Cycling Morocco: Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean

With France, Italy, and Spain ticked off your Bucket List, you might be looking for a new destination for your next overseas cycling break, and if you like the idea of travelling between now and next March, Morocco could be the number #1 choice for your winter cycling holiday.

Exotic, affordable, and easily accessible from most European hubs, Morocco is a fabulous cycling destination for those who are looking for a truly authentic African experience, without the long-haul flight to South Africa, Namibia, or Tanzania. In fact, a flight from London to Marrakesh takes just 3 hours and 40 minutes, less than it would take you to get to the Canaries, and so it’s a great choice for a weeklong break.

Road Cycling Holiday Morocco

While you may not think of Morocco as a road cycling destination, the roads are surprisingly good in this part of the world, particularly in the Atlas Mountains where you will find more than a few challenging climbs to test your legs and keep you in peak condition until spring. The scenery is simply breathtaking here with deep valleys, snow-capped mountains, and flowing rivers that provide the perfect backdrop for your cycling tour.

There’s very little traffic here, and as accommodations are limited, you will have the opportunity to stay in authentic gites and locally owned guest houses, where you will experience authentic Moroccan cuisine and learn about local cultures and traditions. Cyclists are very welcome in the Atlas Mountains, and there are more than enough demanding ascents to keep hardcore road bikers entertained.

After completing your mountain stage, you can continue your Moroccan cycling holiday to Agadir on the Atlantic coastline where you will enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean, wide crescent beaches, and a bustling seaside promenade with colourful restaurants and bars. From here, you can head back inland to Imouzzer, cycling the magnificent Paradise Valley along the way, before heading to the formal imperial city of Marrakesh for some well-deserved shopping and sightseeing as you submerge yourself in Morocco’s vibrant metropolis.

Morocco offers unforgettable cycling experiences, so why not bicycle beyond with an Atlas to Atlantic Road Cycling Tour!

 

 

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Packing Your Bike for Travel: Airline Bike Policies

Packing your bike for an overseas sportive may seem like a bit of a hassle, but it will make all the difference on race day, and providing you have a good bike box or bag, and the knowledge to rebuild your bike when you arrive at your final destination, there is no reason why you shouldn’t take your bike with you on every cycling holiday.

Rental bikes are not all bad, in fact, some of them are very good indeed, but if you are heading to a huge event such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour in South Africa,  where demand (and prices) are high, you could end up paying a huge sum of money for a sub-standard rental bike, more than you would pay to transport your own.

All airlines allow you to transport your bike, either as part of your checked luggage allowance or for a special premium, so there’s really no need to leave it behind. If you don’t want to splash out on a Scicon bike bag or hardcase bike box, you can get a cardboard one free of charge from almost any bike shop, and providing you use plenty of bubble wrap, your bike should arrive in the exact same condition in which you packed it.

While all airlines have different policies when it comes to transporting your bike, here is an overview of the most popular international airlines:

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • With British Airways, your bike can travel as your checked baggage allowance.
  • The standard baggage allowance in Economy is 23kg, but not all BA tickets include baggage, so you should check this when booking your flight.
  • You can only check-in one piece of baggage. So even if your bike box weighs less than 23kg, you CANNOT check in another bag to make up the difference, unless you pay for it.
  • If you want to check in both a bike box and a suitcase, you need to purchase an extra piece of checked baggage, which currently costs £60 per bag per way – so £120 roundtrip for your bike.
  • Providing your bike box does not exceed the maximum dimensions listed on the BA website, you do not need to advise the airline that you are transporting a bike prior to travel. You can simply turn up at the airport and check-in as normal.

