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This page last updated on: Feburary 12, 2012

 

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By David May

Choosing a Great European Bike Tour

Note: Mountain bike tours are not covered on this site.

Over the years, after studying many commercial and individual European Bicycle tours in catalogs and on the Internet, I selected those that I wished to ride. Most of the cycle tours I have taken were self-organized; a few were guided or self-guided tours with commercial companies. The table below summarizes the tours covered by this site.

All tours (save parts of the last one avoidable by train) are very enjoyable and occasionally thrilling. Good cycling!

Follow the links for photos, descriptions, types of tours possible, and detailed directions for planning a self organized trip. In cases where I have felt it was necessary, I have provided detailed Itineraries.

Where
Difficulty*
My Rating

Why
When
How
Comments
Easy to Medium
(hard option)
Superlative
Lavender, Poppies, Roman ruins, fortified cliffs, charming varied hill towns, etc., etc.
ideally early May or late September
Self
Guided or Commercial Tour
Flat in west, some high hills in east, minor roads, some highways; excellent food
Mainly Hard
Superlative
Historic, 1,200 years- old pilgrimage route, charming old villages and towns, cathedrals and churches, religious art, forests and farmland, hills and mountains.
May - September
Self
Guided;slight coverage by Commercial Tours
Inexpensive. Feeling of an expedition and of being part of history. Some flat sections, but mainly hilly to very hilly with several very long, steep ascents and descents; minor roads and highways with little traffic; possibility of continuation to Compostela in Spain. Chances are it will change you.
Easy
Excellent
River views, charming cities, towns, outstanding baroque architecture, vineyards, castles, monasteries

June -
September

Self
Guided or Commercial Tour
Good for families; bike paths or small lanes, flat unless one leaves the valley
Easy to Medium
Excellent
Prehistoric Cave paintings, caverns, religious art, picturesque towns
May, September
Self
Guided or Commercial Tour
Flat in river valleys, rolling to very hilly between them; minor highways or country roads; excellent food
Easy to Medium
Excellent
3 countries, farmland, canals, dunes, ocean, mechanical dikes, V2 site, Flemish Renaissance architecture
July, August
Self
Guided Tour
Rolling in France with some hills on minor highways; then, in Belgium and Holland flat on bike paths and lanes; strong winds and rain possible off North Sea
Medium
Excellent
Rideable in
late March;
white hill towns, vineyards, cork trees, long views
March, April
or October
Commercial
Tour
Economical for a commercial tour. Flat in south, except for some hill towns, rolling to hilly in north; riding is on minor highways
Medium (difficult options)
Excellent, but some traffic
Charming old villages and cities, half-timbered houses, cathedral, art, farmland, vineyards; option of castles, monastery in mountains
July, August
Self
Guided, partial coverage by Commercial Tour
Rolling, with mountain options by bike or on foot; light to moderate traffic roads and highways; excellent food
"The C2C"
i.e., the Sea to Sea Bicycle Route across Northern England
Moderate to Difficult Route crossing several high hill ranges
Excellent
Irish sea, quaint towns and villages, norhern Lake District, northern Pennines, heath, heather, long views, Newcastle, possible loops or extention to Scotland June - September Self_Guided Flat, then rolling, then mountainous, then a long sloping descent, on bike paths or minor roads. Well waymarked. Excellent guidebook. Only 2 to 4 days without return loop or extension.
Medium to hard in Tuscany; Umbria has some medium days
Excellent
Medieval hill towns and cities, vinyards, olive trees, Renaissance masterpieces
Early May to mid-June or mid-September to late October
Self Guided or Commercial Tour (except in far south)
Flat sections in Umbria, but otherwise mainly hilly to very hilly with climbs to hill towns; little traffic except near and in cities. Good food.
Easy to Medium
Cycling is Very Good, Excellent trip if you enjoy Chateaus
Châteaux, river views, towns, art; extensions add beaches, hill towns monestary, gorges, romanesque cathedral
June- September best
Self
Guided or Commercial Tour
Flat in valley, flat to rolling in countryside; country roads and highways; good food.
The Loire à Vélo and Eurovélo 6 Easy to Medium
Cycling is Very Good,; route is signposted but maps are still needed.
A view of changing scenery and culture across France and Europe; partly in Loire Chateau Area described above. June - September best. Self-guided; luggage transportation available in part. Entire route takes several months. The roue almost always follows rivers or canals, and it therefore flat; most often on minor roads or bike paths.
Easy
Very Good
Very economical
boats. lake views, dikes, farms, villages, Dutch way of life
July, August
Commercial
Boat Tour
or Self Guided Tour
Sleep on boat (or in lakeside towns), flat, mostly on minor roads, often rainy, more dificult if windy.
Bodensee (Lake Constance) Circuit, and Rhinefalls, Germany, Austria, Switzerland Easy
Very Good
Lake and river views, farms, charming resort towns, gardens, woods, the European "Niagra Falls" June - September Self Guided, some Commercial Tours Good for families;
flat with a very few small hills; bike paths, lanes, some minor roads.
Salzburg to Munich or Innsbruck or the Bodensee, Austria and Germany Mainly Easy
Very Good
Lakes—from wild to tame; forests and woods; crazy King Ludwig's castles; views of mountains; resort villages May - September Self-Guided Only a few hills mostly flat or rolling; mainly on bike paths (sometimes gravel) or back roads, but some riding required in moderate highway traffic
Burgandy Cycle Circuit from Beaune to Beaune, or as you choose Easy among the vineyards and along the canal paths; medium in the Morvan hills
Very Good
Vineyards, wine tasting, villages and towns, architecture, chateaux, old forge, canal paths May - September Self-Guided. Commercial tours are usually limited to the vineyards and nearby Very little traffic. By staying in the valleys this becaumes an easy tour.
Cycling Denmark and the Elbe from Hamburg to the North Sea Easy Cycling if not against the wind (estremely difficult if nortbound along North Sea
Very Good
Hamburg, dikes along the Elbe, villages and towns, fields, runes, wind turbines, the North Sea, lakes, Castles, the Baltic Sea, Copenhaven June - August Self-Guided On bike trails, dikes, or minor roads, except bike lanes near Hamburg and Copenhagen. Mainly well waymarked or good guide books.
Cycling the French Riviera, from Marseille to Italy Easy to moderate Cycling, some hard sections. Generally much traffic on the route or nearby.
Some very good sections and some unpleasant sections avoidable by train.
The Meditteranean, Marseille, Cassis, Route des Cretes with stunning views, French naval yards, resort towns, endless beaches, San Tropez, the red-colored Esterel mountains, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, the cliff roads of the Alps, Menton. May - early October, but not July and Ausgust Self-Guided About one-half on bike paths or bike lanes, but these usually lie along highways or major roads. Some minor roads. About one-half on highways or major streets. Suitable only for those who don't mind riding in traffic.

*Difficulty ratings: Easy = Flat and short stages of about 50 km (30 miles);
Medium = Rolling or a few hills; stages of 70 km; Hard = many high hills or some mountains, stages of 70 km or more.