Cycling holidays are booming in popularity and many take advantage of quieter times of the season in popular European tourist destinations. As well as being warmer than the UK as the nights begin to draw in, many of them have better roads and more courteous drivers. We've put together a potted guide to some of the most popular areas – but before booking your own holiday be prepared to check that it's suitable for your level of fitness and experience...
Possibly the best-known cycle holiday destination in Europe, Majorca attracts scores of professional riders and keen amateurs with its pleasant climate, fine roads and stunning mountain scenery. There's also a plethora of reasonably priced accommodation options out of peak season – and plenty of hire shops if you don't want the stress and hassle of taking your own bike. The mountainous northern and western side of the island are the focus for riders – with top draws including the Sa Calobra and Puig Major climbs – which offer a stiff test for any rider.
The region around Barcelona in the north east of Spain is similarly popular with pro cyclists – but much less so with tourists. However quiet roads, lovely hills, cheap accommodation around the Costa Brava and low-cost flights to Girona make it a very appealing cycle holiday destination. There are a number of holiday companies offering packages with guided rides, or you can use the internet to investigate suitable routes and work it out for yourself.
For really serious road cyclists, the big climbs of the Alps are the ultimate draw – and early autumn is a great time to visit Europe's highest peaks. While France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria all own sizeable portions of the huge mountain range, it's the famous climbs from the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia which get the most attention. Probably the busiest of all is the famous 21-hairpin slog up Alp d'Huez in the French Alps, where Chris Froome this year saw off the challenge from Nairo Quintana to seal his TdF victory.
While the weather can get unpredictable in the Alps later in the autumn, the climate is much more reliable down in Provence. Taking in the rugged Maritime Alps and the glamorous French Riviera, the region offers testing mountain climbs along with beautiful Mediterranean beaches and a relaxingly slow pace of life. There are reasonable-sized hills everywhere, but the biggest magnet to cyclists is undoubtedly the iconic white peak of Mont Ventoux – with a summit almost two kilometres above sea level.
Yes, another Spanish destination – but as one of the most mountainous nations in Europe and with one of the warmest climate it shouldn't come as any surprise. While Andalucia can be fearsomely hot in the middle of summer, it makes a fantastic autumn holiday destination – whether for cycling, for a regular holiday or both. The Sierra Nevada mountains offer enormous climbs, the Alpujarras offer epic scenery and historic moorish settlements while the Sierra Grazalema and the region's other national parks offer even quieter roads with not-quite-so-challenging climbs.
Have you enjoyed a cycling holiday in Europe? Leave your recommendation below...