If you’re like a lot of people, a bicycle tour is a bucket-list adventure all by itself no matter where you go. But like any vacation, destination is everything—and these one-of-a-kind places are even more fabulous when you explore them on a bike.
That’s not just idle talk. If you’ve never inhaled the heady fragrance of lavender as you cruised along the coast or felt the tropical breeze on your face as you biked to a hidden black sand beach—well, you’re missing something truly magical.
Whether you’re a bicycle tour newbie or are an experienced rider looking for the ultimate cycling adventure, here are five awesome destinations that should top your list in 2017.
If you’ve never been to the San Juan Islands, you’re in for a treat. Floating along the intricate waterways of the Salish Sea, this archipelago contains some 170 islands, although only four are served by ferry—San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw.
That’s where you’ll find the gorgeous shorelines, quirky shops, upscale galleries, and world-class cuisine—all the things that make them a top destination for bike adventurers. The fabulous climate doesn’t hurt, either: You’ll enjoy pleasant 70 degree days all summer long (perfect for long, meandering bike rides!)
Reasons to go:
- The whale watching is superb all year round—it’s the best place in the world to see orcas. You may also catch a glimpse of humpbacks, minkes, and gray whales if you’re lucky.
- There’s an amazing locavore foodie culture that never fails to delight even the most particular palate.
- The vibrant art scene showcases the finest Native American and internationally known talent.
- If you love a picnic by the shore (and a lovely bottle of wine), this is the place for you—the picnic spots are divine.
- It truly is a bicyclist’s dream with miles of coastline, fragrant lavender fields, charming country farms, and the friendliest people who never fail to smile and wave.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Bike to Pelindaba Lavender Farm and visit Lime Kiln State Park—one of the country’s best whale-watching spots.
- Kayak Roche Harbor or take in the magical Puget Sound views—take a dip in one of Lakedale’s three lakes if you like.
- Hike Mount Young and check out the panoramic view of the Cascades from the summit of Mount Constitution.
- Search for driftwood on the beach or schedule a private massage with a glass of champagne in your room at the resort.
- Feast at a private catered dinner and experience the amazing sights from the air on a float plane ride to Seattle.
Your first glimpse of the sapphire blue lake will take your breath away. Crater Lake has a magic about it that you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s not just spectacular; it’s mystical, almost holy. The local nations (the Klamath, Modoc and Shasta people) have endless legends of gods, epic battles, and love stories that involve Crater Lake, and once you go there, it’s easy to see why.
It’s one of my favorite places on the planet—I’ve ridden the rim many times over the years. I think one of our favorite guests, Lynn P. from Florida, summed it up best: “If I had one last day on Earth, I’d ride the rim at Crater Lake.”
Reasons to go:
- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country (and the ninth deepest in the world). Ringed by sentinels of jagged cliffs, this sapphire lake is so clear, sunlight penetrates nearly 400 feet.
- Wizard Island, the spiritual home of the Klamath people, is a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- The ride around the rim of Crater Lake is one of the finest bicycling routes in the world—it often occupies the number one slot in Bicycling Magazine’s “Dream Rides” list.
- The eclectic adventure culture of Bend, Oregon, is something you have to experience for yourself.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Cruise the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, a Top 10 Road in the West.
- Climb the Cascades and ride through the lava fields of McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway.
- Fish, hike, go whitewater rafting—or just soak in the pool at McMenamins after a day on the road.
- Wander the brewpubs and sample craft beers in trendy Bend.
- Explore the ancient evergreens in Umpqua National Forest.
Know what I love about Hawaii’s Big Island? Everything is affected by Kilauea volcano, which has been literally adding more land to the island for decades.
One side of the Big Island is lush, leafy coffee-growing country: Kona coffee’s distinct flavor is produced by soils infused with volcanic ash. Like wine, but it’s a coffee terroir.
The Waikoloa region, where the Ironman course goes, is a moonscape: miles on miles of lava fields too young to have turned into soil. When you’re bicycling the southeast side, you’ll see places where new roads needed to be built because fresh lava crept right over the old.
