Long distance cycling routes may look somewhat overwhelming to many riders. They’re multi-day adventures and take a lot of time and planning to complete.
But they are a fantastic way of discovering your potential on the bike and exploring some of the best places to cycle. They allow you to broaden your horizons and enjoy new experiences on and off the bike.
We’ve pulled together a selection of the world’s best cycling routes that are long distance and largely road cycling suitable (with a couple of exceptions).
We hope this helps you make an informed decision (or get inspired!) for your next long distance bike ride.
For our pick of the best cycling routes in Europe, read this and for our pick of the best cycling routes in the UK, read this
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In the interests of complete transparency, we haven’t (yet!) cycled all of the routes/events in this article. If you have ridden any of these, let us know in the comments below!
All metrics in this article are approximate.
UK and Ireland
Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG)
Land’s End to John o’Groats, or, LEJOG, is one of the best cycling routes in the UK, and for good reason! The route runs from southern England to the northernmost tip of Scotland and completing it is a significant challenge for most riders.
There are many different road cycling routes available that take in some of the best long distance cycling the country has to offer. You’ll find coastal vistas, hidden valleys and some of the finest places to cycle in the United Kingdom.
It’s a popular route and cyclists can choose between a self-supported trip or support from tour operators who will help with luggage, accommodation and other services too. The duration of the tours depends on your speed and selected package, but usually take between seven days to three weeks to complete.
It’s a challenging route, but an excellent way to see the best of Britain by bicycle. It’s the kind of route any self-respecting British cyclist has either done or is hoping to do.
Read our Q&A on cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats with Pedal Britain.
Mizen to Malin (MizMal)
Ireland’s answer to LEJOG, MIZMAL takes the first three letters from the town at the start of this route (Mizen) and the first three letters from the town at the end of the route (Malin).
This enchanting route along the west Irish coast and takes in much of the Wild Atlantic Way.
It can be seen as among the best cycling routes in the world, thanks to its gorgeous Gaelic surroundings. Rugged coastlines, brooding Atlantic waves and blissfully quiet roads are prominent throughout this 1,050-kilometre ride. Cyclists also often comment on the warm welcomes received in the traditional villages they cycle through.
First mapped by an Irish rider a few years ago, it’s now one of the most prominent cycle routes in Ireland. Beginning in the southwestern town of Mizen, the route follows the Atlantic coastline to the north of Ireland, ending in Malin. It can be ridden unsupported, or with the aid of a tour company who will provide the luggage transfer and accommodation.
It’s certainly one of the most scenic cycling routes on our world’s best cycle routes list, but just make sure you pack a raincoat. Even in summer, the Emerald Isle’s weather can be somewhat unpredictable, so being prepared is your best protection against the elements.
Read our Q&A on cycling MizMal with Wild Atlantic Cycling Tours.
North Coast 500 (NC500)
One of the best cycling routes in Scotland, the NC500, or North Coast 500 is the British equivalent to America’s Route 66. In this sense, it’s not just popular with cyclists, but with drivers too. The route is very rural, so it isn’t usually heaving with vehicles – but it has got more popular recently, so do take care at busy times of year.
The route begins and ends in Inverness, taking in a circular route. Initially, it heads west towards the coast, then follows it to John o’Groats before circling back to Inverness. Be prepared for some testing climbs on the route, with just under 10,000 metres of elevation gain across it.
Most people tackle the NC500 over a week, although the record for fastest completion is 27 hours 36 minutes (moving time). But, as it’s one of the best cycling routes in Britain, we’d recommend taking your time to absorb the gorgeous Scottish landscape and help your legs recover from all the climbing.
Our popular article on cycling the NC500 will be useful if you’re considering this route.
Want a custom map to commemorate your ride once you’ve completed it?
Check out these beautiful GPX-based prints.
Iron Curtain Trail (inc the Baltic Sea Cycle Route)
Please see our article on the best cycling routes in Europe for our write up of this route.
Route des Grandes Alpes
Please see our article on the best cycling routes in Europe for our write up of this route!
Ride Across America
It’s easy to forget quite how vast the USA is until you look at the mileage required to cross it. The three main ways to ride across America are the Northern and Southern tier routes and the Transamerica trail.
None of these are for the faint-hearted, but if you have a competitive itch to scratch there’s also the Race Against America.
