The Dolomites: Challenging passes
Watching Giro d’Italia has left us with a serious wanderlust for the Dolomites, with their imposing peaks and mountain vistas. Steep ascents combined with quiet rural roads mean you’re unlikely to encounter much traffic and can spend the climbs staring out across this unreal landscape. There are endless routes to explore but you could take inspiration from previous Giro d’Italia races, following their course to encounter many of the Dolomitic highlights.
Climb legendary passes such as the Stelvio Pass – the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and second highest in the Alps. It includes 48 switchbacks, with an average gradient of 7.6% over 24 km. That leaves plenty of time to be enjoying the view. Don’t forget to catch your breath at the top and turn around to see what you’ve conquered.
The Sellaronda is another must-do for any cyclist looking for a scenic bike ride in the Dolomites. It’s a circuit route that encircles the Sella mountains, covering around 50 km with 1,700 m of climbing. The route takes in four beautiful mountain passes: Campolongo Pass, Pordoi Pass, Sella Pass and Gardena Pass.
The Dolomites: Stoneman Trail
If mountain biking is more your scene, then the Stoneman Trail should be on the plans this summer. It’s not an easy ride but one that will deliver huge rewards for those that undertake the challenge. The 115-kilometre route climbs to around 4,000 m but is broken down into 5 stages. It crosses high alpine terrain where you’ll encounter mountain huts en route. The name ‘Stoneman’ refers to the stone cairns that you will see on the route that will guide your way. If you really want to make this a challenge, then you can complete the route in 1, 2 or 3 days and receive a trophy upon completion.
The Netherlands: Frisian Islands
For those who prefer the coast to the mountains, then the Frisian Islands are for you. Summer on the Frisians means you’re less likely to be hit with a headwind, and the gentle sea breeze can spur you on around this beautiful cultured landscape. The Frisian Islands are an archipelago in the North Sea, spanning from the Netherlands to Denmark. This unique collection of islands consists of forests, sand dunes, beaches and polders: parcels of low-altitude land claimed from the sea or a river, protected by Dikes.
While some may consider the Frisian Islands a water-sport hot spot, the relatively low traffic means you can enjoy a relaxing bike ride whilst taking in spectacular views that you won’t find anywhere else. Low tides expose the mudflats, a highly protected nature reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For wildlife lovers, the Frisians are teeming with an array of aquatic fauna, from crabs, mussels and oysters to vast numbers of seabirds. Texel is the largest of the islands if you just want a taste of the experience, offering numerous cycle trails with very little traffic. A cyclist’s paradise.
Slovenia: Off-road paradise
If getting off the beaten path is on your agenda, then the beautiful Julian Alps and surrounding country should be added to your list. Slovenia is steeped in history, so as well as the typical awe-inspiring mountain ranges, you’ll encounter bunkers, castles and even gun emplacements – leftovers from WWII.
While there are typically beautiful roads to journey along, Slovenia is renowned for its gravel tracks and lush forests so it begs to be tackled off-road to make the most of its beautiful scenery. With that in mind, why not circumnavigate the country? This route covers 420 km with almost 30,000 feet of climbing! It only contains 5% of singletrack, so could be tackled on a cross bike and with almost no ‘technical’ sections, this off-road will give you plenty of opportunity to enjoy your surroundings.
Whatever adventures you take this summer, be sure to relax a little and enjoy the view. Maybe you’d hoped to plan a scenic bike trip to Western Europe this summer. If so, check out our scenic bike trails in Spain and France.