"Anyone who is healthy can complete a cycle tour. It is more a mental than a physical thing" - Henry Gold, founder of Tour d'Afrique.
Fitness holidays are becoming a popular way to see the world, and a bicycle saddle provides the perfect vantage point for touring new cities, towns and coastal roads. This month we've cycled the globe to bring you the top 10 cycle routes in the world, taking you from the very tip of Africa and ending in the romantic city of Venice.
Madagascar is a one of its kind in a world that's becoming increasingly uniform. The fact that it split off from Africa and India millions of years ago and existed in almost-complete isolation since then has meant that it has preserved an entirely unique eco-system, including 100 species of the lemur and 9000 plant species that only exist on the island. So if you're a nature-lover, you can do no better than this beautiful island, and a cycle tour will allow you to really get up close and personal with this rare Indian Ocean gem.
A popular cycle route is from the capital Antananarivo to Ifaty through some of the numerous species-rich national parks, taking you through the island's lush highlands and dry savannah plains, and, when you're not cycling, you can cool off in the inviting waters of the Indian Ocean.
More at www.africanbikers.de
9. South Africa's Cape Peninsula
We've decided not to stray from the continent of Africa just yet. The Cape Argus or PicknPay Cycle Tour is an annual sporting fixture in - indisputably - South Africa's most beautiful city - Cape Town. Don't shy away from this cycle tour because it parades as a race - the 8 hours window in which to complete the race offers ample opportunity for the more leisurely-paced, or plain unfit, cyclists among us. It is not without its share of spectacular world class views, as cyclists power over Suikerbossie hill and Chapman's peak, cycling back into Cape Town city's welcoming embrace.
The best part - if you finish the race before everyone goes home, you'll receive a medal too, making everyone a winner. Some of the more casual cyclists like to take in a beer or two on their journey around the Cape Peninsular, stopping at a few old English style pubs in the naval village of Simons Town.
More at: www.cycletour.co.za
For the mountain bikers and more serious cyclists among us, the Cape Argus also hosts an Annual Mountain Biking event in the same month of March at one of the most majestic vineyards in the Cape (and there are plenty to choose from) - Boschendal. Expect to get a little muddy and to have lots of fun.
More at: www.mtbchallenge.co.za
8. Canada's Prince Edward Island
Canada's varied landscapes and emerald green vegetation make it a particular hit among cyclists, and once again an island comes out tops for best cycle routes; this time it is Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables fame. According to the Island's official cycling website, 'Prince Edward Island's network of trails are as varied as the patchwork of cultures which blend to create the island's distinctive nature. Trails weave through woodlots, along beaches, through fields, and along abandoned rail beds'.
One of the most popular cycle tours, called the Confederation Trail, is comprised of an abandoned railway line that slices across the entire island and has been reconditioned as a cycle and hiker's track in this geographical gem of sandy beaches, rolling hills, sapphire blue rivers and villages so impossibly quaint you'll start baking muffins. This is definitely one for the recreational cyclist as this 174 mile route is considered a moderate cycle over flat terrains.
More at www.islandtrails.ca
7. Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
Touring Vietnam on a bicycle is one of the friendliest cycling experiences you'll ever have, taking you right between the rice fields and welcoming locals. If you take the route from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, you'll be able to access the unparalleled Halong Bay with its fjord-like misty emerald karsts. A cycle over Hai Van Pass will afford you a view of gentle rolling green hills and the South China Sea as you continue along to Tam Quan. The route has a varied mix of off road tracks, mountain passes and country roads. The tour will also offer you a varied cultural experience, from visiting an old colonial village at Da Lat to visiting 13th century Hindu temples near Phan Rang and snorkelling off the Hon Gom peninsular. This has also been voted one of National Geographic's favourite cycle routes.
