Updated on April 4, 2022
The major appeal of a bicycle is that, in its simplest form, it is essentially a very efficient mode of transportation.
Simply grab the bike, mount aboard, and peddle quickly to the shop, bar, or wherever you are going.
However, other cyclists prefer their journeys to be a little more dramatic. Perhaps even picturesque, distant, and difficult.
Seven incredible rides from around the world that range in duration from a day to several months (uh, don’t forget the anti-chafe cream):
Best Places to Bike in The World
1. The Highway of Friendship (China)
Clear blue water: China’s Friendship Highway.
Whether or not the 800 kilometres (500 miles) between Lhasa and the Nepalese border is the world’s most beautiful journey is a matter of personal preference for sometimes desolate high-altitude landscapes.
What is certain is that it is the highest.
The route contains three road passes that above 5,000 metres (16,400 feet), the highest of which is 5,220 metres above the Gyatso La mountain pass, when a clear day rewards travellers with a distant glimpse of Everest.
This, of course, is not for everyone.
The conditions can be difficult, and the distance between towns needs meticulous planning.
Additionally, due to Tibet’s delicate political status, individual travel can be challenging at times.
For the truly adventurous, this remains one of the world’s true adventures, from the religious and cultural grandeur of Lhasa and Gyantse to the prayer flag-draped top of the Gampa La mountain pass, with the enormous, blue lake of Yamdrok Yumtso dazzling in the valley below.
If that isn’t enough, the path concludes with what may be the world’s longest descent, a 3,500-meter plummet down muddy hairpins from the Tibetan plateau’s edge.
Cycling across the sea in the awe-inspiring city of Hiroshima
2. The Conquistadors’ Route (Costa Rica)
The Conquistadors’ Route
Costa Rica’s La Ruta: From coast to coast.
With permission from La Ruta de los Conquistadores
This 270-kilometer off-road journey across Costa Rica is shorter than the Friendship Highway but certainly no less difficult.
This route, which runs from the Pacific to the Caribbean beaches, includes mud walkways, rainforest, coffee plantations, and even an extinct volcano.
Each November, it is possible to complete it in three days as part of the annual mountain bike race from which the ride receives its name.
Those with less time on their hands can spend as much time as they like, whenever they want, retracing the steps of 16th-century Spanish invader Juan de Cavallon, the title’s primary conquistador.
Costa Rica is home to an abundance of natural wonders packed into an area about the size of Switzerland, with approximately a quarter of the country designated as national park — La Ruta provides a taste of this.
The route begins in the surf resort of Jaco Beach and quickly transitions to energy-sapping red mud dirt roads that ascend. And up and up — the official La Ruta circuit alone contains over 3,000 metres (9,842 feet) of elevation on the first day.
It skirts the capital, San Jose, then descends to mangrove woods and white sand beaches. The vacation is traditionally concluded with a dip in the Caribbean. Riding in is not required.
3. Cycle Route Along the North Sea (Europe)
The NSCR, also known as Euro Velo Route 12 due to its slightly less evocative moniker, is a Euroskeptic’s nightmare: an EU-funded epic spanning eight countries and claiming to be the world’s longest signposted bike route.
It stretches about 6,000 kilometres (3,728 miles) from the northernmost Shetland Islands in Scotland to the shores of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
It should go without saying that no one should try the entire thing. Inevitably, a surprising amount of people do, primarily over a series of summers — this is a route where the warmest place is likely somewhere near Ostend on the Belgian coast, so it’s definitely not one for winter.
The more daring riders contribute obscure suggestions to the official NSCR website, such as how to acquire krone when crossing into Denmark and the best way to transport themselves and their motorcycles across sea crossings.
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4. Shimanami Kaido (Japan)
With a distance of slightly more than 64 kilometres (40 miles), this is arguably the only route on this list where cyclists can reasonably consider riding the entire length without fear of a visit from social services.
Completely disconnected from the road, it winds its way through a series of small, incredibly gorgeous islands in Hiroshima prefecture in the country’s west.
