Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations
Bicycle Tours & Active Vacations


The Good Life By Bike Blog

Our Most Scenic Bike Tours

by srand on April 4, 2014

Inquiring minds often ask which Sojourn bike tours are the most scenic. Well, the salesperson’s answer is “they’re all scenic” however, there are three that vie for top honors. Acadia National Park, the wine country and coast of California, and the Columbia Gorge region of Oregon all offer stunning scenery each and every day of the tour.

sunset bar harbor innOur Maine bike tour in Acadia National Park is a nature lovers paradise. Located on primarily on Mount Desert Island in Maine, the Park features bike rides along miles of undeveloped coastline and vehicle-free carriage roads that wind through peaceful woodlands. Stones, polished smooth over millennia of being tumbled by surf, line the coast between Acadia’s signature pink granite cliffs. Working fishing villages and lighthouses are reminiscent of Maine’s maritime roots. Sunrise and sunset can be especially dramatic from your inn on the shores of Frenchman Bay.

Alexander Valley hillside vineyards The wine country and coast combine to create an incredibly scenic setting for our California bike tour. One need not be an oenophile to fall in love with the beauty of wine country with its vineyard draped hillsides, winding back roads, and perfect cycling climate. Transition from wine country while riding through the Russian River Valley into immense stands of Pacific Redwoods so tall and otherworldly that the wonder of their existence is unforgettable. Riding the undeveloped coastline along the Pacific Ocean, with views extending for miles, completes a journey through some of the most diverse and beautiful scenery in California.

Columbia Gorge Historic Highway cyclistLast, only because of alphabetical order, is the Columbia Gorge and Cascade Mountain region featured during our Oregon bike tour. Waterfalls, snow-capped peaks, and crystal clear mountain lakes offer consistently magnificent views, and ensure a lengthy wildflower season. A historic route leads past one of the world’s greatest concentration of waterfalls including the second highest in the US. A remote alpine lake provides the perfect location for a little hiking, paddling and viewing Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest peak, as its mirror image is reflected on the lake’s surface. Water is plentiful and provides for refreshing opportunity to cool off in sparkling lakes, under billowing waterfalls, and during a trip down a Wild & Scenic River.

If you’re looking for scenery that will knock your socks off on bike tours in the US, these three rank right up there with the best of them. Naturally, you’ll witness this beauty from the seat of your bike as well as during guided hikes and trips on the water. And, each evening you’ll unwind in accommodations that reflect the beauty of each location. Don’t forget your camera!

 

 

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Cyclists are split into two categories when it comes to pedals – those who go clipless and those who don’t. Riding with clipless pedals is a fantastic way to increase the enjoyment of your bicycling vacation. If you ride with clipless pedals you’re already sold on the concept. If you have yet to convert from flat pedals or toe cages to clipless, a whole new level of enjoyment awaits! Clipless is a bit of a misnomer referring to the migration away from old style toe clips (also known as toe straps or cages).

shimano-m324-pedalsI recently converted an acquaintance who fearfully vowed never to ride with clipless pedals. Following her first clipless test ride she kept exclaiming “I can’t believe I didn’t switch years ago!” Her profile? A 58 year old casual hybrid bike rider who now and again will hop on a road bike (hybrid bikes have upright handlebars and wider tires that road bikes).

I’m on a mission to convert as many cyclists as possible from riding with flat pedals or the old toe cages to riding with clipless pedals. Once you convert I’m convinced you will shower me with thanks however, that’s not the motivation behind my mission.

The reasons I want you to start using clipless pedals are because:

  1. You’ll ride more comfortably (your feet won’t slip off the pedals).
  2. You’ll ride with less effort (imagine this on a week-long bicycling vacation!).
  3. You’ll ride more safely (your feet won’t slip and you’ll release more quickly than with toe cages).
  4. It’s way easier than you think it is!  A slight twist of your foot and it’s quickly free from the pedal.

Flat pedals don’t support your foot properly and your feet are the key connection to your bike. Toe cages, when properly used, can add a slight amount of additional efficiency if your foot is tightly strapped to a flat pedal however it’s much more difficult to remove your foot from toe cages than clipless pedals. Clipless pedals provide much greater efficiency during your pedaling motion because of the integration between your shoe and the pedal, and their ability to transfer your energy (effort) to the pedals throughout your entire pedal stroke (think circular motion).

