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Long live le Tour: The Beautiful Race

It is, quite simply, the most beautiful sporting event in the world. But what is it about the Tour de France that has us struggling to turn our heads away for three weeks in July every year? The scenery, the chateaus, the mountains, the cities, the towns and the views. Much like the whales that migrate back to Byron around the same time each year, these are scenes that you will never get tired of watching. But there’s something more than just jaw-dropping ‘panorama’ that has millions of people around the world, and not just die-hard cyclists, tuning in to watch the Tour day after day.

For the past three weeks, like many, we sat glued to our screens nightly watching the SBS Cycling Central team curate another memorable edition of the world’s biggest annual sporting event, the Tour de France. I’ve been following the Tour for 22 years now, including a couple of unforgettable editions there live at the event, and after all these years I think I’m more in love with the race than ever.

Perhaps it’s just a natural by-product of a year without international travel, and endless late nights and hours watching the peloton navigate its way through the beautiful French countryside. It’s hard not to start dreaming about that next cycling holiday in Europe. 

If football is ‘the beautiful game’, then the Tour de France is ‘the beautiful race’.

In fact, it is so much more than just a race. Forget worrying about how to explain a game of test cricket to someone, imagine trying to explain to a first-time viewer how hundreds of bike riders across a number of teams race for individual glory in a selection of categories that suit different sorts of riders across a range of stages over a period of 3 weeks. I’ll wait until you’ve got your head around that before moving onto lesson #2: team sponsors and the ‘early breakaway’… 

It’s fair to say that after the controversy-ridden era of the 90’s and 00’s, professional road cycling has had a bit to prove. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that it seemed as though the most common question you’d get asked about the Tour was “Do you think they’re all on drugs? Or just most of them?” This crescendo of disturbing noise lurking in the background of the sport culminated in early 2013 when Lance Armstrong finally came clean about the sophisticated performance enhancing drug program that accompanied his 20 year professional cycling career, resulting in him being stripped of his record-breaking 7 Tour de France wins and instead earning him the title as potentially the most controversial and discredited figure in sporting history. 

Thankfully, only 6 months earlier at the 2012 Tour de France, a young Slovenian sprinter Peter Sagan burst onto the front pages of cycling headlines by winning the opening stage of that year’s race and in doing so became the youngest rider to win a Tour stage since Lance himself. Whilst we still had to wait a few more months before coming through the very darkest days of cycling, these events at the 2012 Tour arguably signalled the beginning of the ‘Sagan era’ and, in my mind, a somewhat ‘renaissance’ of cycling. What Sagan has brought to the sport, and which has since become (refreshingly) mainstream in the pro peloton, is a level of ‘panache’ that has captured the hearts of the fans and viewers around the world and in doing so restored the inspirational and heroic qualities of cycling that filters down from the elite and speaks volumes to the everyday cyclist. 

I have no doubt that heroes have existed throughout the history of the pro tour, and that panache came long before Sagan. In terms of personalities, there’s probably no bigger name than Cippo and, on the 10th anniversary of his monumental Tour victory, how could you not mention Cadel.

But there’s just something about the current crop of champions that feels like a breath of fresh air has come into cycling, amongst other sports, in recent years.

On the eve of Ash Barty’s historic grand-slam win at Wimbledon last week, her mindset coach Ben Crowe recorded a fabulous podcast on ABC’s radio program ‘Conversations’, where he talked about her career, setbacks, successes and her as a person. If you haven’t yet listened to it I won’t spoil it for you because it is absolutely terrific, but one of the moments in the podcast that stood out for me was when he isolated arguably the most significant turning point in her career to a specific moment in time, and how she used ‘humour’ to change her mindset in that moment, take control of the situation and set her on the path to becoming an Australian sporting legend. What this line demonstrates, and perhaps why Barty has so quickly become such a revered figure in Australian sport, is that her success has been less about hitting a ball with a racquet and more about finding strength in her imperfections and embracing life’s challenges with positivity. In an instant she went from being an immortal sporting figure to someone we could all relate to in our day to day lives. 

As Alice and I sat in our car listening to this amazing story last weekend, the hairs on the back of our neck rising, I couldn’t help but compare this element of superior mindset displayed by Barty to the superstars of the pro peloton who have been entertaining us night after night, and keeping us from getting to bed at a respectable hour.

First of all, their performances are beyond amazing. Thinking back to Matheau Van de Poel’s explosive attack in the finale of Stade Bianche in March, I’m beginning to lose count of the races that have absolutely blown me away in the 2021 season so far. But more importantly, it is the attitude that they bring to their craft. The passion, the love and the fun that they appear to be having whilst doing their job. When Tadej Pogacar stormed off the front of the peloton in stage 8 of this year’s race in what would ultimately be his tour-winning move, you could actually see a wry smile on his face. Despite the fact that he had 15km of physical torture ahead of him, you could see he was genuinely loving what he was doing at that exact moment. Even better, as he sailed past the remnants of the early break-away at such a speed that made them look like they were standing still, the response from those riders, clearly visible to viewers on tv, was one of pure admiration and respect. They all knew what a courageous move it was to attack this early in the stage, and this early in the tour. Despite being on different teams they wanted to show their respect to the defending champion.

