The triumph of Britain’s cyclists at the 2012 Olympics, and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ win in the Tour de France, has produced a surge in demand for cycling holidays in the UK, Europe and worldwide.
A recent Sky TV survey, with research by the London School of Economics, found thousands of people have started cycling for fun with family and friends – and even 70 per cent of non-cyclists think Team GB’s success will have a lasting legacy.
If 2012 was the year of the bike, then 2013 is the year of the biking holiday, as thousands take to two wheels for a summer break.
James Adkin at Explore, an adventure holiday specialist, said: “Over the past few years, people have realised they don’t have to be a professional cyclist to enjoy a cycling holiday.
“Increasing numbers of people want healthier and greener lifestyles, so cycling holidays are growing in popularity.
“The boom in demand was lifted by summer 2012 – who couldn’t be inspired by Sir Bradley Wiggins?
“On cycling holidays, you really immerse yourself in local culture. You pass through tiny villages which can’t be accessed by bus, observe everyday scenes and meet locals.
“Explore, unlike most other operators, includes bike hire in its prices, so customers don’t have to add the price of bike hire or taking a bike abroad on to the cost of a tour.”
At activity holiday specialist Macs Adventure, chief adventure officer Neil Lapping claims a 300 per cent surge in demand for cycling breaks in UK and Europe compared to this time last year.
“In our 10 years in business, we’ve never seen growth like this,” he says.
“The ‘Wiggo’ effect has made cycling cool again.
“There is a general trend among people wanting more than fly-and-flop holidays. Nearly everyone can ride a bike, so cycling holidays are a great introduction to activity-based holidays.
“They are also suitable for families, as the kids can come along on a tag-a-long or trailer if they aren’t confident enough on two wheels themselves.
“Our trips tend to be self-guided, with luggage transferred from hotel to hotel each night. You explore so much more on a bike than if you were on foot, and cover more distance each day.”
Adkin says: “At 16 or 60, travellers are increasingly keen to see the world from the back of a bike. Easy-graded tours appeal to customers new to cycling adventures or those who don’t want anything too strenuous.
“While many enjoy a few hours of gentle cycling daily, they don’t want to push themselves to the limit. At the other end of the spectrum, many people seek a real challenge, so our tougher tours appeal to a younger demographic who dedicate their time to cycling.”
He adds that cycling breaks suit all budgets.
“At the lowest end of the spectrum, four-day tours in the UK start at £245, and five days in Morocco at £756, including flights. At the top end, a 17-day tour in Bhutan from £3,847 includes flights.”
And with London staging the world’s largest cycling festival this summer, cycling could gain further momentum as around 20,000 amateur cyclists join a 100-mile race along the 2012 Olympic route.
Sustrans, a charity operating a network of scenic, traffic-free cycle routes throughout the UK, confirms booming demand for trips on routes in the north of England.
These include the Sea to Sea Cycle Route, from the Irish Sea off the Cumbrian coast to the North Sea off the Northumbrian coast; Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway in the North East; and the Reivers Route in Cumbria.
After a 40 per cent leap in sales, Explore has added 18 more departures across its most popular tours.
It has doubled departures for the eight-day, moderately graded Southern Oasis cycling tour of Morocco, via kasbahs, tribal villages and oases, plus a camel ride to a nomad desert camp.
The package from £779 includes return flights, six nights’ hotel and one-night camping accommodation (B&B), one other meal, bike hire, transport, and services of a tour leader. There are eight departures before February 2014.