This summer our family went to Prague to visit our daughter Sadie, who’s graduated from college and moved to Europe to work as an English teacher. I decided to bring my bike, since I was tacking on a bike business-related work trip to London afterwards.
I’d ridden bikes once before in Europe, 10 years ago, on a trip to Italy. And I visited a bike race (Paris-Bourges) in France in 2004. But this was the first time I’d fully embraced the experience, with my own bike, creating routes on Strava and even riding in a gravel event.
I’m here to tell you that if you love bikes, riding in Europe needs to be on your bucket list. Here’s why:
- Bikes are welcome, mostly. Due to the European continent’s ongoing role as the global headquarters of bike racing, there’s an acceptance and understanding of bicycles on the road that does not exist in the US. England was an exception, and some of the roads there were narrow with no bike lanes. But on the continent it feels generally safe to be on your bike. If you’re in a place like Amsterdam, which is now built around bikes, then you’ll feel truly in charge of the road.
- Riding bikes is a tremendous way to make new friends. Since other cyclists probably share some of the same personality traits — a love of endorphins, adrenaline and gear — you are highly likely to connect with other folks you meet on the road. I believe the bike is the single best cultural bridge ever created.
- Traveling with your bike might sound intimidating, but it really is not difficult. On the recommendation of my friend Tim Johnson, I purchased a Pika Packworks travel case, which worked really well. I was even able to fit a second set of wheels (for gravel) into the bag. Most airlines charge a $75 fee for your bike, but you can search fees by airline here. Or use BikeFlights and just ship the bike ahead of time.
- Riding a bike is the best way to see a new landscape. Traveling in the open air at 15–20 mph is immersive, vivid and educational. You head out for a few hours in the countryside, or the city, and you see so much. There’s no glass in between you and what you’re looking at. You feel the wind, the sun and maybe the rain. You smell the butcher shop you just rode by, and the sunflowers in the field. I was full of joy during every ride. It’s a magnificent experience.
- It’s a great way to try local food. One thing I’ve learned is that a post-ride coffee and a snack is a universal ritual practiced by cyclists in every country. Why not use your bike to explore new restaurants and cuisine in whatever country you’re in?
- It does not have to be expensive. While traveling, you can stay in a hotel, rent an Airbnb, crash in a hostel or even camp. Now that gas prices are on the way down, airline tickets to Europe are more-or-less affordable.