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Leisure Cycling Blog

Cycling down the Tuscany Coast to Elba

Port House, Antwerp

Just deciding where to go is the biggest hurdle...

There are over 100 cycling holiday itineraries available on Freewheel Holidays at any one time and often suggesting where customers should go is one of our biggest challenges. We’ve found that selecting a cycling holiday is not like choosing a ‘normal’ holiday by the beach or going on a city break. There are different things to consider when researching potential cycling holiday routes such as the difficulty of terrain, overall climbing in the itinerary, to get an e-bike or not and the variety of hotels used along the way. Just deciding where to go on a cycling holiday for the first time can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

My wife, Jilly, and I were looking for our summer holiday around the August Bank Holiday and despite almost daily searches, nothing was appealing nor cost-effective. A combination of high flight prices and the school holidays meant that options were limited out of the North West. Going to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria from Glasgow was looking like the most favourable and cost-effective option! Then it dawned on me. Why not go on a cycling holiday? I am always telling people why they should go cycle touring and now it was our turn. I saw Jilly as a potential customer and realised her personal experiences of the cycle tour would be the best feedback of all to pass onto our customers.

I talked to Jilly about going on a cycling holiday and she liked the idea, but in a romantic twist, I would keep the destination a secret until arriving at the check-in desk in Manchester Airport!

We would fly with Jet2 direct to Pisa from Manchester with a packed 7-day cycling itinerary starting at the famous ‘Leaning Tower’. We would then cycle down the coast to Piombino approximately 250 kilometres away. The schedule also included a day excursion to Elba. The small island that is famous for being the place that Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to. An ominous location because if the cycle tour is not a success, then I could find myself in exile as well!

Whilst Jilly is a keen cyclist, our history of riding together has often ended in a falling out. To be brutally honest, previous cycling mini-breaks to France, Germany and even short rides around Rochdale have had mixed success. However, this holiday would be made easier and more manageable as luggage transfers, detailed route notes and maps along with on-route signage are all included. Combined with an electric bike (e-bike) for Jilly, I was feeling confident that the cycle tour would be a success as we landed in Italy.

Pisa is known for the famous leaning tower and the hordes of tourists drawn from all around the world and eager to get a humorous selfie are a testament to that. I noticed as my bike was propped up for an obligatory photo that the tower is actually shaped like a banana and almost vertically straight at the top.

The cycle tour started at the tower and our first ride was an out and back to the seaside and carnival resort of Viareggio. The town is famous for building some of the most luxurious superyachts in the world but is also home to faded 1920 art-deco buildings that run along the promenade. One of the attractions of going on this cycle tour was being able to ride during the day and then relax at the beach, yet I didn’t take into account that most Italian beaches are privately run, so hiring two sun loungers can be a costly business.

After waiting until after two o’clock to get a cheaper rate, we found a nice beachside ‘club’ with an elegant 50-metre saltwater pool and spent the afternoon by the sea basking in 34-degree heat. We returned to Pisa by train with our bikes and had dinner back in the city centre. The waiter also said that we were probably the youngest cycling holiday customers that he had ever served!

Our point-to-point day of real cycling started in the port city of Livorno about 15 minutes by train from Pisa Centrale. Taking the bikes on-board the train was no issue and afte