If the daily commute is simply not inspiring, and those rainy weekend rides are no longer holding your enthusiasm, you may already be looking for something to rekindle your cycling gusto. Whether it is a holiday from cycling, or a cyclist’s holiday, Cyprus may be the destination you are seeking.
Despite my usual penchant for road cycling, my wife and I recently chose to take to mountain bikes to explore the Akamas peninsula in North-West Cyprus. Rather than going to the expense and trouble of flying our bikes out, we hired ours from Wheelie Cyprus, run by British couple Helen and Alistair Smeaton (other bike hire companies are available).
Not being experienced mountain bikers, we hired their 9-speed Orange Gringoes, although they also offer 10-speed Trek 6000s with full suspension for those who will appreciate the difference. The bikes were delivered and collected from our door in Polis, together with helmets, gloves, bottles, and a repair kit including inner tubes, tyre levers and a multi-tool. So, armed with a map of the area, also provided by Wheelie Cyprus, and some friendly advice about the best routes from Alistair, we set off to explore.
The Akamas peninsula is an adventurer’s playground. The peninsula comprises of a single range of hills rising to around 400m above sea level. For the climbers, there is a tarmacked road up to the village of Neo Chorio, otherwise it is possible to drive even as far as the church of Agios Minas by car, although you will need a 4×4 to continue on the unmade roads beyond.
In spring, when we visited, the peninsula is at its most verdant. A ride along the ridge boasts stunning views on both sides down the Baths of Aphrodite to the east, and Lara Beach to the west. The landscape varies from meadows just outside Neo Chorio, to dense forest, and it is impossible not to appreciate the wildlife. Keep an eye out for the peculiar-looking – and even more oddly-named – Hoopoe, as well as the Cyprus Wheatear, a bird with a black back and tail but a white crown, that is endemic to Cyprus.
The ridge-top route is certainly the most challenging way to explore the Akamas, and can be made even more so by including a steep off-road climb or descent on the western side. But for those looking for something more sedate, the sea-level routes along either coast are an excellent alternative. You could even incorporate some beach-time north of Lara or at Fontana Amoroza, lunch at Valarki The Last Castle, which comes highly recommended by the Smeatons and others, or a walk around the spectacular Avagas Gorge.
The Akamas was quite enough for us to explore during our stay, but the Troodos area in central Cyprus provides an even more expansive playground. The winding mountain-side roads have both breath-taking landscapes and ascents that will take your breath away. Home to British Cycling’s pre-Olympic training camp in 2004, Cyprus clearly has mountain biking trails to tackle even the elite cyclist, and the Akamas certainly left me reinvigorated for the daily grind.