Whether you go on an organised tour or simply hire a bike for the day, cycling is a great way to see great chunks of a city – and get off the tourist trail. Readers suggest their favourites
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WINNING TIP: Johannesburg
ake a trip down the Braamfontein Spruit early on a weekday morning and you’ll see both sides of this vibrant city, from the calm beauty of the Highveld with its jacaranda trees blooming in spring, to the chaos of taxi-buses and mad city driving, and the hoards of healthy, wealthy and active people that stream out of the northern suburbs to the campers to the vagrants that still inhabit many of the city’s parks. . Start at the Johannesburg botanical gardens in Emmarentia, follow a well-trodden track along the river through a pleasant linear park, and end up at Conrad Drive. It’s a 10km round trip, and it might just change some preconceptions about this wonderful, much-maligned city.
The Golden Gate Bridge is easily one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks and crossing it by bike is a truly remarkable experience. During my stay in San Francisco I hired a bike from Blazing Saddles and took myself on its “Bike the Bridge” tour. You approach it from Fisherman’s Wharf, taking in spectacular views, before cycling across (on the footpath) and ending your trip in Sausalito. Here, you can grab a glass of crisp California white wine before taking a ferry back to the wharf. A perfect way to spend a day!
blazingsaddles.com, from $32 a day.
Although its main focus is the Atlas Mountains, Argan Xtreme Sports (founded by American-born Moroccans) does an excellent cycling tour of Marrakech. You start early and wind your way around streets and through squares, as guides give hilarious descriptions of the places you stop off. It ends just as the city is waking up, after you have been treated to delicious fresh orange juice in Djemaa el Fna and have begun to know the city that little bit better.
argansports.com, 90-minute tour €27pp
If the prospect of cycling in New York seems daunting, don’t worry. Our Sunday morning Harlem tour started with a meander through Central Park, on to Marcus Garvey Park and past long queues waiting in their Sunday best for the gospel services. Traffic was light and our confidence had grown by the time we hit Bill Clinton’s office and the Hotel Theresa, where Fidel Castro stayed in 1960. We stood in awe outside the Apollo Theater, which hosted all the black artists of the 30s through to the 60s. We liked the guide’s anecdotes and story of recent Harlem gentrification. The coffee and pastries at the Hungarian Pastry shop went down a treat before our return via Columbia University and lovely Riverside Park along the Husdon River.
centralparkbiketours.com, tours from $65
Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong
The concrete new town of Tseung Kwan O in the east of Hong Kong is not everyone’s idea of an ideal cycling destination. However, it is criss-crossed and surrounded by excellent cycle paths that take you from sweeping vistas of the South China Sea into the dappled shade of the mature trees in the older Po Lam district. There are numerous places to stop for a drink, a picnic or a cheap Chinese meal, and you get an easy and enjoyable insight into local life, far away from the tourists. You can rent bikes near Tseung Kwan O train station.
Madrid’s Anillo Verde (green ring) is 60km of dedicated cycle path (not all of a fantastic standard, admittedly) that circumnavigates the city. Spin through newly built residential neighbourhoods, alongside the Manzanares river, and take time to explore the vast parkland of Casa de Campo. You can happily spend a whole day getting to know Madrid from a less touristy angle.
The Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin was one of the best things I’ve done abroad. An incredibly knowledgeable guide, a route that took us around the crowded centre, through a zoo and into a beer garden, and a pace that was perfect for four women who hadn’t been on a bike since the 90s; the perfect introduction to Berlin for those on a flying visit.
fattirebiketours.com/berlin, various tours offered, from €24pp
The city is fairly flat and bike-friendly and Mike’s Bike Tour was easygoing and made very interesting (and humorous) by Tony, our guide. The half-day tour included a ride through the Englischer Garten where we stopped for lunch at one of the beer gardens. Tips: carry water, take gloves.
mikesbiketours.com, four-hour tour from €25
The Capital City Trail is a 30km well-marked route providing constant interest. We started beside Federation Square, having brought our bikes by train to Flinders Street. Going anticlockwise, start along the Yarra River, passing the cricket ground and the Herring Island Environmental Sculpture Park. The trail follows the route of the old Inner Circle railway, through Royal Park, home of the Melbourne Zoo, and you arrive back in centre via the new Docklands Precinct, passing the Maritime Museum and the vibrant business district. A fabulous ride with plenty of stop-off places.
The walls of Lucca, which are really substantial earthworks faced with stone, were erected in the 16th century. They form a complete 4.2km ring of around the old city, and are 12 metres high. The tops are shaded with holm oaks, plane trees, beech and pine, and the broad pathway is perfect for cycling, jogging or simply strolling. Many of the city streets are also traffic-free, so cycling is the perfect means of transport here, by day or by night.
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