For centuries, bicycles have had a simple purpose: helping folks get from place to place faster than a pair of legs and slower than a roaring engine. For that reason, cyclists have took it upon themselves to explore the world in-depth and observantly.
Broadly speaking, urban cyclists lead in popularity and there are, of course, travellers driven by an audacious avidity to take over the roads through the insatiable need to match the latest Tour de France record.
But there are also two-wheelers — who, in the moment they hook up their handlebars — start topping up their slow adventure with favourite hobbies. Among them are the gourmet cyclists, who stand out by exuding irresistible appeal for the culinary world. To them, the world is an epicure playground worth exploring with the right tempo, feeling every crease in the land beneath the wheels and spinning and sipping their way through the coolest wine regions, just to pair the perfect glass of wine with the most palatable bite.
For these pedalling and savouring cyclists cum bon vivants, Quotient ‘spills’ the coolest places around the world, where a refuelling pit-stop means lavish dining and sampling of prime wines.
Noble grape a-quenching
Say bonjour to France’s ancestral prestigious vineyards, which have been rolling out wines for every palate for decades; Romanée Conti, Pommard, Volnay, Corton-Charlemagne, Meursault, Clos de Vougeot and Montrachet are some of the fancy denominations created by independent winemaking families, who have been owning parcels of vineyards in Burgundy for centuries. The key stretch in this region is Route des Grands Crus, a 65-kilometre road which stretches from Dijon to Santenay and takes you through a journey of the greatest appellations. Pass through Gevrey-Chambertin, where you can tour the medieval castle and sample wines in its cellar; Vougeot, whose chateau boasts huge Cistercian wine presses; Nuits-Saint-Georges, with its beautiful old town centre and the modern Imaginarium museum dedicated to sparkling wine; the charming little village of Pernand-Vergelesses; and finally Beaune, the capital of Burgundy wines, where you can drop by the Burgundy Wine Museum in the magnificent residence of the Burgundy dukes.
Undulating joy in Umbria
The vast landscapes of Umbria are smothered in hills, olive groves and long curvy roads, where once in a while cyclists break the silence with their sharp swooshes. A network of small roads wind alongside Lake Trasimeno, while another road links the historical towns of Bevagna and Spoleto. On the gentle rolling hills which hug a good part of the region, cyclists will be able to make a pit-stop to admire rich olive groves and vineyards, ancient hamlets and imposing castles. For more bucolic treats, wheelers can also follow the wanderings of Italy’s patron saint, Francis, in Assisi town, where they will have small-scale, organic viticultural experiences and admire history-laden churches. Further south, in the medieval hill town of Spello, they can visit traditional enotecas and sample Umbrian wines and later, cycle along the amazing “Via Degli Ulivi” or the “Olive Way”, to soak up the fantastic view of the valleys.
The vicious vine cycle
At times, tackling the rolling hills of Piedmont can be a mighty challenge (and yes, they can leave you panting), but take some time to imagine the rewarding view of historic towns, ancient vineyards and gourmet restaurants lurking at every corner. Start your tour in Bra, the birthplace of Italy’s Slow Food Movement, where you have nothing to do but succumb to the local culinary culture. Continue through the regions of Langhe (“hills” in the Piedmont dialect) to be treated to irresistible wines made from Nebbiolo grapes (Barolo and Barbaresco) and overindulge in Alba, famous for white truffles (the charming town is best known for Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba, or International Alba White Truffle Fair, held every autumn). If you take the windy roads in Monferrato, the fast pedalling might make you ravenous but don’t be shy to stop for great pastas in local trattorias. After all, this is a trip where you will surely lose weight no matter how much you indulge!
Head over Swiss hills
Welcome to Switzerland’s Valais canton, a land of contrasts, surrounded by numerous rugged peaks including the Matterhorn, Dents du Midi and Monte Rosa. Sitting at the base of these snowy Alpine ranges, is the sunny Rhône Valley, a cycling heaven where verdant meadows sprinkled with wildflowers and grazing cows are a common sight. Yielding numerous endemic and rare old-world wine varieties, these vertigo-inducing vineyards stretch from Brig to Martigny, along the ice-blue Rhône river. This is the country’s largest and oldest wine-producing region, with estates dating back to antiquity. Generally, trains huff and puff up and down in this steep region, taking travellers in the heart of this lovely alpine terroir. But the introduction of e-bikes (battery-enhanced electronic bicycles) has seen a boom of cyclists pedalling energetically just to sip on a perfect stony Swiss white.
