We put together our top choices of easy cycle routes suitable for first-time gentle cyclists.

Easy Routes for Your First Independent Cycle Tour

We’d see them out there on the road. Peddling their loaded bicycles. Riding slow, seemed almost like they were in slow motion. And we were intrigued by the notion of packing up a bit of kit and wandering off like Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit. Except Bilbo didn’t have a bike.

And it looked a little intimidating too. How do we get started? Do we have the strength and stamina we’ll need? Things like that. Fortunately, we didn’t let our doubts stop us. We eased our way into independent cycle touring and today the time we spend together, just the two of us, on our bikes out on an adventure are simply the best. Independent slow cycle touring rocks. The last time we were out, Susan asked, “Why didn’t we start this sooner?”

One nice thing about independent cycle touring the way we do it — on gentle cycle — is that getting started is pretty easy. Your old bike is good enough. And you don’t need expensive equipment. But what you do want is an easy route, a safe place to sleep, an easy out should you or the weather decide it isn’t for you. Most importantly, you need to pick a date on your calendar and write down something like, Our first overnight cycle trip.

Once you’ve decided to make the leap into self-supported cycle touring, you’ll want to pick an easy first tour. Here are three easy routes to consider for your first independent cycle tour.

Idaho’s Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes crosses Idaho’s panhandle on 72 miles of smooth 10 foot wide asphalt cover bike trail. For first-time gentle cyclists, this is probably the easiest, safest and one of the prettiest ways to test your independent cycle touring desires.

Why This Route Works: You’ll ride along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, through historic mining town in the Silver Valley and along the Coeur d’Alene River. You’ll be surrounded by mountains with nary a climb. We encountered plenty of wildlife, most notably moose, along the trail. There are many bike-friendly businesses along the way.

Washington State’s San Juan Islands

When you’re ready to ease into camping on tour you won’t go too far wrong if you start with a self-supported cycle tour of Washington’s San Juan Islands.

Why This Route Works: Each of the islands accessible by ferry offers a different cycling experience. You’ll find the quiet coastal roads and moderate climbs let you enjoy forests, fields, beaches, and vistas on your slow ride through the country side. Inter-island ferries run frequently and cyclists ride for free., so just getting to the different islands is fun. There are plenty of bicycle friendly businesses and the Lopez Farm tent sites remain the most comfortable camping we’ve experienced.

The Cotswold Line, Gloucestershire, UK

If you’re at all apprehensive about loading up panniers andcycling off through a foreign country, choose the The Cotswold Line heading out from Oxford, UK.

Why This Route Works: You’ll ride along quiet country lanes bounded by pretty stone walls guide the gentle cyclist past farm and pasture and, through romantic 18th century villages. Though you’ll be faced with a few steep hills, most of the ride is through gentle rolling sheep country. The church in tiny Adlestrop is a treat for Jane Austin fans.

You’ll never be more than a few miles from the next pub if you need a breather or a rail station should you decide to skip ahead. Bainton Bikes in Oxford offers nice touring cycles for hire at a reasonable price. Finding open camp grounds in September was a bit of a challenge, but B&Bs and other accommodations abound.