One thing I like to do when I travel is bike wherever I can. It’s fun, it’s active and it allows you to cover a lot of terrain but doesn’t go so fast that you miss the core sites. Although all of the biking I have done is leisurely, I have a dream of travelling around bucolic France by bicycle with wine, bread and cheese in tow. Here is a list of places I have explored by pedal.
The Dutch capital is considered the biking mecca of the Western world. About 30-40% of Amsterdam residents bike on a daily basis. The Dutch even have a style of bike named after them. The two-wheeler is a popular mode of transportation for various reasons: the Netherlands is mostly flat and hence is topographically suited for everyday biking, and the city has implemented various bike-friendly initiatives such as having many bicycle lanes and plenty of parking. I felt a bit nervous biking there since traffic surrounds you at every corner, especially during rush hour, but it was also exhilarating. I grew up biking on the wide, empty, suburban streets of Toronto so it was a big change from what I was used to. Beware of the tram tracks. My friend’s wheel got caught and she fell over. Luckily there were no bikes or cars around us at the time.
My sister and I were lent children’s bikes because we’re too short for regular adult bikes in Belgium. I have an adult bike in Toronto…so I don’t know what happened there! The city was extremely bike-friendly since it’s not very heavily trafficked and most of the terrain is flat. It’s a great way to get from point A to B and to venture out far beyond the core city area. We rode up to the windmills and we got some great exercise!
Japanese bikers are uber-polite. They bike at leisurely places. They have umbrella holders on their bicycles lest it should rain. Hiroshima was the most bike-friendly place I went to in Japan; there were more bikers than I had seen anywhere else. The city has a lot of pathways which bikes share with pedestrians. The only caveat: the bikes they rent out usually have no gears. I struggled to get up the hill to the modern art museum but maybe you’re stronger than me.
A common activity in Xi’an is to bike on top of the old citadel. The sky is grey and brown in Xi’an. You do not see the sun. But you feel the sun….I mean, you really feel the sun. It’s muggy, sweaty and gross. BEWARE…you might get swass…sweaty ass.
Luang Nam Tha, Laos
Some friends and I rented bicycles and biked all day in the intense Southeast Asian heat. Biking here is fun but unpredictable since some roads are very badly paved and you never know what situation you will encounter. For example, some of us had our bikes get stuck in the thick mud. Another example: the bike path the rental shop recommended indicated a trail where there was a river.
Word of advice, drink some water, or you’ll get heat exhaustion like I did.
Vang Vieng, Laos:
I didn’t take my advice, and I got heat exhaustion again.
Koh Tao, Thailand
My bicycle broke. Enough said.
I biked a few kilometres, intending to go to some cenotes, huffing and puffing, questioning my general fitness and athletic ability. I discovered that my tires were flat. I huffed and puffed back to the bike shop. I did not bike again in the town.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Biking with a friend who had limited biking experience was fun but also worrying. Isla Mujeres had some pretty big hills so I was quite impressed with my pal for toughing it out unscathed. We biked around the entire island and saw so much more than had we walked. The island has paved roads everywhere but there are points which felt a bit dangerous because of the curvy roads.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We rented bikes for an hour to go around the man-made lake. The ride is really short and pleasant but there are no sights along the way.
San Francisco, USA
You don’t want to be biking in this city. SF is super hilly and I don’t have the strength or stamina to ride up those crazy hills. I biked from the pier to Sausalito, across the Golden Gate bridge, which is much more leisurely, less hilly and a great ride.