Love the idea of a cycling vacation, but prefer to end your day tucked in at a luxury inn rather than rouging it? Consider booking a tour with one of the outfitters on Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ list of the world’s top bike companies. These tour operators provide everything from the most cutting edge bikes and gear, to exclusive tours of the top local sights, and rooms and meals at the area’s best locations. Here are our favorite luxury bike outfitters and a few their best trips.
Embarking on a multi-day biking trip is taxing, but with a little help from Backroads’ 4,000-bike inventory, things are a little easier. Top-notch bikes paired with premier inns to rest your head come nightfall make for a fantastic adventure. Like many outfitters, Backroads offers more than just biking, including hiking, kayaking and rafting, but our Forbes Travel Guide editors love the cycling trips. The guides are experienced — and local when possible — and make your tour as memorable as possible. Each day presents a variety of rides that range from easy to challenging, so you can tailor the trip to fit your level. Backroads provides everything from detailed maps for your daily spins and gourmet picnic lunches to custom-build bikes for your kids and side activities on every trip. You can go on family adventures, join a small group or book your own private tour.
Book this trip: Biking through Santa Fe and Taos with Backroads leads you into a new world of cycling and the Southwest. As one of the outfitter’s “premier inn” trips, you’ll check in to luxurious accommodations such as The Inn of the Five Graces and Rancho de San Juan, both of which exude New Mexico charm. Spinning past scenes from Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings at Ghost Ranch and climbing through mountain villages like Las Trampas make this adventure both scenic and intriguing. Throughout your daily rides, you can take a break from the bike and stroll through places like the Taos Pueblo, where full-time residents live without running water and electricity.
Butterfield & Robinson
With tours in some of the most incredible destinations in the world (from Italy’s Piedmont region to British Columbia), luxurious hotels and top-notch equipment, Canadian outfitter Butterfield & Robinson has long been considered one of the best in the business. Rides are as difficult as you make them — the knowledgeable guides are flexible with the activity levels and even offer optional extensions to any daily ride. Add to the mix the fact that you’re staying in top-notch hotels (some are Relais & Chateaux members, while others are luxury chains such as Fairmont and Banyan Tree) and outfitted with a state-of-the-art bike (depending on your destination, it could be a Cannondale, Rocky Mountain or Pinarello), and you’ve got yourself one of the best biking outfitters in the world. It doesn’t hurt that Toronto-based Butterfield & Robinson has been organizing trips since 1966, nurturing close ties with locals and offering memorable experiences ranging from cooking classes to truffle hunting.
Book this trip: Foodies should pencil in this fall’s Piemonte Biking tours now — you’ll spin through the rolling hills of Italy’s beautiful Piedmont region, which many believe churns out the best food in the country. For six days and five nights, the medieval towns and endless vineyards are yours to explore (including truffle hunting in Alba and a hands-on cooking lesson in Tigliole). Spending your nights in authentically Italian accommodations like Villa Tiboldi in Canale set in the middle of the Trinità vineyards and Il Boscareto Resort and Spa in Serralunga d’Alba, you can’t help but fall in love with the lifestyle. Or if you want something more far-flung, ride along one of the world’s earliest commercial highways from Xi’an to Beijing on the beautiful Silk Road, which once linked the Roman Empire and Imperial China. You’ll stay in luxurious hotels like Raffles Beijing Hotel and see remarkable sites such as the caves of Mogao.
Getting to know a destination is one thing, but pedaling through it with experienced guides who know the place inside and out is another. Massachusetts-based Ciclismo Classico has been biking throughout the world since 1988, providing everything from cycling clinics and a Ciclismo jersey to wine tastings and gourmet meals. Aside from learning to ride through some of the most beautiful places in the world (think Chile, the Berkshires and Sicily), the trips are designed to give you a taste of the local culture through add-ons like museums and cider tastings. While the rides are geared toward specific levels, you can adjust your day to fit your needs, or tack on an extra loop. Along with daily cycling, Ciclismo Classico offers lessons on the culture and history from the local guides, no matter where your ride may bring you.
Book this trip: Ride through the undiscovered countryside of Normandy, where you’ll stop off to taste cider, cheese and calvados. Ciclismo Classico’s Normandy tour winds you through historic sites such as William the Conqueror’s Caen and scenes straight out of paintings by Claude Monet and Eugène Boudin. At night, after your 30-mile bike ride, you’ll rest your head at charming hotels like Château Les Bruyères in Cambremer and Hotel Ivan Vautiers in Caen. Add on to your already spectacular trip by spending a few days in Brittany, strolling through majestic Mont Saint Michel and riding along the Rance River. For a trip a little closer to home — for you and Ciclismo Classico — book a ride through the Berkshires. The Western Massachusetts mountain range is filled with climbs, but you’ll be rewarded with cultural indulgences such as the Norman Rockwell Museum and Tanglewood Music Center (the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home).
As a world-class bike manufacturer, all of the tours Trek Travel offers are top-notch. With trips through beautiful destinations like Prague, Mallorca and California, this outfitter does it right with top-of-the-line bikes, exclusive activities and great hotels. No matter which adventure you choose, you’ll be riding one of the best bikes in the world (like the Trek Madone 5.2 and Trek 7.7 FX). Aside from the technical specs, Trek Travel takes care of everything from bike computers to gratuities. If you can’t decide which tour is for you, a dedicated trip consultant will help you make the difficult choice and answer all of your questions. And while cycling is a large part of the experience, you’ll also get a taste of the local culture through activities such as visits to archeological sites and wine tastings.
Book this trip: To celebrate Trek Travel’s 10th anniversary, the luxury outfitter is offering a special edition trip through the California Wine Country. Biking through the rolling vineyards and the jaw-dropping Redwood Forest is enough to earn that glass of wine at one of the various wineries that you’ll stop at during your rides. From an exclusive tour of Benziger Family Winery’s underground estate caves to a private winetasting at Cakebread Cellars, Trek Travel makes sure you get the most of your California biking experience. Come nightfall, you’ll rest your head at charming hotels like the Vintage Inn and Hotel Healdsburg.
DuVine’s experienced guides paired with top-notch lodgings create a divine biking experience. With trips ranging from Israel and Spain to Ecuador and the Galapagos, there’s a tour for every palate. DuVine Adventures rates its trips based on activity level, and you can even customize your own adventure. This luxury outfitter has you covered by lining up gourmet dinners complete with wine,and upscale accommodations, and will do everything from translating the menus to choosing souvenirs. If you’re not an avid cyclist, the DuVine guides are at your side (with a support van) to make sure things run smoothly. Throughout the years, the guides have nurtured relationships with the locals, giving you that extra look into the culture with authentic cuisine and exclusive educational and cultural visits each day — think wine tastings and medieval villages.
Book this trip: You may recognize the route from Emilio Estevez’s The Way; but Spain’s Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way) has been a road full of pilgrims — both on bike and foot — making their way to Santiago de Compostela, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. You’ll stop off in tiny villages along the route and rest your legs at historic hotels such as Parador San Marcos, which was once a monastery founded to house pilgrims traveling the road. After climbing hill after hill, you’re rewarded with delicious food and even better wine. Or you can discover picturesque Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and learn about the rich history of whaling and fishing. Rest your legs at classic inns such as Hob Knob Hotel and indulge in “après velo” cocktails to reward yourself for a hard day’s work.
Photo courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson