Rio de Janeiro: â€˜A lung-busting, out-of-the-saddle 20-minute grindâ€™
Ninety minutes up, 20 minutes down, and five in between to catch the breath, rehydrate and gawp in wonder at misty mountains, tropical forest and the shimmering majesty of the Atlantic.
When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, there was no better way to start the day than a morning climb up to the Corcovado. From my old home in Cosme Velho â€“ which nestles on the slopes between Flamengo beach and the Christ the Redeemer statue â€“ the return ride was 27km.
I used to set off around 7am, stop briefly to buy a bar of jellied banana from the newspaper kiosk, and then cruise for five minutes past the commuter traffic to the bottom of Rua Alice.
This is where the climb begins, initially past parked cars, then gardens (sometimes with a glimpse of a toucan in the mango trees) and eventually up to a ridge in Santa Teresa that overlooks the MaracanÃ£ stadium.
I would turn left here and follow the tram tracks past the Morro dos Prazeres favela â€“ the scene of many a recent shoot-out between police and drug dealers â€“ up to the entrance of the Tijuca Forest national park.
The muscles started to groan at this point, but although the road got steeper the ride became more pleasant thanks to the sights, sounds and smells of one of the worldâ€™s largest urban forests â€“ a wall of green broken broken only by increasingly spectacular panoramas.
Then followed half an hour of near perfect tranquility before the final, lung-busting, out-of-the-saddle 20-minute grind up to the Christ statue.
No need to describe the view from there, which adorns millions of postcards, Facebook profiles and Instagram selfies. Suffice to say, the sense of awe was all the greater with adrenalin pumping through the veins, a feeling of satisfaction at a climb completed, and a tingle of anticipation of the high-speed descent to come. JWatts
Penwith, Cornwall: â€˜Glimpses of sea, coves, cliffs, tin mines…â€™
Many who cycle through Penwith â€“ the very tip of Cornwall, a granite toe pointing bravely at the Atlantic â€“ are on their way to Landâ€™s End, zipping along the A30 to complete the trip from John Oâ€™Groats. But as they celebrate their epic journey amid the tat of the visitor centre, theyâ€™re missing the best the ancient region has to offer.
I got to grips with road cycling as a spotty teen making journeys out from the fishing village of Mousehole. At first, this would involve tentative journeys up to the village inland, confusingly named Paul.
But gradually I headed further along the tiny B3315, with glimpses of sea to my left and plenty of coves to explore, from tiny Lamorna to the beautiful beaches of Porthcurno, with the Minack theatre perched snugly on the cliffs above.
Adulthood brought the entire loop: ignoring the turning for Landâ€™s End, instead heading up the B3306 past St Just, the old tin mines north of Cape Cornwall, and back east to ride between the Atlantic and boulder-strewn moorland, before wheeling down to a friendly welcome from the pasty-hungry seagulls of St Ives, heading back via Penzance and the curve of Mountâ€™s Bay in time for celebratory cider and chips. JWalsh
Embankment, London: â€˜Two lanes reclaiming crucial spaceâ€™
For centuries the Thames has acted as tidal artery, cutting through Londonâ€™s centres of power and commerce, the Embankment on its northern side linking east and west via one grand thoroughfare.
But for almost as long, this broad highway has been choked by vehicles, its role as a natural bypass through the cityâ€™s labyrinthine central streets attracting a daily flow of coaches, trucks and lorries. For most of my 10 years as a cyclist in London, the joy of commuting along this stunning stretch of road was tempered by the mortal fear of riding amid some of cityâ€™s heaviest traffic.
But the recently built east-west cycle superhighway, made up of mile upon mile of segregated bike lanes, has changed all that. Two lanes of wide, marked and specially designed road cling to the riverside, reclaiming crucial space. It feels like a minor coup to ride along it, careening past the brutalist Southbank, the glittering London Eye, up to the Houses of Parliament.
When the Embankment section of superhighway opened in 2016, some drew a comparison to 1865, the year Joseph Bazalgette unveiled his new sewer system that eradicated the unholy stink that hung over the river, terrorising traders and pedestrians. The cycle superhighway, in its own way, feels similarly revolutionary â€“ a symbolic thread running through the city, confirming the bicycleâ€™s place in the capital. And itâ€™s a joy to ride â€“ a bonus. BC
The Cornish Pasty, Peak District: â€˜Just sheep and the odd donkeyâ€™
No one seems to know what this road is called, but to me it will always be â€œthe Cornish Pastyâ€, a single track running from near Flash in the southern Peak District towards the village of Longnor. Others call it the dinosaur road, believing that Parkhouse Hill, the distinctive carboniferous hill you canâ€™t miss as you head towards Longnor, looks more like a stegosaurus than a pastry. I love it because there are almost never any cars to dodge, just sheep and the occasional donkey.
