New cycling gem: Greek island of Rhodes
I very much enjoyed a cycling trip to Rhodes in 2017. Here is my travel piece in the Sunday Mail. See the pdf or read the article below.
Smooth tarmac, quiet roads and sunshine
While the Greek island of Rhodes is usually a destination for Scots seeking a relaxing beach or pool-side holiday, I had heard a whisper it was becoming a hotspot for cyclists.
The attractions, so I was told, were smooth tarmac roads, fine weather especially in spring or autumn and plenty of budget-conscious accommodation.
In addition, so the rumour went, a cyclist from Glasgow had liked Rhodes so much that he had set up home there and founded a bicycle hire company, Get Active Rhodes.
Then, when I saw that that the island was to host a prestigious professional cycling race, I decided it might well be worth a trip.
If the UCI Gran Fondo World Series thought the roads were good enough for a qualifier stage in 2017, then I wanted to find out more.
Convincing a couple of friends that Rhodes would make great holiday training alternative to the usual early summer trip to the very popular Mallorca, I booked a pretty looking villa at Tsambika, just north of the tourist town of Lindos.
The flights from Glasgow to the grandly titled Rhodes International Airport where a reasonable £200 return.
I made contact with the Glaswegian, Dave Richardson, to check he had enough hire bikes – Genesis, for those who like to know these things – and asked if he could point us in the direction of where to cycle.
Better than that, he said he would lend us Garmin bike navigation gadgets loaded with a selection of great routes.
The cost of a Garmin hire is €8 per day for one to three days, or €5 per day for four or more days.
Brilliantly, Dave was also able to offer us a few days of guiding, so we could turn off the Garmins and simply follow his lead.
Rhodes is the largest of Greece’s Dodecanese islands, a chain totalling some 165 isles in the south-eastern Aegean Sea, off the coast of Asian Turkey.
It measures 50 miles long by 38 miles wide and has a coastline of some 140 miles.
Being relatively small, I worried we might run out of routes to ride during a week of cycling but in reality, there was more than enough to entertain.
The only road to be avoided because of heavy traffic is the EO95, which connects the main town of Rhodes at the north of the island with Lindos to the south east.
Because of this, a car hire is helpful as it means you can start cycling from different points each day and avoid the busy highway.
Overall, I was very surprised by the multitude of quiet roads that hugged coastlines or meandered uphill through a seemingly endless string of sleepy villages towards the interior of the island.
On some outings of many hours we were passed by only a handful of cars and on one very peaceful route I spotted a colony of ants happily marching across the tarmac. (We stepped off the road with our bikes so we didn’t disturb them.)
The views as we cycled were often glorious, too, including rolling hillsides, wide beaches backed by dramatic ocean vistas, beautiful woodlands and high-rise mountains with magnificent craggy ridgelines.
For some reason – perhaps it is the image of Rhodes as a laid-back holiday isle – I had thought the cycling would be flat and easy-going.
There are less intense routes at the coast, for sure, but most of the week involved a lot more uphill than I was prepared for.
While rarely steep – well, not for long – there are many long hill roads to ride almost everywhere we went on the island.
The gradient signage also took us unawares. Every sign we saw stated an incline of 10 per cent.
But then Dave told us that for some bizarre reason that all gradients, whatever their steepness, are marked with the same “10%” sign.
And, of course, for every uphill there is the downhill to enjoy, too. The long sweeping descents on smooth-as-icing tarmac – that rumour is most definitely true – were immensely satisfying.
Over six days of cycling and rarely any section of road ridden twice, I returned home far fitter and healthier than when I set out.
I doubt the same would be said of the average holidaymaker heading to Rhodes.
5 tips for cycling on Rhodes
- Go as soon as you can – and before it becomes over-run with other riders.
- For far cheaper food and drink, visit cafes and restaurants in the villages found to the interior of the island.
- You could take your own bike but it is easier to hire when you get to the island.
- Ask Dave for recommended cycling routes to suit your fitness and experience.
- Spend a couple of half days off the bike to visit historic Rhodes town and Lindos.
Jet2 fly from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Rhodes. See www.jet2.com
Book a villa through Greek Boutique at www.boutiquegreece.com
Hire a road or mountain bike at www.getactiverhodes.com. Dave delivers the bike to your accommodation.