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10 Best Bike Rides in the World

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With the world trying hard to go green, there’s never been a better time to get on your bike. Sure, there are some awesome scenic road trips, but there is something extra special about completing a thrilling bike route on your own steam.

Whether it’s the freedom to go almost anywhere, the multiple health benefits, the relatively low cost, the reduced carbon footprint, minimal noise pollution, or simply the feeling of the wind in your hair. Cycling is cool, it was cool, and it will always be cool.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best bike rides in the world. From challenging mountain passes to coastal roads. From cross-country distance riding to paved trails. There’s something to suit every taste and every skill level.

Note that we’ve not included bike races in this article. You won’t find famous competitive rides like the Tour de France or the Trans-Siberian Extreme, but you can always research and ride their routes. And whether you’re racing or touring, be sure to pick up some bike-related travel insurance before setting off.

The 10 Best Bike Rides in the World

1. The Great Divide, North America

Great Divide, Trail
R. Sieben / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

The Great Divide is a famous cycling route that runs from Jasper, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Developed by the Adventure Cycling Association, it was completed in 1997 and is the longest off-pavement bike-riding tour on the planet.

Otherwise known as GDMBR (Great Divide Mountain Bike Route), it features over 200,000 feet of elevation gain. Spread across five geographically diverse regions, you’ll have a different experience every day.

And at 3,083.8 miles long, the creators of the route suggest around 60 days to complete the entire thing. If you’re a cyclist who likes tackling long distances, this is the ride for you.

The route will take you through several National Parks, including Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with some eclectic flora and fauna. You and your bike will be pushed to the limit through strenuous sections, rolling terrain, and tough weather conditions. Make sure that your kit is in tip-top condition.

The creation of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is thought to have led to the invention of “bikepacking.” As such, it offers many places to stay, with campgrounds being the most popular option.

Try the Blue River Campground in B.C., for starters, which features plenty of other mountain bike routes in the area. And you can always practice stealth camping with a good lightweight tent.

See Related: The National Parks in the USA to Visit

2. The Lakes Route, Switzerland

Krattigen, Bernese Oberland, canton of Bern, Switzerland, Europe, small village located calm clean nature on Thun Lake with idyllic view for Swiss Alps
Danuta Hyniewska / Adobe Stock

Alpine cycling doesn’t get much better than the Alps themselves. Switzerland is home to some of the best places to bike in the world, with stunning mountains, lakes, and valleys to explore. Of all the trails on offer, the Lakes Route is perhaps the most picturesque and is a wonderful way to sample a cross-section of Switzerland’s breathtaking scenery.

The route begins at Lake Geneva (don’t miss out on a cruise), and snakes its way across the country for around 316 miles. Along the way, you’ll pass beautiful lakes, rustic towns and villages, dramatic mountains, and lush floral moors. The route is well signposted, given that Switzerland is one of the most bicycle-friendly countries on earth.

I’ve not been lucky enough to cycle these roads but I have driven them. My experience in this corner of the planet is best summed up by saying: Believe the hype. And aside from the fairytale vistas, you’re also in the land of chocolate and cheese. Don’t miss the legendary town of Gruyères, and be sure to sample some sweet delights on a chocolate tour.

From the resort town of Montreux in the east to the harbor town of Rorschach in the west, you’ll soon understand why Switzerland is among the most beautiful places on earth. I also highly recommend stays in historic Zurich, and adventurous Interlaken – one of the country’s outdoor capitals. Although when I was last there, I slept in the back of a van, the Hotel Chalet Swiss would have been much more comfortable.

See Related: The Best Hidden Gems in Switzerland

3. The Friendship Highway, China and Nepal

Road of Friendship in Tibet - Going to Kathmandu
piccaya / Adobe Stock

The Friendship Highway stretches just over 500 miles from the Chinese/Nepalese border to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Known as the world’s highest bike ride, it takes you over the nose-bleeding Himalayan mountains through an unforgettably remote landscape. Don’t forget you’ll need to spend a few days acclimatizing to the altitude before setting off.

Completed in 1965, the Friendship Highway is the only road from Tibet to Southeast Asia. Broad and well-paved, cyclists will share the route with other vehicles, which can be completed in 15-20 days.

The highlights include Drepung Monastery and Potala Palace, the sacred Yamdrok Lake, and Karola Glacier.

Hundreds of colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind. And, of course, a panoramic view of the tallest mountain on earth. I forget the name of it.