Approach it from the Buxton side so that itâ€™s a descent rather than a climb: turn left off the A53 towards the Buxton Speedway racing track, but take the uphill right just before you reach the Speedway. Thereâ€™s a cattlegrid where the road forks: take the right fork and climb up for a few minutes until you spot the majestic pasty. Itâ€™s downhill from there, through a steep-sided cutting until you reach a farm.
Thereâ€™s often a lot of crap on the road at this point, so take it easy and enjoy the view of Parkhouse Hill, which will now mysteriously have appeared on your left. When you reach the junction, turn right towards Longnor, where the Cobbles Tearoom serves excellent Staffordshire oatcakes. HP
Hampshire: â€˜The scenic route was like something out of Keatsâ€™
It started out, like so many things in the 1970s, as a cost-cutting exercise. Bus fares were expensive, disproportionately so in the sticks, away from the largesse of city centre subsidies. My first three miles to school cost Â£50 a term in bus fares; the last eight just Â£16. It was decided: I would cycle the expensive bit and pick up the bus on the edge of Portsmouth.
And so it began â€“ almost a decade of cycling the same six miles every day, through dawns and downpours and dusks and droughts. No helmets or hub brakes or kevlar tyres. But dynamo lights, an incontinent cagoule and an odometer that eventually ran out of digits and ended up back at 000.
The quickest route was prosaic: a bypass, bungalows, the careless smear of concrete known then and now as Waterlooville. But the scenic route was like something out of Keats: through farms and copse, past brooks and blackberry bushes and abandoned barnyards. There were different airs for all seasons: cut grass, jasmine, manure, bonfire. Woodpigeons in May, heavy mists in September.
I can still picture some of the potholes, the road markings, the stretches of softer tarmac that made the tyres coo with glee. A recurring dream of mine puts me right back there, champion of the lanes, pannier laden down with sports gear, the first growl of a rear wheel puncture complaining about me to the road below.
I must have done 3,000 miles between 1979 and 1987. Iâ€™d like to say it instilled a lifelong love of bicycles, but I canâ€™t.
Cycling was just the means. The end was out there. It still is. MRO
Glasgow to Inverness: â€˜Whiskey in Dalwhinnie is optionalâ€™
The best thing about the cycle from Glasgow to Inverness is that you can spend the whole 214 miles barely having to consult a map â€“ that and its distinct lack of A roads.
Leave Glasgow via an old railway line, now national cycle route 7, and follow the blue signs through the national parks of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs before heading for Inverness over the Cairngorms â€“ whiskey in Dalwhinnie, one of the coldest inhabited places in the UK, is optional.
It does, however, pay to be prepared. Wild camping is possible, but you have to buy a permit to camp in Loch Lomond under new preservation rules; the mixed terrain of roads, forest trails and gravel paths means touring tyres are recommended; itâ€™s Scotland which means blistering sun, thunder and lightning and hail are all possible in an hour, and in May even the strongest of insect repellent only puts up a basic resistance to midges.
This is a great ride to space out over four days if you want to allow time to stop for for beer, cake and river swimming. Some people do it in one go with no sleep, while others take segments of the route at a leisurely pace . MS
College Road, south-east London: â€˜A lovely, swooping descentâ€™
Part of me yearns to be an insufferable showoff and opt for the Gampa La pass in Tibet, where miles of hairpin ascent finally bring you to a 4,800-metre summit, and the wondrous sight in the valley below of Yamdrok Yumtso, a huge and almost absurdly turquoise freshwater lake. However memorable that route, I have only cycled it once, many years ago.
I shall instead opt for something much more prosaic and close to home: College Road in south-east London. Well-known to many cyclists riding into Kent from the south of the capital, this, like its Tibetan counterpart, is also a climb, though with a paltry 50 metres or so of total rise.
Running a mile or so from the posh retireesâ€™ camp of Dulwich Village to the edge of Crystal Palace, it has marked the traditional beginning of many a ride to Kentâ€™s green belt countryside. Steep in parts, though brief enough for an out-of-the-saddle push, the route takes in some lovely 1960s architecture and is largely traffic free, thanks to a curious toll gate near the bottom, run by the local feudal landowner, the Dulwich estate.