Saddle up along the Danube
The Danube Cycling Path is deemed as one of the most beautiful cycling tracks in Europe, spanning 365 kilometres in length from the Bavarian city of Passau to Bratislava in Slovakia. Nonetheless, the most picturesque section of the path is the UNESCO-inscribed Wachau Valley (located about 80 kilometres from Vienna) for it is known to abound in castles, abbeys and vineyards. Winding down the river, you will traverse lush hilltops dotted with Benedictine abbeys and quaint towns peppered with tangerine-orange rooftops. From Durnstein to Weissenkirchen, cyclists can roll from vineyards to inns, sampling unique wines and local culinary delights, satisfying both their palate and their wanderlust. In Melk, you will gawk in wonder at the Baroque structure of the Benedictine monastery, cross villages steeped in storied history and end off in Linz, with the Alps as a backdrop and a magical riverfront which doesn’t need much to reveal the romantic in you.
Bec and forth in Argentina
As the purple-red Malbec and Torrontés grapevines glimmer in the early morning sun, in the background, the ubiquitous snow-capped Andes pierce the sky — a dramatic view worthy of long strenuous rides through the heart of real Argentina. Explore Mendoza, a city built for pleasure, which boasts quaint plazas, excellent restaurants and bars brimming with malbec wines, and later head out to the main wine regions, where you will be positively overwhelmed by spectacular mountain views, quaint inns and a cluster of excellent wineries. In Lujan de Cuyo, located about 40 minutes south of Mendoza, visit traditional bodegas and learn about the wine making process from grape to bottle. It was there where Argentina’s wine movement began — pushing the country from the common table to international production. Continue your boozy ride in the country’s newest wine region, Valle de Uco, which teems with family-run wineries devoted to the iconic, full-bodied grape of malbec.
Sippy is the trail in Santa Barbara
Napa Valley was once the epitome of “awesome” in the wine department, but these days, oenophiles are ditching the tourist-cluttered vineyard tours in northern California for the uber-cool Santa Barbara along the central coast. Popular for a humming scene of laidback wine bars and groovy neighbourhoods such as the Funk Zone (where street poles are wrapped with colourful knitted sleeves), Santa Barbara is truly the place everyone is raving about. Just a jaunt from the city centre is the Urban Wine Trail, where you can peddle your way to dozens of wineries and taste wines from peppery Syrahs to classic Californian Cabernets.
Aha in Rioja
The striking honey-gold fields of La Rioja region in northern Spain is a marvellous sight to behold. The route is so complex, that whilst there, you could have it all: history-laden fortresses, surreal-looking landscapes, art, world-famous wine and, of course, palatable cuisine. As you pedal swiftly via the beautiful Ebro River Valley, your heart will leap at mesmerising canyons, medieval towns scattered on the hills and traditional bodegas loaded with superb wines. As you ride through the picturesque town of Briones, you will be able to brush up your vino skills at Museo Dinastia Vivanco, regarded as one of the best wine museums in the world, and even follow a portion of the renowned 1,000-year-old pilgrim route of Santiago de Compostela.
Bubble up in Cape Town
Surrounded by well-known towns such as Franschhoek and Stellenbosch as well as lesser-known terroirs such as Constantia and Overberg, Cape Town Winelands make for an exciting cycling destination, where you can visit historic estates and acclaimed wines such as Vin de Constance, once described by Jane Austen as having “healing powers on a disappointed heart”. And surely, there won’t be room for any disappointment, as the African capital’s vineyards teem with Cape-Dutch homesteads and sumptuous restaurants.
Toast at first sight
The V shaped Willamette is a real agricultural bounty and home to about two thirds of Oregon’s wineries. Sitting between Cascade Mountain foothills and the Coast Range, and spanning 177 kilometres from outside Portland to Eugene, this region boasts scenic zigzagging roads opening up to oak forests, fields abloom with wildflowers and organic farms which, during summer, display a fruitful production of strawberries, blueberries and corn straight from the field. But there is something more about this fertile valley: the Pinot Noir produced here has gained a great spot on the map of worldwide top wines. By taking the first official Scenic Bikeway in the US, you will make your way through fields of Oregon’s world-famous hops, past stunning views of vineyards and through quaint towns. Stop for tastings at wineries and regain some energy at coffee shops and brewpubs. The northern point of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway is Champoeg State Park, where settlers gathered in the 1850s to hold what turned out to be a very close vote that led to the creation of the state of Oregon. The Bikeway’s one significant climb is the pass south of Brownsville. The route continues through the quaint town of Coburg, before reaching its southern terminus at Armitage County Park and campground just outside Eugene.