Biking the world

April 4, 2012 | By

Article written by Rosie Holliday, published in the Vail Daily on March 31, 2012.

It’s almost that time of year again. Biking (and hiking) are huge activities in this valley. You would be hard put to find a lot of people who don’t bike or hike, even if it’s a quick hike up Stone Creek or a ride on the bike path from Avon to Edwards.

Biking trips have always been popular, and baby boomers make up a big percentage of people who take these trips. European itineraries are a perennial favorite, and I can attest to how great these are. Two of my favorite trips were in France, and they were completely different — one a high-end Butterfield and Robinson trip in the Burgundy region and the other a self-guided, girls-only trip in Provence.

Butterfield and Robinson is considered by many to be the creme de la creme tour operator when it comes to luxury biking and hiking trips. Butterfield and Robinson trips allow you to travel in style and comfort, but beyond that, they have the best routes, the most interesting hotels — and the best rooms in those hotels — the amazing culinary experiences and the very interesting and extraordinarily capable guides that make the difference. The guide I had on my Burgundy trip was a lawyer who spoke fluent French and, like all the guides, had lived and traveled extensively in the area in which she guides.Butterfield and Robinson also offers its bespoke trips, which are custom-tailored just for you — this is perfect if you want to travel with your family or put together a group of friends, for example. New in 2012, Butterfield and Robinson is launching “bistro trips” — these are designed to reflect current tastes for simple luxury and local authenticity at a lower price. You get the same great Butterfield and Robinson touch, but the accommodations are a little more modest and the experience a little more laid back. They cost about $200 per day less than the signature trips, so they are a great value. These will start this spring to select European destinations. Other trips besides Europe encompass such destinations as Africa and the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, plus North and Latin America. They also offer family-friendly and kids’ trips.

The Randonnee self-guided tour I did with five other woman was a whole new ballgame. A self-guided vacation is a fully organized travel package that combines the freedom of traveling on your own with meticulously planned routes and support when you need it. Randonnee Tours offers custom-designed trips around active travel, which fully engages you in the places you visit. We had no trouble following the route maps, with one notable exception when we got lost and had the bonus of an extra 15 kilometers of riding! For very fit riders who actually want to add in longer rides, there is the option of adding in longer distances and hills.

Besides European destinations (Croatia being a fun one), Randonnee also has trips in the U.S., Canada and Costa Rica.

Backroads, another company I did a short weekend Napa Valley bike trip with (very fun — wine tasting and biking, how can you go wrong?), offers bike trips worldwide, as well. They take about 16 people, so offer a more mid-range approach. Group sizes are small enough to move easily in a low-impact way but big enough to invite compelling group dynamics.

Like a lot of the bike-tour companies out there, they also offer multi-activity trips. Hiking, kayaking, rafting and even big-game viewing (South Africa) are incorporated into select trips. New for 2012 are trips to Mallorca, Catalonia, Dolomites (if you have never seen these, they absolutely take your breath away), Holland and Belgium, Costa Rica, Big Sur Coast, Vermont to Quebec and Colorado — Durango to Telluride.

If you want to head to Australia, the South Pacific’s answer to the Tour de France is the Santos Tour Down Under. This is a UCI World Tour cycling race and attracts the best riders in the world in elite cycling competitions. Lance Armstrong participated in 2011. For 2013, it is scheduled for Jan. 14-20 in Adelaide. Adelaide in South Australia (along with Victoria and Tasmania) is an area that has a strong biking culture. This is a great time to incorporate a bike trip to coincide with the Santos Tour Down Under.

Rosie Holliday is an ex-pat Aussie and longtime local travel agent who owns Holliday Adventures, an affiliate of Andavo Travel, a Virtuoso agency. While she can and does book the world, her specialities are Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Europe. Reach her at 970-748-9818, rosie@hollidayadventures.com or www.hollidayadventures.com.