Many bike trails and events throughout Europe make bicycling practical and fun.

Many bike trails and events throughout Europe make bicycling practical and fun. (iStock)

It’s good for one’s health, great for the planet and just plain fun. The proper gear, friendly terrain and fun events make owning and riding a bicycle in Europe pure pleasure. Here are some ways and places to get on your bike this season:

Fun days out

Germany’s auto-free days are annual events in which normally busy highways are closed to motorized traffic and cyclists, hikers and in-line skaters turn out to enjoy the scenic surroundings at their own pace. Stands offering food, drink and entertainment transform the routes into elongated party zones. Most such events stage their start and end points in towns with train stations, allowing visitors to access the routes without having to use their cars. Some upcoming auto-free days in Germany include:

RheinRadeln: Enjoy vineyard views along a 15-mile, mostly flat stretch of highway between Oppenheim and Worms from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 21. Online:

Saar Pedal: The serpentine Saar River accompanies riders along much of this 25-mile route between Merzig and Konz from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 21. Online:

Tour de Ahrtal: Pedal through the red wine growing region of the Ahr valley along a 30-mile route between Blankenheim and Altenahr from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. June 18. Online:

Autofreies Lautertal: Highway B270 between Kaiserslautern and Lauterecken goes blissfully auto-free between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 6. Online:

Autofreies Taubertal: Cycle alongside the castle-dotted Tauber Valley along a 28-mile stretch between Tauberbischofsheim and Freudenberg am Main from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 6. Online:

Cycle the Dolomites

Those in Italy have the chance to experience an auto-free day along a much more demanding route. On June 24, Dolomites Bike Day will challenge riders with routes winding through three famed mountain passes: Valparola, Falzarego and/or Campolongo. The roads will be closed to motorized traffic from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Significant elevation gains make this a day out suitable only for advanced riders in top shape. Online:

Travel back in time

In 1997, a small village in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy, hosted a cycling event offering riders the chance to explore stunning landscapes along challenging, partly unpaved routes from the seats of vintage bicycles. With this, a series of riding events collectively known as the L'Eroica came into being. Nowadays, Eroica events pull in tens of thousands of cyclists and lifestyle fans across the globe.

Eroica riders sport a certain look. They must ride on "bici eroiche," steel framed road-racing bikes built in 1987 or earlier. Clothing should be of classic inspiration, such as wool jerseys and bib shorts, with era-appropriate accessories down to pedals with toe clips and straps.

In addition to the rides themselves, for which participants must register and pay for, side events such as flea markets and concerts add the flair of days gone by. Upcoming rides in Europe include Eroica Hispania (June 3-5, Haro, Spain); Eroica Valkenburg (July 1, Valkenburg, Netherlands) and Eroica Germania (Aug. 17-20, Eltville am Rhein, Germany). A series of events known as Nova Eroica offers the chance to traverse traditional routes on modern bicycles. Online:

Find the right bike

Frankfurt, Germany’s upcoming EUROBIKE trade fair and conference examines the role of the bicycle as a means of future mobility; within its framework are two festival days offering fun activities to a bike-loving public. In addition to checking out bike manufacturers’ latest models and innovations, visitors of all ages can watch or take part in races and competitions, enjoy a BMX show and demos by champion riders or take a bike for a spin on the test track. Festival days are June 24-25; adult admission goes for 15 euros and a family ticket for two adults and their children up to 14 years costs 30 euros. Tickets can only be bought online. Online:

Bike lovers based in Italy can mark their calendars for Sept. 15-17, the date of the Italian Bike Festival. More than 500 brands present themselves at this free-entry event which includes two test bike tracks, bike shows, a BMX school and bicycle racing with participation open to all comers. The event takes place at the Misano World Circuit, in the city of Misano Adriatico in Rimini province. Online:

Long-distance cycling routes

Ever-changing scenery and a chance to get fit are just two good reasons to consider a cycling holiday. For vacation inspiration, see where the routes of EuroVelo, a network of European cycling paths, might take you. With 17 routes covering some 28,000 miles and 36 countries, the choice of terrain is vast and ever growing. Latest additions to the network include extensions to EuroVelo 3, known as the Pilgrim’s Route, a 3,300-mile route between Trondheim, Norway, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain, which now extends to Cape Fisterra, considered the end of the world by pilgrims of centuries past. EuroVelo 14, the Waters of Central Europe, running from Zell am See, Austria to Debrecen, Hungary, has grown by some 250 miles to encompass more Hungarian lakes and rivers as well as the nation’s capital, Budapest. Online:

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