I remember Phil Liggitt and Paul Sherwen used to always refer to the riders as “these machines” as if they were some sort of Terminator-like characters that, if you peeled back their skin you’d see metal and wires instead of flesh and bone. As much as I always enjoyed Phil and Paul’s light-hearted ramblings in the commentary box, I would never use those words myself because they don’t capture what I believe to be true about these sporting heroes. They’re not machines powered by an engine. They’re living, breathing people just like any of us, who have made a career not by being perfect but by being courageous and committed. Everyone remembers all the races that Sagan has won, though think about how many races he hasn’t won, but gone down ‘swinging’. His willingness to back himself in any situation and, when it doesn’t work out, be humble in defeat is what has always stood out to me. I have no doubt his attitude has spread across the entire peloton and it’s great to see so many riders from other teams congratulating each other when they win. After Mark ‘Lazarus’ Cavendish sprinted to victory to win his first tour stage in 5 years, it was as if the entire peloton was lining up to congratulate him after the finish. I was almost ready to book a flight to France myself and deal with a 2-week quarantine just so I could get one of those ‘Cav’ hugs. 

After 22 years, the thing that makes me so passionate about this race is that it celebrates the thing that I love most about cycling: it’s fun. The riding is fun, the racing is fun, the coffee, the climbing, the bikes are fun, the banter, the kit, the KOM’s, the kudos, the sprints and the Strava. There is so much that is fun about cycling and, every night as we sit there watching often not much but just beautiful scenes of the French countryside, I’m reminded of everything that I find fun about this sport and am inspired more than ever to simply ride my bike.

Images by Charly Lopez
Images by Charly Lopez

Sports Photographer

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Byron Bay Triathlon: the place, the race, the party

Byron Bay Triathlon

That pretty well sums it up, three great reasons why you need to come and do this year’s event held on May 8, largely considered as one of the friendliest, most scenic triathlons in Australia. Iconic in destination, with a spectacular ocean swim, combined with Byron’s much-loved party atmosphere…it’s easy to see why the Byron Bay Tri is one of Australia’s favourite end of season celebrations and the last remaining major Saturday arvo Tri.

Since 1995, NX Sports (the team who also put on the Brisbane Cycling Festival, Tweed Enduro & Kingscliff Tri) have been growing this amazing event held on the Saturday afternoon of the Mother’s Day weekend each year. Whilst best known for its traditional Olympic race, the Sprint, Teams, Kids and Aquabike categories are certainly new growing events and make this an event that is suitable for anyone to come and try. 

“The water is crystal clear you can see schools of fish, the spectators cheer you on every corner and there is a pub less than 100m from the finish. Bonza!”

If you haven’t already booked in your entry for this year’s Byron Tri, now is the time to commit as entries close next month on April 28. With winter rapidly approaching further south in late Autumn, it’s the perfect time to migrate north and enjoy one more weekend of warm subtropical weather in sunny Byron Bay. 

Lifecycles Travel will again be supporting the Byron Tri this year with our comprehensive Byron Bay Bike Hire & concierge service.

Rent a full carbon fibre Trek Domane SL5 Disc from us and we will deliver the bike to you on the Friday evening before the event (or Saturday morning if you’re arriving late), complete with pedals, helmet and fitted to your measurements. Following the event on Saturday afternoon, we’ll be there at bike transition ready to collect your bike so you can roll straight on through to your post-race party.

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Introducing the NRRT

In 2013 a group of local philanthropists on the Northern Rivers came together with a common vision to preserve the valuable community asset that is the 130km of disused rail corridor connecting Murwillumbah, Byron Bay and Casino and convert it into a modern cycling and walking trail through the region’s spectacular landscapes. Fast forward 8 years and, despite an unimaginable amount of resistance, this inspiring project is finally coming to life with construction of the ‘Tweed’ section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) due to begin in the coming months. 

It’s shovel ready, construction is set to start

Anyone who has been to or even heard about the Northern Rivers will be somewhat familiar with the immense natural beauty, environmental consciousness and cultural depth that we are fortunate to have available to us in this region. Beyond just the ‘Byron bubble’ there are expansive vistas, ample wildlife and historic villages in abundance. One of the biggest appeals of Byron and the Northern Rivers is the ability to feel connected with the countryside and small-town living while you are here. Looking at the success of relevant case studies such as the Otago & Great Victorian Rail Trails, it’s fair to say that this recent news about the progress of the NRRT has signalled an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to start dreaming that little bit more about the opportunities a rail trail will bring to the NSW Northern Rivers.

