With the leaves and rain falling harder every day and the prospect of snow showers around the corner, cycling conditions might be getting a little too hairy even for the winter tyres. But for those who just can’t wait until spring to get back in the saddle, a winter getaway can prove a double delight. Cyclists can top up their winter fitness and work off (some of) the festive roasts, all while riding some of the world’s choice routes when they’re at their emptiest.
To help you on your way we’ve gathered together some of our favourite winter destinations, both in accessible Southern Europe and further afield. Even if you can’t get away this time round, Christmas is now on the horizon and flights certainly aren’t bad present suggestions…
As arguably the most beautiful outcrop of the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese offers perfect riding conditions and blissful solitude to cyclists lucky enough to visit in winter. The cool, dry air manages moisture brilliantly and remains above 10 celsius year round, letting riders traverse the ancient highways in comfort and away from the summer crowds.
Riders looking to pound out the miles will appreciate the flats of Arcadia in the central and eastern section of the peninsula, which provide the least troublesome rides for the amateur cyclist. But for those thriving on inclines and diverse terrain the foothills and low lying areas of the Taygetus mountain range provide the perfect challenge - but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Perhaps the best part of holidaying in the peninsula is the sheer volume of fascinating rest points to be explored amid the stunning landscape. When the legs start to burn be sure to pause at the healing sanctuary of Asclepios at Epidaurus, and test the astonishing acoustics in the 14,000 person open air theatre. In keeping with the trips sporting theme, be sure to also stop for water besides the birthplace of the Olympic Games - first held in 776 BC.
If winter training is the aim of the trip then it might be best to ignore the fine and dry white wine produced in the region. But, then again, if it’s just a holiday…
A favourite region for many when the cold sets in, Catalonia offers the same climate as the Peloponnese but with a few more fellow riders along the way. As a cultural smorgasbord that’s less than two hours by plane, it’s a no brainer for the winter cyclist.
Serious riders should consider the bracing but beautiful route that begins in the foothills of the Pyrenees, runs past the iconic form Pedraforca Mountain and then out into the basin of the Ebre. Cyclists fancying something a little more relaxed can alternatively opt for region’s coastal route, and experience the distinct characteristics of the three eastern provinces of Girona, Barcelona and Tarragona along the way.
As the regional hub Barcelona is the likely point of arrival, but for the best morning ride-outs make your base in one of region’s famous medieval towns. Lunch breaks in the multitude of quaint Catalonian villages, when accompanied by locally sourced tapas, make for mouth watering pit-stops.
With secluded hotels in the mountain tops frequented by the upper echelons of British cycling, Tenerife’s cycling infrastructure and steady gradients make it the very best place in Europe for aerobic winter riding. Not for the faint-hearted, Tenerife offers unrivalled settings for altitude training throughout the year and boasts the longest continuous climb in Europe – from sea-level to over 7,000 feet in one gruelling (but rewarding) stint.
The scenery might not be as spectacular as Catalonia or the Peloponnese, but the environment for cycling is the best of all. Quiet roads, local traffic accustomed to cycling groups and the most consistent winter weather of all European cycling destinations, makes cycling on the island a dream. Better still, Tenerife’s position off the coast of North Africa means that even in the depths of December you are almost guaranteed a fair weather ride - and some fetching cycling tan-lines to boot.
For those with the time and resources, why not avoid winter entirely?
Any rider valuing scenery (so all of us) will have the experience of a lifetime cycling in New Zealand. The North Island features endless miles of some of the word’s most breathtaking landscapes, and views that gained Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings team a host of Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.
As Kiwi cycling has blossomed in recent years more and more routes have become accessible for riders of all levels. While the going isn’t always easy, cyclists can take in craggy mountain peaks, glassy lakes, foaming rivers and expansive grasslands - all in one day. Topped off with a glass of New World Sauvignon, well, we can’t think of anything better.More stories