Booking a winter cycling holiday

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Booking a winter cycling holiday
By Lawrence Bywater 15 January 2019 No comments

Updated: 09/09/2019

The rain batters your window pane. The wind whistles. Another cup of tea and maybe then you’ll head out for a ride. A good old British winter can be enough to quell even the most hardened rider’s urge to ride. This guide covers key winter cycling holiday questions as well as some recommended destinations. 

Package cycling holiday or DIY?

A sensible place to start when you’re searching for a trip away is to decide whether you would like to book a package or plan everything separately.

Speeding down a coastal rode in Majorca

Packages usually group flights, extra baggage for your bike if you’re taking one, transfers, accommodation and food. Great if all you want to worry about is time in the saddle, packages can be that bit cheaper as companies can bulk book flights and accommodation, passing the saving onto you. 

Take your bike or hire abroad?

Whilst friends back home deal with sideways rain, bracing winds, potholed roads and swamp-like trails you’re heading out for a ride under bright blue skies - this is what you booked a cycling holiday for! Back in the UK, sat on the sofa, you need to decide to either take your bike or hire one at your chosen destination. Let’s look at these options in turn.

Cycling on Fuerteventura

Specially designed to carry the complex shape of a bicycle, bike boxes or bike travel bags protect your pride and joy as it wings its way through airport baggage and onto the plane. Made of hard plastic or soft fabric with supporting struts, these bags require you to dismantle your bike (wheels off, handlebars to one side, seatpost out and rear derailleur off) before you fly.

Flying with your bike means when you get riding you’ll be familiar with how it rides, comfortable on your saddle and happy with its setup. Important if your aim is to ride big miles! 

Taking your bike on a winter cycling holiday

Decided to leave your bike at home? Many popular winter cycling destinations are awash with various bicycle hire companies. Some even show you their stable when you’re booking so you can select the exact brand and model you want. A great opportunity to ride a fancy whip you wouldn’t usually get to throw your leg over! If you do decide to hire remember to take your preferred shoes and pedals as it’s likely that the hiring company won’t offer these as part of the hire package.

Enjoying the coastal roads on a winter cycling holiday

Over in Europe, bicycle brakes are also the opposite way round to here in the UK. So the front brake may be on the left of your handlebars (they’re on the right in the UK) and the rear brake may be on the right-hand side (they’re on the left in the UK). Before you head out on your first big ride check you’re comfortable with this setup. Vital really if you’re riding a bike that already feels a little alien to your bike back home, plus you’re going to be riding on roads or trails that you haven’t ridden before. 

READ: How to go bikepacking

Whether you decide to take your bike or hire one abroad be sure to look up the traffic laws of your chosen country, as well as other legal requirements you might need to obey if you are riding a bicycle on public roads or trails. 

Guided or solo riding

The next consideration when booking a winter cycling holiday is whether to use a guiding company or hit out solo. Specialist companies bring the benefit of local road knowledge, some ideal loops from your hotel and other recommendations.

Riding hard on a winter cycling holiday

Want to ride solo? Be sure to research the best routes at your chosen destination. A simple internet search should turn up some recommended rides unless you’re heading way off the beaten track.

To help with route finding, we like to use Strava’s heatmaps feature. In Strava’s words, heatmap shows 'heat' made by aggregated, public activities over the last two years. A great tool if you want to find a local col to test yourself on.

Ready to talk location? Let’s look at some places where the sun is almost guaranteed to be shining this winter.

Majorca

A playground for professional cycling teams, Majorca (or Mallorca if your Spanish!) is perhaps the winter destination. Frequent flights to Palma from across the UK, a fantastic range of hotels with cycling facilities and smooth well-maintained roads should mean you should finish your holiday with plenty of happy miles in your legs.

Cycling in Majorca

Getting there: Flights from London Stansted, Manchester, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle airports

Average flight time: 2.5 hours

Don’t miss: Sa Calobra or the Col de Cal Reis is Majorca’s most famous climb and a rite of passage for any road cyclist. Located in the Sierra de Tramuntana mountain range, the climb rises 2000 feet in a little over six miles and features plenty of switchbacks – something you don’t get too much of in the UK!

Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca offers something for every rider. Hammer along the coast or explore the towering peaks and deep valleys inland. This part of the Spanish coast is an excellent place for a refreshing dip in the sea at the end of a long ride, whilst the resorts of Benidorm and Calpe offer plenty of places for an ice-cold, recovery beverage.

Cycling on the Costa Blanca

Getting there: Flights from London Stansted, Manchester, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle airports

Average flight time: 3 hours

Don’t miss: If coastal riding isn’t your thing, head to the Cumbre del Sol. This short, steep climb offers breath-taking views. This area is frequently visited by the Spanish grand tour the Vuelta a España and the 2019 edition of the race is scheduled to spend three days in the area. 

Fuerteventura

The second-largest of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura is just 62 miles off the coast of North Africa. At roughly the same latitude as Florida and Mexico far to the west, average temperatures rarely dip below 18°C. Keen to promote cycling, the local government has invested in promoting safety and awareness of cyclists as well as maintaining butter smooth roads.

Cycling in Fuerteventura

Getting there: Flights from London Stansted, Manchester, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle airports

Average flight time: 4 hours

Don’t miss: If baggy shorts and wider tyres are your thing, be sure to ride the loop from El Cotillo to Corralejo and back. Dip in and out of quiet bays and small harbours on the coast and marvel at the volcanoes has you head inland.

Gran Canaria

Sometimes overlooked for its neighbour Tenerife, Gran Canaria is a wonderful cycling destination. Nearly half of the island’s territory is a protected area and with much of the interior is covered in forest thanks to a reforestation plan that started in the 1950s. It’s also possible to do a complete circuit of the island, but at 190km it’s not a ride for the faint-hearted!

Cycling in Gran Canaria

Getting there: Flights from London Stansted, Manchester, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle airports

Average flight time: 4.5 hours

Don’t miss: The village of Cruz de Tejeda is a good base to start your climb to the Pico de las Nieves. It’s a charming, traditional collection of houses with incredible views. The Pico de Las Nieves is somewhat less enjoyable (albeit rewarding) with gradients of over 20%!

Lanzarote

Lanzarote somehow packs in plenty of riding options into its 850 square kilometres. The fourth-largest island in the Canary Island archipelago, it’s incredibly mountainous with roads rising to over 670 metres above sea level. Your riding reward here will be otherworldly scenes thanks to the island’s volcanic history.

Cycling in Lanzarote

Getting there: Flights from London Stansted, Manchester, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle airports

Average flight time: 4 hours

Don’t miss: In the south of the island the Balcon de Femes is a long, yet extremely rewarding climb for cyclists with a decent level of fitness. The restaurant at the top serves good coffee and the views are spectacular!