Boasting one of the world’s longest and steepest downhill sections, riders should have a modicum of skill to attempt the journey. Ascensions can be grueling, and there are three passes over 16,400 feet. And that’s not to mention potentially inclement weather conditions as you attempt to negotiate the “roof of the world.”

If you’re not already exhausted from the highway, treks to the Everest base camp are popular from Kathmandu. But honestly, there’s so much to see and do in this region that you might as well take a sabbatical. Reward yourself with a stay at the Everest Boutique Hotel when you reach the Nepalese capital.

See Related: Bucket List Ideas of a Lifetime

4. Colle de Finestre, Italy

Il Rocciamelone dal Colle delle Finestre
nexis / Adobe Stock

Did someone say “challenging bike ride?” It’s little wonder that Italy produces some of the world’s best riders when they’re getting this kind of workout. The Colle de Finestre might only be 11 miles long, but with the average gradient being a little over 9%, this is one of the toughest slogs on two wheels. It also features regularly in the Giro d’Italia bicycle race.

Located in the Piemont region, west of Turin and near the French border, the route journeys from Valle di Susa to Valle del Chisone. When you’re not grinding out the miles, take a rest and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Italian Alps. The region is also famous for its food and drink and is a popular destination for lovers of the grape.

The Colle de Finestre is the climbing stage of a longer route and is only open from early June until September. It’s a grueling test of endurance, and should only be attempted by riders with a high level of fitness.

You’ll climb to a height of 5,557 feet, negotiating 55 hairpins, with a maximum gradient of 14%. And the last six miles are on a dirt path. I’m getting tired just thinking about it.

Although Amsterdam is the city cycling capital of the world, as a country, Italy is considered by many as the cradle of the sport. As such, you can expect top-quality bike-friendly accommodation in these parts. Try the Hotel Napoleon Susa, which is popular with motorcyclists and cyclists, thanks to its dedicated parking garage.

See related: The Best Tours in Italy: Food, Walking & Bike Tours

5. The Shimanami Kaido, Japan

Shimanami kaido cycling route, Japan. Kurushima Bridge
ttinu / Adobe Stock

Stretching just over 37 miles, the Shimanami Kaido bike ride is one of the world’s best cycle routes. It begins on the island of Honshu and ends on Shikoku, and intermediate riders will complete the trip in four to five hours. Be prepared for some breathtaking views of the Seto Inland Sea along the way.

Island hopping in this region is one of the best things to do in Japan, and this well-maintained cycling route will take you over no less than six. There are over 3,000 to be explored, however, so you’re barely scratching the surface.

Still, this is a good start and a great bike ride for beginners or casual riders. One-day cycling tours are available if you don’t fancy negotiating it yourself.

Highlights include the Kosanji Temple, which features a recreation of the Buddhist version of hell. And the Hirayama Ikuo Museum showcases the work of the famous Japanese painter. But the scenery takes the top spot here, which cements it as one of the best places for biking there.

You can rent bikes on any of the islands, with a neat system that allows you to drop your rental off at a different location. But this six-day cycling tour of Shikoku includes the Shimanami Kaido section for those looking for a guided experience. Note that there will be small toll fees to cross the bridges, but it’s well worth it for the condition of the trails.

See Related: Reasons to Visit Japan

6. North Sea Cycle Route, Europe

North sea cycle route, England
Sam Smith / Adobe Stock

Adventure cyclists interested in traveling through as many countries as possible will be drawn to the North Sea Cycle Route. Otherwise known as the Eurovelo 12 (EV12), it covers a distance of nearly 3,700 miles, through eight European nations, and takes around three months to complete. Opened in 2001, it officially entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 2003 as the world’s longest cycle route.

Hugging the rugged coastline of the North Sea, the route takes you through Scotland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Your starting point is the Norweigan town of Bergen and ends in the remote Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland. You can, of course, do it the other way around, or tackle each country’s section individually.

All eight of these countries are pro bicycle, and the route includes well-paved surfaces, dedicated cycle lanes, and frequent signage. You’ll also need to board ferries at three points. Check timetables and plan crossings in advance, and be prepared to be flexible.

Expect a diverse geographical and cultural experience on this once-in-a-lifetime cycling adventure. You can find detailed information on each leg from tourist boards in each country. And the sky’s the limit for accommodation.

