Whether you’re an obsessed cycling athlete, a biking enthusiast or just a recreational rider, spring is the time to take advantage of mild temperatures and long, sunny days. So get your gear together, grab a partner, and prepare to soak in the beauty of some of Europe’s most romantic countryside. Here are four of our favorite regions to explore this spring.
Read on to discover more romantic routes:
Tuscany offers picturesque medieval hills towns, cypress-lined lanes and historic sites along with endless opportunities for mouthwatering food and rejuvenating wine. And spring is the perfect time to tour this picture-postcard landscape before the summer temperatures rise and tourist hordes descend in full force. Specific areas to explore include the famous Chianti wine region south of Florence, the rolling green and gold hills surrounding Sienna and the tranquil countryside surrounding the hill towns of Volterra and San Gimignano.
You’ll be cycling smooth paved roads, and on all but the major roads you won’t encounter much car traffic. And what you do will likely give you a wide berth. Expect the valleys to be flat or gently rolling, though the Chianti region comes with some difficult ascents, as do all approaches to hill towns, so be prepared. But the extra effort is more than worth it as forests, wheat fields, olive groves and vineyards spread out around you, dotted by charming medieval villages perfect for long lunches and even longer dinners.
DORDOGNE VALLEY, FRANCE
Meanwhile, to the west, France’s peaceful Dordogne valley beckons with rich food, famous vineyards, lazy rivers and oak-covered hills, not to mention more impossibly charming villages than you can shake a stick at. But consider yourself warned – the region is famous for its delicacies, in particular black truffles and foie gras. You may take in more calories than you burn from all the great restaurants on offer here.
Routes here include the ride from the vineyards of St Emilion near Bordeaux along the banks of the Dordogne to Rocamadour, a tiny village that appears to climb up the granite hillside. From there you can follow the lush green Vers valley towards the wine capital of the Lot. You’ll be cycling on roads with light to moderate traffic. In terms of difficulty, expect the river valley to be flat and easy riding, but if you decide to visit Rocamadour or any of the other inviting villages, such as Sarlat-le-Canéda and Gouffre de Padriac, be prepared for some serious climbs.
SALZACH VALLEY, AUSTRIA
For a panoramic mountain ride without too many up-hills, nothing can beat the Salzach Valley from Gerlos Pass in Krimml to Salzburg. The trek takes in the beautiful snowcapped Grossglockner (Austria’s highest peak), Hohe Tauern National Park, splendid Zell am See, and numerous other mountain lakes perfect for swimming. Expect lots of long downhills and flats with a steep ascent to Berchtesgaden National Park, as you drop from 1,628m at Gerlos Pass to 443m in Salzburg.
The route comprises cycle paths and road riding, usually with a sizable shoulder, as you pass through quaint villages, narrow ravines, wide valleys and sunny meadows bursting with blossoming flowers. If you want to avoid the ascent to Berchtesgaden, simply continue on straight to Lofer, where you can take a small detour to the Seisenberg gorge, where the Weissenbach river has cut through the limestone over thousands of years, before contuing the downhill to Salzburg.
THE DOLOMITES, ITALY
Finally, if you’re looking for something more dramatic and harder on the legs, with a dose of adrenaline on steep and winding downhills, along with spectacular views, turn to the magnificent Italian Dolomites. This is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world and a cyclist’s paradise. It’s also one of the most challenging, offering backbreaking climbs to Passo Sella, Passo Campolongo, Passo Gardena, Tre Cime and the famous climb to Passo Giau at 2,233m. But the fit and determined are rewarded with stunning views of this Unesco World Heritage site.
The ride here is on good and safe asphalt roads. But beware of dark tunnels, steeps chasms and endless hairpin turns that make for exhilarating downhills. This is one ride you will always remember. Make sure you’ve in top shape before you attempt it.