EMIRATES

  • Emirates also allow you to transport your bike as part of your checked baggage allowance.
  • This airline uses both weight concept and piece concept baggage regulations, and so you really need to find out what your allowance is before booking your flight ticket.
  • If it is on weight concept, you will most likely have a checked baggage allowance of 30kg. In this instance, you can check in both a bike box and a suitcase providing they do not weigh more than 30kg combined, or exceed the maximum dimensions listed in the Emirates website.
  • If you flight ticket includes piece concept baggage regulations, then you can only check in the number of bags indicated. So, if your ticket includes 1 piece, you can only check in a bike box OR a suitcase.
  • You need to contact Emirates at least 24-hours prior to your flight if you intend to transport your bike as checked baggage. We recommend doing it the moment you book your flight.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, have excess baggage with Emirates. They charge $160 USD for just 5 kilos extra, and upwards of $250 USD to check in an extra bag.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC

  • Until recently, Virgin Atlantic allowed you to transport your bike free of charge, but this is no longer the case. You can now transport it as part of your checked baggage allowance, which is 23kg in Economy.
  • You can only check-in one piece of baggage and cannot pool the weight across your bike bag and suitcase.
  • If you want to check in both your bike box and a suitcase, you’ll need to purchase an extra piece of checked baggage at £65 per piece per way, so £130 roundtrip for your bike.
  • Providing your bike meets Virgin Atlantic’s size and weight guidelines, you do not need to inform the airline that you are transporting a bike prior to travel. Simply proceed to the airport and check in as normal.

KLM / AIR FRANCE

  • KLM and Air France do not allow you to transport your bike as part of any baggage allowance, you must always pay a fee for the privilege.
  • Their current long-haul rate is 100 Euros per bike per way, so 200 Euros roundtrip for your bike.
  • You have to let them know when booking your flight ticket that you want to transport your bike. If you book your flight ticket directly on their website, you should be able to do this during the booking process. If you are booking through a travel agent, let them know that you intend to take your bike with you so that they can add it to your booking.

TURKISH AIRLINES

  • Turkish Airlines allow you to transport your bicycle as your checked baggage allowance, which is generally 23kg in Economy.
  • You can only check-in one piece of luggage and cannot share the weight across your bike box and suitcase.
  • If you want to take a bike box and a suitcase, you will need to pay extra for your bike.
  • Turkish Airlines charge a per sector fee, rather than a per way fee for bikes. Therefore, if you are travelling from London to Cape Town via Istanbul, you will pay €30 per sector from London to Istanbul, and €60 per sector from Istanbul to Cape Town, totalling €90 per way, and €180 roundtrip. Complex? Yes!
  • You must advise Turkish Airlines prior to departure if you intend to transport your bike.

Please note, the above is just for reference and can change at any time. Please contact the airline for up-to-date rules and pricing.

 

 

 

 

Bormio 3 Mountain Pass Cycle Challenge: Gavia, Stelvio & Mortirolo

There are some mountain passes in the world that every cyclist dreams about conquering, and in the picturesque alpine town of Bormio, you will find three of them, all lined up and ready to welcome you with open arms! The mighty Gavia Pass, the Stelvio Pass and the Mortirolo Pass are all right here in the Lombardy region of Italy, and if you are looking for a short and sporty cycling break in one of the most beautiful areas in Europe, Bormio could be the perfect destination for your next cycling trip.

While predominantly a ski resort, Bormio attracts thousands of international cyclists each year who come here to follow in the footsteps (or should that be cycle tracks) of their Giro D’Italia heroes. The mountain passes in this part of the world are known to make the strongest professional climbers weak at the knees… quite literally, and so they are more than a challenge for us mere mortals, but with determination, training, and a will to succeed, any keen cyclist can reach the top, as we found out last week…

Cycling the Gavia Pass from Bormio

The Passo di Gavia is a beautiful ride and a great warm up for the more demanding passes ahead. Starting right in the heart of Bormio, it’s impossible to miss, and with an average gradient of just 5.5%, it is one of just a few alpine passes that even newbie climbers can attempt. While figures vary ever-so-slightly depending on the device you use, the statistics for the Gavia Pass are as follows:

  • Length of climb: 25.6km
  • Average gradient: 5.5%
  • Maximum gradient: 11% (which starts at 21km)
  • Elevation gain: 1404m

