Monday, 24 September 2007 12:00 AM
Despite its volcanic terrain, Lanzarote is a perfect location for a cycling holiday.
The island's year round clement climate and super low rainfall (it lies just off the coast of west Africa and the Sahara) attracts professional and amateur cyclists in droves during the winter months, as they seek out warmer weather for training and practice.
From November through to May packs of colourfully dressed cyclists take to the island's roads, enticed not just by the weather but also the incredible natural beauty of Lanzarote, which provides a breathtaking backdrop for all that pedalling and exertion.
The island is also manageably small - making it possible to take in a real variety of vistas in the course of just one day. Riders can enjoy the eerie volcanic scenery of the Timanfaya Volcano Park in the south through to the lush palm packed valleys of Haria in the north.
Facilities on the island for cyclists are equally impressive. Many professionals are attracted by the amenities on offer at the La Santa sports complex, which is located in the north of the island.
La Santa is well known in professional sports circles and the complex caters to top athletes from many disciplines, providing over-winter training facilities for some of the biggest names from the world of sport.
La Santa is also the driving force behind Lanzarote's annual Iron Man event. This adrenaline-charged competition takes place every May and is regarded as one of the toughest triathlons in the world. The race incorporates a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre cycle and a 42.2-kilometre marathon, all usually conducted in baking heat.
Amateur cyclists are also well provided for as there are bicycle hire shops across the island in all of the main resorts. And the cost of taking to the roads on two wheels is great value for money. Prices start from as little as ten euros a day, which normally includes a helmet, pump and water bottle too.
Most of these hire facilities offer a choice of cycles - and holidaymakers opting for a race bike will obviously just be confined to tarmac roads. However, this could be a mistake for anyone planning to discover the 'real' Lanzarote, as around 40 per cent of the island lies off-road - including some of the best off-the-beaten-track attractions. This makes a mountain bike by far the best option for anyone who is primarily interested in sightseeing.
Hire bikes come with or without suspension - so anyone planning on more than a few hours in the saddle would be well advised to opt for the comfort of additional cushioning. Children's bikes and child seats are also available. And for those who like the idea of two wheels without the exertion it is even possible to hire electric bikes that do all of the hard work for you.
The best bicycle hire shops on Lanzarote - such as the Bike Station in Costa Teguise - also organise group cycling tours or provide detailed route maps for the more independent minded.
And every November the island plays host to the annual International Bike Tour of Lanzarote - a 73 kilometre non-competitive event that attracts hundreds of professional and amateur riders from around the world.
Nick Ball, editor of www.lanzaroteguidebook.com