On The Road
The World’s Best Hotels For Cyclists
Seven bike-trip stopovers that are worthy destinations in themselves
Bellagio, Italy. Photograph courtesy of Hotel Il Perlo
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike,” said President John F Kennedy – and an increasing number of us are inclined to agree. Not only are our city centres being slowly opened up with cycle lanes and bike hire schemes, specialist operators such as Wheel2Wheel Holidays are also developing cycling tourism. Indeed, industry trade show World Travel Market reports that the bike trip has replaced the golfing break as the middle-aged bonding getaway of choice.
For cyclists, the lure is obvious: pop your gear in a pannier or strongarm a support car and you and a bunch of mates can turn the journey into the holiday. Get your peloton going and rack up the klicks, or take your time and see the countryside at a more leisurely pace. It makes for one of the best ways to see countries such as France, Italy and Spain, not just nations with an illustrious cycling pedigree and the backdrop to the three fabled Grand Tours, but also home to vineyards and restaurants catering to weary travellers on two wheels. Of course, you could embark upon such trips in a simple or lavish frame of mind. If you’re leaning towards the latter, these bike-friendly hotels offer a loftier level of refinement than your average B&B.
01. Château St Pierre de Serjac, Languedoc, France
Puissalicon. Photograph courtesy of Château St Pierre de Serjac
As part of the inaugural Tour de France in 1903, competitors were expected to ride across 423km of Languedoc – essentially traversing the entire département – in a single day. The scramble to power through this sizable swathe of southwest France was more to do with its location between the nation’s two mountain ranges, the Alps and the Pyrenees, than any slight at this landscape itself. More than a century on, you can sample the region at a decidedly more leisurely pace. And with Château St Pierre de Serjac as your base, enjoy life in the lap of luxury as well as a lap of the countryside. Between now and October, the 19th-century manor-turned-hotel is running weekend bike tours. This service includes bike hire from local firm Veloroo and can be tailored to the abilities of guests, from beginners to more challenging routes for advanced riders, and taking in a range of terrains, smooth, empty roads and stunning scenery. Most importantly, there’s the opportunity to road-test the lavish spa facilities upon your return, with a hammam, treatments and in-room massage available. Not to mention the three-course dinners, with wine from the hotel’s own estate, to help fuel you for the next day’s ride.
02. Sorrel River Ranch, Utah, US
The Moab Rim Trail, Utah. Photograph courtesy of Sorrel River Ranch
For those in search of kicks away from the asphalt, the state of Utah is something of a mecca. You could use the umbrella term mountain biking, but that doesn’t quite do justice to the rich tapestry of canyons, ridges and dirt trails also on offer here. Sorrel River sits in the middle of the Canyonlands, Arches and Dead Horse Parks, not to mention the national forests and recreational sites beyond, and is well placed to make the most of this sparsely populated playground. The ranch runs a series of mountain biking tours, ranging from an easy, family-friendly 10-mile loop with some paved trail around a section of national park to advanced, private full-day tours taking in ledge trails and canyon rims across the fabled “Mag 7” system. A full-suspension bike is provided, along with a helmet, water, snacks and lunch. Then – after a dip in the spa – compare notes with fellow riders around the firepit (with complimentary s’mores) after sunset.
03. Garda Bike Hotel, Lake Garda, Italy
Lake Garda. Photograph by Mr David Stockman, courtesy of Enjoy Garda Hotel
Italy is a country that embraces cycling almost as heartily as it does food, and Messrs Alberto and Nicola Verdolin more so than most. The brothers are the third generation of their family to own and run the Garda Bike Hotel in Peschiera del Garda. But while their mamma, Elvira, provides the fresh-cut flowers from her own garden and bakes from scratch all the sweet treats distributed to guests, her boys are out on their bikes. Sourcing rental De Rosa, Merckx and Pinarello machines and working with local guides, the hotel is the gateway to some of the finest roads that Italy has to offer, with routes taking in vineyards and mountains as well as running alongside the glorious lake. Not that it’s just cyclists who are getting in on the action – this four-star establishment sits amid the very upper tiers of TripAdvisor’s ratings for the whole nation. And as with the nearby hills, when you get there, the view from the top is great.
