There is something rather old-fashioned and romantic about cycling and the bicycle. Maybe it’s the fact that the cycle, a charming old invention has stood the test of time, and become the eco-conscious traveller’s loyal friend. The very idea evokes images of the roads less taken, the warm sunrise greeting one as you cycle away with the soft zephyr playing the background music. How thrilling then it must be to pedal away on some of the most picturesque routes in the country.
Here is a definitive guide on some of the best cycling trails across India.
1. Manali to Leh
This one is an obvious choice and somewhat of a classic cycling route among bicycle aficionados the world over. It is naturally exhilarating simply for the undulating landscape and the various shades of the sky you encounter. Though it’s not easy by any means; the unpredictable weather and the incredible altitudes can prove to be a challenging and rewarding journey at the same time.
Approximate distance to be covered: 600kms long
On your way you will cross:
Rohtang La (3950m) – Pir Panjal range
Baralacha La (5000m) – The Great Himalaya and Nakeela (5000m)
Lachulung La (5150m) and Taglang La (5300m) – Zanskar range
Other attractions: Enjoying ‘noodles’ at the roadside stalls
How to reach: Delhi to Manali via road
Winters and monsoons are best avoided for this route
Tour of Nilgiris (TfN) as it has come to be known is one of the largest and most popular biking trails of India. It is currently celebrating its 8th year of existence. The scheduled TfN occurs from 16-23rd December every year. Spanning 800+ kilometers, this is a spectacular trip not just because of the enchanting Nilgiri mountain ranges but also owing to the amazing company of fellow cyclists.
Cycling enthusiasts across India are increasingly participating in this event which includes competitive time trial sections through various stages of this terrain. It boasts of some interesting biodiversity, with many rare species found nowhere else.
Alternatively you can also take a trip outside of this event from Mysore to Ooty via Bandipur, exploring the beauty of the flora and fauna and the thrill of riding through the hairpin loops. Simply mind-blowing.
On your way you will pass: Three wildlife sanctuaries of Bandipur in Karnataka, Waynad in Kerala and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu.
How to reach: Via Bangalore. Organizers for TfN announce the route each year.
Do not miss: Filter coffee and local cuisine.
3. Royal Rajasthan
Indubitably, Rajasthan has the most atypical terrain in India. A photographer’s dream come true, it brings to mind the earthy shades contrasted with the royal red, the sandy browns and the Jaipur pink. Cycling through such a topography is an extravaganza beyond belief.
Not surprisingly it is a favourite amongst Indian and international travelers who take to the bicycle when visiting Rajasthan. The alluring flatlands, the sand dunes and the mighty hills of this colourful state provide great stimulation to the avid cycle buffs.
You can choose to do the city tours from Jaipur-Jodhpur-Udaipur and Pushkar. Or if you want to witness the national parks and sanctuaries you can opt for Keoladeo Ghana National Park and move on to Kaila Devi National park with your tour culminating at Ranthambore National Park(known for its tigers).
On your way you might meet: Some beautiful forts and palaces, not to mention the camel carts.
Do not miss: The delicious kachoris and Rajasthani sweets.
4. Pune to Panshet Dam via Sinhgad
Pune to Panshet Dam via Sinhgad is touted to be one of the easier, and more popular cycling routes in India, even for beginners.
This is a gorgeous route in the Western ghats, the weather in this part of the country is generally pleasant throughout the year. Again there are cycle expedition events like Panshet Parikrama for an organized and guided cycle tour. But feel free to explore this route if you are an amateur cyclist.
Surprisingly, one of the best seasons to do this tour is monsoons because of the breathtaking atmosphere and the lush green countryside. Sing the ‘Hills are alive’ with your friends as you draw close to the lovely blue waters of the Panshet Dam.
Distance: 45 kms
How to reach: Via Mumbai or Pune
On your way you will see: Sinhgad Fort and Khadakwasla Dam.
Must read: 10 Road Trips Every Indian Biker Must Take
5. Pangong Lake Circuit
160km from Leh is the celebrated lake of Pangong (now known as the 3 Idiots Lake, after the scene in the movie). The Pangong Lake circuit is widely used by cyclists from all over the world to soak in the beauty of the azure skies, the astonishing blue of the lake and snow-capped beauty that surrounds you. Heavenly it is. Pedal away in this divine set-up – the crystal waters of Pangong, Timori and Tsokar on your left and the majestic Chang Chemo range on your right.
Distance: 30 kms
On your way you will find: Photo ops that will drive you insane.
What topography can do more justice to the lyrical joys of cycling, than the enchanting backwaters of Kerala? Bicycle trips in Kerala are quite the rage, with several routes that have gained popularity over the years. Cycle away to the glorious Cardamom hills with the eponymous spice trails.
Bikers from across the world acknowledge the Top-Station road to be one of the best roads for cycling. Or take a tour to the magical waters of Alleppey. Be it the Edamalyar forests, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary or the Periyar River, Kerala offers sights and sounds that are unlike any other. Ride on through the scintillating spice trails to its majestic biodiversity, Kerala is a many-splendored place.
On your way you might find: Tea estates, elephants, shola forests and backwaters.
Don’t miss: Exquisite coffee and appam with stew.