There’s no doubt about it, cyclists tend to dread the cold winter months, wrapped up like Michelin men, barely able to bend their elbows or pull the brakes. The winter seems to be getting colder and longer, or maybe that’s us losing the will to pedal during winter, who knows.
Every ride becomes a fiasco, getting dressed takes an extra 10 minutes, pulling layer upon layer of clothing on and fretting about that awful feeling of being frozen to the bone. So, let’s talk about sneaking away for some warmer climates and vitamin D.
First up, Spain, which is home to the Vuelta a España, a race bursting to the edge of the road with spectators.
Housing many cyclists, year in-year out, Spain has a multitude of terrain to offer – flat, mountains, short-steep climbs and lots of wonderful coffee and cake – not that it’s the most important thing…
Like most European countries, Spain does have a winter – usually not as cold as the UK, although global warming could change that. However, January – March is known to be the best time to visit Spain for some cheeky winter sun, just as you get to breaking point in the UK, it’s time to hop on a plane and live your best life.
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A well connected, small town in south east Spain – a place that has turned into a cyclists’ mecca, largely due to its great value for money hotels, exceptional roads and cycling routes and it boasts a town full of things to do with easy transfers to and from the airport.
The food is reasonably priced, with various types of restaurants, bars and cafés, the coffee is exquisite. Friendly people and a beautiful beach for a winter ice bath.
-You can get to places such as Coll de Rates – a category two climb and the most famous in the area.
-Puerto de Tudons a 30–60-minute climb depending on the pace you choose, fully stocked with beautiful views and a water fountain. Late February sees the Vuelta Setmana Ciclista Valenciana race pass through.
-Cumbre del Sol is known to be one of the toughest climbs with the gradient reaching 17.9%.
-Val d’Ebo – a perfect climb for a 20-minute power test, if you’re feeling brave.
The summer brings an influx of tourists and busier roads within the town, along with temperatures that tend to be scorching. However, late winter, early season tends to be the best time to visit for some peace.
Girona stands out as an exceptional cycling destination for enthusiasts of all levels. Its appeal lies in its diverse and scenic routes, offering breathtaking landscapes from coastal paths to challenging mountain terrains-Ideal for road add gravel riders alike. Plus, it’s the VIP hangout for pro cyclists, so you might just bump handlebars with your cycling heroes! With roads smoother than a buttered-up race track and a climate that’s as predictable as your cycling buddy’s jokes, you can ride year-round without breaking a sweat (okay, maybe just a little sweat). And after all that riding, treat yourself to some local grub and soak in the charming culture – because nothing pairs better with sore legs than delicious Catalan cuisine and a hearty dose of history!
Diverse landscapes: Coastal paths to mountainous terrains
Varied terrain suitable for all cycling levels
Proximity to professional cyclists and a vibrant cycling community
Well-maintained roads and cycling-friendly infrastructure
Mild Mediterranean climate ideal for year-round cycling
Rich cultural experience with historical sites and local cuisine
Another well-known cycling destination, famous for its warm climate year-round. Cyclists flock here in groups for winter training, the Island is also well known for welcoming triathletes. The locals are friendly, and the Island has hundreds of expats who live there or come and go, a welcoming smile can make anyone’s day.
However, the cost of visiting is far higher than in places such as Spain, as it’s an Island the importation of food produce (including bike parts should something break) puts the costs up.
Its rugged landscapes are surrounded by crisp white buildings, volcanic peaks, and sandy beaches. A place that’s perfect for getting in an array of wide-open road riding as well as a few climbs.
The very well-known wind in Lanzarote is like few other places, a true experience of grit, the wind has an average speed of 23kph but can reach up to 70kph – this is the place to get used to high winds while building confidence in your handling skills.
-Hilly terrain rather than filled with mountains – more enjoyable for those who don’t fancy themselves as ‘goats.’
-Volcano National Park – Timanfaya, is absolutely breath taking and a hard workout. Experiencing the lava fields on your bike is something every cyclist should do.
-La Geria, an unusual sight when passing through – bright green vines surrounded by black volcanic ash and semi-circular walls. The volcanic ash holds humidity which makes for optimal growth.
-Lanzarote is filled with bike-hire shops.
Lanzarote is a great place for athletes to train. Although, there is less to do off the bike than alternative destinations – the perfect place for recovering while laying down, tasting wine and enjoying great food.
If you’re really struggling with your bib tights and harsh conditions, Mallorca is the place to nip across to. Often filled by professional teams due to its world class cycling routes and warm climate, you’ll have no issue finding some riding buddies.
Mallorca is an ideal destination for families, friends, and cyclists – so if you’re mixing some cycling with a family holiday, it’s ideal. It’s filled with non-cycling attractions, gorgeous traditional towns, culture, café bon-bons, fairly cheap accommodation and beach activities.
Although, the early season temperatures can still be low enough to require some additional layers, I’d recommend visiting from late January/February up until November.
