Bike use has surged around the world in the past two years — and that includes bike use while traveling. Kathy Stewart, CEO of Butterfield & Robinson, says that of all the company’s active travel offerings, cycling is the most popular.
As summer trip-planning ramps up, a cycling holiday checks all the boxes: it’s eco-friendly, offers ample fresh air and sunshine, and works for different ages and abilities. E-bike sales have also skyrocketed amid the pandemic and bike travel is even driving economic growth in developing countries.
But many of us may need a little extra incentive to tackle those last few miles — and culinary-themed bike tours are the answer. Some are led by chefs who happen to be cyclists, others by guides who are rabid food-lovers. If you’re not in Tour De France-level shape (who is, really?), most tours offer an e-bike option.
Here are eight of the most innovative cycling tours to book this summer. Pedal, eat, repeat: what’s not to like?
Farms, Food, and Foliage With Chef Matt Jennings, Vermont
DuVine’s Farms, Food, and Foliage with chef Matt Jennings is a five-day jaunt through the lush, rolling hills of northwestern Vermont with Jennings, a five-time James Beard Award nominee. He’ll lead a group through the ridiculously scenic Red River Valley, with plenty of stops (and samples) at various local food producers, from small-batch cheesemakers to organic butchers to mushroom growers. A typical day involves an alfresco lunch at a mountain farmstead, a ride to the pretty town of Waitsfield, a rest-up at The Inn At Round Barn Farm, and then a cooking class and dinner with Jennings at a Shaker barn.
Asheville Bike Tour, North Carolina
Yelp proclaimed Asheville, North Carolina the no. 1 food destination in the country in 2020, calling it a “regional-food powerhouse.” On Trek Travel’s three-day bike tour, cyclists will explore the mountains of western North Carolina, passing ancient rivers, country roads, craggy ranges, and waterfalls — and fuel up with the city’s mind-blowing cuisine. Stops include Appalachian-inspired soul food at Benne On Eagle, an exploration of the city’s famous breweries, and a visit to Southern-inflected, hyper-local restaurant Rhubarb Ashville, led by chef John Fleer, former longtime executive chef at Blackberry Farm.
Touring the Loire Valley, France
The day begins with pain au chocolat and ends with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant during Gourmet Cycling Travel’s dreamy six-day tour through France’s Loire Valley. The riding level is easy — more ‘meander’ than ‘strenuous climb.’ Riders will pass fairy-tale castles (such as Chateau d’Azay le Rideau, the inspiration for “Sleeping Beauty”) with stops for wine tastings and market visits. Hotels are equally swoon-worthy, such as the deeply romantic Hotel Fontevraud, the former priory in the historic monument of Fontevraud Royal Abbey, which dates to the 12th century.
Lobster Rolls and Locavores, Maine
It’s pretty much required that a cycling tour for food lovers in Maine includes lobster rolls. Summerfeet’s six-day Lobster Rolls and Locavores through the coastal state traverses both the seaside and the vibrant towns of Portland (one day’s highlight is a ride to five famous lighthouses) and Kennebunkport. Along the way, riders will gorge on blueberry pie, the best lobster rolls in the state, and mussels straight from a mussel farm. Lodging includes The Press Hotel, a spiffy boutique property housed in the former headquarters of the Portland Press Herald.
Cycling and Cooking in Tuscany, Italy
The slogan for Cicloposse’s six-day Cycling and Cooking in Tuscany is “dig into the real way Tuscan people eat.” Work up an appetite passing through the rich green valley of Val D’Orica, a UNESCO site since 2004 lined with Cyprus trees and charming towns and villages. One standout is Bagno Vignoni, a charming hamlet with a Roman vasca, or community baths. During this magical week, riders will feast on hand-rolled pici pasta, local pecorino cheese, fresh-pressed olive oil, porcini mushrooms, and Chainina beef, in a variety of settings, from simple osterias to family trattorias.
Napa-Sonoma Wine Country Biking, California
Wind through majestic redwoods and peaceful, sun-dappled vineyards on Butterfield & Robinson’s weeklong Napa-Sonoma Wine Country Biking, then tuck into some of the finest fare and local vintages in the region. One well-earned reward will be meal at three-Michelin-star Single Thread Farm. Supplied by its own orchard, chicken coops, greenhouse, olive trees and beehives, it takes regional cuisine to a new level. And no trip would be complete without a stop at the legendary Auberge Du Soleil, pioneers of California cuisine with a restaurant that has collected Michelin stars for 14 consecutive years.
The Heart of Patagonia With Francis Mallman, Patagonia
For more experienced cyclists, InGamba’s The Heart Of Patagonia with Francis Mallman is a six-day exploration of Patagonia’s stunning terrain, culminating in a pilgrimage to meet Mallman, one of the world’s most influential chefs, with nine restaurants around the globe. Riders will first explore the area around Lanin National Park, known for its impossibly blue glacial lakes and the snow-capped Lanin volcano, and the leafy Nahuel Huapi National Park, a.k.a. the Garden of Patagonia. On the last day, cyclists will visit the notoriously off-the-grid chef in his home on a private island for a once-in-a-lifetime lesson in the primal art of cooking on an open fire.
Grand Tour of the Cotswolds, United Kingdom
Maybe you don’t even own any Lycra shorts — if so, UK-based travel company Cycling For Softies is the answer. Their motto: easy pedaling, long lunches. Their Grand Tour Of The Cotswolds via e-bike is a serene week of gliding past gentle hills covered with grazing sheep. There is plenty of time for stops at postcard villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water, and the wonderfully named Tiddleywink for a lavish cream tea, or perhaps a pork pie or ploughman’s lunch at a local gastropub. After a day in the saddle, riders will recharge at hotels with deep local roots, such as The Painswick, a converted 18th-century Palladian house that was once the town’s vicarage.