Well, more people than ever, anyway.Helen Pidd has been taking cycling trips for some time. Little did she know she was one step ahead of a growing trend
My friends thought I was tragic trundling off on my cycling holidays, but now I know I was simply fashion-forward (though possibly not in those shorts). These days everyone is doing it. Well, more people than ever, anyway.
Britons spent £120 million on dedicated cycling holidays in 2006, according to research from Mintel. The report estimates that 2.25 million holidays taken by Brits last year included some kind of cycling adventure, such as a day's bike hire or a mounted city sightseeing tour.
I have always enjoyed cycling, but until a few years ago saw it mostly as a way to get from A to B without paying for the bus. It wasn't even a hobby, let alone a mode of holidaying. Then I moved down to London and, after spending weekdays choking on fumes, was quite literally gagging for a bit of fresh air on the weekends.
At first, I - with my far hardier cycling companion and puncture repairer-in-chief - went day tripping. Then we decided to spread our wheels a little, and started our weekend trips an hour out of town from places like Bognor Regis, Oxford and Great Yarmouth, hefting our bikes on to trains and then pedalling off into the countryside. The only downside was having to call National Rail Enquiries and battling with the operators over whether we could take bikes on our chosen route. (If we both called, we would invariably be given different answers.)
One of my best holidays ever was the cycling odyssey I undertook last summer. Too wussy and annual-leave-deprived to tackle the full End to End, we decided to have a go at London to Land's End. We didn't pay tour operators to sort out our itinerary, but set off armed with panniers full of Ordnance Survey maps, a list of B&B phone numbers and a spare inner tube each.
Apart from the tantrum I had just outside Minehead attempting Porlock Hill (gradient: 25% - it was like cycling up a wall), it was a dream, albeit an expensive one. By my reckoning, the cost of 14 nights in B&Bs and youth hostels (we went a very circuitous route), lunches and dinners, and the train back to London from Penzance was about £500. Unless you can be bothered lugging a tent around, cycling holidays are very rarely cheap.
As to why they are en vogue, well, I can only answer for myself. I loved seeing the landscape change, as Berkshire became Wiltshire, Wiltshire became Somerset, and Somerset segued into Devon and then Cornwall. And without being too much of a pathetic girl about it, I was delighted to return with far firmer thighs at the end of the fortnight. I also got off on the knowledge that my holiday wasn't spewing out huge amounts of carbon - apart, of course, from the heavy breathing involved in tackling Porlock Hill.
Source: guardian.co.uk/Travel/ by Helen Pidd