And I bet you didn’t know that you can experience 10 of the earth’s 14 climate zones on the Big Island—everything from Polar Tundra to Tropical (and everything in between) thanks to the shielding effects of the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. The island’s sheer size is breathtaking.
Reasons to go:
- It’s impossible to overstate how the volcanoes shape your Hawaii experience. It’s nothing you can imagine—you’ve just got to see it for yourself.
- Do you love to snorkel and enjoy water adventures? This is definitely the place—and don’t forget the dolphins!
- This is the place for romance…the hidden beaches, the magical atmosphere, the welcoming culture. It’s the perfect destination for you and a partner.
- Astronomy buffs (and pretty much everyone else) will be blown away by the telescopes at the Mauna Kea Observatories.
- The dramatic cliffs at the Waipio Valley are unforgettable.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Spend a night on a volcano—sometimes you’ll see lava flowing from a crater into the sea.
- Hike an inactive crater and marvel at the Hawaiian goose (called the nene) waddling about on a landscape that conjures up the surface of Mars—truly astonishing.
- Explore the Thurston Lava Tube and catch a glimpse of green sea turtles sunning on the rocks.
- Take a sail on a luxury catamaran to a secret snorkeling spot—don’t be surprised if you spot some whales on the way.
- Enjoy a picnic on a stunning black sand beach after biking to Pololu Valley.
Striking stone forests, stunning starry skies, and awe-inspiring painted canyons—this is your tour if the marvels of nature make your soul sing.
And it’s not just the rocks and the canyons and cliffs; the parks are teeming with hundreds of species of mammals and reptiles and over 200 different species of birds (including the majestic and endangered California condor).
There’s something for every kind of outdoor adventurer—hiking, climbing, cycling. What I love most about this tour is the way you can truly make it your own and customize every part of your experience.
Here’s what I mean: Once when I did this trip, we had a couple of ER doctors who really loved to cycle and a pair of sweet Southern girls who really loved to hike. Our docs rode 80 miles a day on a tandem bike every day while our Southern guests biked maybe 10 or 15 and spent the rest of their day on foot hiking the canyons. Same trip—two completely different approaches.
Reasons to go:
- You’ve never smelled air as fresh and clean as it is in the parks here.
- It’s not an exaggeration to say the sunrises and sunsets are staggering in their beauty and color.
- The landscapes change minute by minute with shadow and light—this is a photographer’s dream vacation.
- Stargazing is almost a religious experience.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- See the red and orange sandstone sculptures at the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater.
- Hike the Fairyland Trail and ride your bike past the world’s largest collection of hoodoos.
- Wander the Virgin River Narrows, a spectacular slot canyon, and revel in the sights and sounds of a towering waterfall.
- Picnic at the Bryce Canyon Overlook and end your day being pampered at the luxurious Cable Mountain Lodge.
Hot, dry, stark, serene—Death Valley is a study in contrasts. Jagged mountains dusted with snow…unexpected fields of fiery wildflowers…thriving oases teeming with life…it’s unlike anywhere else in the country.
What surprises me about Death Valley the most is the light. Depending on the sun, the clouds, and the time of day, the landscape appears subtle one moment and incredibly harsh – fierce, almost – the next.
And the riding is superb, whether you’re new to a bike or an experienced cyclist—lots of wide-open spaces and plenty of downhill plus plenty of challenging optional routes for the rider who loves to eat hills for breakfast.
Reasons to go:
- If you’re a ghost town connoisseur (or just ghost town curious), you won’t be able to resist the abandoned mining towns and decrepit cabins of Rhyolite.
- Death Valley is nirvana for the hiking enthusiast—earn a coveted #HikeDeathValley decal for your trophy collection.
- The velvety sand dunes and spectacular desert views are made to be photographed.
- The valley is surprisingly biodiverse—and it’s one of the richest bird biomes in the country. Bring your binoculars!
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Take lunch at the Badwater Basin some 282 feet below sea level—the lowest point in North America.
- Hike the Ubehebe Crater, a half-mile wide crater over 500 feet deep and bike through the Mojave sand dunes.
- Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the valley from Dante’s View, the most photographed spot in the park.
- Splash and relax in the spring-fed pools at Furnace Creek.