For locals and travellers alike

Locals will have available a highly accessible piece of infrastructure that will directly reduce congestion on the roads whilst supporting zero-emissions travel and generally combating the growing ‘automobility’ of society. Similarly, for visitors this corridor opens up the opportunity to venture inland and spread the isolated tourism value of Byron Bay to other regional areas like the Tweed, Lismore & Richmond Valley. Along the way, why not enjoy a beer at the Eltham Hotel, a coffee at Elwood Cafe in Burringbar or a visit to the Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah…

Throughout 2021, we’ll be keeping you updated on the progress of the track. There’s still plenty of work to be achieved, including numerous approvals and large amounts of funding, before the entire 130km of the trail becomes a reality, though as they say “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. 

Get involved

If, like us, you’d like to see this vacant corridor of land one day thrive as a multi-purpose tourism corridor, there are plenty of ways you can get involved and help make the NRRT a reality, including: crowdfunding campaigns, online subscriptions and petitions as well as donating or sponsoring the rail trail. 

In the meantime, get to know the route by road on The Road Trip Northern Rivers Trail Tour. Over 2-3 days, you’ll cover the full length of the proposed trail from Casino to Murwillumbah on a self-guided or bike-packing journey. 

For more information on the NRRT, please go to northernriversrailtrail.org.au/get-involved/ or contact us at bookings@lifecyclestravel.com  

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Welcome to 2021, Welcome to Byron

What a time to be alive, and what a time to be in Byron! It seems as though overnight this little beach town on the NSW north coast, once known for schoolies, splendour and surfing, has become the place to be in Australia. And for good reason…

Turning back the clock to 2017, we knew we had plenty of learning ahead of us when we packed up lives in Sydney and decided to launch a cycling tour company in Byron Bay. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe we had the courage to make that bold decision, the only thing we really knew about cycling on the far north coast was an annual nude bike ride in Nimbin (still yet to make our maiden appearance at that one funny enough).

“That’s so Byron.”

But we believed in Byron, we still do. There really is no place like it, and whether you love it or not you can’t help be fascinated by it. People now say things like “That’s so Byron”, a reflection of how ingrained this place has become in Aussie social culture. 

Whether the Byron we know now is still here in 10 or 20 years time, who knows, time will tell. The important thing is that the Byron of 2021 is an absolute sell-out show. And hats off to everyone who has been a part of that success. The restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars, musicians, fashion labels, breweries, distilleries and the like. We’re pretty lucky to have such an amazing selection of people and businesses continuing to emerge here who we can work with and be inspired by on a daily basis. 

If one thing is for certain it’s that Byron is the place to be, and now is the time to be here. In 2021, we’re ‘keeping it local’ and, as well as staying true to our flagship tour The Byron Holiday, we recently launched The Beach House, a luxury all-inclusive beachfront retreat experience for private groups, and are now offering self-guided and bike-packing itineraries as part of The Road Trip series. 

So, what are you up to in 2021? If you haven’t already, maybe it’s about time you thought about coming to Byron…

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NEW Byron Bay Cycling Holidays HERE TO STAY

It’s long been said, the best thing to do is to get back on your bike.

At Lifecycles Travel we take that advice very literally. So when you’re ready, here is our new Byron Bay Cycling Holiday package which will remain a permanent fixture on our annual cycling calendar.

Holidays run once a month from February to May and August through to November. There are package options for you to choose from which enable you to really make the most of your holiday.

The length of stay is optional, you can stay for 4 or 7 days. All packages come with complimentary bike hire, so if you don’t want to travel with your own bike, you don’t have to.

The Northern Rivers has a varied and scenic mix of terrain, there is something for every rider. Choose the scenic route, endurance road riding or gravel road adventures. If you’d like to incorporate a rest day activity, you can! There is whale-watching, yoga classes, horse riding, surfing or massages available.

Breaking it down, this is how to book :

1. Choose the length of the trip and the time of year
2. Choose the bike, Checkpoint Gravel Bike or Domane Road Bike
3. Choose the type of terrain and experienc
e

Share this holiday with your friends and family, it’s something for you all to look forward to. You can travel solo by booking a private room. Or select twin share if you wish to share with a partner or friend.

Want to know more?

Upcoming dates :

August 24-30 BE QUICK | September SOLD OUT | October 12-18 | November 9-15

The Rides:
Ride the meandering and beautiful subtropical Byron Bay coast and hinterland with your own local guides. Whether you’re a beginner rider looking to gain some confidence and experience on the open roads, a seasoned road rider who wants to find all the best local climbs and cafes, or even a keen gravel enthusiast looking to get off the beaten track and pick up some new riding skills, let us and our professional tour guides show you the way. Each morning rides start at 7am and go for 3 to 5 hours.

