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10 Tourist Attractions to See by Bicycle

Extreme Sports Pictures There's something special about seeing the sights by bike. See more pictures of extreme sports.
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Some sights must be taken in slowly: rock formations shaped over thousands of years, a winery stretching for miles or a solitary stretch of road running along a deserted beach. It's difficult to fully appreciate them from a car or tour bus. Then how about by bike? You'll get some great exercise and have the chance to savor all the beauty unfolding in front of you.

You can find tours throughout the world designed for cyclists of all levels or you can strike out on your own. A tour will provide you with just about everything you could need to enjoy your trip, from sleeping accommodations to luggage transportation to the actual bikes and helmets. These tours give you a chance to stretch your legs and get some fresh air while you take in the natural beauty of the world around you.

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So strap on that helmet and let's see some of the top destinations.

Some of California's famous Zinfandel grapes on the vine.
Some of California's famous Zinfandel grapes on the vine.
juanlondres2/Creative Commons

The town of Sonoma offers you a chance to ride along the rolling roads of California's wine country. With daily group rides of around 30 miles (48 kilometers), you're sure to get plenty of time on the bike while still finding time to enjoy the finer things this West Coast valley has to offer. Along the way, you can stop for wine tastings, have a picnic overlooking the vineyards or visit local shops for unique, handmade souvenirs.

You don't have to be a wine connoisseur to appreciate the region. The pleasant climate and scenic, varying terrain will keep you inspired and challenged. The flatter stretches along the valley floor are perfect for the beginning biker and incorporate short loops around the vineyards. For more experienced cyclists, there's an abundance of climbs to get hearts pumping. Regardless of your level of cycling expertise, you can find great rides through some gorgeous country [source: Trek Tours].

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Fans line the switchbacks of the famous Alpe d'Huez.
Fans line the switchbacks of the famous Alpe d'Huez.
Zehnfinger/Creative Commons

Anyone who has ever watched the Tour de France has at least vicariously considered the grueling nature of ascending the Alps. For the most enthusiastic of cyclists, the Alps present the pinnacle of bicycling and allow you to follow in the tracks of some of the world's most famous professional riders. Imagine following the likes of Lance Armstrong, Lucien Van Impe or Miguel Induráin as you power up the Col du Marais. Or you can see how you fare on the storied switchbacks of the Alpe d'Huez, one of the most famous climbs in the world.

In between all this quad-burning climbing, you can take time to gaze out over the Alpine villages. Catch your breath while making a loop around a cold mountain lake before facing the next big challenge [source: Trek Tours].

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The Katy Trail, an old rail line, runs across the state of Missouri.
The Katy Trail, an old rail line, runs across the state of Missouri.
MoBikeFed/Creative Commons

For the historian on wheels, it doesn't get much better than the Katy Trail. This 225-mile (362-kilometer) path covers terrain alongside the Missouri River that Lewis and Clark explored. The trail itself is a "rails-to-trails project", meaning old and unused rail tracks have been removed to make way for a path for cyclists, runners and sometimes even people on horseback. One of the most attractive aspects of the trail is that it's almost completely traffic free, ensuring a safer and tranquil ride.

If you need to give your backside a rest after a day in the saddle, there are countless options, ranging from bed and breakfasts to wineries to small towns and historic shops. The Katy Trail offers riders a slice of Middle America at their own pace [source: Bike Katy Trail].

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Lusaka, Zambia, is home to the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) program's assembly plant. There you'll see firsthand how the WBR improves the lives of Zambians through bicycle distribution. For a person living in poverty, a bike is much more than a fun way to get around -- it makes it possible to get to work or school and to have medical supplies delivered to his or her village.

After you've toured the plant and learned about the WBR's mission, you can assemble a bike yourself then take it for a spin, stopping in Lusaka or riding along with a group of children on their way to school. This is a bicycle tour that has the potential to change your life [sources: Trek Travel, World Bicycle Relief].

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Mackinac Island's main street is best seen from atop a carriage or bike.
Mackinac Island's main street is best seen from atop a carriage or bike.
Randy Hall/Creative Commons

When you step off the ferry onto Mackinac Island you'll be welcomed by the sound of horse hoofs clomping on cobblestone streets or the rolling of a carriage's wheels, but you won't hear the rev of engines. In the 1920s, a series of regulations were put in place, forbidding all motor vehicles on the island. The laws remain in place today, and help make Mackinac Island a cyclist's dream. Once on a bike -- which can be rented at several sites on the island -- you'll be treated to a Victorian-era experience free of the usual congestion associated with the modern world.

Mackinac, at only 8 miles (13 kilometers) in circumference, can be seen fairly easily. Highlights include the fort constructed by the British during the American Revolution and a number of colorful butterfly gardens [source: Mackinac Island].

