Ticket to ride: a guide to the best bike cities

Travelling Well | Words: Lucy Cleeve | Posted on 14 May 2019

The best cities to experience the world on two wheels.

Rolling through the countryside certainly has its charms, but there’s nothing like getting to know a new city on a bike. Cycling lets you explore hidden urban treasures and out-of-the-way neighbourhoods.

It’s a fantastic way to get over jetlag and a great excuse to sample even more street snacks and ‘must try’ dishes. Here are five of the best cities to get on yer bike.

Dozens of cyclists pass each other and are semi blurred as they ride over a crossing in Amsterdam city central

 The crush of bicycles in Amsterdam are almost as famous as their canals and a certain red-light district.

Copenhagen, Denmark

In the hip Danish capital, cars are a dying form of transport. More than two-thirds of residents now cycle to work or study every day, and road rules even make up the local school curriculum. Hardy Danes ride in all weather – rain, snow or shine – and the city is doing all it can to fuel the obsession.

Bicycle Super Highways – Supercykelstiers – started popping up in 2012, connecting the city centre to outer suburbs with safe, smooth and stop-free paths. The city is creative and vibrant, offering two-wheeled tourists plenty of eye-candy, with fairytale castles, beautifully landscaped gardens and modernist Scandi-cool design around every corner.

Watch out for Lane hogging. Don’t annoy the locals by swanning down the middle of a bike path. Ignore all of your instincts and stick to the very right-hand side of the lane.

Take a ride... to the autonomous ‘intentional community’ of Christiania. Formed in the 1970s, this hippy commune to the east of the city has completely banned cars. Enjoy a ride through colourful, mural-filled streets and stop for a bite at one of the many great vegan and vegetarian cafes of the area.

Montreal, Canada

Embracing a European joie de vivre, Montreal is a great place to explore the French flavours of Canada’s Quebec province. With 645 kilometres of bike paths across the (mostly flat) city, you can pedal your velo from one side of Canada’s second-largest city to the other without ever hitting traffic. But the biggest drawcards are the city’s two Fs – food and festivals. Straddling European and American food cultures, you’ll find Parisian patisseries alongside American-style eateries offering poutine, the national dish of fries, gravy and cheese curds. And the city’s calendar is packed with festivals all through the year, from jazz to poetry, circus to cinema.

Watch out for Winter cycling. While most bike paths are cleared regularly of snow, January and February often reach -12 degrees, creating icy and scary paths.

Take a ride... along the cycling path at Lachine Canal for stunning city skyline views. Stop at the Old Port for a wander through quaint little bars and boutiques, and catch a Cirque du Soleil show under the original Grand Chapiteau.

A dark haired man with glasses stands up on his bike to ride up a small hill on a painted street in Copenhagen, Denmark

Riding the fast lane in Copenhagen.

Lots of cyclists wait on their bikes at a pedestrian crossing in Copenhagen, Denmark on a sunny day

 A different form of rush hour in Denmark.

A man dressed in all black rides across a zebra crossing on a busy road in Tokyo, Japan while bright lights glow in the background

 Even in the tech-driven city of Tokyo, cycling is common.

Tokyo, Japan

Visitors to the Japanese capital already know about the orderly, super clean streets and cutting-edge everything, but Tokyo is also a haven for urban cyclists. While obviously a great way to work off huge bowls of ramen, the looming 2020 Olympics have pushed city officials to improve road congestion.

Most cyclists in Tokyo shun busy roads in favour of footpaths, which are divided into pedestrian and bike lanes. And when you’ve had your fill of robot restaurants and kooky vending machines, leave the mega metropolis behind to discover scenic mountain ranges and picnic-perfect lakes just minutes away.

Watch out for Spare change. Many of the official bike parking spots on footpaths or automated lots are coin operated. Parking in unofficial spots may get your bike towed!

Take a ride... to Showa Kinen Park. From the central Shinjuku station, take the JR Chuo line for 30 minutes – bikes travel free on all trains. Across 160 hectares, explore woodland walking trails, seasonal flower displays (including Japan’s famed cherry blossoms), bonsai museum and boating lake.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is pure paradise for cyclists. It offers stunning scenery, interesting architecture, abundant bike parking and, best of all, it’s really, really flat. Take your two wheels gliding along historic canals dotted with pretty gabled houses, floating houseboats and picture-perfect bridges.

The city’s laid-back, artistic vibe is easy to fall in love with, and tourists return again and again for live music, treasure-filled museums and quirky boutiques, as well as the city’s famous ‘coffee shop’ culture. And while many visiting cyclists worry about getting their wheels stuck in tram tracks, Melburnians are pros at navigating these.

Watch out for Bike theft. It’s a serious problem in Amsterdam. Locals double lock their bikes, and always to something solid like a tree, pole or a dedicated bike parking spot.

Take a ride... south along the iconic canals towards the Rijksmuseum, filled with the precious works of Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. And, on your way back to the city centre, stop by the original Heineken brewery for a well-deserved cleansing ale.

Two young men are smiling as they cross a small bridge on their bike in Amsterdam. Lots of bicycles are parked in the background.

 Cycling is a great way to explore a new city.

Bogota, Colombia

Every Sunday, from 7am until 2pm, cars are banned in the centre of Colombia’s capital city in a push to get residents up and exercising. Ciclovia – or ‘streets for cycles’ – began in the 1970s and has seen the sport, and its network of ciclorrutas (bike paths), surge in popularity.

Bogota is spectacularly framed by the Andes mountain ranges, and its streets are dotted with vibrant colourful houses and colonial Spanish architecture. The city has shaken off much of its criminal history and is now considered safe for tourists. Visitors love the gritty urban vibe of the old neighbourhoods like La Candelaria, bursting with cool cafes and artistic drawcards such as Museo Botero.

Watch out for Altitude sickness. At 2640 metres above sea level, Bogota is one of the world’s highest capital cities. Stay hydrated and take it easy when exercising.

Take a ride to... to check out the city’s vibrant coffee culture, and home to the world’s best Arabica beans. Join one of many ‘coffee and cycling’ tours and follow local experts to try a street made ‘tinto’, visit coffee roasters and experience the best historic coffeehouses in town.