How one bike ride changed my life…
Guiding you to new heights

How one bike ride changed my life…

I know what you’re thinking. How can one ride really make such a difference? But, actually, this one did.

It was a half-day bike tour that I had been asked to review for an online newsletter that promoted things to do in the Algarve.

We were picked up by our guide and transported to Alcantarilha, where our tour began and ended. This, in itself, was an adventure as we had never even visited the town despite having lived in the Algarve for some years. We did a big circle, mostly off road, between Silves, Lagoa and Armação de Pêra. Sound a bit daunting? Well, it was to us at first. Especially when we were informed we would be covering around 30km.

Both of us had cycled before, but we were apprehensive after what was a long period off the bike. As it happened, we had nothing to worry about because one of the advantages of going out with an experienced guide is it is their job to look after you and ensure you have an enjoyable time, cycling at a pace that suits you.

How one bike ride changed my life…
A well-earned treat

You do need to be able to ride a bike with some confidence, but most tours are adjustable, and they can be adapted to fit the group.

You get to see all sorts of places that you would never see otherwise. I used to love walking, exploring the countryside at a slower pace and on a more local level. But, let’s face it, you are limited in terms of how adventurous you can be, whereas on a bike you get the best of both worlds; it’s slow enough to take in your surroundings, but you can cover a lot of ground at the same time.

In just three hours, we got to see paddy fields (yes, honestly), vineyards, rolling hills and countryside, coastal views, the beautiful old church square in Alcantarilha and the sweeping promenade in Armação de Pêra. En route we popped into the centre of Lagoa for a well-earned coffee and Pastel de Nata, and we even cycled a section of the Ecovia (a trail that was especially designed for cyclists and walkers and spans the whole of the Algarve). On top of it all, we burnt off quite a few calories and guaranteed a good night’s sleep that night…we were hooked.

How one bike ride changed my life…
Fun for all the family

That was back in 2009. And since then, I struggle to account for the number of kilometres we have cycled. It has become our main hobby and, as hobbies go, it is not a bad one to have.

There are undeniable mental and physical benefits from cycling. According to the European Cycling Federation, cycling (in all its forms, not just the Tour de France level) contributes to healthier lives by helping to prevent diseases such as cardio-vascular, diabetes, breast and colon cancer and osteoporosis. They also claim that engaging in moderate physical activity reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 29% and lowers the odds for developing depression by 17%.

Whether you believe this or not, you cannot deny that exercise and fresh air is good for you. I know that it has contributed to our life in ways that we didn’t anticipate. We have made great friends, seen fabulous sights, enjoyed unique holidays, taken part in some pretty monumental challenges and lost a few kilos along the way.

Cycling is undoubtedly a popular pastime in the Algarve and it is not difficult to see why as the climate is usually ideal. Whether you live in the Algarve or are just visiting, there are, in fact, a number of options, depending on your fitness level, the type of biking you enjoy and your preferred terrain.

How one bike ride changed my life…
Discover breathtaking scenery

The “Ecovia do Litoral” coastal cycle path is ideal for those staying on or near the coast. It has been designed specifically to provide a safe and largely traffic-free route across the Algarve from the Spanish border to the West Coast and, despite a few gaps and omissions, is well signposted most of the way. That said, you are well advised to carry with you a map of the route as a back up.

The Central Algarve boasts many great cycling routes around Quinta do Lago, Praia da Faro, Armação de Pêra, Lagoa, Salir and Silves to name a few. For the more adventurous mountain bikers wishing to get into the hills, the possibilities are almost endless.

Yet little information on routes is available and it can be really difficult to know where to go. This is where joining a tour can help. Algarve Bike Holidays runs daily tours all across the Central Algarve and they are available for all types of bikes and e-bikes. There’s no limit on numbers, so if you and your friends fancy a group day out, they can tailor make a tour to suit you. Equally, you can join in on one of their pre-arranged circuits. You can bring your own bikes or you can rent them on the day. The same goes for helmets, but you have to provide your own cycling shorts and these are highly recommended if you want to be able to sit down for dinner that night! Oh, and a small amount of cash for the purchase of snacks along the way is encouraged. Other than that, you just pay, turn up and pedal. It couldn’t be easier.

Sarah Bentley (British Cyclist) is quoted as saying… “You are one ride away from a good mood.” I agree wholeheartedly and would add “…and you could be one ride away from a healthy new pastime!”

For information on MTB, Tour Bike, Road Bike and E Bike holidays, mini breaks and daily tours in the Algarve, visit www.algarvebikeholidays.com or email Paul Beesley: paul@algarvebikeholidays.com

By Samantha Diamond
|| features@algarveresident.com
Samantha Diamond arrived in the Algarve in 2006 and has made it her home. Her passions are travel, cycling, languages and dogs.