The eight mile, family-friendly Brean Down Way in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, opened in July 2017 after 18 months of volunteer work and fundraising. It follows a newly-opened sluice-top road, crosses the River Axe, skirts a wetland nature reserve and mud flats, and takes in numerous cafes, before finishing at Brean Down Fort. Originally built to defend against Napoleonic invasions, the fort is now a National Trust site documenting life on the site since the Stone Age. There’s a screen to shield wild birds, including redshanks, from passing walkers and cyclists, and hides to peek through. The trail is part of the 72-mile NCN Route 33 from Bristol to Seaton.
Distance: 8 miles
From: Weston Pier
To: Brean Down Fort
Terrain: Beach (tide dependent), gravel path and road
Connswater Greenway in Belfast was completed this year after 10 years and £40m funding from the Big Lottery Fund. East of Belfast, the 9km route creates a linear park following the Knock and Loop Rivers, as well as the Connswater River, which was cleaned up as part of the project. The Greenway replaced former industrial land, once home to the largest rope maker in the world, with 16km of walking and cycling trails and 26 new or improved bridges and crossings. It also includes flood defences for the local area. The Greenway links to the Comber Greenway (NCN 99) and NCN 93 in Belfast.
From: Victoria Park, Belfast
To: Knock River or Cregagh Glen
Terrain: Tarmac, towpath and some road
This 120 km section of Eurovelo’s EV1 route follows the Atlantic coast between Waterford and Wexford in Ireland, and was officially opened in June 2017. Riders follow scenic coast roads through fishing villages, passing a shipwreck and the spectacular Hook Peninsula, a special area of conservation where visitors in winter may see humpback, minke and fin whales, dolphins and seals as well as chough, the rare whiskered bat – and fossils. The route also follows a Norman heritage trail, with castles, medieval sites and the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Expect 789m of climbing in total. EV1 spans 9,100km from Norway through the UK, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal.
From: Rosslare Harbour Ferry
To: Ballyhack Ferry
Terrain: Quiet roads
The Ayrshire Alps are a network of hill climbs in the UK’s only road cycling park, set in the north of the Galloway Forest Park in South Ayrshire, Scotland. Ridden by generations of professional cyclists, the area’s businesses and local council are now inviting leisure roadies to enjoy sensational views on quiet valley roads. Riders can test themselves on 16 climbs, marking off each one on an app or stamp card, and a full card gains a certificate and a place in the hall of fame. There are suggested routes, from the Shark, with 2000ft of climbing over 20 miles, to the Dailly 7up, with seven climbs over 60 miles. The founders are now fundraising for permanent signage.
From: Various, South Carrick
To: Various, South Carrick
Terrain: Quiet country roads
The gently undulating Speyside Way is one of four official long-distance trails in Scotland – and this is its southern section. Originally opened in 1981, the extension to the route from Aviemore to Kincraig was completed in 2015 and offers easy cycling along broad gravel paths, with panoramic views across Strathspey to the Cairngorms beyond. Steam trains run parallel to the northern section of the route, between Boat of Garten and Aviemore, with the possibility of catching the train back. There’s heather moor, birch woods, and a section above the river from Speybank into Kincraig.
Distance: 12.5 miles
To: Boat of Garten (via Aviemore)
Terrain: Well-made and broad path; suitable for bikes although with some short steep ascents.
EuroVelo 17, the Rhone cycle route through Switzerland, is not only the shortest route in the EuroVelo network but the newest, having joined last year. In Switzerland EV17 follows the Rhone through the Valais valley, past Alpine pastures and up Furka Pass (2432m altitude), the route’s pinnacle, to descend past the Rhone Glacier. In all, there is 2,500m of ascent and 3,200m of descent. Lac Leman, along whose shores the route skirts, is surrounded by mountains and vineyards. The Swiss part can be completed over eight days.
From: Andermatt, Switzerland
To: The French border, west of Geneva
Terrain: Asphalt: 324km; “natural surface”: 26km
America is a big country, with big cycle routes, and the Chicago to New York City bicycle route is no different: it’s 1,160 miles long with a gargantuan 51,600ft of climbing. There’s also the 1,172.9 mile “Philadelphia Alternate” route, from Pittsburgh to New York City, which has less climbing and more unpaved rail trails and muddy paths, including the Great Allegheny Passage and a portion of the C&O Canal Trail in Maryland. You’ll pass through Indianapolis, Columbus and Pittsburgh on roads with up to 10% gradients. The Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit touring organisation, compile routes and maps from roads, tracks and rail trails. If this still isn’t enough cycling, the route links with Route 66.
Distance: 1,160.3 miles
From: Lake Michigan shore, Chicago, Illinois
To: Battery Park, New York City, New York
Classification: Hard (mainly because it’s so long)
Terrain: Paved roads, rail trail, muddy tracks
Route 66 is an iconic driving route, and now cyclists can enjoy it. Not for the fainthearted, it runs 2,499 miles from Chicago to LA, with an eye-watering almost 90,000ft of climbing. It follows bike paths and country roads as well as highways. It passes prairie landscape, the Chain of Rocks bridge, skirts the Ozark mountains, visits Amarillo, and passes through Native American lands. There’s the Petrified Forest national park and narrow, switchback roads through the Black Mountains before a descent into California and Los Angeles.