It starts with a gentle ride along the river before ramping up slightly to Santa Catarina. There are a few cobbled sections along the way, just enough to get you out of your comfort zone, but in general, the going is good, and the gradients are doable.  There are a few switchbacks to keep you on your toes, but once you have scaled those, the Gavia pass winds its way slowly but surely upwards towards a spectacular glacier. At km 21, things go pear-shaped. The road ramps up to 11% without warning and stays that way for a good couple of kilometres. However, once you’ve done that, you are home and dry. The final stretch along the banks of the beautiful lake is as flat as an Italian pancake – and the café at the top is the cherry on the cake!

Cycling the Stelvio Pass from Bormio

As one of the most iconic climbs in Italia, cycling the Passo di Stelvio is a bucket list dream for many. Both sides of the pass are open to cyclists, and the both offer different challenges, but the road from Bormio is much less crowded, and so it is a great choice for cyclists who are looking for a more peaceful ascent. During the summer months when temperatures are high, it’s a good idea to get cracking early, leaving Bormio no later than 07:30am. Here’s the stats:

  • Length of climb: 21.5km
  • Average gradient: 7.1%
  • Maximum gradient: 14% (at 10.5km)
  • Elevation gain: 1533m

As with Gavia, the Stelvio Pass starts directly in Bormio, and so there’s little opportunity to warm up, so you may want to go for a short spin before you start. The road is well maintained here (unusual for Italy), and there’s hardly any traffic if you leave early. The gradient is a steady 7 percent with a few jumps here and there to remind you that you are climbing one of the toughest passes in the Alps, but it’s only really the 14% ramp that comes just after the 10km mark that really tests the legs.  After completing the switchbacks, you come to a relatively flat section, but don’t let that draw you into a false sense of security! The last 3 kilometres are the toughest part of the entire climb, with 10% – 15% average. However, glory is waiting for you in the form of an ice-cold shandy and a sausage sandwich!

Cycling the Mortirolo Pass from Bormio – via Mazzo

They say all roads lead to Rome, and it seems like many lead to the top of Mortirolo with 5 different routes to keep you entertained, but if you want to do it like the Giro D’Italia professionals, there is only one way to climb Mortirolo, and that is via Mazzo.  To say this is a tough climb is an understatement. In fact, I’ll share the stats with you before saying any more…

  • Length of climb: 12.8km
  • Average gradient: 11.8%
  • Maximum gradient: 20%
  • Elevation gain: 1315m

From Bormio, you have to cycle +/- 28km to Mazzo di Valtellina where your climb will begin. It’s all downhill on the way out, which may sound great, but that mean’s it’s all up hill on the way back, so bear that in mind when planning your journey. From Mazzo, Mortirolo Pass jumps from 4 percent to 9 percent in the blink of any eye and stays that way for the first 4km until you reach San Matteo Church, where things really start to get exciting (or should that be painful!). From here, the gradient soars to almost 14 percent and stays that way until you reach the Marco Pantani Monument at the 9km mark. You’re cycling through a forest tunnel at this stage, so you are fortunately sheltered from the sun, but its hot, its tough, and you may ask yourself why you even cycle… this pass has grown men in tears.  Your last 4kms average at around 9 percent, and so there’s really no respite until you reach the top. Unfortunately, there is no bar at the top of Mortirolo, so take a photo at the sign to prove you really did it before making your way back down to curve number 4 for a much-needed cold drink.  You’ve done it – you are a superstar!

Sound like your perfect cycling holiday? Book your Bormio 3 Mountain Pass Challenge!

 

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge New Zealand 2018: Entries Now Open!

How far would you be willing to travel to participate in a one day international cycling sportive? Well, if like the rest of us, you would go to the end of the earth to cycle an amazing route, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in New Zealand could be the perfect choice for your winter cycling holiday!

An award-winning cycling event that celebrates its 42nd year in 2018, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge attracts some 7,000 riders from across the globe who flock to New Zealand’s North Island year after year to take part in one of 5 main road bike categories. NZ’s largest cycling event also offers a selection of challenges for off-road cyclists, elites, and groups, and there’s even kiddie rides, so the whole family can join in.

