Rhodes: A hidden gem for cyclists
Most Brits head to the Greek island of Rhodes for a relaxing beach or pool-side holiday. I decided to find out if the rumours of great cycling roads were true.
Even in spring and early summer, the weather is warm and a welcome break from Scotland’s fickle climate, which makes Rhodes a great early season cycling destination.
I also discovered that Jet2 flies from Glasgow direct to Rhodos, the capital of Rhodes, for around £200 return (in May). So, that was another plus point for a trip to Greece.
A friend had mentioned that a Glasgow man, Dave Richardson, has moved to Rhodes and was hiring a fleet of decent road and mountain bikes on the island through his new company Get Active Rhodes.
I also found a superb villa holiday company, Greek Boutique, and booked a three-bedroom (and three bathroom) villa north of the popular tourist town of Lindos, at Tsambika.
Could Rhodes become the next (smaller) Mallorca?
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed an early season week of cycling on Mallorca. The Spanish island is hugely popular with cyclists and there are many reasons why, including smooth tarmac, a good mix of flats and hills and numerous bike hire companies and training camps.
But I like to holiday in new places and when I heard that Rhodes was starting to become a hotspot for cyclists I thought I’d find out why.
Dave, of Get Active Rhodes, spotted a gap in the market for good quality bike hire a few years ago. Swapping the stressful career job in Glasgow for an improved life-work balance on Rhodes, he bought a fleet of Genesis road bikes (aluminium but light) and Saracen mountain bikes.
Dave already knew about the network of lovely cycling roads on the island because he had ridden many routes when on holiday visiting his partner’s parents, who had already retired to Rhodes.
Now living on Rhodes with his partner, Dave also offers to guide cyclists or lends them a bike Garmin with tailored routes already uploaded.
In just two years, Dave has seen bike hire demand exceed his expectations.
19 reasons to book an early season cycling holiday on Rhodes
1 May is a month of generally stable and warm weather. Typical temperatures are above 20C.
2 Accommodation pre-summer season is plentiful and relatively cheap. I stayed with friends (and Little Miss) in the stunning Greek Boutique Tsambika View Villa. The property was beautiful, clean and very well maintained. The attention to detail and service support of Greek Boutique was impressive.
3 Bike hire prices are competitive compared to other cycling destinations such as Mallorca. A six day hire of a Genesis road bike with free delivery to your accommodation is €125. (You could also choose to take your own bike on the plane.)
4 Get Active Rhodes offers guiding, too. Dave is endlessly cheerful and hugely enthusiastic. He knows the island inside out and can plan routes to suit all abilities and aspirations. He is also fit and very capable of keeping up with good riders, or encouraging less fit riders to get up the hills. His route guiding and advice rally made the holiday.
5 There are a lot of hills in Rhodes. If you are looking for good quality early season cycle training, the island is superb. There are very few flat roads, so you are forever going up a long gentle climb or a steep short climb or a fairly steep long climb or going down the other side. I came back from Rhodes feeling much fitter despite doing relatively low mileage (for a cycling holiday) over the week.
6 The roads away from the main drag between Rhodos and Lindos are amazingly quiet. On some roads we met only a few cars over an hour or more of cycling. One road was so quiet that a train of ants had decided to move camp across it!
7 The tarmac across much of the island is so fabulously smooth that I wanted to take it home with me. Many roads – although not all – were resurfaced some four or five years ago and because the weather is mostly kind and there is so little traffic, the surfaces on these roads are superb. Dave knew many of the best surfaced roads to take us to and it was like a dream come true for a cyclist, especially one that is fed up with the rutted and pot-holed roads of Scotland.
8 There are a variety of routes and certainly enough to entertain cyclists for a week’s holiday. There are beautiful coastal routes, quiet country roads that head uphill to numerous sleepy villages and stunning mountain routes and climbs.
9 The views are frequently glorious, from dramatic coastal vistas, to beautiful roadside woodlands, to long, sweeping roads leading seemingly to nowhere and to high-rise craggy mountains. Take a look at more views on a Rhodes cycling holiday.
10 Bizarrely, all gradient signs on Rhodes state “10%”. In some ways this is a total bonus because although you know it is going to get a bit steeper you have no idea what to expect and so you just engage an easier gear and get on with it.
(The 10% signs also made me laugh inside every time I saw one because it left me wondering if the Rhodes transport chiefs bought a bargain bundle of 10% signs, rather than splashing out on a range of signs that give more accurate gradients. If they spent the money they save on the tarmac then I congratulate them.)
Explore even more Greek islands with a Greece Island Hopping Ferry Pass Tour.
11 The villages away from the main tourist areas, which we visited while cycling, offer very cheap and friendly cafes and restaurants.
12 A bottle of water is rarely more than 50 cents.
13 A filling and relatively healthy meal for cyclists, for example Dave’s favourite chicken gyros, costs only €2 if you choose cafes away from the main tourist towns.
14 Eating out in the evening is also very reasonably priced. For five of us with alcohol and two courses we never spent more than €100.
15 For delicious seafood dishes. Greeks like to cook their fresh fish and seafood simply and this is exactly how I like it. On my birthday we ate at Argo Restaurant in the pretty harbour village of Haraki. The fish and seafood dishes were fantastic.
(Thanks to my Glasgow friend Alison for this recommendation. She also owns a lovelt two-bedroom apartment to let in Haraki. See Haraki Springs on AirB&B.)
16 Dave recommended we head to Manolis Taverna for the “best lamb kleftiko on the island. We weren’t sure about this because Manolis is located in the town of Faliraki, with its reputation as a holiday party destination. However, this was a superb find. The taverna was beautiful and very friendly and the lamb dishes were superb. We saw no signs of noisy parties or clubs at this end of the town.
17 The Greeks seem to give out small desserts for free with every meal. It’s a nice wee treat and worth noting before you order big starters and main courses.
18 If you want time off your bike there is enough to entertain for a week’s holiday, including beautiful beaches and the historic centres of Rhodos and Lindos. The walk or run up the 300 or so steps to Tsambika Monastery rewards with beautiful views. The wine villages and free wine tastings, offer a great distraction, too. We also spent quite a bit of time at the villa simply relaxing in or by the pool.
19 There are numerous wild goats on Rhodes and the kids provided lots of entertainment as they played near our villa. I reallu like goats so it was a delight to see them pottering about all over the island.
If you’re looking for somewhere new to explore by road bike, Rhodes is well worth thinking about.