If you know me, you know that I have spent the last 10+ years riding a stationary bike to nowhere in a dark room nearly every day. There's no question spinning is a great workout, but that's all it is. It lacks any of the adventure or freedom of hopping on an actual bike on an actual road with actual scenery, and as a result, the idea taking a real bike trip in some beautiful part of the world crosses my mind on a regular basis. But I'm chicken. Because, after all, I've been riding this stationary bike for so long that I have zero confidence in my ability to handle actual terrain. Which is where Andy Levine of DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. comes in. I've long been a fan of his site, using it to daydream about cycling through the Loire Valley or even Japan, and when we finally had a chance to chat, he made it perfectly clear that anyone can handle a bike trip. Anyone. Even me. And while I still haven't taken the plunge, I'm close. Because there's no denying the lure of feeling the wind in my hair and the road under my tires — especially when the guy on bike 19 is sweating all over me. Here his 7 tips that I promise will make the idea of a long-haul bike trip feel much more manageable. Happy Trails!
1. Invest in the right gear.
If you’re new to cycling, a pair of shorts will improve your experience by leaps and bounds. It’s worth the investment. I’m partial to bibs and shorts by ASSOS: experienced riders value the performance quality, and beginners will never have to experience the pain of being without a proper chamoix. We’ve even partnered with ASSOS on custom gear so you can look sleek and sharp while riding with DuVine.
2. Embrace electric assist.
Maybe you have a dream destination in mind but the riding seems too difficult, or you’re traveling with a partner or friend who you’re worried about keeping up with. Electric assist (in the form of e-bikes or e-wheels) breaks down barriers. It’s a great equalizer among riders of different abilities. I think of our travelers who dreamed of doing DuVine’s Greek Isles tour—a fairly challenging itinerary where e-bikes made it a rewarding reality.
3. Be spontaneous.
Going with the flow often results in some of the best, most authentic moments of travel. Open yourself up to the unplanned, and make detours. Stop and pick the fruit off the trees. Be in the moment — even the in-between moments. That’s when the unexpected happens.
4. Push yourself.
You won’t ever look back and say “I wish I hadn’t done the extra ride.” Pain is temporary, but memories are forever. Some of the best villages and views are all the way on the top of that hill, so know that the reward will be worth it. It’s fun to see how proud people are when they accomplish a ride or climb they never thought they could. That said, this is a vacation, not a race, so don’t approach it like a competition. Ride for yourself. You don’t have to do anything. There’s always a support van.
5. Enjoy the locals.
Find a local café or bakery in the town center and hang out. Enjoy a coffee, talk to locals, and just be present. Extend yourself to meet people and strike up a conversation. I like to post up with coffee and croissant in Amboise, a quintessential French town on the Loire River where DuVine's Loire Valley tour begins. After I people watch, it’s a pleasant ride rolling out through the stone streets, then down to the Cher River through forests, farmland, troglodyte escarpments and sunflower fields.
6. Use technology sparingly
I love social media, but there’s a time and a place to put your phone and headphones away. Do pull out your phone to capture those iconic views, though. In Corsica, the waters are brilliant aquamarine, wildflowers bloom out of vibrant green grass, and the spectacular stretch from Calvi to Piana is 45 kilometers of coastal riding that weaves around corners on a rocky ridgeline perched above the Mediterranean. You’ll want to document your achievement!
7. Bring your appetite and bend the rules.
Even if you don’t typically indulge at home, eating fresh mozzarella in Italy or chocolate in Switzerland is a completely different experience. Local food and wine is one of the most honest ways to immerse yourself in a region. You can’t visit Burgundy, home to some of the world’s most celebrated wines, without tasting the Grand Crus. It’s where DuVine first put down roots over 20 years ago and remains one of my favorite places to bike. We stop off at tasting rooms and cellars, so sipping wine is a sure bet. The scenery is full of gorgeous clos vineyards (especially during the harvest season), limestone towns, and tiled roofs, accompanied by the ever-present woody smell of the terroir. All in all, an experience that is sure to delight the senses.
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In 1996, Andy Levine started DuVine to share what he had realized during a post-college cycling trip in Burgundy, France: in order to really know a place, you have to know its people, its cafés, its villages, and its cuisine—the good things in life.
On that first solo bike tour, Andy learned about wine and met a cast of real, colorful characters who inspired him with their passion. Soon afterward, he started DuVine on a shoestring and a dream. The first tours were developed out of family-run Hotel Bellevue in Beaune as Andy went off the beaten track to find people for his guests to meet. Even today, Andy always asks, “why are we going here?” before he gets on his bike and rides all the roads, connecting the dots for a truly immersive cultural experience.
Andy believes that everyone should have the opportunity to travel the world by bike and to focus on the simple pleasures: enjoying food grown right where you eat it on the farm, spending time talking with a grandmother whose memories are a treasure trove, and experiencing the uncommon, authentic moments that make travel meaningful.