You won’t ever be too far from a warm shower. Try this delightful guesthouse at Dalkeith, close to the bike route and just seven miles from ancient Edinburgh.

See Related: The Ultimate Backpacking Through Europe Itinerary

7. Munda Biddi Trail, Australia

Munda Biddi Trail, Australia

Translated as “path through the forest” in the Noongar Aboriginal language, the Munda Biddi Trail is one of the world’s best rides for mountain bikers. And never was a route better named, as it passes through a largely unspoiled forest landscape over dirt tracks, gravel roads, and along the coast.

Officially opened in 2013, at over 620 miles, it is the longest continual off-road trail on the planet. The trailhead is located just south of Perth and ends in Albany on the south coast. Depending on your fitness and experience, an end-to-end trip will take three to four weeks across three stages.

The track is open year-round, but thanks to Australia’s extreme heat, it’s advisable to attempt it only during the shoulder seasons of Spring (September to November) and Autumn (March to May).

While you’ll find towns dotted along the trail, there are long sections where you won’t see a sinner. Be sure to pack plenty of supplies before setting off, and tackle it at your own pace. Don’t forget a high-factor sunscreen.

The trail features several dedicated campsites for a place to rest your weary bones. But when it’s all over, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the comforts of the Six Degrees Boutique Hotel. The Munda Biddi Trail Foundation maintains the route, and you should head to that link to plan your trip.

See Related: The Australian Outback Adventure: Driving the Red Center

8. La Ruta de Los Conquistadores, Costa Rica

Hidden waterfall surrounded by green trees, vegetation, rocks, leaves floating on green and clear water, Catarata La Cangreja, Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Max / Adobe Stock

I did mention that I wouldn’t be including any races, but La Ruta de los Conquistadores isn’t just limited to the pros once a year. While the annual competition is dubbed the “world’s most difficult mountain bike event,” it can be attempted by anyone up for the challenge.

The only cross-country ride on our list, La Ruta de los Conquistadores, traverses the rolling terrain of Costa Rica. Beginning on the Pacific Ocean at Jaco Beach, the trail ends at Bonita Beach on the Caribbean coast.

One of the most amazing routes for mountain biking; you’ll encounter lush rainforests, diverse wildlife, waterfalls, mud paths, coffee plantations, and an extinct volcano. Fuel up with all the chocolate you can eat on a chocolate experience tour.

The point-to-point race covers three days, but you can take as much time as you like when completing the whole trail at your own pace. “La Ruta” is also dotted with notorious river crossings, so be prepared to get wet! Dismounting and carrying your wheels is not uncommon. But as they say in Costa Rica – “Pura Vida!”

For accommodations, the capital of San Jose is a slight detour but offers some fun things to do and is worth the stop for its hospitality alone. I’ve previously stayed at Costa Rica Backpackers, which is great if you’re on a budget and want to meet fellow travelers.

See Related: The Things to Do in Jacó, Costa Rica

9. The Death Road, Bolivia

The Death Road in Bolivia
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

Here’s one that will get the adrenaline pumping. There is a stretch of former highway in the Youngas region of Bolivia known by a chilling moniker. The Death Road.

Since it was constructed in the 1930s and before being decommissioned as a vehicular thoroughfare, it was claiming the lives of 200-300 people a year. Today, it serves as the most popular tourist attraction when visiting La Paz – one of the cheapest travel destinations in the world.

If you’ve not arrived with your wheels, you can take a guided Death Road mountain bike tour from the Bolivian capital. And it’s an exhilarating and rewarding experience. The route begins at a chilly high altitude before cruising downhill into the hot Amazon jungle. But make no mistake – this is not for the faint of heart.

Since 1998, the road is still living up to its name, as some 18 cyclists are thought to have died while attempting the route. The narrow gravel road has no guard rails and a 2000-foot drop on one side. Watch out for “babies’ heads;” rocks that can easily cause your bike to flip. I did it in 2013, and the most terrifying thing for me was the minibus drive back up!

Still, it’s one of the world’s best trails, and you’ll have some serious bragging rights once you have it under your belt. And while you’re in the country, cycling to the world-famous Salar De Uyuni is an absolute must. But you can always take a three-day tour if you’re saddle sore.

