Cycling has reached a resurgence in popularity over the past couple of years, with participation increasing both as a mode of transportation and as a leisurely sport. However, bikers often say that they get bored on familiar routes. Let’s fight this feeling by taking a look at 7 of the world’s best cycling routes.
1. The Friendship Highway (China)
Whether or not the 800 kilometers (500 miles) between the Tibetan city of Lhasa and the Nepalese border is the planet’s most beautiful ride depends on your idea enjoyment of sometimes bleak high-altitude vistas.
The route includes three road passes of more than 5,000 meters (16,400 feet), with a lung-bursting maximum of 5,220 meters over the Gyatso La mountain pass, where the reward on a clear day is a distant view of Everest.
Conditions can be testing and the distance between towns necessitates careful planning.
2. La Ruta de los Conquistadores (Costa Rica)
Shorter but arguably no less arduous than the Friendship Highway is this 270-kilometer off-road ride across Costa Rica.
From the Pacific to Caribbean coasts, this one takes in mud paths, rainforest, coffee plantations, even an extinct volcano. It can be completed in three days each November as part of the annual mountain bike race from which the ride takes its name.
Beginning in the surf resort of Jaco Beach, the route soon turns onto energy-sapping red mud dirt roads, climbing up. And up and up — the official La Ruta course includes about 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) of climbing on the first day alone
3. North Sea Cycle Route (Europe)
The NSCR, which also goes by the slightly less evocative name of Euro Velo Route 12, is a Euroskeptic’s nightmare — an EU-funded epic across eight countries that claims to be the longest signposted cycle route in the world.
Covering almost 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles), it runs from the northern edge of Scotland’s Shetland Islands along the coasts of Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
4. The Shimanami Kaido (Japan)
At a shade more than 64 kilometers (40 miles) this is perhaps the only route on this list on which riders could reasonably consider taking their kids the full length without worrying about a visit from social services.
Completely separated from the road, it snakes across a series of small, wonderfully scenic islands in Hiroshima prefecture, in the west of the country.
The segregated cycleway, which also has a lane for pedestrians, for the most part runs alongside the road, though there are diversions, not least the longer, more gentle and thus more leg-friendly slopes up to the high road bridges.
5. Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (North America)
Want big? This is big.
An off-road touring route from Canada’s Alberta all the way to New Mexico.
If the 4,400-kilometer (2,734 miles) length (as detailed on the Adventure Cycling website) isn’t enough to start palpitations, how about a combined 61,000 meters. Yes, that’s right, almost seven times the height of Everest — from sea level, that is, not base camp.
6. Munda Biddi Trail (Australia)
Another epic, and this time in one of the more cutoff places in the world: Western Australia. At least with the Munda Biddi the route organizers might actually be on the rider’s side.
A vastly ambitious, recently completed 960-plus kilometer (596 miles) off-road route through the forested wilderness — Munda Biddi means “path through the forest” in the local indigenous language — it runs from near the state capital, Perth, to Albany in the far southwest.
7. The South Downs Way (England)
South Downs Way, England
This 160-kilometer route (99 miles) is hardly alpine in outlook, crossing some of the most stereotypically lush and rolling English countryside you can imagine. But all those small ups and down add up.
Riders tackling the entire route commit themselves to almost 4,300 meters (14,107 feet) of uphill pedaling.
A much tramped walking route for thousands of years and now a fully signposted hiking trail, the South Downs Way meanders from the precipitous cliffs of Beachy Head to historic Winchester, virtually all off road and much of it on ancient chalky bridleways.
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