There’s nothing quite like seeing the world from the seat of a bike. It’s pretty liberating to be able to explore new places using your own strength. From Costa Rica to the south of France, check out these epic rides near and far that deserve on a spot on your bucket list.
The Great Divide
New Mexico to Alberta, Canada
Spanning 2,768 miles as of 2016, this off-road route is definitely for those who have serious adventure in mind. The total route tackles 61,000 meters of climbing, or just over 200,000 feet. On the trail you’ll encounter some of the most epic scenery in the entire United States — from the Colorado Rockies to the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming. Keep in mind that because the trail is extremely remote, you should consider wildlife and weather conditions, and bring a tow trailer for camping gear.
La Ruta de los Conquistadores
This ride is also a pretty famous mountain bike race, and though shorter than other routes on this list, it is silly difficult. The 270 kilometer course follows the route taken by Spaniard Juan de Cavallon, who discovered the route in the 16th century. Along the way, you’ll see white-sand beaches along the Caribbean Sea, extinct volcanoes and stunning rainforests. With tons of climbing involved, plan on taking anywhere from three to five days for this adventure.
Luchon to Bayonne, France
If you’d like to experience a large sample of what the Alps has to offer, this famous Tour de France route is just over 200 miles and begins in Luchon. You really can’t go wrong touring any of the high mountain passes of the Alps in France. Epic climbs up Mont Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez, and the Col du Tourmalet should almost certainly be on any cyclist’s bucket list. Along the way you’ll crest legendary climbs like the Peyresourde, the aforementioned Tourmalet, the Aspin and the Aubisque before finishing in the lovely town of Bayonne. Break this ride up into a few days of adventure, and plan for plenty of cafe stops to rest your legs.
Munda Biddi Trail
If you’re looking to get away from the civilized world, western Australia is as good as it gets. The all dirt and gravel route runs for 596 miles from Perth to Albany in the southwest. On the way, you’ll witness indigenous life of the Outback along with plenty of beautiful eucalyptus forests and indigenous wildlife like kangaroos and koalas. In between towns, there’ll be campgrounds every 30 miles or so, with most offering sleeping huts and water supplies for recuperation.
Spain and France
While there are a few climbs, there’s nothing too serious here, which makes it one of the best routes for novice cyclists. Linking the Girona region of Spain with the south of France is the Pirinexus route, which is one of the largest marked cycling routes in Europe at 353 kilometers. The roads are paved and course runs through less traveled areas, so you won’t have to deal with a ton of traffic. You’ll also pass through eight different towns and are encouraged to stop and relax while you take in the stunning rural countryside of Spain and France.
Land’s End to John O’Groats
England to Scotland
Covering a thousand miles, this route across the British Isles offers several variations depending on how willing you are to explore the road less traveled. While the route might seem flat and easy at first glance, it’s actually anything but. Wind will likely play a major factor during your ride, as will those easy rolling hills that start to add up. On the flip side, your eyes will feast on everything from epic coastlines to the glorious scenery of the Scotland Highlands — making this an adventure you won’t soon forget.
This world-famous ride takes you from Paia on Maui’s North Shore through Makawao before you hit Kula and finally the Haleakalā summit. Though you will be surrounded by plenty of the world’s most gorgeous scenery, you’ll have to work for it. The steady 36-mile route averages a 5% gradient, with sections as steep as 10% in the corners. In the end, you’ll complete almost 10,000 feet of climbing before you can check this epic off your bucket list.
South Tyrol, Italy
In terms of difficulty and sheer beauty, the Dolomite Mountains are hard to beat. While there are many routes to choose from, the South Tyrol region is a spot you won’t want to miss. From here, there’s easy access to more than 30 cycling routes conquering legendary climbs through small Italian villages, where you’ll see apple orchards, lakes and just about anything else that sounds too good to be true. There’s also plenty of options for all skill levels, such as the Reschen Pass to Merano — a 50-mile ride on bike paths that’s almost all downhill. After a day on the bike, South Tyrol is also known for its abundance of Michelin-star restaurants (over 20) and luxurious spas — a good way to end any day, we think.
The Great Ocean Road
How does a 172-mile route all along the coast sound? Known for its rugged shores and beautiful sandy beaches, southern Australia might be cycling heaven. If you’d rather not spend all of your time on the road, there are also tons of trails just off the Great Ocean Road route that offer plenty of fun for fat tire lovers, too. The Old Beechy Rail Trail and the Birregurra-Forrest Tiger rail trail are two that are worth your undivided attention.