Cycling holidays in Europe are more Lycra-clad than leisurely, but exertions are richly rewarded: hidden city byways are yours to explore, wine-tasting stops at passing vineyards are heartily encouraged, and it’s eco-friendly travel at its greenest.
Our pick of bike-friendly boutique hotels – we’ll pull on a pair of cushioned pants, but we draw the line at pop-up tents – tempting trails and lump-and-bump-free bike kit will convince you that two wheels are decidedly better than four.
Stop and lock The Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell has a batch of colourful Brompton folding bikes to borrow, plus delightfully eccentric Brit style. Or, amid genteel environs, the Bingham daintily rests in an English garden, just a five-minute bike from Richmond Park.
On your bike From the Zetter head north to Amwell Street and the Grand Union Towpath – a pretty canalside pedal that deftly avoids Euston Road’s traffic chaos. Pass through Camden to the congested yet eye-catching Regent’s Canal Towpath and finish with a spin down the Broad Walk through Regent’s Park.
From the Bingham, pick up some wheels at Richmond Park’s Parkcycle centre and explore the greenery, keeping watch for frolicking wild deer. From the park’s westerly point, Hampton Court Palace is a 20-minute cycle through Kingston upon Thames.
Stop and lock A Piero Lissoni-designed showcase of Dutch industrial-chic, Conservatorium hotel has one of the city’s most on-the-ball concierges: they’ll get you bikes, no questions asked. Design den Sir Albert has 10 bikes for guests to hire (€17.50 for a full day, €13.50 a half day).
On your bike Visit in spring and see the tulip fields at their most riotously colourful. From either hotel, spin your pedals, and go north to peaceful, waterway-threaded Vondelpark. Follow Burgermeester Röellstraat to Haarlemmerstraatweg, then turn off at Oudeweg for Haarlem, an ancient town with mediaeval streets, an 18th-century windmill and a 14th-century cathedral.
Stop here to refuel before hitting the Bloemen Route, a 25-mile stretch down to Leiden, lined with fields of tulips, gladioli, narcissi and lilies. The flora, along with your stamina, should make the hour’s ride to Lisse possible. There, you’ll find the famed Keukenhof Garden – once a small kitchen garden, now one of the country’s most picturesque spots.
Get into gear Treat yourself to a classic Lekker Bike. The brand crafts covetable pastel-hued frames and sporty, fashion-forward fixies. You can have one delivered from their online store.
Stop and lock Copenhagen’s passion for pedal-pushing is such that Nimb Hotel doesn’t just have any old bikes to borrow – their sleek Velorbis bicycles are custom made for the hotel.
On your bike The city has more than 350km of safely raised bike lanes, so there’s a multitude of adventures to be found. Less-confident cyclists can take the flat 250-minute route to Amager Beach (via the O2 route, Vermlandsgade and Amager Strandvej), or the 44-minuteroute to Jægersborg Deer Park, following the O2 north.
Get into gear If you form a strong attachment to your Velorbis bike, stop into the shop on Nørre Farimagsgade. If the £600 price tag is a little too steep, they also do a range of exquisitely crafted leather bike bags, vintage-effect carrier crates, and retro headlamps – we want it all.
Stop and lock Hotel Son Brull has four bikes for guests to borrow, so we recommend securing yours after an early breakfast, before the other guests get their fingerless-gloved mitts on them.
On your bike From Son Brull, ride northeast to Port de Pollença (about a 30-minute trip). Then cruise along the rugged greenery-clad promontory to Cap Formentor (about a four-hour round trip). It’s tough, but views of sparkling aquamarine inlets and soaring cliffs will inspire you to put pedal to the metal. Alternatively, drive to Port de Soller and tackle the Tramuntana Mountain passes.
Get into gear These are serious cycling routes, so ensure you have the right ‘just in case’ kit. Topeak’s puncture repair kit will help you feel less deflated when you come to a halt, and a Lezyne’s multi-tool has plenty of life-saving gizmos within.
SOUTH OF FRANCE
Stop and lock Hôtel Crillon le Brave has bikes to borrow, and a host of other charming attributes: wine-and-cheese tasting sessions amid soul-restoring greenery, a peaceful pool with views, and the stamp of approval from Vincent van Gogh himself (who painted it) – we hear he had something of an eye.
On your bike It’s a handlebar-gripper, but the four-day Tour Taster 6 route (4–8 July 2016, £520 a rider), which follows part of the Tour de France course, is a must for seasoned cyclists. Start in Andorra and pedal past tree-clad mountains, crumbling monuments and petite villages until you arrive at Montpellier, (via Escaldes and Carcassonne). After pumping your quads for four days, take a well-earned rest at Hôtel Crillon le Brave.
Those looking for a little less commitment can borrow a bike from the hotel and leisurely cycle out to Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard – a two-hour trip.
Get into gear VeloVixen sells the official Tour de Force kit (for men and women) and bike gear that’ll ding your bell: Morvélo’s cheerfully bright jerseys, curiously saucy padded underwear by Urbanist and Sawako Furuno’s floral and beribboned helmets.