I’ve just signed up for this year’s London to Brighton cycle ride. I’ve paid my fee and I’ve somehow managed to assume the role of team leader, so there’s no backing out: fifty four miles and one almighty hill – Ditchling Beacon – to tackle. Wikipedia has already warned me: “the toughest part is the climb over Ditchling Beacon; having already cycled some 50 miles, cyclists must then tackle a 0.99-mile climb with an average grade exceeding 1 in 10.”
But once at the top, we’ll not only have conquered the hardest part of the ride, but the sea will be laid out tantalisingly below us. We’ll let our wheels do the work and take our feet off the pedals to speed down to the finish line as the verdant grasslands of the South Downs whoosh by.
It puts me in mind of a trip to Bali, where the hotel I was staying out, the stunning Alila Villas Soori on the south coast, took me out on a bicycle ride through the chlorophyll patchwork of paddy fields inland.
We cut our way along ridges between the fields to see farmers at work, children flying kites and villagers returning home in the late afternoon. It was so peaceful and the most incredible way to see the quieter parts of the island – another world altogether from the hyperactivity of Kuta and Seminyak.
It’s becoming quite the norm to see a fleet of bikes propped up outside a hotel. I recently stayed at the Nolitan hotel in Manhattan, which not only loans out Dutch bikes to its guests, but skateboards too. I preferred to walk – cyclists aren’t a common sight in New York, but it’s a welcome gesture that makes you feel that bit more at home.
Across the country in San Francisco, The Clift hotel also lends out Dutch bikes, although you’ll need thighs of steel to negotiate the city’s monster hills; this is the city where the “fixie” is king after all. The Clift’s sister hotels, The Sanderson and St Martin’s Lane in London, offer a similar deal, with maps of cycling routes in the capital.
But snaking through traffic is never fun, least of all in a strange city. The Pig hotel and its big sister Lime Wood both have some pretty decent mountain bikes for exploring the New Forest. You can cycle through the forest from one to the other, then either pig out at The Pig, or flake out Lime Wood’s stunning spa.
And for something a bit more strenuous, I’ve also heaved myself up the hills outside Zurich at the Dolder Grand, weaving through the forest then speeding back down through immaculate towns overlooking the sparkling lake and city below. And at the end, there was the promise of soaking my weary legs in an outdoor hot tub on a hill overlooking the city.
Bliss. I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle. And if anyone wants to sponsor me, get in touch! I promise there won’t be a spa in sight.