For cyclists looking for their kicks beyond laps of their local park, France, Italy and Spain are the lands of milk and honey. Or, rather, smooth roads, great climbs and bags of cycling heritage, plus, plenty of spectacular food (and coffee) for refueling along the way. But given it’s a sport that seems to thrive on pain – “The race is won by the rider who can suffer the most,” as the legendary Mr Eddy Merckx once put it – it makes sense that today many cyclists are going even further afield, outside their comfort zone. In 2019, the hottest cycling destinations are off the beaten track – in some cases, quite literally.
“People have become more imaginative and we see more and more atypical destinations being requested by our community,” says Mr Darius Alavi-Ellis, founder of Attu, a new travel company catering to the more adventurous cyclist, with scheduled trips, as well as scope for bespoke tours. “A decade ago, you would still see many organised tours happening in the traditional ‘big name’ mountain ranges of Europe, whereas now we are as active in four or five other continents as we are here.”
Attu’s roster includes rides in South America, Africa and Australia, taking in countries you’d struggle to spell, let alone pinpoint on a map (Kyrgyzstan, we’re looking at you). Some feature tarmac seemingly purpose-laid to be ridden on, while others will have you quoting Back To The Future entirely out of context: “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Mr Alavi-Ellis says that the rise of gravel and cyclocross riding has changed what cyclists are looking for from a trip: “We are no longer limited to destinations where the roads have to be suitable for our guests. Taking just two examples, Georgia and Patagonia are two phenomenal places to ride a bike, but if you were limited to just the tarmac, you would not see the best stuff the region has to offer.”