Cycling holidays in Europe are more Lycra-clad than leisurely, but exertions are richly rewarded. Here’s 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 to 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, symbiotic in their delightfully eccentric Brit style. Or, amid genteel environs, Bingham Riverhouse 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 Bingham Riverhouse, 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.
Get into gear Stop by Tokyobike in either Shoreditch or Fitzrovia for quirky water bottles, cycling jackets or bike bells (the most stylish way to politely say ‘move it!’).
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, who’ll swiftly furnish you with some bikes. Design den Sir Albert also has a small fleet of bikes for guests to hire, too.
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 from the Amsterdam-based bran, which crafts covetable pastel-hued frames and sporty, fashion-forward fixies. You can have one delivered from its 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 – the sleek Velorbis bicycles are custom made for the hotel.
On your bike The city has more than 350 kilometres of safely raised bike lanes, so there’s a multitude of adventures to be found. Less-confident cyclists can take the flat route through Amager Beach Park, or pedal your way through Dyrehaven, a woodland park north of the city – just mind out for the 2,000 or so free-roaming deer.
Get into gear If you form a strong attachment to your Velorbis bike, stop into the shop on Norre Farimagsgade – and if the £1,000 price tag is a little too steep, it also does 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 both electric and mountain bikes for guests to borrow – we recommend securing yours after an early breakfast, before the other guests get their fingerless gloves on.
On your bike From Son Brull, ride north-east 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 Sóller 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 tastings 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 you can follow part of the Tour de France course, 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 the nearest Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard.
Get into gear VeloVixen sells bike gear for men and women that’ll ring your bell, including Morvélo’s cheerfully bright jerseys, Urbanist’s curiously saucy padded underwear and Sawako Furuno’s floral and beribboned helmets.
For more Smith-approved stays, check out our city breaks in Europe.