Maximum elevation 7,900ft. Distance: 2,499 miles
From: Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois
To: Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles, California
Classification: Extremely hard
Terrain: Bike paths, country roads, highways
This 311-mile loop that starts and finishes in Austin, Texas, was devised by the Adventure Cycling Association in 2016, with 14,400ft of climbing and shortcut options available. From Austin, riders head through McKinney Falls state park and past Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. After following the Guadalupe river valley to Canyon Lake dam, the route’s eponymous hilly terrain leads to Gillespie County and Fredericksburg, where you can cut back to Austin or carry on. There should be plenty of wildflowers in spring, state parks and historic sites to enjoy, and lakes and rivers good for swimming.
Distance: 311.3 miles
From: Austin, Texas
To: Austin, Texas
Terrain: Country roads
Recent improvements in South Korea’s bike network have resulted in 1,677 miles of trails and counting. Since 2015, a new route follows the east coast through Gangwon province. Eventually the trail will extend 720km south to Busan. The trail follows coastal roads, dedicated bike paths and walking routes along the shore, with plenty of white, sandy beaches en route. Gyeongpo beach in Gangneung, roughly midway, is the country’s third largest at 1.8km long, and is full of beachside restaurants and motels. The city is home to Joseon-era (1392-1897) buildings and a lagoon. If you ride south to north, you’ll be closer to the coast, and the southern portion is hilliest. There are certification centres along the route where you can get passbooks stamped and use solar powered bike pumps.
From: Imwon Port, Samcheok
To: Goseong Unification Observatory
Terrain: Coastal roads, dedicated bike paths and walking routes
Several trails were recently completed across New Zealand, one of which is the newest section of the 173km long Hauraki rail trail, which opened in September. Covering 55km of coast from Thames to Pukorokoro Miranda, it has five linked sections which can be completed in three to four day rides. The trail passes the Karangahake Gorge as well as coast and forest, at times using narrow railway tunnels and bridges. Local companies offer bike hire, luggage transfer, shuttle buses and accommodation. Another option is the Old Ghost Road, an 85km single-track mountain bike route built by volunteers from an old gold miners’ road through native forest and river valleys.
To: Pukorokoro Miranda
Terrain: Gravel and tarmac trail
The Cross Cape bike route opened in South Africa’s Western Cape in May 2017, with eight suggested segments of 77-115km. Riders are advised to organise shorter trips and circular rides – especially in summer, when temperatures soar. With 10,461m of climbing over its length, there’s plenty to challenge anyone, however fit. The trail runs within the Fynbos, a mountainous belt of Mediterranean-climate heathland known for its exceptional biodiversity, with 6,000 plants found only in this region. The route traverses subtropical forest, skirts the Swartberg mountain range and climbs 11km via hairpin bends on rough roads to the Rooiberg Pass. It also takes in Calitzdorp, famous for its port wine, the historic town of Swellendam and the Cape Winelands. En route, riders could see elephants, meerkats, giraffes and emus.
From: Plettenberger Bay
Terrain: Gravel, dirt and sand trails, country roads and mountain highways
The 100km of mountain bike trails in and around the town of Melrose, South Australia, have been built, dug and crafted by local cycling enthusiasts – and one carved out by the local sheep. There’s something for everyone, from short, family-friendly trails to gnarly double black diamond routes. A popular base for the Mount Remarkable national park, the town is also home to the annual Fat Tyre Festival in June, celebrating local off-road riding.
Taiwan launched a bike network in 2015 including the 866km Round the Island route, constructed across 10 segments with a train ride to avoid rockfalls. Riders will pass a 23m tall Buddha statue, the two kilometre Xilou Bridge and Taiwan’s oldest city, Tainan, founded in 1624. You’ll also pass a Confucian temple built in 1665 and Dapeng Bay lagoon, home to 95 species of bird, as well as hot springs, tea farms and rice paddies. The route even crosses the Tropic of Cancer – twice. Police stations offer water and bicycle pumps. There are other, less strenuous options, including family friendly excursions.
Distance: 866.3km, split into 10 days
Classification: Various, depending how far you cycle
Terrain: Road, bicycle trail
The Route Verte is the only fully signposted bike network in North America with 5,300 kilometres and seven routes crisscrossing every region of Québec; 60% on road and 40% on dedicated paths or off-road. As well as signage with tourist and route information there are online maps and a network of 500 cyclist-friendly accommodation providers. It also connects with the 1,600km Waterfront Trail in Ontario and Lake Champlain bikeways in New York and Vermont.
Distance: 5,300 in total – pick your segments
Classification: Various – create your own itinerary
Terrain: Road, public rights of way on hydroelectric roads, rail trails, towpaths and designated cycling routes