-Wintertime can bring closure of shops/cafés in high tourism locations so make sure to check the location you choose.
-The road network is perfect for cycling and offers extensive route options.
-You can take part in the Majorca 312 Gran Fondo, should you wish to venture across and make new friends while testing yourself.
-They have an outdoor velodrome which you can ride on.
-There are so many cycling friendly hotels, you may struggle to decide – but this is a problem we want everywhere.
-Numerous bike rental options.
-Climbs to visit: Coll de Soller – a good one for a power test, Ermita de Betlem – providing views on dreams, Sa Calobra – another one great for power tests and Puig Major.
With the variety of activities on and off the bike that Mallorca has to offer, a climate which, if planned well, you can come back with tan lines and great accommodation options, this is definitely a firm favourite with cyclists.
the Algarve, Portugal
Host to the Volta ao Algarve UCI race, right at the beginning of the year, if you’re there in February you can catch it.
A cyclist’s dream, encompassing an astounding variety of riding and landscapes – mostly gradual mountains and rolling roads. Portugal is forever growing in popularity with general tourists and cyclists, it houses communities full of expats.
The people are friendly, welcoming and keen to guide you to the best places. It’s full of magnificent restaurants and the coffee is even cheaper than mainland Spain. Alongside the cycling it has a variety of things to do off the bike, including: an outlet mall, famous beaches to visit, wine tasting – on your rest day, trekking and watersports.
Unlike Spain, Portugal has a great climate year-round, although somewhat unbearably hot for us fair skinned brits in the summer, it does possess a wonderful winter climate between 15C-24C.
-Largely car free past the N125 and A22 highways.
-A variety of flat and rolling coastal roads. However, you can go further inland to the mountains quite easily.
-Gravel and mountain trails are available, and Lagos has a MTB centre.
-Serra de Monchique Foia – a famous climb with its highest point being 900m.
-Malhão – 3 kilometre climb with an average gradient of 12% and topping out at 20%, this climb is often featured in the UCI races.
The variety, sunshine, great value for money and lifestyle makes this is a fantastic place to visit for some winter cycling fun and even family holidays merged.
Ok, so, it might not be a place that comes straight to mind but hear me out. Firstly, December temperatures stick around 20-25c, depending on which area you travel to.
It’s the perfect place for training at altitude because over half of the country sits at 1000 metres above sea level, it’s ideal for those who want to climb – there’s both off-road and paved routes, something for everyone.
Mexico is well known for great hospitality and that extends to cyclists, the locals love seeing cyclists and many cars will pass you wide and slowly. However, I do recommend staying off the main highways to avoid larger vehicles.
Places to cycle
Yucatan Peninsula, once home to the Maya civilisation, it still houses their incredible architecture. This would be somewhere to base yourself if you wanted to combine your cycling with some exploring – it’s full of wonderful beaches, jungles, natural pools, and culture.
The culture here is more impressive than the riding. Most rides would consist of flat roads – although beautiful there is a lack of climbing and variation, guiding you through local villages with a warm welcoming smile from the locals.
The island is famous for its coral reefs and exquisite food, making for great recovery activities and easy fuelling.
Bucerias, Puerto Vollarta, I’m told it fills you with an overwhelming feeling of ‘home’ and ‘adventure,’ a place you never really want to leave. It’s full of colourful buildings, cobbled streets and was once a fishing village – exuding culture and character.
Bucerias is a short commute from Puerto Vollarta – the bigger of the towns, they’re mostly populated by natives, with much less tourism than some of the other locations in Mexico, a fantastic place to visit to explore the depths of culture on offer.
It boasts a variety of riding, it’s a coastal town itself but with good access to the Sierra Madre mountains on the other side – you won’t have an issue getting some tougher terrain in.
Mazatlan, based on the Pacific Coast. It’s home to one of the longest running gran fondos in Mexico – the Ciclo Tour Mazatlan which takes place every December – a great event to join for some fun, additional winter miles, filled with friendly faces and support.
The town is known as the Pearl of the Pacific, due to the 21 kilometres of sandy beaches it’s encompassed by, lined with a boardwalk and bike paths. Once upon a time, it was a favourite for surfers and expats, in the 1950’s, before becoming a tourism hotspot during the summer months and the quiet beaches becoming over-run.
The cost of visiting Mexico will vary largely depending on the area, but as a standard everything is quite well priced, eating out can be incredibly cheap if you’re outside of the city centre and the cultural overload you can take in while training is a dream.
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Have you been to ride in any of these destination? Have we missed any which are worthy of being on the list? Let us know in the comments!
As ever, if you are travelling abroad to cycle, it’s really important to take out Yellow jersey travel insurance which is designed to cover emergency medical expenses, trip cancellation, liability cover and much more for road, gravel, XC, enduro and mountain biking. The travel insurance even covers racing as standard! If you need cover for you bicycle, you can buy bicycle and electric bicycle insurance here