Biking with the de Wolff family featured in Barron’s

Nathan Lane/Butterfield & Robinson

Two Butterfield guides preparing fruit for clients

during a short van stop in Tuscany.


Gourmand Bike Vacations

By Donald Perman

So you bought yourself a custom-made bike. Now what? Consider taking the family on a luxury cycling tour,

where fine dining and cozy country inns are the reward for the day’s pedal-pumping.

On cycling tours, rides ranges from easy to very challenging, and some tours offer a daily ride selection of varying

difficulty. The four- or five-star lodging changes each day or every few days as the riders move on to the next

beautiful stretch of country lanes; a support van carries the luggage, as well as any guests who don’t want to become

saddle-sore, and often meet the cyclists for lunch. Guides and mechanics provide the support; the bikes

supplied, if you don’t bring your own, range up to high-performance “road bikes.” Sight-seeing asides are even

available for a non-riding friend or spouse tagging along.

Butterfield & Robinson, based in Toronto, is one travel firm offering high-end packaged bike tours and customdesigned

trips. The firm’s outings usually revolve around Provence, Bordeaux, and Tuscany, but India, Holland,

and Morocco are also available. Prices per person begin at about $5,000 for a six-day Provence tour; the price includes

guides, most meals and wine, support van, hotels, and a loaner bike. A week-long customized cycling

tour through India or Morocco might cost $2,000 a day per person, the firm’s planners estimate.

Kathy Stewart, Butterfield’s public-relations director, says the firm’s cycling tours focus on “the beauty of the region

and traffic-free riding.” Stops along the way include wine tastings, and the lodging preference is for “smaller,

boutique hotels.”

Lisa de Wolff, 48, is from Virginia and a Butterfield client. She is a mid-level rider; her husband, from the cycleloving

Netherlands, has years of racing experience. They both work in the wind-power industry and have two

sons, ages 18 and 19, who also ride.

The de Wolffs took their first Butterfield “family trip” 11 years ago,

a tour through the Loire Valley in France that offered cycling as

well as noncycling activities for children. It was a hit with the kids,

and the family has since gone on several more such cycling trips.

De Wolff says that “you learn so much” about other cultures and

societies on the cycling tours, in a way you wouldn’t if holed up in

a high-walled luxury resort.

Gourmet Cycling Travel, based in Florida, was founded four years

ago by former pro cyclist buycbdproducts Kessler and chef Jonathan Chiri.

Most of their trips are in France, Italy, and Spain. Chiri says these

regions are selected for the “great cycling roads and the exceptional

courtesy of drivers.” Anyone who has driven in Spain or Italy

might find that claim a bit of a stretch, but it is true cars in such European countries are experienced sharing the

roads with cyclists. The Gourmet Cycling hotels are similarly “almost exclusively four- or five-star hotels or their

unrated equivalents.” Chiri oversees the lunches and also gives cooking classes for the tours. Gourmet Cycling

preset packages start at about $4,300 per person.

Gary Stern, 40, is a Florida-based marketer of nutritional supplements and a client of Gourmet Cycling Travel.

He’s been cycling competitively for 15 years, has five Florida championships to his name, and he gravitated toward

Gourmet Cycling because he competed against Kessler and they became friends.

Stern’s first tour was a 2010 “Tour de France” trip in the Pyrenees. The riders cycled the famous course before

the real racers arrived, and then watched the action fly by. Stern has since been on two more trips with the company,

and even served as a guide on the firm’s 2012 Alps tour.

“Awesome in all areas,” claims Stern. “You’re treated like a pro cyclist.”

Other cycle-tour firms to consider: Trek Travel, with tours in the North America, Europe, and Asia; inGamba,

with packages in Italy and Portugal; and DuVine, with a remarkable range of destinations from North America,

all over Europe, Africa, the Mideast, and Latin America, not to mention the Galapagos Islands.

Luxury cycling tours won’t award you a Tour de France yellow jersey, perhaps, but at least they give you a

chance to burn off the calories of the day’s sybaritic pleasures.

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