Bike touring in Europe
January 29, 2020 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a relaxed bicycle tour route In Europe? Flexible on length (a week? More? Less?), time of year, and precise location.

My wife and I are experienced cyclists but are not looking for serious road cycling. We'd like to find a trip that will take us at a leisurely pace through the countryside and interesting towns/cities on paths or lower-traffic roads.

For a sense our fitness, we've done trips with camping gear going upwards of 100km/day, but we're looking for a more relaxed pace and to stay at inns each night instead of camping.

We're more inclined to self-organize a trip, but if you can recommend a tour company I'd be interested in hearing about it.

We're extremely flexible on location. We're looking at mainland Europe because my wife has never been, but otherwise we don't have a strong preference. Scenery, culture, history, food and drink are our usual interests when travelling.

I would greatly prefer specific route recommendations (ie Paris->Brest) over a general area (ie Northern France) but any advice welcome. Thanks!
posted by no regrets, coyote to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I highly recommend the Loire cycling route. We self-organized a trip there and it worked out great - a significant portion of the route is on dedicated bike paths (the rest is low-traffic roads), and there's a well established infrastructure that caters to cyclists. You can rent bikes in just about every major town, drop them off wherever you want, and there are hotels and luggage forwarding services available to make it even easier. Tons of great restaurants, lots of chateaus to visit and wine to drink.

We picked things we wanted to see along the route and chose our start and end points based on that. In addition to the main "Velo a Loire" there's also a series of "Chateau a Velo" routes to follow to some of the tourist destination. If you stick to the main route, though, I don't think you can go more than 50 km before hitting a town with a hotel. AskMe helped us plan the trip!
posted by backseatpilot at 3:27 PM on January 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I can recommend this trip from Salzburg to Vienna. The cycling would be very easy for you. The first day was particularly lovely. Salzburg, Linz, Grein, and Vienna are great places to spend an evening.
posted by rouleur at 3:36 PM on January 29, 2020

Lonely Planet has a series of cycling guidebooks, including volumes for Ireland, Britain, France, and Italy. Used ones are cheap. I haven't used them but had good luck with the hiking versions.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:00 PM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

You want Bodensee (AKA Lake Constance).

Mostly flat? Check. Interesting towns? Check. Crossing three national borders effortlessly? Check. About a week? Check. Mostly protected bike paths? Check!

Start in Konstanz and ride clockwise around the lake. There are companies that will rent you bikes and ferry your luggage to your chosen lodging. So convenient!

You’ll get to ride through vineyards, old towns, and even a few islands. (Meinau and Lindau are especially lovely)

I did it with friends in July a few years ago and it was a mix of sun and occasional rain. Highly recommended!
posted by oxisos at 6:42 PM on January 29, 2020

Scotland has a number of interesting cycle routes - for example you could start on the Aran and make your way up the West coast via a combination of the mainland and various other Hebridean islands. In terms of timing: I would choose May or September as the most promising months.

If you want to try somewhere that is very bike centric - then The Netherlands has a number of recommended long distance routes. - you could choose to see pretty much any part of the country that takes your interest within a week long trip.
posted by rongorongo at 9:33 PM on January 29, 2020

There are a number of companies which offer a sort of package deal, basically getting your luggage forwarded from B&B to B&B each day. Now you may or may not fancy that but consider looking at some of the routes they offer as good ways to assess what kind of ride you want. They tend to rate them for distance, difficulty, flatness, etc. They also break them down by country.

Seconding Lake Konstanz as lovely, we spent a few days there in the summer. We had planned to do some cycling but there were two heat waves this summer and we arrived during one of them - the only activity we could manage at the height of the day was sitting in the lakeside pool for 4 hours.
posted by biffa at 5:14 AM on January 30, 2020

Maybe look at eurovelo for inspiration?
For something completely different, I've done bike tours around Bornholm twice, and would do it again. It's friendly, easy and still very interesting. The hotels/b&bs are lovely. It doesn't really take a week, but that means you can spend a day or two at the beach or go inland, or add in some biking in and around Copenhagen, so you get a good mix of town and country. Southern Sweden has great sights, too.
posted by mumimor at 6:31 AM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

VBT offers several European bike tour packages at a variety of skill levels.

Their tours definitely check your "scenery, culture, history, food and drink" boxes, and it looks like they have self-guided packages (that still include 24/7 support should you need it, some meals, luggage transfers, etc.).

I've gone on two of their fully guided tours (France: Normandy & Brittany and Czech Republic, Germany & Austria), and both were fantastic.
posted by chrisph at 9:21 AM on January 30, 2020

Just piping in to say that if you do the Salzburg to Vienna trip, do not miss Melk Abbey!
posted by Don_K at 9:21 AM on January 30, 2020

Last fall, my husband and I did a week-long cycling tour with Holland Bike Tours, riding from Haarlem to Bruges. The distance was in the neighbourhood of 50km/day. We rode with our gear and were reunited with the rest of our luggage at the end of the tour. We stayed at B&Bs, some in historic houses and some in more modern suburbs. The scenery was pleasant, particularly along the North Sea coast (which wasn't as flat as I was expecting). The food was yummy. the beer was quite good.

The cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands is, as you've likely heard, incredible.
posted by TORunner at 9:31 AM on January 30, 2020

You can bike from Paris to Le Mont Saint-Michel. We've walked a 40-km section in the middle, in the beautiful Perche region. I'd recommend slowing down when you get to the Perche so you can see some manor houses, visit hilltop towns, and eat in good restaurants.

I'm not sure how far apart the potential lodgings are. When it started I don't think there was a lot of choice, but the Veloscenie is a few years old now so hopefully things have improved.
posted by sevenstars at 1:49 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

My wife and I have done a couple of self-guided tours with Iron Donkey, and I'd recommend them. For the self-guided option, they book lodging, recommend restaurants, provide route maps, and rent bicycles (if you need one). They can also arrange luggage transportation if you're interested in just taking what you need for the day on your bike.

We did their tours of Connemara and the Burren and of the Scottish Borders. My journals are here (Ireland) and here (Scotland).
posted by brianogilvie at 3:08 PM on January 30, 2020

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