London to Monaco bike ride

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The world's best cycling routes to visit from your superyacht

14 March 2022 • Written by Georgia Boscawen


Motor Yacht
Heesen Yachts ·  46.7 m ·  2012
Motor Yacht
Extra Yachts ·  26.2 m ·  2020

With more yacht owners taking to two wheels than ever, bikes are fast becoming an essential on board accessory. BOAT  gets the lowdown on the superyacht cycling boom and reveals the top bike trails to discover on your next cruise.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them,” said Ernest Hemingway, a keen advocate for using two wheels to explore. It seems paradoxical for a land-based pursuit to become ingrained in yachting, but an increasing number of owners are following in the great storyteller’s footsteps. “There seems to have been a real rise in popularity over the past few years, and this is only going in one direction as more and more people are catching the cycling bug,” says Jim Dixon, director of yachts and aviation at Winch Design.

The Winch Design team in an eight-day ride from London to Monaco
Credit: Winch Design

Many owners find that bikes give them an added option when they are spending time on board. “On the boat historically, I found that I was quite static,” says Steve Rigby, owner of 26-metre Haze. “If I had been somewhere, I had just been to the port, but cycling allows me to get out and explore more.” The owners of 47-metre Odyssea are also keen cyclists and often cruise to find the best cycling routes by superyacht. “Cycling allows you to see the most beautiful places from a natural vantage point,” says their captain, Chris Seago.

It is not just owners that have caught the Lycra fever; the whole industry is teeming with cycling enthusiasts, many of whom take part in the London to Monaco challenge – the annual eight-day charitable ride that leads into the Monaco Yacht Show. “It’s the perfect low-impact sport to keep you fit without stressing the body too much,” says Ollie Taylor, head of commercial development at Williams Jet Tenders, who spent 10 years racing at UK elite/national level as well as the odd UCI race (the world’s most elite road cycling tour). “There is a social element with cycling which I haven’t really found with other sports; meeting friends for a coffee ride on the weekend is great, not only for your body but also the mind,” he adds.

Sa Calobra road in Mallorca – a bucket-list ride – is known as the snake road for good reason
Credit: Ventura69 Via getty Images

Thankfully for yacht-cycling hybrids, there are plenty of coastal routes that are easily accessible by superyacht. For those heading to the Mediterranean this summer Mallorca is becoming a Mecca for cyclists. “For me, you can’t beat Mallorca,” says Taylor. “Particularly riding along the western coastline through the mountains. You have quiet, smooth roads and the climate is suitable for year-round riding. The climbs here are gentle gradients, great for all abilities, and you have some fantastic cafés here, including Tolos in Port de Pollença.”

Captain Seago recommends ticking off the Sa Calobra, which translates as “the snake” in Spanish. “It is one of those bucket-list rides; sometimes described as Mallorca’s most-feared ride, with 26 hairpin turns and nearly 700 metres of elevation over 10 kilometres.” The road is on the northwest side of the island, and superyachts can drop anchor just out of the Racó de Sa Vaca bay and head to shore between the sheer limestone cliff faces to the small village of Sa Calobra to begin the challenge.

Captain Chris Seago of 47-metre Odyssea cycling Sa Calobra in Mallorca

Sitting just six nautical miles west from Sa Calobra, Port de Sóller should be next on the list for a Mallorca cycling itinerary. Home to Coll de Sóller – one of the most popular climbs in Mallorca – it has a steady gradient, is traffic-free and can begin right from the port, as the summit is just 12 kilometres away.

Mallorca does offer challenging climbs, but for the ultimate high it might be necessary to cruise slightly further afield. “The hardest single training ride was on a winter training camp in Gran Canaria,” says Taylor. “We set out to complete a 105-mile [169km] loop of multiple climbs on the south of the island with the final climb being the Valley of the Tears. It’s a horrendously steep and unrelenting climb and when tackled 90 miles deep into a training ride is no joke. We had ridden the whole route at a fairly strong pace and the final climb was a race to the top. The last person up had to buy dinner for the group, no one wanted to be last.”