Now, how to make the switch. If you’re at all nervous about this proposition, I suggest starting with clipless pedals that are clipless on one side and flat on the other (as pictured above). This will allow you to clip in with one foot and leave the other completely free until unclipping becomes second nature. The flat side also comes in handy for riding to the beach in flip flops. Once you become confident with one foot clipped in, clip in with the other foot as well. Spinning bikes or placing your bike on a stationary trainer are also good ways to begin using sidi-mtb-shoeclipless pedals.

In addition to the pedals, you will also need cycling specific shoes to match the pedals. If you plan to get off your bike during rides, I suggest getting a touring or mountain bike style shoe where the cleats will be recessed in the sole of the shoe and allow for easy walking. These shoes have stiffer soles than sneakers to enhance your pedaling efficiency – believe me, it makes a huge difference.

mavic-mtb-shoeVisit your local bike shop and ask them to help you get started with selecting the right shoes and pedals. There are many brands of both but most important is the proper fit and style of shoe. As for pedals, there are a handful of choices similar to the Shimano M324 (pictured above). Pedals will come with matching cleats that will affix to your shoes. SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) is the acronym for the Shimano brand of clipless pedals.

Your shop should install your new pedals on your bike and affix the cleats to your shoes. They should also show you how to adjust the positioning of the cleats for comfort and efficiency. If you have never been properly fittted to your bike, now would be a good time to request this of your shop. Ensure that the tension adjustment on the pedals is at its lowest before you do a test ride. Once you start jumping potholes and railroad tracks, you can tighten the tension up a bit! ;-)

Enjoy your new ride and look forward to using your new pedals during your next bicycling vacation.

Susan Rand is the founder and owner of Sojourn Bicycling Vacations

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An Arizona Bike Tour: Reflections On Relationships Made

November 18, 2013
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The final day of our bike tour in Arizona found us wandering through shops in Tubac and enjoying various massage options at the resort.  Nearly everyone opted to skip today’s final ride given that many of us maxed ourselves out on yesterday’s extended mileage options. There are some true artisans in town and the array [...]

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Biking Into Spanish Mission History – The Tour Rolls Into Tubac

November 15, 2013

As we descended upon the breakfast place next door this morning – great spot called the Gathering Grounds – everyone was excited for another sunny day.  A burrito loaded with poblanos, spinach, avocado, green chilies and black beans seemed to be calling my name but a mouthwatering display of pastries was awfully tempting.  Thankfully, our leaders had [...]

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Arizona Wine Country – A Bicycling Vacation Paradise

November 14, 2013

I have to admit, I could happily spend the winter months doing our Arizona bike tours one after another though my wife and my boss probably wouldn’t approve. Leaving Tucson behind, we climbed steadily to a stunning plateau showcasing mountain vistas and miles of traffic-free riding! Our first stop would be Arizona’s oldest vineyard to learn [...]

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Biking Through Cactus Forests to the Arizona Desert Museum

November 13, 2013

An early flat tire was a blessing in disguise as I chose to join some fellow riders in the support van. Always one to push myself to ride every mile, it was fun to spend a few minutes chatting with some of my fellow travelers who were engrossed in conversation about the settling of the [...]

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A Fantastic Road Ride for All – Biking in Saguaro East

November 12, 2013

Writing in from our bike tour in Arizona – Day Two!  As we meandered east today, I couldn’t help but think how grateful I was to revel in summer-like conditions during our ride: sunny and warm, not a cloud in the sky!  It was evident that our ’packtrain’ of sorts developed an early bond as we all paused for [...]

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My First Arizona Bike Tour – Travel Along With a Sojourn Staffer

November 11, 2013

Blogging from our bike tour in Arizona this week, Sojourn Tour Operations Coordinator, Tom Turro, shares his first hand experience on his first-ever bicycle tour. After a flight delay that landed him in Denver for many more hours than he’d care to remember, he shares the first in a series of blog posts from tour. [...]

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The Little Known Gem: Biking in Canada’s Most Beautiful Wine Country

July 3, 2013

Wine Country typically embodies all of the elements of a fantastic bicycling vacation: scenic countryside, elegant accommodations, exceptional cuisine, and interesting history. The beautiful and little known Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, Canada is one such place. In addition to the wine, there are numerous bike paths and quiet country roads to be explored during our [...]

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Sojourn’s Vermont Bike Tour a World’s Best

May 2, 2013

Choices abound for those interested in bicycling vacations in Vermont but there is only one Vermont bike tour that holds the distinction of being named a world’s best. Perhaps our intimate familiarity with the most scenic back roads of our home state have something to do with the quality of our tours here. Maybe it’s [...]

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