Reaching parts other vehicles cannot reach…

Swap your car for a bike…get a different perspective.

We have all got a road trip in us, right? Who doesn’t relish the thought of an adventure that takes us off the beaten track and allows us to see lots of different places in one go?

The freedom of planning our own routes and the flexibility of stopping wherever we want. Exposure to different environments, landscapes and cultures.  Road trips even have their own genre of movie and I’m sure many of us aspire to one we’ve seen that we’d like to replicate.

But even road trips have their limitations and, with the horrendous increase in fuel prices, the dense traffic and lack of free parking available in many destinations, it might be time to take our adventurous spirit one step further.  Enter the bike.

Last month we embarked on our very own road trip around Southern Italy.  It was actually a combination of planes, trains, buses and a rental car. Originally it was planned as a group cycling tour. But various factors conspired against us and we were unable to fulfill the cycling element. But that didn’t faze us.  We set off with great enthusiasm, having carried out a healthy amount of research around routes and accommodation etc. And it cannot be denied that we had a fabulous time if you take away the plane bit. (If you’ve travelled recently by air you may have noticed the increase in stress surrounding the whole airport experience. It’s not so bad once you are on board, but the rest, for us at least, wasn’t pleasant and I’m in no great rush to repeat it). But, as I say, for the most part the trip was fun.

We met up with our cycling buddies at the end of the holiday. They had completed the original cycling tour. We started and finished in the same place but that’s where the similarity ended. We compared notes and the more we did the more I got to thinking about the advantages of touring by bike over other modes of transport, especially the car.

Cycle with like-minded people…

The all-important health factor…

It doesn’t matter how fast or leisurely your individual pace, the fact is that your daily cycle has a positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Not only is it good for your muscles, your circulation, your general health, but (and I know this from personal experience), you can’t help but feel good in yourself after a few hours in the saddle. Whether it’s the fresh air, the exercise, the endorphins, probably a combination of all of them, it simply puts you in a good mood. And whilst I enjoyed exploring by car, I didn’t feel the same at the end of the day. In fact, I felt stiff, under-exercised and in need of a good stretch, if I’m honest. Our cycling buddies, on the other hand, chatted enthusiastically about how many calories they had burned each day. Even those on e-bikes had clocked up as many as 2,000 on some days! They enjoyed their dinner more than we did as there was no guilt attached.

You get to see so much more…

Cycling at a comfortable pace you get to see all the sights and landscapes you want and your daily distances can be adapted to your needs and abilities. Plus, especially if you are self-guided, you can stop and start as many times as you like; lingering longer in those places that appeal. Whether it is a secluded beach, a bustling historic centre or a jaw dropping mountainscape, a bike generally gives you much closer access and you don’t have to worry about traffic or parking. Our friends talked animatedly about all the different sights they had seen and they couldn’t believe how many contrasting landscapes they had encountered in one day. Of course this is doable by car. But, with the best will in the world, when one of you is driving and the other navigating, you simply can’t take it all in. And, in a car, you can’t just stop when you see something interesting. Bikes give you better options.

Connecting with the locals…

It’s the in between that counts…

We can all plan a route packed full of famous landmarks and cities. But it’s when you cycle in between these, that you often get to see the real culture, the authentic version of local life that most of us rarely see. You’re much more likely to engage with the locals as you pedal slowly by. I often recall taking unexpected diversions on past bike tours because something caught our eye. It usually resulted in our discovering hidden gems that we would never have seen in a car.

Cycling is sociable…

A bike tour is a great way to meet people. Cycling alongside others, you share the whole experience, including the ups and downs, and it creates a special bond. It’s how we met our aforementioned cycling buddies and we will be friends for life! Travelling alone in our car was definitely not the best way to connect with like-minded people.

Guilt-free snacking…

Bike tours cost less…

It’s far less expensive to rent a bike than to rent a car or to purchase multiple train or bus tickets. And, if you travel in a group you obviously benefit from the package deals.  It’s a long time since we have rented a car and we were shocked at the cost. Plus we booked all our accommodation independently so it was invariably more than if we had booked it through a dedicated tour operator.

And last but not least…

We cannot ignore the planet. Cycling is environmentally super friendly, especially if you stay in the same country. And with the current flight problems the argument for exploring the Algarve and beyond is quite persuasive.

You don’t have to be the intrepid type, either. There are literally bike tours to suit everyone, whatever your age or ability. And there is no one better placed to help you find or develop the right one for you than Algarve Bike Holidays.

For information on MTB, Tour Bike, Road Bike and E Bike holidays and mini breaks 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.