The most popular route by far is the ‘Bike Barn Around the Lake’, which is a single lap, 160km circumnavigation of Lake Taupo. Offering spectacular scenery, it really is one of the most beautiful rides in all New Zealand, and while the event is deemed ‘suitable for all abilities’ you need to be in good shape if you are to compete with the pros, who finish in less than 4 hours.

If 160km with +/- 300m elevation doesn’t sound like much of challenge to you, then you’ll be pleased to know that there is more on offer. The 320km Enduro will see you cycling around New Zealand’s largest lake twice, while the 640km Maxi Enduro will see you spinning around the lake a whopping four times, but it is an official qualifying ride for the Race Across America, so if you are thinking of taking part in the “World’s Toughest Cycle Race” in 2019 – this could be the perfect warm up!

Of course, New Zealand is a long way to go for a one-day sportive, and so most international entrants combine the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge with a self-drive holiday visiting both the North and South Islands. The good news is, New Zealand was made for cycling holidays, so you can rent bikes and bike racks on one island and leave them on the other.

Where will your next cycling adventure take you?

 

 

 

Cycle from Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu: Peru MTB Adventure

Cycling Holidays are one of this year’s biggest travel trends, and with exciting new routes popping up all over the world, there are some fabulous adventures to be had on two wheels.

No longer reserved for the super fit, the super-rich, and the super talented amongst us, the cycling holidays of today are designed to suit all budgets and all abilities, and whether you are looking for a short and sporty break in Europe, or a two-week cycling holiday somewhere warm and exotic, it’s easy to find the perfect trip… you just need to know where to look!

One of the most exciting tours to come out of South America is the magnificent Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu Cycling Tour in Peru. On off-road Mountain Bike Adventure covering some 587km across the altiplano, it highlights some of the most beautiful scenery in all Peru. Cycling quiet urban roads and remote mountain passes, you’ll have the unique opportunity to visit those places that the everyday tourist never gets to see, and as the tour ends at the Empire of the Incas – Machu Picchu, it really is a cycling holiday of a lifetime.

Cycling from Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu takes 12 days including a night in Puno at the beginning of your trip, a night in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) and a final night in Cusco. You will stay in a variety of accommodations ranging from traditional homestays to camping and hotels, and you can expect to cycle anything between 45km and 115km per day.  That may not sound like a lot, when you consider the altitude in which you will be riding at, every kilometre counts!

Despite the remoteness of this Peru Cycling Holiday, a support vehicle is never far behind, and so you only have to carry the absolute essentials with you and can jump on the bus if you feel you need a break.

Here’s a brief overview of what the Biking Titicaca to Machu Picchu Tour looks like:

  • Day 1: Arrive Juliaca, transfer to hotel in Puno for overnight.
  • Day 2: Take a boat tour to the Uros Islands. Set up the bikes. Overnight with local people at a homestay.
  • Day 3: Ride from Lake Titicaca to Lampa – 65km
  • Day 4: Ride from Lampa to Trapiche de Palca – 55km
  • Day 5: Ride from Trapiche de Palca to Cañon de Tinajani over 4,500m Pass – 45km
  • Day 6: Ride from Cañon de Tinajani to Pacomarca – 65km
  • Day 7: Ride from Pacomarca to Lake Langui – 85km
  • Day 8: Ride from Lake Langui to Cusipata – 115km
  • Day 9: Ride from Cusipata to Pisac – 85km
  • Day 10: Ride from Pisac to Ollantaytambo – 75km – Transfer to Machu Picchu Pueblo
  • Day 11: Guided Tour of Machu Picchu – Vistadome Train to Ollantaytambo – Transfer to Cusco
  • Day 12: Departure

Available from end of April to early November, this really is the South American Cycling Holiday that dreams are made of…!