Mallorca’s Port de Sóller is the starting point for the popular Coll de Sóller climb
Credit: Josep Bernat Sànchez Moner via Getty Images

The Valley of the Tears can break even the most experienced cyclist, but mere mortals can take on part of the route, including the infamous Wall, in approximately two to three hours by starting from the western coast at the town of La Aldea de San Nicolás.

For Dixon, the real challenges lie away from the coast in the French Alps. “The mountain roads of Valloire that we passed through during the London to Monaco challenge are among my favourites. The views from the top are extraordinary and make the gruelling slog uphill all worth it,” he says.

La Aldea de San Nicolás is the starting point for a leg of Gran Canaria's infamous Valley of the Tears ride
Credit: Islandstock / Alamy Stock Photo

With thousands of meticulously engineered bikes out there, choosing the right model can seem as daunting as picking a yacht. “Once you reach a certain age, all your bikes need to be carbon fibre, partly for the light weight and soft ride and partly because everybody loves carbon,” advises Captain Seago. “The owners of Odyssea will have high-end road bikes on board if we are in a cycling region, and my road bike is a Litespeed Archon C1. It is quite a few years old now, but I love the bike and can’t find a reason to change it.” He also has a BMC full-suspension carbon bike on board for mountain biking and tougher terrain.

“Like most passionate cyclists I have a few bikes in the garage,” says Taylor. “My summer bike is a Trek Madone RSL; I have a winter training bike which is a Trek Domane; a bike for cyclo-cross (a multi-terrain form of racing), which is a Trek Boone, and I also now have an electric mountain bike for taking the kids out.”

Gran Canaria's Valley of the Tears is a steep and unrelenting but epic climb
Credit: imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Rigby is also a fan of electric bikes. “People pooh-pooh them, but they mean you have more freedom to explore as you aren’t put off by inclines, but you are still going to burn a lot of calories,” he says.

For Dixon, however, it’s the Cannondale Synapse road bike which he uses in London on an almost daily basis. “[It’s] fast, smooth and a joy to ride and it is what I completed the London to Monaco on,” he says. “I’ve got a mountain bike too that I love to take on backcountry routes in Ireland a few times a year and also a fixed-gear bike made by the team who make the Mini Cooper.” And it’s not all so conventional, as he adds, “I can’t leave out my unicycle that’s sadly been in the loft for about 20 years – I’m hoping to bring it out soon.”

The world's best bike routes by boat

Col de la Madone in France
Credit: LightFieldStudio Via getty Images

Col de la Madone, France

This classic climb in the South of France is often used by pro cyclists to test their Tour de France fitness levels. Climbing out of Menton on the Côte d’Azur to the Italian border, the 15-kilometre route includes an elevation gain of almost 1,000 metres, with spectacular views.

The Great Ocean Road, Australia

Snaking along the Southern Ocean coast, The Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Warrnambool is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s worth the challenge to pass the Twelve Apostles and Apollo Bay. There are also legs for those in search of ocean views without the struggle.

Otago Peninsula in New Zealand
Credit: Matteo Colombo Via Getty Images

Otago Peninsula, New Zealand

This 22-kilometre mountain bike route loops around the remote backroads on the Otago Peninsula over narrow lanes, gravel and tarmac roads. Participants will pass beaches, spot local wildlife and choose from the countless cafés that line the route.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores, Costa Rica

This multi-stage mountain bike endurance race crosses Costa Rica from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts over the course of three days. Covering approximately 400 kilometres, the testing route includes almost 8,000 metres of elevation and strong climate changes.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica
Credit: Olaf Loose Via Getty Images

North Sea Cycle Route, Europe

Passing through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England and Scotland, this mammoth cycle route is more than 6,000 kilometres in length and takes in 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way. Get your yacht to follow so you can hop on board for the water crossings.

London to Monaco Cycle Ride

The ultimate way to arrive at the Monaco Yacht Show. This eight-day ride sets out from London and goes via the Netherlands and Belgium en route to the home of superyachts. Riders can choose to cycle just a single leg or get on board for the entire trip, which includes famous Tour de France climbs. All funds raised by participants support Blue Marine Foundation’s (BLUE) conservation projects that contribute to BLUE’s mission to protect 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030 and responsibly manage the remaining 70 per cent.

This feature is taken from the February 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.


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