04. Hotel Cycle Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan
Onomichi, Hiroshima. Photograph by Mr Tetsuya Ito, courtesy of Onomichi U2
By now, we’ve grown accustomed to outside-the-box thinking being applied to the remnants of old fishing ports. But the new use for this former maritime hangar in the Hiroshima Prefecture really pushes the boat out, as it were, in favour of the bike. Only a 40-minute train ride from Tokyo, this hotel, restaurant and Giant bike shop complex sits on the mainland-end of the Shimanami Kaido expressway. This spectacular 80km bike path links Honshu to the island of Shikoku, covering a chain of six further islands and a network of bridges – including Kurushima-Kaikyō, the world’s longest suspension bridge – in between. The route is littered with shrines and temples, citrus groves and ramen shops – Onomichi itself is famed for its soup, made with flat noodles. Hotel Cycle’s own (cycle-through) restaurant also serves up pizza made from dough with wild yeast, should you need emergency carb loading. And you can sleep with your bike in your room, should you be into that sort of thing.
05. Ace Hotel, London, UK
Eton Manor Walk, Hackney Marshes, London. Photograph by Mr Yu Fujiwara, courtesy of The Ace Hotel, London
London might not strike you as a bike-friendly hotspot in the way Amsterdam or Copenhagen might, but it boasts a lot to see on ground level within a relatively compact space. In fact, as various members of the MR PORTER team will tell you, cycling is among the best – and possibly even the quickest – means of navigating the city. Indeed, a recent report from the City of London shows that the bike is the most numerous vehicle in the Square Mile during peak hours. Not that we’re suggesting that you join the Lycra-clad hoards at rush hour, though, rather pootle about in your own time. Ace Hotel’s Shoreditch outpost is the perfect base for just that – well-appointed within London’s lively East End, it presents the perfect opportunity to explore the local streets, as well as nearby canals, which connect the area with the wider city and green spaces, but without the traffic. Ace has partnered with local bikemaker tokyobike, providing single-speed models to guests on a first come, first served basis. The hotel also runs a monthly bike tour, which takes in local sights on a 20-mile route, as well as a packed lunch and that all-important coffee.
06. Hotel Il Perlo, Lake Como, Italy
Bellagio. Photograph courtesy of Hotel Il Perlo
We might stop short of supping the water itself, but from every angle, the sight of Lake Como is one we want to drink in. Riding on the perfect tarmac that rings this picturesque watering hole is certainly a good way to take stock, but for an even better vantage point, check into Hotel Il Perlo. Housed in an old steam mill above Bellagio – the village that, when viewed from above, is the saddle this glorious lake sits on – it has provided accommodation to travellers for close to a century, but has increasingly turned to clientele on two wheels. The hotel has partnered with a local bike shop to offer rental Pinarellos, as well as guided tours with former professional rider Mr Gabriele Bosisio, who once wore the hallowed malgia rosa after winning a stage of the 2008 Giro d’Italia. And when you do make it to the hotel itself, up the infamous 14 per cent gradient Ghisallo climb, the view from the balcony is worth it.
07. Hotel OD Port Portals, Mallorca, Spain
MA-10 just outside Estellencs, Mallorca. Photograph by Mr Johan Björklund, courtesy of Rapha
Mallorca has earned a reputation as the off-season training base for professional road cyclists, boasting what has regularly been cited as the perfect climb in the small village of Sa Calobra. There is, of course, more to this island than that 9.5km stretch of glorious tarmac, as Rapha’s Summit excursion sets to explore this November. Itself centred around the Hotel OD Port Portals near Palma – and within easy reach of the local Rapha Clubhouse outpost – this four-day adventure pits a limited number of participants against the numerous ascents, switchbacks and twisty Tramuntana roads of the Balearic isle. The Cap de Formentor is a highlight for any rider, but the trip takes in routes across the island. An end-of-day drink in the hotel’s rooftop bar overlooking the yachts docked in the harbour is something to be savoured.
Runs 1-4 November