- Challenge yourself with a 30-mile climb to Artist’s Palette at 6,500 feet—and feast your eyes on the rainbow-colored hills.
Ready to Pedal Away?
If you’ve never considered a bike tour as the ultimate way to visit your bucket-list destinations, think again. These five tours give you a whole new perspective on the places you’ve always wanted to go—an up close, intimate, and exhilarating experience.
Why not take a look at our 2017 dates, fill in this quick form and start planning your vacation of a lifetime today?
Bicycle Adventures is back with our second-annual #BikeBlackFriday event! Paying homage to REI’s #OptOutside, we are claiming a space for cycling on the day after Thanksgiving. We hope you’ll go for a ride, or better yet, go for a group ride with friends or the family that you see only once ayear at the holidays.
The act of cycling is uniquely suited to building community. Hailed as “the new golf” in business, riding in a group fosters communication, facilitates sharing and helps us see how dependent on each other we really are. I’m not sure if it’s the fresh air, the departure from our office desks into wide-open spaces, increased circulation or the shared experience of cycling through a beautiful spot – riding bikes with someone is uniquely special. Whether you are truly teaming with other cyclists in a full-on peloton, out for a casual ride to the coffee shop, or playing Bike Bingo – you are actively creating community.
And this is a great time to do just that, on the week that we give thanks for what we have, our friends, our families, our health…and the gift of time with each other, breaking bread, and having fun on bikes.
– Jennifer Schofield, Manager, Tours & Guest Services
First things first—congratulations on your decision to go forward and embrace one of the most rewarding challenges you’ll ever undertake. From personal experience, I can tell you that this adventure will change you for the better, both physically and mentally. And I applaud your decision to prepare yourself for the big event.
Whether you’re embarking on an epic adventure like the Empire Builder, a 700-mile trek from Montana to Seattle, or a more leisurely “Rails to Trails” exploration of the Couer d’Alenes, a little preparation goes a long way toward enjoying your travels.
Of course, physical preparation isn’t just helpful for bike tours. As Todd Starnes, our president and resident fitness expert (he was a sports scientist before joining Bicycle Adventures) often says—”Getting old just plain sucks; our choice is either to grow or decay.” For me? I’ll take growth every time, and your bike adventure is a giant leap forward towards your own personal and physical growth.
I think it’s important to state up front that physical fitness doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. So many of the activities that contribute to a healthy body can be done right in the privacy of your home, like strength and resistance training, stretching, and even cardio.
And the work you do toward preparing your body pays benefits in all sorts of unexpected ways, whether you’re training for a bike tour or just want less stiffness and more stamina when you’re gardening, doing housework, or playing with your grandkids at the park.
Why exercise? Physical exercise can slow the effects of aging and prevent muscle atrophy and bone loss, too—a real concern for 50+ women. I think it gives you more physical confidence to try new things…and I love what it does for my energy level.
So if you’re ready to get started, here are five tips to help 50+ athletes prepare for a bike tour.
It All Starts with Strength Training
Strength training sounds complicated and even a bit intimidating, especially if you’re out of practice. But it really comes down to these five simple motions:
You’ll notice “lifting weights” isn’t mentioned—because it really isn’t necessary! Although if you want to join a gym and work with machines and free weights, that’s always an option. I’m going to give you exercises you can do at home, with no complicated machines, and a far lower risk of injury.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests activities to strengthen each of the six main muscle groups: Chest, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, and legs. Strength training will come in handy on a bike adventure in so many ways—supporting your back, chest, arms, and posture during the ride itself and giving you the muscles you need to pedal up hills (like the cliffs and canyons in our Southern Utah National Parks tour).
The classic “push” exercise is the push-up, which strengthens your arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, and back—it’s an all-purpose exercise powerhouse. If you aren’t strong enough to do a classic military version, you can try this four-step plan to get you there (or you can just stick with the modified version that works best for you).
A good strength routine balances pushing and pulling. You don’t need a pull-up bar to build your pulling muscles, but a set of lightweight dumbbells is helpful. I like the alternating dumbbell row because you can really feel results with just a few reps.