Known as one of the hardest long distance cycle races in the world, the Race Against America has been testing riders to their limits since 1982. It travels from west to east across the USA and takes in over 53,000 metres of climbing. Solo competitors are expected to complete it within 12 days making it even more prestigious if you cross the finish line in time.
If solo riding sounds too tough you can attack it as a team of two, four or eight as a relay. It traverses breathtaking mountain ranges, and iconic American landmarks like Gettysburg, making it undoubtedly one of the best road cycling routes in the world. Amateurs and professionals alike can enter, and the race prides itself on being one of the toughest, but best cycle routes in the world.
These books may also assist your research:
Pacific Coast Highway
If spectacular views and coastal vistas are your thing, then consider riding the Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH”).
It’s often described as one of the best long distance cycle routes in the USA and tackles 2,900 kilometres of serene rolling landscape and challenging hills along the western coast of North America.
Be aware that the Pacific Coast Highway also takes in just under 32,500 metres of elevation! Much of it is towards Oregon and along the California coast.
The route is divided into five sections so you can drop in and do as much or as little as you like of these road biking routes. You’ll find cyclist-friendly accommodation and the route takes in some of the best cycling destinations on the western coast of America – it’s certainly one for the bucket list!
Going to the Sun Road
Biking the Going to the Sun Road is one of America’s finest travelling experiences. The road is located within the Glacier National Park in Montana, and you can tackle it from west to east or vice versa, with the former being the most popular way.
It’s a road that takes in one of the best bike rides in the USA, with gorgeous mountainous scenery to look at. It’s the only road in the USA that is both a National Civil Engineering and National Historic Landmark.
The Going to the Sun Road features plenty of climbing as it takes you over the Continental Divide. The highest point of the road is Logans Point, where you top out in wild-flower filled meadows.
It’s advised you visit during the summer months as the road may not be clear of snow and ice at other times of the year. Given the stunning vistas and nature you’ll find on this ride, it’s got a solid place on our list of the best bike routes in the world.
Trans Mexico combines two good cycle routes to create one of the best long distance bike rides across southern America, from northern Mexico to the south. It takes in both dirt and road riding, so make sure your bike is equipped to ride both. Consider taking a gravel or mountain bike for comfort.
The route takes in some of the best sights of Mexico, with no particular attention paid to being the fastest or most direct route across the country. Expect to discover colonial cities and the rural dusty roads that connect the country.
Mexico features a broad spectrum of landscapes making it a brilliant trip for any cyclist who loves to discover new cultures and territories.
This is a genuine coast to coast journey across South America, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The route links two awesome cities (and countries) – Valparaiso in Chile and Buenos Aires in Argentina. The route takes you rapidly upwards, from sea level to the dramatic high passes of the awe-inspiring Andes Mountain range. There’s almost 4km of ascent before you descend all the way down the other side! This is a journey that lets cyclists experience the vastness of the Argentinian steppe, impressive wine-growing regions, stunning views of Aconcagua and world-renowned food and wine. It’s an extraordinary bucket-list topping adventure for anyone who has ever dreamed of crossing a whole continent on their bike…
Rat Race Trans Andean Coast to Coast 2024
This is a genuine coast to coast journey across South America, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The route links two awesome cities (and countries) – Valparaiso in Chile and Buenos Aires in Argentina.
The route takes you rapidly upwards, from sea level to the dramatic high passes of the awe-inspiring Andes Mountain range. There’s almost 4km of ascent before you descend all the way down the other side! This is a journey that lets cyclists experience the vastness of the Argentinian steppe, impressive wine-growing regions, stunning views of Aconcagua and world-renowned food and wine.
It’s an extraordinary bucket-list topping adventure for anyone who has ever dreamed of crossing a whole continent on their bike…
Rest of the world
The Tour d’Afrique promises one of the most unique riding experiences on the planet. You ride from Cairo in North Africa, to Cape Town in South Africa, discovering some of the most exciting landmarks in the world such as the Pyramids and Victoria Falls.
It’s a route that was imagined from Cecil Rhodes’s idea of connecting the two ends of Africa by rail. It has become one of the best biking routes on the planet. It’s by no means an easy feat. Not only are you traversing an entire continent, there are many logistical and cultural considerations to be made. For example, not many citizens of the countries the route passes through speak English, so even simple things take longer.