While Japan is more commonly associated with automobiles than bicycles, cycling is prevalent here, and the Shimanami Kaido demonstrates how two and four wheels can coexist peacefully.
The segregated cycleway, which also includes a pedestrian lane, follows the road for the most part, though there are diversions, not the least of which are the longer, gentler, and hence more leg-friendly slopes leading up to the high road bridges.
Bicycles can be rented at a number of locations along the path.
While some people finish the journey in a single day, many linger to take in the breathtaking scenery along the Seto Inland Sea. This is a nice meandering path, not a teeth-gritted grinding path.
Yes, bicycles pay tolls on bridges, but they are relatively minor, demanding a pocketful of coins rather than a bank loan.
Shimanami Kaido gallery in its entirety
5. Mountain Bike Route Along the Great Divide (North America)
From Alberta, Canada, to New Mexico, an off-road touring route.
If the 4,400-kilometer (2,734-mile) distance (as reported on the Adventure Cycling website) isn’t enough to induce palpitations, how about a combined 61,000 metres (you don’t even want to know what that translates to in feet) of climbing?
Yes, that is nearly seven times the height of Everest – measured from sea level, not base camp.
It’s also frequently exceedingly remote, making it mostly the domain of wiry, wind-burnished men and women on well-traveled mountain bikes carrying trailers brimming with bear repellent, titanium camping cutlery, and nuclear fusion nano-stoves.
It is unquestionably magnificent, encompassing everything from forest to mountains (did we forget to include the Colorado Rockies?) and the Great Basin’s wastelands. Grizzlies, moose, mountain lions, and eagles are all possible companions.
If that isn’t enough to consider, the trip is only viable from June to September due to weather conditions, and even then, flash showers can render areas impassable for weeks at a time.
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6. Munda Biddi Trail (Australia)
Another epic, this time in one of the world’s most remote regions: Western Australia. At the very least, the organisers of the Munda Biddi may be on the rider’s side.
A massively ambitious, newly completed 960-plus-kilometer (596-mile) off-road route through forested wilderness – Munda Biddi translates as “way through the forest” in the indigenous tongue – it connects Perth, the state capital, to Albany, in the far southwest.
The less ambitious can tackle shorter, less strenuous parts that take a day or more to complete, and the official website provides trail conditions updates on occasion.
Anyone contemplating the entire trek would be advised to avoid the peak of summer’s heat and to arrive prepared.
Having said that, every 30 or so miles between towns, there are designated campsites equipped with sleeping shelters and water supply.
7. The South Downs Way, (England)
England’s South Downs Way
The South Downs Way in England is beautiful but strenuous.
Authority for the South Downs National Park
Assign to the category of “deceptively tricky.”
This 160-kilometer (99-mile) route is far from alpine in appearance, passing through some of the most stereotypically lush and rolling English countryside imaginable. However, all of those minor ups and downs accumulate.
Riders that complete the entire route commit to about 4,300 metres (14,107 feet) of climbing.
For thousands of years, the South Downs Way has been a heavily travelled walking route. Now a fully designated hiking trail, it meanders from the steep cliffs of Beachy Head to old Winchester, almost entirely off road and much of it on ancient chalky bridleways.
Open to cyclists, walkers and horse riders, those on two wheels generally allow two or three days for the trip, and there are plenty of absurdly picturesque villages en route with pubs and guesthouses.
While some brave souls attempt the full route in a single day, there is a case to be made that biking rapidly past some of England’s most stunning panoramas misses the point.
Hey, all I am Joe Marino I love to ride bikes and teach others how to ride them. Most of my articles are about which bike is best for others. I am passionate about cycling and it shows, whether I am writing about a $25 bicycle from any random website or a $5000 Santa Cruz.
I have always been the guy who gets calls from friends while at work asking which bike they should buy. I have written about the best city bike for commuting, the best folding bike for use on public transit, and even what to keep in mind when shopping for kids’ bikes.
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