Planking is great for strengthening your core, which underpins pretty much everything you do. If you’re a beginner at planking, you can learn good technique and modifications with this video, plus variations for more advanced moves.
No, this isn’t a “gotcha,” there really are sitting-type exercises to help you build strength. I’m talking about squats and lunges, which are great for developing your abs, legs, and back. Even if you have knee problems, you can do these exercises at home.
I don’t have to tell you how important it is to strengthen your lower back and core—doing laundry, tying your shoes…we’re bending all day long. Some great home bending exercises are back extensions and bicycles.
Build Your Endurance with Cardio
The CDC recommends that healthy older adults get at least two-and-a-half hours (150 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking) every week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity (running, jogging, cycling) activity. The heart benefits of aerobic activity are not in dispute.
But the added benefits of increased endurance will help you on your bicycle tour, especially one like the Washington Cascades adventure where 100-mile days aren’t uncommon.
Simple things to do now to improve your cardio endurance:
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
- Pursue an active hobby like tennis, swimming, or riding your bike (especially riding your bike).
- Take a brisk walk on your lunch break instead of snacking at your desk.
- Go kayaking or paddleboarding.
- Get a jump rope and skip rope to music.
Add Some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Although it sounds complicated, HIIT really isn’t. It’s simply combining brief intervals of intense exercise with longer periods of less strenuous work. You can incorporate HIIT just by running for a few seconds every few minutes when you take your daily walk—or pedaling extra hard for 10 to 30 seconds periodically on your training bike rides.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends HIIT because it:
- Improves aerobic (and anaerobic) fitness.
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.
- Reduces belly fat and body weight while preserving your muscle mass.
Sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. And the best thing is that HIIT can be modified to suit any fitness level and you don’t have to do it every day to see results. You can find a great HIIT workout for beginners here.
Our fitness guru Todd Starnes recommends observing these rules:
- Aim for “comfortably challenging,” there’s no need to make yourself miserable.
- Think quality over quantity—if you are working hard but struggling to keep the pace you had after your first couple of intervals, you’ve done enough for that workout.
- Four to six intervals no more than twice per week is more than enough to experience the benefits of HIIT.
Don’t Neglect the “4 Rs” of Recovery
Recovery is even more important for the beginning or older athlete, so pay extra attention to the four “Rs” of recovery—
If your exercise period is 60 minutes or shorter, rehydrating with water is probably enough. For longer sessions, use a sports beverage with carbs and electrolytes.
You need to eat to replenish the fuel your body spent and provide nutrients to help your body recover. For adults over 50, that means protein—at least 15 to 25 grams in the hour after exercise. Protein bars and shakes are a convenient option if you don’t feel like preparing a snack.
I’m not just talking about a short break after exercise (although that’s always important), I’m talking about a healthy amount of deep, restorative sleep at night to give your body time to recover and repair.
The recovery process looks different in everyone, but for older adults, alternating heat and cold therapy, soft tissue massage, or even therapeutic soaks are helpful for encouraging the muscle repair that occurs after exercise.
The tour guides at Bicycle Adventures take recovery seriously with an appropriate schedule of hydration, nourishing snacks and drinks, healthy breakfasts, and even special accommodations for your own diet and nutrition routine.
What You Eat Matters More than You Think
Your changing nutritional needs become even more noticeable once you hit 50. For one thing, your body may not absorb essential nutrients as well as it did when you were younger—and strenuous exercise impacts digestion, a potential “perfect storm” of nutritional deficits.
Here are some foods to eat if you want your body to be ready to go when you are:
- Probiotics set the stage for a healthy gut, the gatekeeper to a healthy body. Some people use a probiotics supplement, but you can naturally introduce these healthy bacteria into your gut by eating yogurt with live active cultures (look for the LAC stamp), fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, and aged cheeses.
- Fiber feeds the healthy gut bacteria and aids digestion. Get what you need with easy-to-eat foods like barely ripe bananas, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and asparagus.
- Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, help you burn fat, and are good for your heart. Incorporate more servings of fatty fish like salmon to boost this important nutrient.
