The majority of cyclists on vacation don’t just want to just conquer a col or race from one valley to the next. Most love to travel by saddle because it means they can get right off the beaten track and get in touch with the real country and its culture. Not the one laid on for tourists. A lot of cycling vacations cater for this craving for cultural exchange, staying in traditional rural accommodation such as ryokans in the mountains of Japan, small country hotels in Catalonia, a Maasai camp in Kenya, or a Vietnamese homestay. Or by visiting important cultural sites en route, such as Petra in Jordan, Anuradhapura or Sigirya in Sri Lanka or the ancient university town of Coimbra in Portugal. Or just pull up at a rural market and pack their pannier full of picnic goodies, joining local people in their lunchtime repose. That’s one of the most wonderful things about arriving into a rural spot on a bike. Hosts rarely feel threatened or ‘invaded’ by cyclists. Turn up with a coachload of camera slinging tourists, however, and it’s a different story.