I enjoy it equally on the way back â€“ after the puffed final ascent to Crystal Palace it brings a lovely, swooping descent. Better still are the speed bumps, sufficiently high for you to overtake even behemoth 4x4s, which is always a huge pleasure. PW
Mont Ventoux, France: â€˜Unforgiving, lunar slopesâ€™
I was high on adrenaline in 2000 as I watched Marco Pantani battle Lance Armstrong to stage victory in the Tour de France on television. Little was expected of â€œIl pirataâ€, who had won the Tour/Giro dâ€™Italia double in 1998 but had been caught doping the following year. On Ventoux, resplendent in the bright pink of his Mercatone Uno team, he caught the favourites and attacked.
The yellow-jerseyed figure of defending champion Armstrong fought back until it was just the pair of them, out of the saddle and on the drops as they sprinted up the unforgiving lunar slopes. We would later find out it was impossible, legally at least â€“ with Pantani dead of a suspected drugs overdose a few years later, and Armstrong eventually stripped of his seven Tour titles â€“ but at the time it was pure inspiration.
I love how the mountain dominates the rolling Provence countryside, its bald rocks giving the impression of snow on the summit even in summer; my morbid fascination fuelled by accounts of Tommy Simpsonâ€™s sad and very public death during the 1967 Tour.
It wasnâ€™t until 2015 that I got the chance to ride it. Making a detour during a family holiday I soon found I was not alone: the village of BÃ©doin has built a whole industry on Ventoux jerseys and carb-heavy snacks for the thousands of amateurs who flock each year to the slopes above.
I rode up and down the mountain from all three sides, experiencing everything from searing heat to violent thunderstorms and the summitâ€™s infamous Mistral winds, and stopping at the Simpson memorial to pay my respects. Despite the constant stream of cyclists, Ventoux did not disappoint. NVM
Scotland: â€˜Infinite, dramatic skiesâ€™
Can a route possess that rare, magical quality that no matter which way ridden, you always seem to be coasting downhill? On this 100-mile trip in wild, beautiful, remote Scotland, despite a total climb of 4,100ft (1,250 metres), the impossible seems to happen. From either direction, take the A836, hugging the north coast, which, often as a smooth, single track, couldnâ€™t be less like an A road. Then take the B871 Strathnaver Road just south of Invernaver, gliding to Altnaharra along the rippling river into Loch Naver. Imperceptibly the entire route rarely ranges above more than 3% gradient, so every undulation seems to carry you with its momentum.
What makes you breathless is not the riding, but the exquisite views around every bend. See Highland cattle, hovering eagles, scampering deer, sheep and rabbits. Hear nothing but the hum of your chain, and in that otherworldly hush, perhaps even leaping fish. And reflected in every loch, see infinite, dramatic skies. Whether this is a single ride, or the first or last leg of the bigger route to Landâ€™s End, it heralds huge satisfaction and wonder. PK
LoulÃ© to Barranco, Portugal: â€˜Traffic wonâ€™t disturb you, cicadas mightâ€™
Cyclists in search of a leisurely ride in Portugalâ€™s eastern Algarve can come unstuck. The successive punchy hills, the gusting winds, and the smothering heat can bring long rides to early conclusions. One solution is to ride the N396, the gently rising 11 mile climb from LoulÃ© up to Barranco do Velho. Itâ€™s an easy ascent on fine tarmac â€“ I imagine the professionals riding the Volta ao Algarve storm up it in the big ring. But thereâ€™s no need for that.
Better to sit back and spin away and, once past LoulÃ©â€™s suburbs, let the silence and heat enfold you. Here and there the road will kick up or drop down, or perhaps turn a tight bend or two, but none of it need trouble your rhythm for long. Traffic wonâ€™t disturb you, but the buzzing cicadas might.
As you near the top, the wooded hillsides flatten out a little and, turning right on to the N124, the view across to Barranco opens up on the left. You might get lucky and catch some fleeting shade. Itâ€™s nice to stand and stretch your back and legs â€“ the gradient allows it. Sit down again and ponder the numbers chalked by farmers on the bark-stripped trunks of their cork trees.
Pass the mangy dog on the left and youâ€™re in Barranco, where there is precious little to see or do. But the destination is not the point, is it? GL
â€¢ Whatâ€™s your favourite route? Let us know in the comments or via GuardianWitness and we will publish some of the best answers in a future article