- Protein helps repair and grow muscles and maintain bone and joint strength. Try to get some protein at every meal with foods like dairy, fish, poultry, meat, or plant-based sources (lentils, nuts, seeds).
- Vitamin D is essential to muscle recovery and maintaining healthy bones. Unfortunately, aging skin isn’t as effective at synthesizing vitamin D from the sun, so it’s important to add it to your diet with either supplements or fortified dairy products.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some practical tips and pointers to help you get started on a physical program of preparation for your tour. You’ll notice that none of the exercises I suggest require pricey equipment, a gym membership, or hours of your time—you can do it them at home and on your own schedule.
If you have any questions about fitness, preparation, and recovery, I’m always here to talk to you. And if you’re still looking for the perfect bicycle adventure for you—I can help you with that, too! Just send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s have a chat.
Stress is unavoidable. In the United States, seven out of every ten adults experiences some form of anxiety or stress on a daily basis, according to a survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Stress can be caused by a number of things: challenges at work, relationship issues or unexpected life events. Stress itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it can be a sign that you’re pushing yourself to a more intense level, which is often what’s required to achieve important goals. But when stress isn’t managed correctly over a long period of time, it can lead to physical ailments such as high blood pressure, headaches, heart issues, diabetes and more. Managing stress is crucial – and one of the best means of stress management is consistent exercise.
Exercising consistently has a number of physical and mental benefits. Exercise can help boost muscle strength and burn fat. It can help your body fight off disease, reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and even jumpstart or sharpen cognitive function. Working out help to ease tension, improve sleep and keep you focused. Exercise helps manage and/or reduce symptoms caused by stress—such as fatigue or increased tension—and working out in moderation will help to keep you energized and healthy.
So, if you’re feeling stressed, give yourself permission to take care of you. Check with your doctor to see if there are any activities you should be avoiding. If not, it’s time to pick up a new activity like yoga, swimming or cycling and start exercising regularly. Cycling is actually a perfect, cardio exercise for overall stress reduction too—it’s low impact, will get you outdoors so you’ll get plenty of fresh air while helping you burn calories and build muscle strength. Cycling is also a fantastic social activity, and meeting up with friends or joining a meet-up for a fun group ride will help to ease any stress-related symptoms. If you’d like to learn more about group cycling, click here.
Planning a family vacation can be daunting in itself. Planning a successful family cycling vacation seems possibly even more daunting. But it’s not impossible—you’ll just want to do your homework. Here are some quick pointers:
Research: Pick a unique destination that offers something for everyone. For instance, a cycling tour of South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore area offers a little bit of everything, from Flintstones Village to Wind Cave to bison, a mammoth dig and of course Mt. Rushmore itself. Or, if your family has a particular destination in mind—say, somewhere that has a fun mountain vibe—you can pick a spot that fits the family’s needs (like Bend, Oregon, where you’ll find great roads and trails for cycling plus terrific rock climbing, hiking and other outdoor fun). Once you pick the destination, work with a cycling company, tour group or bike shop at your destination to plan your adventure. Convey all the important information—age of your children, riding ability, planned dates, etc. If you don’t have (or don’t want to haul) bikes, a tour company may be a great way to go.
Plan a full day, or keep it low key: It’s important to keep your family’s travel preferences in mind. Some people love to keep busy during a trip. Others like to take it easy during vacation. If your family has a mix of both, choose an itinerary that offers variety and flexibility. You can plan a relaxing tour of somewhere low-key like Portland, Oregon, or you could go with a more active and adventurous trip, like a five-day cycling, hiking and kayaking trip in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.
Have a Plan B: When you’re traveling, things don’t always go as planned.
Flat tires, bad weather, sore muscles – all possibilities on a bicycling tour. Whatever happens, keep your sense of humor, try to roll with the punches and take things in stride. Also, try to have a backup plan or two: a potential indoor activity if the weather is unfriendly; plenty of tubes (or a guide who carries them!) Maybe even plan to get a massage along the way.
Have fun! When trips turn serious, things get stressful quickly. So keep things light: take plenty of pictures, try different foods, enjoy fun side-trips or new activities and work on communicating with all of your family members. Planning ahead is your best bet for a great family vacation.