Accommodation: The Atlantic Byron Bay

In the heart of town and walking distance to beaches and restaurants, The Atlantic hotel presents a luxury collection of individually styled guestrooms and beautiful communal spaces. There are complimentary McTavish surfboards for your afternoon surf, a swimming pool for post-ride dips and fully functional kitchens for your pre-ride breakfast each morning.

Post-ride restaurants and cafes:
You’ll spend the mornings riding and finish each ride with a lunch stop at our favourite restaurants and cafes. For the rest of the day and evening, you’re then welcome to enjoy all that Byron has to offer including the beautiful beaches, restaurants, retail stores and landmarks.

We can’t wait to welcome you to Byron Bay and show you our favourite routes. If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you, send us an email at bookings@lifecyclestravel.com.

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Gearing Up For The Road Back – Cycling Along Not Alone with Lifecycles Travel

Taking it literally at Lifecycles Travel, we are travelling the road back and invite you along for the ride.

Like you I’m sure, we put the recent lockdown to good use. The slower life allowed us to reflect on what we had achieved in the last three years since starting Lifecycles Travel. We were able to reassess our goals. Inspired by the agility and innovation of so many local and small businesses, we decided to put our minds to ‘the road back’ and how we can bring safe, socially distant active experiences into a future of new local cycling adventures.

Corona virus has long been considered a battle on two fronts – the virus and the economy. 

Whilst we are now coming out of the woods in terms of the actual virus, we are all still feeling the economic effects of this situation. From many keen cyclists, that has meant the cancellation of their dream European cycling holiday in 2020 and with that a sense of deflation at not having that goal to look forward to, train for and continue to motivate them to be the healthiest version of themselves.

So we set out to offer a range of world-class cycling tours, in our home Byron Bay, that you can experience right now. With domestic travel restrictions about to be lifted, where else than the warm, tropical, ‘wellness’ capital of Australia would you rather be? The Byron Bay hinterland is arguably the best kept secret in Australian cycling and is the perfect addition to Byron’s famous selection of restaurants, hotels & AirBnb’s.

Cycling is a safe activity to transition back into travel.

Lifecycles Travel offers an impressive range of cycling tours and services, ranging from single day bike hire & guided rides to week-long fully supported cycling holidays. Beginner riders can learn new skills under the tuition of our tour guides and become confident cyclists whilst using our premium Trek carbon fibre bikes. For more advanced riders, there’s an endless amount of rolling hinterland roads within reach of Byron, and with the recent addition of our 3 dayBorder Ranges Gravel Adventure‘ tour, there’s no shortage of challenge for you to relish.

Introducing the Hinterland Overnighter Tour: this socially-distant self-guided experience is one of the recent additions to our tours. Starting and finishing in Byron village, spend 2 days riding quiet country roads, in search of coffee stops and local cuisines, tied together with a night of secluded cabin accommodation in the majestic Byron Bay hinterland, a gourmet dinner basket and your luggage transported for you.

All tours are based out of the popular north coast holiday town of Byron Bay, which is accessed via 2 airports as well as the recently upgraded Pacific Highway, so within easy reach of any Australian domestic traveller.

To book and find out more information on upcoming tours, visit lifecyclestravel.com

New Products:

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Staying ahead of the Covid-19 curve.

Life is not really operating like any other day right now. Impacts on travel and where and when we can go are still grey.
That’s why we have decided to introduce a temporary cancellation policy. It’s a policy to give us confidence in doing our part, organising great trips, and gives you the opportunity to start planning your next holiday. Actually have something to look forward to without financial stress or worry. Consider this cancellation policy your trusty spares kit for the somewhat bumpy roads ahead.

Here are the details of our cancellation policy. You can find this in full on our Terms and Conditions page here.

Covid-19 ‘cancel at any time’ Cancellation Policy

Due to the circumstances of COVID-19 and its impacts on the travel industry, Lifecycles Travel has introduced a temporary cancellation policy.

The policy will cover:

Any purchase of domestic travel including rides, holidays or bike hire purchased with the intent to conduct travel between 1st May 2020 and 31st December 2020 can be cancelled and customers will be issued a full refund.

Any purchase of international travel including Italy Grand Tours purchased with the intent to conduct travel between 1st May 2020 and 31st December 2021 can be cancelled and customers will be issued a full refund.

Customers can ‘cancel at any time’ and receive a refund if COVID-19 has directly impacted their ability to engage with Lifecycles Travel and their cycling tourism products. This includes government-imposed travel bans and restrictions, sickness or poor health and/or unforeseeable impacts of COVID-19.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be rolling out some new trips and holidays in preparation for reopening. We are ready to kick back into gear and you’ll love what we’ve got in store.

Make sure to have subscribed to our newsletter. Be the first to get holiday invites and trip releases: