Cycling in India travel guide

The wonderful thing about cycling in India is that you are travelling with the local people. At their speed, through their terrain, stopping to drink chai and talk bikes with them. The routes you can take vary greatly, and we do recommend travelling in a small group tour for most of them. This makes it easier to negotiate getting bikes on and off house boats in Kerala’s backwaters, for example. Or take an overnight train to Jodhpur to begin a Northern India odyssey.
Every single sense is bashed every single day. Smell, sight, taste, heat, just everything. That’s why it is amazing to travel in India by bike.
Also you will be cycling with such a wide array of fellow travellers. A father and son celebrating the first born flying the nest by cycling from Manali to Leh. A group of friends turning 50 together while cycling from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Or a 30-something couple training for a triathlon but holidaying at the same time, with the hills of Kerala’s Western Ghats ticking all the boxes. Cycling and India – it’s a magic combo. Read more in our India cycling holidays travel guide.

TYPES OF CYCLING HOLIDAYS IN INDIA

Every single sense was bashed every single day. Smell, sight, taste, heat, just everything. That’s why it is amazing to travel by bike.
– Lyn Hill, Finance and Office Manager at Responsible Travel. Read more in an interview with Lyn about her cycling holiday in Kerala
Where you want to cycle in India is just as important as which style best suits your fitness levels and cultural or natural heritage expectations. You could become part of a guided, small group or you might prefer a tailor made trip cycling independently, with your bags being transported for you. You can choose between moderate level, between 30-50km a day on flat, tarmac roads such as along Kerala’s coast or in some parts of Rajasthan, to more mountainous terrain like southern India’s Western Ghats, or the Himalayan hill stations.

Cycling holiday companies are real experts and also honest about the levels of cycling you will be undertaking. Because ultimately, this is a holiday. And while for some that means pushing themselves up to a tropical mountain viewpoint and, for others, it means pushing themselves to the next tropical beach bar. So when choosing from the types of cycling holidays on offer in India, be honest, enjoy yourself and choose a cycling holiday which appeals for all the right reasons.
Tailor made

Tailor made

Many cycling holidays in India are for small group; however, if you prefer to cycle independently, and at your own pace, there are superb options out there. An organised but independent cycling holiday takes all the work out of it for you, providing maps, copious notes, accommodation, luggage transfers and sometimes food. And of course, bikes. So all you have to do is cycle. Cycling in Central India’s Maikal Hills, in the eastern Himalayan region of Arunachal Pradesh through tribal villages as far over as the Chinese border as well as several tailor made cycling trips in southern India are some of our most popular bespoke bicycle odysseys.
Small group

Small group

Joining a group of likeminded cyclists takes the pressure off the organisation front. All you have to do is cycle and the rest is all laid on for you with luggage transfers, accommodation, support vans and so on. Small group cycling tours in India cater not only for people who are happier cycling in numbers, but those who really want a shortcut to the cultural and natural highlights of a cycling destination. And cycling tour companies are experts at knowing all the best local secrets too, from the best Ayurveda spa at the end of the day in Kerala to the top Himalayan tea houses to quench your thirst. They also know the best food stops to fill those hollow legs, and there is no shortage of great food stops in India.
Moderate

Moderate

You won’t find any easy peasy cycling holidays in India perhaps because tour operators reckon that if you are going to come all this way, you’re best to really throw yourself into it and spend at least a week here, cycling every day. There are plenty of moderate cycling holidays in India, however, covering between 30-50km per day with the odd hill thrown in now and again, but nothing too drastic. Good examples include cycling the coast of Kerala, cycling in Rajasthan which is hot, but flat, or pedaling through the Maikal Hills in Central India. Hills may worry some, but they are gentle and there are plenty of beauty stops which can be added into a tailor made trip along the way here. Cycling in the states of Goa and Sikkim are also considered moderate, although the latter does have some Himalayan valleys so it is definitely borderline brawn. Another borderline one is this tropical Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu cycling holiday which has some breezy stretches but also some full on ascents thrown into the mix.
Challenging

Challenging

There are different challenges out there, of course, just as there are different types of cycling styles and bikes. The coast to coast cycle from Kochi in Kerala to Chennai in Tamil Nadu is tough because it is two weeks in the saddle covering a wide array of landscapes, but this is also a fantastic way to really immerse yourself in southern India’s tropics, temples and traditions.
But then we have Himalayan hard, which is a whole other ball game. You don’t have to be a triathlete to take these on, though, as these cycling holidays are well paced, guided and always have superb support.

Is an India cycling holiday for you?

Go on an Indian cycling holiday if...

… you want to experience ‘real’ India. Less Taj and temples, more mountains and remote monasteries. … you enjoy the company of an expert, local guide. Not all cycling holidays are guided, but good ones take you, and your holiday, to another level. … you want to experience the Himalayas, but don’t think of yourself as a trekker. … you are open to the unpredictable. From a flat tyre to an eagle swooping past, or a bus full of kids laughing at you hysterically.

Don’t go on a cycling holiday in India if…

… you don’t have some level of fitness. Talk this through with your tour operator as these guys know their gradients. … you like a lie in every day. Early starts are important to avoid the hottest part of the day in places like Rajasthan. But you’ll get to see the sun come up over mountains, or hear the Buddhists chanting at dawn. … you love freedom, but being sociable isn’t a strong point. Many India cycling trips include homestays, camping and plenty of hanging out as a group. … the word ‘chafing’ upsets you.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about India cycling or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bill Bourne] [Is it for you: Abhijit Kar Gupta] [Top Box: kiran kumar] [Moderate Image: Lyn Hill] [Challenging Image: Amanshu Raikwar] [Tailor made: Ashish Gupta] [Small group: Lyn Hill]