islands of Honshu and Shikoku. If you need a break from your pedals, stop at any of the more than 100 coffee shops, eateries, and rest stops designed for bike travelers.

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Montana’s Going to Sun Road

1 day | 50 miles | self-guided | difficult | road

Climb for 32 breathtaking miles through Glacier National Park, taking in views of the eponymous glaciers.

CLIMBER’S DREAM TRIP

13 days | 646 miles | guided | $3,346 | moderate to difficult | road

This 13-day guided tour from Saddle Skedaddle takes cyclists seeking type-2 fun over the Alto de Letras, also known as the longest paved climb in the world. The legendary Colombian road winds up more than 11,000 feet skyward through the Andes for almost 52 miles to a breathtaking summit before a 16-mile descent. The tour also cruises through rainforests, along the rivers, through tunnels of trees, and up the Caribbean coast. Meals, hotel stays, and a support vehicle is included.

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Classic Climbs: The Tour

9 days | 240–470 miles | guided | $5,599 | difficult | road

The nine-day Tour de France–inspired trip crosses the Alps and Pyrenees to hit climbs including Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez.

BEST MTB BIKEPACKING RIDE

5 days | 200 miles | self-guided | difficult | mtb

Colorado’s San Juan Skyway is a popular motor route that connects Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. It’s 200-plus miles of the most scenic mountains and desert. I hate road riding, so my loop follows a loose path along the SJS but starts and ends in Mancos, Colorado, and takes gravel and singletrack as much as possible.The riding is hard—it’s mountainous, with big climbs. What’s great about this loop is there are several ways to make it more suited for a mountain bike or gravel bike, depending on a few sections that can be either added or skipped. Stop in Telluride or Silverton for easy resupplies. And you can do wild camping, or do it as a credit-card tour in five days with four nights.The trail is light in traffic, so you don’t see a ton of people. If you take the mountain-
biking route, which goes up over the Calicos, which is a sub-range of the San Juan Mountain range, you get huge views of the rest of the San Juan laid out. Out to the west, you’re looking straight down, out into the desert of southeastern Utah and toward Moab. That part is great singletrack riding. It’s a short season up there—you only get July, August, and September—but in July, the wildflowers are spectacular. —Steve “Doom” Fassbinder, photographer and guide

FOR THOSE WHO HATE CLIMBING

3–5 days | 125–144 miles | self-guided | from $425 | easy | hybrid

This supported, self-guided Alpine trip, with lodging and bikes arranged by Tripsite, circles Lake Constance while cruising through Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. The trip mostly follows bike paths and low-traffic roads, over three days of riding—itineraries of up to 10 days are also available. Sights to see include Mainau or “Flower Island” near Konstanz, Germany, with seemingly endless botanical gardens, an arboretum, and a butterfly house; and the Zeppelin Museum of aviation in Friedrichshafen, Germany (birthplace of the Zeppelin); and the lake itself, which is speckled with sand and pebble beaches. Hotels and hybrid bikes are included, but e-bikes and child trailers can be tacked on.

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The Great Allegheny Passage

2–3 days | 150 miles | self-guided | easy

Glide through Pennsylvania’s sights and sounds without subjecting yourself to the state’s punchy climbs on this 150-mile rail trail along the Youghiogheny River, connecting Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh.

BEST HIDDEN GEM IN THE U.S.

5 days | 150 miles | self-guided | difficult | mtb

Yes, North Dakota deserves a spot on your bike-destination dream board. The state’s far western Badlands is home to an unsung hero of a trail system called the Maah Daah Hey, which roughly translates from the indigenous Mandan language to “an area that will be around for a long time.” The trail is more than 90 percent singletrack, and traverses everything from flat grasslands to steep buttes with incredible panoramic views. Unload your bike at the Burning Coal campground 30 miles south of Medora and bikepack the route 150 miles to the endpoint in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Or you can use the Dakota Cyclery’s shuttle system—based in Medora—to access 16 trailheads (starting at $25). Eleven campsites and eight water caches along the route make it easy to access service and find places to camp overnight. Don’t miss the Ice Caves cliff area, on a short offshoot trail between miles 108 and 109.