More at www.rei.com
6. Italy's Country Roads
If you think Romantic Cycling Holiday, you invariably think of Italy. The boot shaped peninsular is ideal for circular routes, and you'll often get a more authentic Italian experience if you venture off the beaten track and into the smaller villages. Cycling in Italy is not normally just for those who like to try out their new light-weight bikes on different terrains - it's for those who like to combine a cycling holiday with the ultimate gastronomic and wine-tasting experience - and can also be quite a leisurely affair if combined with comfortable accommodation and a healthy dose of sightseeing. Popular day tours include Florence to Chianti through the beautiful Tuscan region and plenty of stops along the way for olive and wine tasting and sightseeing in medieval villages.
Cycling in Italy is so accessible that you could easily plan an independent holiday around it - use the Bicitalia map of Italy's cycle routes to tailor-make your own cycle tour.
5. Forest Biking At Black Park Country Park
Can you think of anything that sounds more peaceful than Forest Biking? If you're keen to hit a few off road tracks back on English soil and under a green umbrella of generous foliage, then head to Black Park Country Park for 530 acres of woodland which encircle a tranquil lake. Located near Barnet, this makes the perfect day out from London. Don't dismiss this option if you don't have a bike - there is bike hire available at the park, and if you've had your fill of cycling, you could expend an equal amount of energy in the tree-top zip lines.
More at http://goape.co.uk
4. France's Loire Valley
If you'd like an easy cycle with unparalleled views, the Loire Valley needs to be at the top of your itinerary. France's chateau, wine and sunflower region offers some of the richest and most varied country cuisine and spectacularly picturesque towns in France. A 7-day tour will take you from Cheverny, past Chateau Chambord with its Leonardo da Vinci designed stair case, and the town of Amboise, another pin on the da Vinci history map. Many Loire Valley cycle tours then culminate in Tours for some well-deserved wine tasting. For those competitors among us, Tours is also the final destination for a cycling race starting in Paris every October.
More at www.deluxecycletours.com
3. New Zealand's Old Ghost Ride
The aim of the New Zealand Cycle Trail project (or Nga Haerenga) is to create an improved network of cycle routes across New Zealand, and the Old Ghost Ride is the most historical of these, 'resurrecting a long forgotten 19th century gold miner's road'. Not one for the faint of heart or weak of mind, this 80 km advanced route will take you through forests, past gorges and over ridges. Ensure you take time to explore the numerous Ghost Towns, nestled close to the trail which will officially be unveiled at the end of 2011.
More at: www.nzcycletrail.com
2. Lake Superior's Lutsen Resort
The Lutsen resort in Northern Minnesota is widely known for panoramic views of the famous Lake Superior, cozy log cabins and ample leisure facilities. During summer, the trails offer an exciting trip through one of the Mid West's most incredible areas that doesn't come with the same price tag or crowds as California or Utah. The trails cut through some of the most gorgeous, untouched conifer forests, bypassing lakes that seem untouched by civilization. The resort caters to both beginners and advanced cyclists with mud and single tracks and even-paved roads. The Pincushion Mountain trails offer plenty of challenges for those looking for more technical routes, but the rewards of navigating your way through the rocky ridges will be some incredible views of the landscape.
More at: www.lutsenresort.com
1. St Petersburg To Venice
Follow in the Ancient Romans' footsteps from the magic of St Petersburg in a tour that traces the original Amber Route which was used to transfer Amber, an important raw material of the time. You might need Roman resolve to complete this route, but after cycling 1864 miles, you'll be met by the well-deserved sight of peaceful waters, gondolas and pasta at your final destination: Venice.
Other countries you'll be crossing include Estonia, Poland and Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, showcasing the best of Eastern Europe.
Tour D'Afrique are known for developing the unique concept of Dream Tours - which designs their tours around their travellers through crowd sourcing. [Read more about Tour D'Afrique here]. The Amber Route itself was a hugely popular Dream Tour, according to the company's founder Henry Gold, which made it a reality in 2010. Next year, sees the tour take to the road for a second time due to popular demand.
More at www.tourdafrique.com