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Get on yer bike!

 Get on yer bike! The Tour de France is the most famous and, possibly, the most gruelling road cycling event in the world. Running from Saturday 5th to Sunday 27th July, the 101st race will be made up of 21 stages covering a total distance of 3,664 kilometres.

This year the first 3 stages will take place on these shores. The Grand Départ takes place in West Yorkshire (Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate, Stage 2: York to Sheffield and Stage 3: Cambridge to London) before continuing south through France for the subsequent 18 days, with challenges including five high summit finishes and cobblestoned stages before the traditional finish on Paris’ Champs Elysees.

Many people are inspired by this spectacle and get bitten by the cycling bug. Whilst you may not fancy yourself as a "King of the Mountains" battling it out for the maillot à pois rouges (polka dot jersey), cycling trips can be a unique way to see the world.

The TopDog Insurance team looks at some options for combining a two-wheeled adventure with a holiday.

North Sea Cycle Route

Also known as EuroVelo Route 12, this is the longest signposted cycle route in the world. Covering almost 6,000km, it requires several ferry crossings to complete the entire circuit and runs from the northern edge of Scotland, down the east coast of Britain before a ferry across to Ostend, follows the coastline north through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, then another ferry over to Sweden and round the Norwegian coastline to Bergen. This epic journey offers an immense variety of scenery - as you would expect from travelling through eight different countries! The route takes in coastal areas with sandy beaches and cliffs and inland through woods, cities, towns, villages; from areas below sea level to mountainous regions over 1,000m in height! There's little need for anyone to attempt the whole route but a surprising number of people do, even if they break it up over a series of summers.

Carretera Austral Route

Known as Route 7, this 'highway' runs about 1,240km from Puerto Montt in Central Chile down south through Caleta Yungay to Villa O’Higgins. You’ll need a sturdy bike to tackle this route as less than 300km of the road surface is paved - the rest is gravel or dirt. Whilst it can be a challenging ride, the rewards are well worth it if you like your scenery unspoilt. The road bends and twists past ice-blue lakes, jagged, white-capped peaks that rise above open valleys and through thick rainforests. There are hostels and hotels along the route but the wild camping opportunities in the area may enhance your experience tenfold.

The Pacific Coast Route

This 2,800km route takes cyclists from Vancouver, Canada to the Mexico border, winding south through British Columbia and the American states of Washington, Oregon and California. As you would expect, the landscape changes dramatically. Firstly you're treated to snow-capped mountains, hilly terrain and crystal clear lakes; then as you get to Oregon you encounter small coastal towns, exceptional views of marine wildlife and deep pine forests. After that, it's onto California's incredibly diverse and seemingly endless coastline: the giant towering redwood trees, iconic beach towns and an unforgettable opportunity to cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s no wonder that this is considered by some to be the best cycle route in North America.

Munda Biddi Trail

This is another one for the off-roader, Munda Biddi (which translates to ‘path through the forest’ in the local Noongar Aboriginal language), runs from Mundaring in the hills east of Perth to Albany in the south of Western Australia and at 1,000km it's the longest off-road cycle trail in the world. It passes through scenic river valleys, towering eucalypt forests, and along the stunning coastline of Western Australia you’re sure to encounter local wildlife including western brush wallaby, brushtail possum and the western grey kangaroo which are known to zip across the trail. There are a number of campsites dotted along the route including free, purpose built huts kitted out with picnic tables, covered bike storage and drinking water- you won’t need to carry a lot of camping gear...

London to Paris

Launched in summer 2012 The Avenue Verte is a 406km Anglo-French cycle route linking two iconic sights, the London Eye and Notre Dame Cathedral. This makes it a great opportunity for your own mini Tour de France! The English route uses a combination of small roads and greenways, fully signposted 'Avenue Verte' from the centre of London all the way to Newhaven on the south coast, using two popular English trails – Forest Way and the Cuckoo Trail and crossing the stunning South Downs. After a four hour ferry to Dieppe, the route then follows a former railway to Forges-les-Eaux. From here there are two route options, the western option is shorter and follows the Epte valley to St Germain on the Seine. The eastern option goes via Beauvais and Senlis and then follows the Oise valley to re-join the western route at St Germain on the Seine. The final leg into Paris follows the Seine and the Canal St Denis to end at the iconic cathedral.

Wherever your travels take you this summer, we at TopDog Insurance are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away. Safe travels!

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