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Just one of many breathtaking views of the Dalmatian coast.
Just one of many breathtaking views of the Dalmatian coast.
Markus Bernet/Creative Commons

Off the southern tip of Croatia, resting in the Adriatic Sea are the stunning Dalmatian Islands, a cyclist's paradise. If you start this dream trip in the walled city of Dubrovnik, you can get a feel for the history of this ages-old town. A short boat ride will take you and your two-wheeled friend to the island city of Korcula where you'll get a real treat -- coastline riding along the longest ancient walls in Europe.

Don't forget to visit the island's vineyards or olive groves in between tours of villages on your route. You'll discover solitude and quiet as pedal past fields of wildflowers on your way to the next Croatian adventure [source: Trek Travel].

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While you won't ascend the Grand Tetons, you will ride at their feet.
While you won't ascend the Grand Tetons, you will ride at their feet.
Frank Kovalchek/Creative Commons

Riding through Island Park, Wyo., is not only a great introduction to mountain biking, but also to the beauty of the Grand Tetons. Well-worn paths will take you past cold, babbling rivers and abundant wildlife. The park also affords cyclists the opportunity to stop and fish, swim or even take a hike.

Island Park's proximity to Grand Teton National Park makes it tantalizingly convenient to head just east to the base of the great peaks. Once there you, you can gaze at waterfalls and, perhaps, watch a moose wander by [source: Western Spirit].

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The view from Angel Island is stunning on a clear day.
The view from Angel Island is stunning on a clear day.
Helen Kennedy/Creative Commons

Situated to the north of San Francisco and just a short boat ride from Alcatraz, you'll find serene and virtually untouched Angel Island. As with Michigan's Mackinac Island, you need not worry about cars and trucks. The island offers 5 miles (8 kilometers) of partially paved road just for cyclists, hikers and runners. But unlike the inclines that typify the City by the Bay, you won't encounter many bothersome hills on this remote piece of land.

Check out the U.S. Immigration station that processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants and gave the island the nickname "The Ellis Island of the West." Or, take a break from biking to hike to the top of Mount Livermore and see if you can spot the five bay bridges. Finish your outing with a ride along the beach before hitting one of several cafes that call the island home [sources: Angel Island, Angel Island State Park].

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With the coming of autumn to Maine, you'll bike through the changing of the leaves.
With the coming of autumn to Maine, you'll bike through the changing of the leaves.
Erik Hersman/Creative Commons

The coast of Maine is a particularly inviting location for cyclists. In the summer months, you can take your time biking through villages, across from lonely islands and along beautiful stretches of beach. When the sweat begins to bead on your brow, go for a swim or venture into a quaint shop. If you visit in the fall, make sure to grab your coat and scarf before sampling the beauty of the changing leaves as you ride through New England forests. And don't be afraid to bike until you work up an appetite -- this is, after all, home to tasty lobster, salmon and, of course, chowder.

Like so many places, the Maine coastline has a beauty that is often best appreciated at a slower pace [source: Summer Feet].

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As you stop to rest, you'll take in views of the Cliffs of Moher.
As you stop to rest, you'll take in views of the Cliffs of Moher.
Björn Reusch/Creative Commons

Imagine emerald fields, craggy coastline and welcoming Irish locals who know how to bring your spirits up when the day is done. But why imagine it when you can truly experience it? A bicycle ride along the coasts of Galway and Connemara on Ireland's West Coast is sure to bring pleasure to the outdoor enthusiast. During the day you can enjoy the sight of the ocean crashing below you as you make your way along the cliffs of Moher or enjoy the simple beauty of a peat bog. You can stop along the way to investigate ruins and marvel at the ancient world that still peaks out in the landscape.

When you are done riding for the day you can enjoy a rousing night out, listening to traditional Gaelic music in a pub in Galway, or head for a quiet Irish dinner in Connemara. With a relatively flat route, you are sure to discover the quiet simplicity of the Irish landscape in your own time [source: VBT].

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Sources

  • Angel Island Company. 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.angelisland.com/index.php
  • Angel Island State Park. "About the Island." 2009. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=468
  • Bicycles for Humanity GA. "The Bicycle Story." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.b4hgeorgia.org/
  • Bikes for the World. "Intro to Bikes for the World." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://bikesfortheworld.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=72
  • Bike Katy Trail. 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.bikekatytrail.com/
  • Mackinac Island. 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.mackinacisland.org/index.html
  • Ride for Reading. "Our Mission." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.rideforreading.org/
  • South Atlanta Bike Shop. "About." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://southatlantabikeshop.org/about/
  • Summer Feet. "Discover the Coast with 8 Unique Maine Bicycle Tours." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.summerfeet.net/maine-bike-tours.asp
  • Trek Travel. 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.trektravel.com/
  • VBT. "Ireland: Galway and Connemara Coast 2011." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.vbt.com/tours/Ireland-Galway--Connemara-Coast-2011_431.aspx#map
  • Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. "Grand Tetons and Island Park." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.westernspirit.com/tripinfo.cfm?id=1198793316078
  • World Bicycle Relief. "Our Work." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010).http://www.worldbicyclerelief.org/our_work/index.php

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