Cycling Holidays in Europe?
June 21, 2011 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have suggestions for awesome, beginner cycling vacations in Europe?

Hello! I am a beginner cyclist, and I want to plan a cycling holiday with my husband. Any tips on where to go, or companies who could organize it for us? My ideal would be minimal time on bad roads with cars, and beautiful scenery. I've cycled in the Netherlands, which was awesome, but want to try somewhere new.

I'm in pretty good shape as a runner, but I'm not the most advanced cyclist.

We want to go in August or September -- any ideas? And any tips on preparing?

I kind of like the sound of going from Salzburg to Vienna -- has anyone done this one before?

Thanks everyone!
posted by caoimhe to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You could have a look at Denmark.
Very few bad roads, more than 4000 km's of marked bicycle routes.
Have look here for a few suggestions.
I'd recommend southern Funen (Danish: Fyn), IMO some of the best bike terrain in Denmark (Disclaimer: I live there).
Have a nice vacation!
posted by Thug at 9:41 AM on June 21, 2011

I have not made the full trip from Salzburg to Vienna, but I have done some biking around Austria. The biking infrastructure there is excellent and the scenery in the northeastern part of Austria is stunning. That said, the route between Salzburg and Vienna is pretty mountainous. There are some steep climbs near Salzburg that can be difficult on a loaded touring bike, depending on your climbing ability.

Alternately, if you are looking for a flatter ride, you may want to consider the Donuaradweg, which is a dedicated bike "highway" from that follows the Danube from Germany to the Black Sea. The section from Passau to Vienna is roughly equivalent to the Salzburg to Vienna route with the course overlapping near Krems. With either route, it's relatively easy to continue on from Vienna to Bratislava or Budapest, although the upper part of the Austria has the best scenery.
posted by chrisulonic at 10:37 AM on June 21, 2011

I would generally not recommend Denmark. Although there are excellent cycling paths, and a few beautiful spots, most of the country is flat, covered in sugar beets, and windy as hell.

Then again, there is the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle route (site with map), which runs along a different part of Denmark than the routes I've ridden and is reputedly well-maintained.
posted by beerbajay at 2:15 PM on June 21, 2011

French canal towpaths.
posted by Dr.Pill at 5:50 PM on June 21, 2011

beerbajay (who is from Sweden, and therefore excused) wrote:

Then again, there is the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle route (site with map), which runs along a different part of Denmark than the routes I've ridden and is reputedly well-maintained.

It could certainly be a nice trip, but if "flat, covered in sugar beets" is to be avoided, the two first danish islands (Lolland and Falster) on the route is the only ones with significant sugar beet production... Lolland is - apart from a few areas - some of the flattest terrain in Denmark. Now, Fyn (Funen) on the other hand, is mixed farmland with small, rolling hills. Not flat. Flatness could arguably be a moot point since the OP liked Holland, which in large parts is known for its absence of hills :-)

Also - and before I start another war with the swedes - it should be said that Sweden is a nice country for biking. I have been on some great holidays in the triangle between the city Varberg and the two lakes Vänern and Vättern (southern Sweden). Many of the smaller roads are gravel roads, but in excellent condition.
posted by Thug at 6:39 PM on June 21, 2011

Oh, forgot the preparation part:
For northern Europe, August and September are great months, but over a few weeks you will get rain. Bring raingear. Also get good maps. For bicycling I prefer the 1:50.000 scale as a compromise between details and economy. Most small roads and paths will show up on those.
posted by Thug at 6:44 PM on June 21, 2011

If you are not really the most advanced cyclist, then sticking to the Netherlands would be a pretty safe bet, even though you've done that already.

I have found cycling in the Netherlands really nice, more than once. Like anywhere, a rain poncho comes in handy.
posted by ovvl at 8:11 PM on June 21, 2011

Germany has a massive network of national, state, and local bike routes, most of which are well marked, don't share space with autos, and go through some beautiful scenery. The German Cyclist Association ranks routes based on how difficult they are, and you can run their route finder through Google Translate if you don't speak German.

I don't know about the other states, but here are some recommendations for routes in Bavaria, which has over 8800km for you to choose from:

Fünf Flüsse Radweg - This is one of my favourite routes. On it you ride through cities, and then through farm land, and the part from Nuremberg to Neumarkt rides next to a secluded and now unused canal. It's very good for beginners.

Altmühltal Radweg - My second favourite route. It's got plenty of mountains to keep things interesting, but it's not that bad. And the scenery is wonderful.

If you really want jaw-dropping scenery without too much effort, the Isar Radweg is top notch. Going from Mittenwald to Munich is mostly downhill or flat, so it's not a bad choice for a less-advanced cyclist.

I've ridden on all of those either as parts of day trips, or with panniers full of gear on a multi-day trip, but if you want someone else to handle the organization, you can get a package deal with someone like Velociped or Natours.
posted by cmonkey at 11:51 PM on June 21, 2011

I came here to say more or less what cmonkey has said.

Germany's dedicated cycle path network is massive, well-maintained, well-signposted and marked with difficulty ratings, so you can keep to the flat bits if you prefer. There's plenty of great scenery along the Rhine and elsewhere.

As a runner, your main problem will be bike-specific aches and pains, rather than running out of breath. So be fussy about your saddle, get well-padded gloves and ensure your bike has a variety of riding positions.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:41 AM on June 22, 2011

Åland? (Some more links here and here.)
posted by iviken at 3:54 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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