Although not specifically a long distance road cycling route, the uniqueness of this Tour d’Afrique made it hard to leave off the list. The best bicycle routes challenge you and broaden your horizons both on and off the bike, and we think this does just that.
Highway One, Vietnam
Highway One road in Vietnam is known as a symbol of national unity. It stretches from the north to the south of the country’s east coast.
It was damaged in the Vietnam War but is now pretty well-maintained. Cycling Highway One is a good way to see some of the best of what Vietnam has to offer by bicycle.
The route begins in Hanoi (though of course you can also ride it in the other direction). The route takes in some of the most wonderful scenic backdrops, with lush green mountains and panoramic sea views. For the views alone, we think it’s one of the best road cycling routes in the world.
Watch out for the famous Hai Van Pass – and it’s infamous 30% gradients!
Cycling is a way of life in Vietnam, so unlike other countries where it may be difficult to find mechanics, they are quite literally everywhere. They’re helpful and willing, although if you have a modern high-end bicycle, they might not be equipped to assist you, so make sure you bring enough tools to get you by on your journey.
The Friendship Highway is also known as the China-Nepal Highway. It connects Tibet and Nepal and passes through some of the biggest mountain ranges in the world. If visiting Kathmandu has always been on your bucket list, but perhaps climbing it is a stretch too far, why not cycle to it using this now paved highway.
Autumn is the ideal time to complete this route, as it’s not usually too wet, and isn’t the coldest part of the year so you shouldn’t encounter road closures.
Be aware that there are a few rules around cycling in Tibet, including being part of a tour or organised group as a condition of your travel permit.
The Friendship Highway is among the best road bike routes in the world due to the landscape and beauty surrounding it. It’s one of the highest roads in the world, so be prepared for a little shortness of breath – and not just from the scenery!
The Shimanami Kaido is a 70-kilometre long route that takes you over precision-engineered bridges and suspended cycle lanes, over the Seto Sea. You cross multiple islands set against a gorgeous backdrop of coastal and mountainous vistas.
Some of the route has a segregated cycle path so you’re separated from traffic, and it’s easy to navigate – simply follow the blue lines! The fact there is a lot of bike path and the terrain is pretty flat means this is often regarded as among the best family cycling routes in the world.
It’s also easy to rent a bicycle if you don’t bring your own. There are 13 bike hire shops along the route, and they’re reasonably cheap to hire for the full day (or two). This is a tranquil ride that makes it one of the best cycling routes in Japan.
Castles and historic museums feature in the towns on this route, with it ending in Onomichi, part of Hiroshima Prefecture, famous for its devastation in World War II. Discover the Japanese bike-friendly culture and enjoy the local cuisines on this peaceful long distance route.
Our article on the Shimanami Kaido cycling route gives you more detail.
Great Ocean Road
Cycling the Great Ocean Road is a great way to explore the stunning beaches and some of the best scenery in southern Australia.
Though it’s well known as a driving road, we think experiencing the Great Ocean Road on two wheels is a much better way to do it.
You can ride it entirely on road, or, if you enjoy the variety there are off-road trails that coincide with certain parts of it, for example in the Great Otway National Park.
As one of the most popular cycling routes accessible from Melbourne, it presents an opportunity to tie in other activities such as visiting the koalas in Kennett River.
As it’s coastal there are some ups and downs to be expected on this route, in particular between Apollo Bay and Port Campbell. It does, however, offer some of the most spectacular views of the ancient rainforests and shoreline.
The beauty of the Great Ocean Road is the versatility and the ability for you to design the trip around your requirements. Thus, making it among the best cycling routes in Melbourne, and dare we say it, the world.
Which long distance cycle routes have you tackled?
We’d love to hear your experiences – share them in the comments below!
Likewise, let us know which routes we’ve missed from our list. Inevitably there are always some and we love to hear your thoughts!
Looking for more inspiration? Head to our destinations page where you’ll find guides to cycling destinations around the world.
Want to check travel advice before you go? If you live in the UK, the best place to start is the government’s travel website.
Want a personalised map to commemorate your long distance ride?
These cycling map prints are just the ticket.
More info here. Prices start at £35.
Books that will help continue your research
For more inspiration on the world’s greatest cycling rides, check out some of our favourite books (you can find even more in this article!):
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