Five of The Best Cycling Trips

If you’re planning to travel through North America this summer, you can always hop in the car or book aboard a tour bus – but both ways often seem too stuffy, too crowded and too sedate — not to mention that the world beyond the safety glass goes by too fast. So how about the fresh-air alternative of touring by bicycle? From coast to coast, there’s a huge range of locales to explore by bike, and almost as many tours and tour operators geared to both the practiced handlebar jockey and those who haven’t been on two wheels in years. But if you think a bike tour means you’ll be gasping for breath as you strain to pump a baggage-laden bike up steep hills and keep up with the rest of the pack, think again. The vast majority of tours are geared more toward leisurely rolls down the road than any two-wheeled marathon. Most tours offer van support (a well-equipped vehicle tags behind your tour, carrying gear, repair equipment, cool drinks, snacks and the not-so-occasional weary cyclist), as well as scheduled stops at points of interest, and more-than-decent accommodation at the end of each day. Groups usually consist of about a dozen or so cyclists plus guides and the tours average 35 to 80 kilometres a day. More experienced cyclists can often take some self-guided detours along the route. And while the terrain may be varied, the pace is rarely more than brisk. The idea is to get the most out of being on the bike in the fresh air and glorious scenery, and to leave the details (and the heavy luggage) to the tour operators. So where should you head? Here are five of the best North American tours available, chosen for their mix of scenic attributes, emphasis on […]

Special to the Herald

Cycling in Europe is a test of stamina, all right. After a six-course dinner in Vincenza, Italy, that begins with mounds of proscuitto piled on fresh melon and ends with a thimble of espresso and a luscious fruit torta, will there be room for tomorrow’s alfresco, four-cheese pasta lunch in the wine-rich town of Soave plus a mid-afternoon stop for the best gelato north of Naples? Most cyclists readily answer, “Si, signore.” Pumping a bicicletta past piazzas and palaces more than justifies a week of gastronomic indulgences, not to mention detours to gelaterias. Rambling through Europe on a bicycle hardly qualifies as a warm-up for fitness freaks. And forget the Grand Tour syndrome. Instead of a checklist of “must see” sights, the agenda in France can read more like a grocery list: Burgundy degustations in Beaune, olive oil tastings in Provence, foie gras in Perigord and walnut oil vinegar from a 16th century mill in Dordogne. It’s a bon vivant pace that befits a vacation. There’s always a day or two when the route covers less than 25 miles, a two-hour sprint even when hills intervene. Rarely do itineraries require more than 35 or 40 miles except on trips rated as strenuous. And always, a support van is nearby to rescue sagging cyclists or recalcitrant cycles. The European cycling concept was pioneered by the tour operator Butterfield & Robinson, . “We ran one trip in 1980, offering mopeds as an alternative to bicycles,” said George Butterfield, president and founder. B&R sold out three trips the following year, 30 trips by 1984, and this year, as the largest European cycling operator, will offer nearly 400 departures covering 61 cycling and hiking routes in 26 countries. B&R, Progressive Travels, Backroads and a handful of others dominate the upscale cycling market. At the […]

Commuter Cyclists Gain Respectability as More Trade Cars For Bikes

Mr. de Sousa, who just turned 50, is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. His bike is a sleek, high-end Mongoose, offering 21 gears at the push of a thumb. The Taiwanese-made, U.S. import starts at about $500. And this one is green, the official color of the nineties. Mr. Kraiker, a 35-year-old IBM systems analyst in Toronto, bought his unusual three-wheeler last year for its stability and the comfortable child seat at the back. It cost less than $200, but he has added $700 worth of extras. Motorists wait at intersections just to see him go by. But you won’t see either of these men out with tour groups on the weekend. Instead, both are veterans of a fringe group of city cyclists, long considered cute but a little weird. Commuter Cyclists Now, however, their numbers are growing and their new name sparkles with respectability: commuter cyclists. The bike is their main form of transportation. They say it is fast, cheap, clean and fun. “Sometimes people kid me about it, but I suspect there is some respect for what I do,” said Rudy Limeback, a 40-year-old information systems manager with New York Life Insurance Co. in Toronto. Once, a vice-president mockingly said “Oh, nice pant clips,” as Mr. Limeback was unlocking his bike outside the office. But that was when the bike rack had one or two bikes locked to it. Today, it is overflowing. “The idea is catching on slowly but it is growing,” said Mr. Limeback, a self-confessed “right-wing type person.” “Subway breakdowns are very annoying and I can’t be bothered with the car,” said Rosaleen Crooks, a 45-year-old physiotherapist at Wellesley Hospital. Her bike is appropriately called a Norco Commuter. With car and parking costs soaring, traffic worsening, transit unpredictable and the green […]

Bikers on Cleanup Trail

In olden days (the 1970s, say), hikers had only to contend with the occasional horseback rider for space on the region’s pathways and trail systems. The more ancient areas of the Blue Hills and the Middlesex Fells are laced with carriage paths, which 150 years ago served as the super-highways for horse-drawn carts and coaches. Then along came the mountain bike Fat-tired and tricked out with 21 gears and high-tech suspensions and shock absorbers, mountain bikes soon made their presence known in the woodlands. Rather, their riders did. Younger and more energized than tradtional trail users, off-road cyclists were soon noisily bombing down pristine pathways, raising a cloud of dust, a spray of mud – and a hue and cry from critics. Today, backwoods diplomacy and downtown politicking (both the MDC and state Department of Environmental Management have had to confront mountain biking’s explosive growth) have resulted in more cooperation and less misunderstanding out in the woods. New England Mountain Bike Association MDC Middlesex Fells supervisor Rene Morin said cyclists, particularly those who belong to the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), have made great strides in improving their sport’s image. “I would hope everyone can get along together. NEMBA does a very good job. They do a lot of trail workshops, a lot of education. They’ve been very helpful in that,” the MDC official said. Morin’s comments came in response to a controversy pitting riders against the Friends of the Middlesex Fells, a longstanding group of hikers who have acted as stewards for the 2,100-acre property just north of Boston and who consider mountain biking a suspect activity that runs counter to the enjoyment of nature. “The biggest problem,” he added, “is the number of people who want to use the Fells. When mountain biking started in the ’80s, […]