Cycling tours are growing in popularity and for good reason: Being on a bike brings a more intimate experience with your surroundings, and allows you to immerse yourself in the native culture. Using your quads and hamstrings to pedal from point A to point B is a great way to stay active while on vacation and work up an appetite to indulge in local cuisine. Here, five itineraries fit for foodies.
Italy lies between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas, and an eight-day culinary cycling tour with DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. leads you from coast to coast. Starting in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast, the itinerary for intermediate-to-advanced riders goes across the hilly countrysides of Le Marche, Umbria, and Tuscany, with sights of villages, vineyards, and herds of sheep along the way. You’ll ride with award-winning chef Seamus Mullen, who, along with local chefs, will prepare gourmet meals during the cross-country trip, featuring local lamb, truffles, wild boar, pecorino cheeses, and more. The Italian feasts collectively fuel your body for riding up to 57 miles per day, with an average elevation gain of about 3,400 feet.
Locals tell cyclists to fill up on kraški zašink, the traditional Slovenian sausage made with pork neck meat, since it supplies plenty of calories to burn off. It’s typically served at breakfast each morning on Bicycle Adventures’ nine-day mountain biking tour through the Julian Alps of northwestern Slovenia, home to over 4,000 miles of mountain bike trails. Terrain on the tour is a mix of singletrack, forest cart tracks, and mountain roads. Cyclists partake in home-cooked meals in private homes where hosts prepare regional farm-to-table fare including lamb, beef, and veal—although there’s always plenty to eat for vegetarians and those who are gluten sensitive. The prized pit stop on the cycling tour is the Michelin rated restaurant Hiša Franko, where dinner is prepared by chef Ana Roš, named 2017’s “World’s Best Female Chef” by the academy of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, who was also featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Tour de France enthusiasts know that one of the most challenging legs of the race goes through the Pyrénées in southwest France, near the border with Spain. If the racers could ride at a more leisurely pace, they might stop and enjoy the regional wines and dishes—but fortunately that’s what you can do on a week-long holiday. Tour company Discover France’s French Pyrénées seven-day tour brings advanced riders up and down the mountain roads (up to 60 miles per day) where you can sample local fare including cassoulet, foie gras, and aligot, a cross between a cheese fondue and garlicky mashed potatoes. If the steep terrain is too grueling, there’s a gentler Midi-Pyrénées itinerary, which goes through the medieval villages of the same gastronomic region.
On the other side of the Pyrénées, or Pirinioak as they are known in the native Basque language in northeastern Spain, is where many religious pilgrims start their journey to hike for weeks along theCamino de Santiago, to the shrine of St. James the Great in the northwestern region of Galicia. While the origins of the famous pathway are based in religion, it’s become a popular secular trail not only for hikers, but cyclists as well. For foodies, it’s a great gourmet trail, with fresh seafood dishes, chorizo-rich potato stews, a variety of pintxos, and grilled meats from asadors. “Ride. Drink. Feast. Repeat,” says cycling guide Kempton Baker, who leads Bicycle Adventures’ 15-day trip from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela, with rides ranging from 30 to 59 miles per day.
It’s not difficult to find a restaurant to carb up for a bike ride in Italy, known for its pasta. However, there's an autonomous region in the northwestern part of the country where the emphasis is on delicious meats. Alto Adige, near the border with Austria (where it is known as South Tyrol) feels a bit more Austrian than Italian in its culture, architecture, German language, and above all, cuisine. Grilled sausages and crispy pork knuckles frequent local dinner menus, and speck, the native cured pork delicacy, is found in every village market and eatery. Tour company VBT offers a week-long cycling tour of this unique region. Each day covers 15 to 45 miles, with the first few days spent cycling through the valleys of the magnificent Dolomite mountains.