 

 

Road Cycling Holidays Patagonia: Off the Beaten Track and into Nature

Patagonia remains a Bucket List destination for many, and rightly so. It is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and while most cycling activities have been strictly limited to off road Mountain Bike Trails in the past, the road networks in Chile are improving by the day, so much so, that Road Cycling Holidays in Patagonia are now possible.

Shared by Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is the perfect place for a multi-destination holiday, but due to the sheer size of it, and the logistics involved in combining the two, most organised cycling tours stick to one country or the other. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. After cycling to your heart’s content, you can extend your stay with a trip to Ushuaia, the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier, or even go hiking in Torres del Paine National Park.

Flying between Argentina and Chile is very easy and providing you don’t have to ship your bike between destinations, it’s very affordable too. Most recommended cycling companies in Patagonia will give you the option to rent a good quality road bike for the duration of your cycling holiday, which definitely makes travelling easier if you plan to move around.

Budget wise, Chile is the most economical option for a cycling holiday at the moment, and with endless National Parks, rainforests, fjords, and snow-capped mountains to keep you entertained, there really is something for everyone. Cycling around Chile’s Lake District remains a popular choice, as does cycling the Carretera Austral, and there are more than a few knee-trembling volcanoes and mountain passes to climb – perfect for those who are looking for a challenge!

Available from October to March each year, Patagonia Cycling Holidays are perfect for those who are looking to combine great cycling with stunning landscapes, great food, and exceptional Chilean wines. It really is a destination quiet unlike any other, and one of just a few places in the world where you can really bicycle beyond…

 

 

Road Cycling Holidays Lesotho: Africa’s Mountain Kingdom

There are few places left in the world where you can really get away from it all, but the Kingdom of Lesotho is one of them.

The ultimate cycling destination for hardcore road bikers who love nothing more than a demanding mountain pass or two, Lesotho most definitely deserves its title as Africa’s Mountain Kingdom, and if you are looking for an adventure on two wheels that will push you to the max, you are guaranteed to find it right here in the heart of Southern Africa.

Lesotho is a country that has yet to be uncovered by international cyclists, but it is ready and waiting for visitors with open arms. The majority of the roads are tarred and in good condition, there is a great choice of accommodations to suit all budgets, and there are routes that even the most serious climbers can only dream of.

While gradients vary, some mountain passes in Lesotho reach an eye-watering 30%, and on an average 7-night road cycling holiday, you can expect to cover anything up 600km and 12,000 meters in elevation. But does that make it out-of-bounds for us mere mortals? Certainly not!

Lesotho cycling holidays are suitable for all international cyclists with a good level of physical fitness, but you need to be prepared to push yourself to the extreme, and also be prepared to jump on the bus if you feel you have reached your limit for the day.  Sitting on the bus is no punishment in this part of the world, the scenery is simply spectacular, and you can re-join the group at any time.

Here’s a very brief overview of a 7-night itinerary:

DAY 1: Arrive Johannesburg, South Africa – Transfer to Clarens at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in South Africa, just a short distance from the border to Lesotho. Set up your bikes and take a short ride to test the legs before dinner and overnight.

DAY 2: Golden Gate National Park – Roma / Distance Cycled: 80km / Elevation: 1,300m

DAY 3: Roma – Mohales Hoek – Tour of Lesotho Stage 1 / Distance Cycled: 130km / Elevation: 1,500m

DAY 4: Mohales Hoek – Bethel – Tour of Lesotho Stage 2 / Distance Cycled: 100km / Elevation: 2,400m

DAY 5: Bethel – Semonkong – Tour of Lesotho Stage 3 / Distance Cycled: 130km / Elevation: 3,300m

DAY 6: Semonkong – Roma – Tour of Lesotho Stage 4 / Distance Cycled: 85km / Elevation: 2,500m

DAY 7: Roma – Ride to Thaba Bosiu and Metolong Dam / Distance Cycled: 70km / Elevation: 1,100

DAY 8: Departure

Sound like your perfect overseas cycling holiday? Find out more!