See Related: The Best Pink Lakes in the World

10. The South Downs Way, England

A signpost on the South Downs Way near Cuckmere Haven in Sussex, England. This is in the Seven Sisters Country Park.
Colin & Linda McKie / Adobe Stock

There are no less than 16 National Trails in England and Wales. Any long-distance footpaths and bridleways could be included here, but the South Downs Way is arguably the best for bike rides. It is located on England’s south coast and takes in ancient market towns, rolling hills, stunning sea views, and iconic chalk-white cliffs.

The route is open to all cyclists, hikers, and horse riders. It begins in the cathedral city of Winchester, and ends in Eastbourne, in East Sussex.

A total distance of 100 miles can be as challenging as you want to make it. The ride takes around four days if you prefer a more leisurely experience, although it can be done in under two. This guide will help you plan your journey through the South Down National Park.

History buffs will love this trip, as it’s a well-trodden path that has been used for over 8000 years. Along the way, you’ll pass through sleepy villages, picture-postcard countryside, historic sites, and that quintessential English bucolic vibe I’d loved to bottle. And the seaside town of Brighton is well worth a slight detour, as it has one of the best beaches in the UK.

Camping is the most popular accommodation of choice, but plenty of cute B&B options are also available. This beautiful cottage bed and breakfast in Poynings is a great example.

Historic hotels and traditional inns are also in plentiful supply. Try the Findon Manor Hotel if you fancy going upmarket, with a great selection of mountain bike trails in the area.

See Related: The Things to Do in London

Bike Riding Tips

Author finishing the Death Road
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

Know how to ride a bike.

This isn’t as silly as it sounds. While anyone can learn how to operate a bike to get from A to B, there are all kinds of tricks and techniques to help you get the most out of your machine. Knowing how to change gears smoothly, how to corner, how to ride up and downhill, how to brake effectively…they will all help with safety, efficiency, and keeping you and your bike in the best possible condition.

Make sure you’re in good shape.

Aside from knowing how to ride, you should have decent physical conditioning if you’re going to attempt most of these bicycle routes. And you need to be borderline superhuman for the more challenging ones. Cardio. Cardo. Cardio. And yoga. Yoga rocks.

Understand basic bicycle maintenance.

You’ll be out there on your own, and bike repair shops will be few and far between once you leave civilization behind. All cyclists need to know how to fix the most common bike problems while on the road. If you don’t, buy a book, watch some videos, or take a course.

Make sure you have the right gear.

It’s not just about having a quality set of wheels. You’ll need suitable clothes, a bike repair kit, a first aid kit, a good helmet, and adequate supplies. Use a reflective safety vest when cycling in low light or inclement weather.

If camping, be sure to have a lightweight tent and season-appropriate sleeping bag. Research the route and weather conditions, and don’t try to put a round peg in a square hole. Taking on a mountain biking route with a road bike is just silly.

Stay Hydrated.

I once met a cyclist attempting a challenging route, and he had no water. He could have filled not even an empty water bottle at a spring.

Don’t be that guy. The Lifestraw will keep you hydrated from just about any water source.

Know your limits.

However confident you are in your ability, know when to call it a day. Exhaustion can cause all kinds of grief. Remember – you need to save enough energy to get back.

Don’t ride alone.

Two’s company, and there’s safety in numbers. If you must ride alone, tell someone where you’re riding, the route you’re taking, when you’re setting off, and what time you expect to be at home base. I also highly recommend a cycling computer with GPS for extra peace of mind.

Understand traffic laws.

When you visit and cycle in a foreign country, learn the local traffic rules and regulations. They’re not always as straightforward as cycling on the right side of the road.

Don’t ride without travel insurance.

I’ve had my fair share of accidents on two wheels, but thankfully nothing too serious. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen.

If you’re going to attempt any of the world’s best bike trails, make sure you have adequate travel insurance. It would suck to have a broken bone while riding in a remote mountain range without coverage.

FAQs

Which countries offer the most spectacular bike rides?

Most countries offer cyclists scenic bike trails, but I think you need to be looking at the mountainous regions of the planet for the truly spectacular. Think Switzerland, Italy, and Central Asia to get you started.

Can I rent bikes and cycling gear for these amazing bike adventures?

Yes, you can, as not everyone wants to travel with their bikes. Most biking destinations will have businesses or accommodations that offer the chance to rent gear and equipment.

What is the best time of year to plan a cycling trip on these routes?

It depends on the route’s location, but spring, summer, and fall are usually the best times of year for most trips. I’d be cautious riding during the hottest months as you don’t want to suffer heat exhaustion.

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