The Best Adventure Rides for 2015

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If… You want to scream through Middle Earth on two wheels

Then… Island-hop the Southern Alps in New Zealand

Canada-based Sacred Rides is considered one of the world’s best mountain-biking outfits, and trips like New Zealand’s “Misty Mountain Hop” offer ample evidence why. Exactly as it sounds, this van-supported trip shuttles riders from one spectacular ride to the next, taking in the South Island’s fairy-tale, Tolkienesque landscapes along the way. Plan on more than 200 miles of riding altogether, including a roll through lush fern forests overlooking azure bays on the tropical Queen Charlotte Track; a flowy, wildflower-studded cross-country ride through the Southern Alps; and a helicopter-supported, white-knuckle screamer down the 3,500-foot-high Kirwan’s Track. Each day starts with uniquely challenging terrain and ends with a cooler full of cold beer.

12 days from $3,304;


Then… Hit the saddle in Mallorca, Spain

It doesn’t take long on this small island’s sun-soaked steeps to see why this piece of the Balearic archipelago has become such a popular training ground for pro cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, and Fabian Cancellara. Between its challenging terrain, ideal climate, and wild blue seashore views, it’s the perfect setting for a preseason tune-up. And your legs will be tested on this weeklong trip, one of Trek Travel’s popular whip-you-into-shape “Ride Camps,” with up to 395 miles of riding and 27,000 feet of climbing. In addition to classic climbs like Puig Major and a descent alongside Europe’s second deepest gorge, Sa Calobra, riders will cruise along the rugged Tramuntana coastline and its miles of olive groves and almond orchards.

7 days from $1,499; 


Then… Pedal to the Red Rocks in Utah

It’s a rare feat to link up two of the West’s most iconic landscapes in a single, human-powered expedition. But the San Juan Huts Systems allows for just that, and with some level of comfort, thanks to its string of six remote huts that connect Durango, CO’s Rocky Mountain Alpine tundra to the red-rock desert surrounding Moab, UT. The huts—fully stocked with food, water, cooking utensils, bunks, and a wood stove—are placed at intervals throughout the wilderness, allowing riders to travel lightly and chase stunning new singletrack each day. The entire route is 215 miles long with a thigh-melting 26,000 feet of climbing—but gorgeous mountain vistas, quaking aspen groves and, eventually, the stark beauty of Utah’s Slickrock canyon country, will distract from the effort.

7 days from $895;


Then… Glide down Highway 1 in California

The Pacific Coast Highway, that thin, winding ribbon of asphalt clinging to Big Sur’s rugged contours, is already considered one of the country’s best road-tripping destinations. But it’s even better when you experience it at a more leisurely pace on a cross-country pedal. DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. leads this six-day, 158-mile itinerary that explores the vineyard-draped valleys of California’s famed Santa Rosa, Santa Ynez, and Paso Robles wine regions, stopping en route to sample the local harvest before turning due south to travel the coast road high above the thundering blue Pacific. This is most definitely a relaxed ride, where days in the saddle are just enough to burn the calories you’ll accumulate knocking back Chardonnay, pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. These aren’t exactly energy drinks, but, underthe right circumstances, they sure can be energizing.

6 days from $3,995;


Then… Join the (massive) peloton of South Africa

Each March, the Cape Argus Pick ’n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour rolls out from Cape Town on a spectacular 68-mile circuit of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula, following sinewy roads wrapped around craggy cliffs that break over blue surf. Started in 1978 to protest the country’s poor cycling infrastructure, it’s now the world’s largest timed cycling race, attracting a staggering 35,000 riders, ranging from Lycra-clad UCI pros to average Joe cyclists. This iconic event typically sells out within days, but you can still gain entry, not to mention a first-rate introduction to Africa, with Cape Town–based Spirit of Africa. A 10-day trip includes your race entry (which benefits a local charity), a climb up Table Mountain, and tune-up spins around Stellenbosch wine country and Cape Point Nature Reserve. Haven’t seen enough? Adventurous types can tack on a safari in Kruger National Park or an offshore great white shark cage-diving tour. 

10 days from $3,200;


Then… Roll through the vineyards of Tuscany

Tuscany is one of those Hollywood darlings that, with its rolling vineyards, ancient hilltowns, and sun-dappled olive groves, seems too good to be true. But it’s the real thing and, for years, has been a classic cycling destination. That’s because those rolling hills offer just enough muscle-tingling challenge; and Chianti, olive oil, fresh-baked bread, pasta, and pecorino are optimal fuel for this style of touring (that’s what you tell yourself, anyway). Even better this relaxed 170-mile backroads tour sends you home with some practical, lady-pleasing cooking chops; along the route, you’ll learn from local chefs how to make traditional, four-course Tuscan meals, from l’antipasto to i dolci. Now that’s too good to be true.

6 days from $3,898;

If… Your hangover cure of choice is adrenaline

Then… Bike the rocky trails of Scotland

It took Scotland native Euan Wilson, owner of H&I Adventures, years of research and on-the-ground fat-tire exploring to perfect this 150-mile route across the rugged Highlands, from the eastern coastal town of Bonar Bridge to Applecross, a picturesque fishing village famed for its fresh catch. It’s a technically challenging ride—featuring river crossings, hike-a-bike sections, and rocky descents—that gets more difficult with each passing day, allowing riders to build up their skills and confidence levels as they ride over mountains, through glens, and along craggy coastlines. Like any good Highlands adventure, with this one you finish each day over pints in a local pub (including, on the last day, the world-famous Applecross Inn) before you retire to a quaint B&B for the night. 

8 days from $1,777;

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