A bike gets you around fast enough to see all the sights, yet slowly enough to spot the city’s secrets. It also lets you swiftly slip into living like a local, even if it’s just for the weekend.
With bike rental booming, bike-sharing apps such as Spinlister gaining momentum and transport providers now giving cheaper and easier options for carrying bikes as luggage, cycling city breaks are increasingly appealing.
Here’s a selection of cycle-friendly cities for travellers who love a good spin.
Copenhagen has one of the world's most cycle-friendly infrastructures
Last year the number of bikes in Copenhagen officially exceeded the number of cars. This isn’t surprising when you take a look at their infrastructure; bike lanes separated from car traffic, traffic lights timed according to the average cycling speed and now a network of Cycle Superhighways specially designed for commuters. Try it out for yourself by navigating the city by bike, whether you’re there to ride one of the world’s oldest roller coasters at Tivoli Gardens, encounter the local counter culture in Christiania or simply sip a beer or a coffee by the waterfront in Nyhavn. If you still have energy for a final sprint, head down to the gym at the eco-conscious Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Hire an 'omafiets' (a typical Dutch bike) and whiz around the canals with ease
Anyone searching for a souvenir from Amsterdam will be spoilt for choice in bicycle paraphernalia and likely come home sporting an ‘omafiets’, or Dutch bike, on their new t-shirt. Even the prime minister gets around by bicycle, and the Dutch are fiercely proud of their bike culture. You, too, can get the true Dutch experience by renting an omafiets that will whiz you around Amsterdam. Granted, the Netherlands is not known for its sunny weather, but a little rain doesn’t stop the locals. They even have specially shaped, wind-resistant umbrellas ideal for whipping out on the bike in case of a sudden shower. Many hotels have rental bikes available – a particularly green one is the Conscious Hotel. Each sustainable feature is explained on a little tag or sign, and it’s right next to the Vondelpark where you can stop for a dose of nature when the sun finally does come out.
Bordeaux was awarded the official ‘vélotouristique’ (bicycle tourism) label in 2011
Bordeaux has had the official ‘vélotouristique’ (bicycle tourism) label since 2011. The very reasonably-priced ‘V’ bike share scheme means you can pick up and drop off bicycles in 174 locations around the city. There are also several tourism cycle routes for you to follow; the whole centre is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and of course you might want to head out of town to see the vineyards. Many visitors will have planned an afternoon training their taste buds at the Cité du Vin, but don’t forget to stop by La Toque Cuivrée, known for the best ‘cannelés de Bordeaux’ – the city’s famous pastry. Rest your legs over a cocktail before bed at the quirky Mama Shelter, just around the corner.
Portland is often claimed to be the most bike-friendly city in the USA
Often claimed to be the most bike-friendly city in the USA, Portland’s cycling citizens and their bikes come in every style. Waiting at the lights you’re just as likely to find yourself next to a home-welded tall bike as a full carbon speed machine or a sticker-covered fixed gear. A good place to call base is the Kimpton Hotel Monaco; not only is it ideally situated downtown but they’ll also lend you bikes to get around for free. From there, Portland is your oyster with its craft beer breweries, coffee roasteries and farmers’ markets. The city lives up to its bike-friendly reputation with over 500km of bike paths including Tilikum Crossing, the pedestrian and cycle bridge that crosses the Willamette River. If you’re travelling with your wheels, Portland’s airport even has a dedicated bike assembly station and cycle lanes to get there.
Japan's former imperial capital is laid out in a grid pattern, so it's easy to navigate the ancient streets by bike
Kyoto is remarkably easy to navigate by bike since its streets are laid out in a grid pattern going North-South and East-West, modelled on the ancient Chinese capital, Chang’an. Although there aren’t many bike-only lanes, the city has a reputation for being very bikeable. Certain 'pedestrian areas' can be used if the roads are intimidatingly busy but only ones with a sign stating that this is indeed allowed to do so (and if you are, remember to weave your way through pedestrians carefully and respectfully). Most attractions have a small bicycle parking lot next to them, but if you’re in the centre you can use the big ones like at Kyoto Station or the WINGS Downtown parking lot. For the full local experience, stay at Yadoya Kikokuso; a traditional, family-run ryokan in the centre of the city. From there, hop on your bike for a tour of the temples and shrines, then refuel with delicious Kyoto specialities at Nishiki Market.