Where in the world on two wheels?
February 17, 2010 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a self-guided (non-group) bike tour in a non-US location that would be warm in late March/early April. Any locations or companies to recommend?

I want to take an active but not strenuous vacation in early Spring. I'm up for about 30-40 miles a day, and would like to ride from town to town. I'm less interested in loops out from a base town, but would do it if the destinations were compelling--basically I don't want to give myself an excuse to not ride most days.

Non-US because I'm interested in getting out of my normal pace and environment, but I'd consider the US South, West, or Southwest if they could meet the "interestingness" threshold. I don't want to just put on road miles and plop down in a pool for the rest of the day. I'd like to ride and see cool stuff along the way, maybe detour to something cultural/architectural/historical, then get to a town that's interesting in its own right.

I have 4-5 days. Ideally the tour structure would include bike rental and minimal luggage transport from town to town, but that's not a dealbreaker.

Ideas? I'm open to anything within a 5-7hr flight from the East Coast. I'm an experienced traveler and cyclist, so if you can think of a string of destinations that would make sense, I'd also be game to build my own itinerary.
posted by cocoagirl to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You won't get very far out of the US on a 5-7 hour plane ride. Canada, Mexico. Up it a few hours and you can get into South America. On only 4-5 days, I'd probably ride along the coast in the South. Mobile to New Orleans is about 150miles, if you add in some side routes you could probably make it stretch to 5 days.
posted by beerbajay at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2010

this is a US South recommendation:

Suwannee Bicycle Festival

this is a three-day shindig in late april/early may. you can usually camp or rack in a nearby b & b. they have in-out loops, town-to-towns, destination rides, circuit centurys, bike & paddle combos, onroad-offroad combos, and when I went (decade ago but still) the food was awesome.

the rides are SAG supported, and there's a part time ride/volunteer combo if cost is a problem. you can even be a ride guide as your volunteer work - just show up early for training. north florida is warm but not terrifying that time of year and the nights are cool and lovely.

contact the SBA about bike rental - I didn't see it on the page but I know some of those towns have it. this festival is based out of Stephen Foster State Park and includes rides to some of the finest springs, rivers parks and historic towns in north FL
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2010

sorry, that is technically pretty group-oriented, although on the longer rides you will be very much on your own for most of the day.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:13 AM on February 17, 2010

A friend of mine once biked across Spain and loved it. He started in the northeast and ended in the southwest, if I remember correctly. I'm pretty sure my friend did his trip in the summer. Still, a quick glance at city climates on Wikipedia suggests you'd probably be able to expect temperatures in the 50s to 60s F during the day; not sure if that's warm by your standards or not. A route on the south coast might be warmer (average highs in the 70s in Seville in March and April). Seville, Cordoba, and Granada might all be about a two days' right apart by the mileage you want, though I have no idea about good routes.

A quick Google search suggests that looking at pilgrimage routes such as the Camino de Santiago could be an easy way to find a route. Googling "camino de santiago bike" got lots of hits with personal experiences (example).
posted by mandanza at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2010

Texas, maybe the Big Bend area? This is probably the only time of year you could do that, since it's in a desert, but the area just north of Big Bend National Park is filled with interesting, quirky, crazy towns and LOTS of history, modern and ancient. You will be on highways a lot though, as this part of the country is sparsely populated, but it's also incredibly majestic.
posted by Brittanie at 11:10 AM on February 17, 2010

The Adventure Cycling Association has a ton of resources for this sort of thing including detailed maps of bike-friendly routes. They also run tours.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:24 PM on February 17, 2010

The other suggestion I'd make is the New England area - for the primary reasons:
A. Lots of roads, so easy to avoid the more traffic-y ones
b. Lots of towns close together, so your limit of 30-40/day will work. In the rest of the country, most towns are much further apart, and you're better off upping your daily limit to 60-80 miles/day (which is 6-8 hrs in the saddle at 10 mph, a reasonable speed if you're riding fully loaded - that is camping gear and all).
If you aren't taking a full load, after a couple of days it really won't take that long to get to 30-40 miles down the road, so be sure it's somewhere you want to be. This can be why loops out of *interesting* towns (like Austin) can be more fun.
posted by dbmcd at 4:01 PM on February 17, 2010

Best answer: You probably don't want to bike in New England in late march, as spring is a long way off in a lot of places. I would ride from northern Florida to New Orleans - a friend who road her bike down the east coast said that was her favorite leg of her trip.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:50 PM on February 17, 2010

Response by poster: New Orleans is looking like a great option: long rides out among plantation B&Bs with cool stuff along the way, then riding back into the city to spend a day on an extended ride around the neighborhoods. I also heard from a tour company that suggested Provence and Catalonia.

The Suwanee Festival is the opposite of what I want: crowds, social events, shared camping sites. I know it's someone's cuppa tea, but not mine.

The Camino de Santiago is what I'm looking for, but it happens that my travel dates overlap exactly from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and I think pilgrimage trails will be very crowded.

And New England?! We routinely get snow dumped on us as late as the first week in April. I know I wasn't explicit in the question, but New England is what I want a break from. Thanks all!
posted by cocoagirl at 2:39 AM on February 19, 2010

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