Cycling vacations in Rajasthan

If you are the sort of cyclist who wants to clock up the kilometres, conquer the cols and hammer down the hairpins, then a cycling vacation in Rajasthan is not for you. If cycling along a tarmac road that cuts through the wide open, arid environs of the Thar Desert, where the only traffic you have to give way to is a caravan of camels, then read on. If traveling between the iconic cites of Jaipur and Pushkar by bike, pedalling through millet and mustard fields to reach the sacred city by sunset gets your toes twitching, then start dusting off your bike and get in training. And if cycling through the luscious Aravalli Hills through welcoming villages with chai and cheers at every turn speaks to the explorer within, then pack your pannier.
Small group tours

Small group tours

Cycling vacations in Rajasthan are generally in organised small group tours, although there are also tailor made options where you chat with a local expert to create an itinerary to suit your timeframe and budget. Traveling in a guided, small group is a popular option as you create your own caravans through the desert and enjoy the inevitable cycling camaraderie. You will be following carefully crafted itineraries with local cycling guides who know the best places to stop. Where to tuck into the best local feni noodles to fill those hollow legs, or seek out the finest makhani lassi, the local favourite made from white buffalo butter with pure essential oils mixed into the yoghurt. Your bags will be transported from one hotel to the next on these tours, so all you need is your daypack and some a sense of adventure.
Why go slow in Rajasthan?

Why go slow in Rajasthan?

Maybe itís because it is a desert state, but there are so many mirage like moments when you visit Rajasthan. You have to almost rub your eyes to check that what you are seeing is real, from ornate Mughal palaces to pink and blue cities and ancient sandstone forts that rise from the dunes. There is colour everywhere, camels too and festivals are Rajasthanís forte. Which is why it is such a treat to cycle here and just take it all in slowly, at the same pace of Rajasthanis who also love their bikes. Many people visit this state as part of a cultural tour to see Indiaís famous Golden Triangle. To visit it by bike is more like exploring a big glittering golden circle, and one that is also filled with copious flavours, flowers and fun along the way.

How tough is it cycling in Rajasthan?

Most cycling vacations in Rajasthan are moderate level, following tarmac roads through a variety of terrain from the wide expanses of Thar Desert to the gently rolling Aravalli Hills. Most are about two weeks long with about 10 to 12 days of cycling. You will cover anything from 25-90 km per day but at an average speed of 13-16 km per hour, with a support team on hand if you want a breather on the hills.
The toughest aspect is getting yourself into the Rajasthani cycling mindset when you hit towns like Jaipur, Jodpur and Udaipur. You have to own the road, just as everyone else does, whether they are camels, cows or crazies on scooters. As many people will tell you, Rajasthan is an assault on all the senses. The most important one to have on cycling vacations, however, is a sense of humour. And if it all feels a bit too much you can just leave the bike with your support team and explore the cities on foot. The other advantage of a cycling vacation is that it encourages you to explore the citiesí environs, without taking buses or trains. Because, as well as exploring the urban highlights of Rajasthan, it is great to escape the madness sometimes and take a breather on your bike. Here are a few examples of suburban cycling gems that you will discover on your vacation:
Jodhpur & beyond

Jodhpur & beyond

As well as taking time to explore the great blue city and its iconic Mehrangarh Fort, there are many more colours to seek out on Jodhpurís pushbike palette. Cycle through the massive sandstone mines which are famous for their use in the building the stateís indigenous architecture, or around Kailana Lake, a manmade lake built in 1872 to provide water for the city. Now a bird watching haven and a great spot for a sunset picnic, it makes a wonderful end to the dayís cycle, looking out for blue bulls and wild boar in the open scrublands en route.

Another popular cycling route, a 65km journey north of Jodphur, is to Osian which takes you to the edge of the Thar Desert. This is a popular spot for swapping your bikeís saddle for a camelís and exploring the terrain on four legs. The town itself is one of those mirage moments, where sandstone buildings and ancient temples emerged over time at this oasis, making it an important religious center during the Marwar period. You can still see impressive ruins of these temples on your cycle trip here.
The fort to fort ride

The fort to fort ride

The most iconic cycle in the pink city of Jaipur is the 14km climb up through the Aravalli Hills to Nahargarh Fort, built in 1734 by Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh II to defend the city. Nahargarh translates as Ďabode of tigersí because there were tigers around before these hills became royal hunting grounds. You will need a bit of tiger in your tank to make it up to the top, but the views are worth it. And then you have the wonders of the descent down to the cityís other icon, the Amber Fort.
Exploring beyond urban Udaipur

Exploring beyond urban Udaipur

Also known as Venice of the East, Udaipurís complex waterway system means that there are many arteries to escape the crowds. The main one out of the city is along the waterfront of Lake Pichola, passing a 500-year-old Lord Shiva Temple and then out through rural villages and farmland to a series of other lakes, such as Tiger Lake and Lake Fateh Sager. It is amazing to think that the latter was built in 1680s, and that most lakes have preserved islands of beauty on them, such as Nehru Park on Fateh Sager.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about India cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Take some rehydration salts to add to your water bottles. It makes the water taste better, and prevents dehydration.

Wonít it be too hot to cycle in Rajasthan?

Organised small group tours take place between October and April which means that you wonít be melting as you go. The weather during this time is sunny but not too humid, with daytime temperatures in the low to mid 20s, and cooler nights. There is also a monsoon here between July and September which is definitely to be avoided on a bike. There is no better place to copy the camel technique than this desert state, however, and invest in a CamelBak-style water bladder backpack to keep you hydrated at all times. And rather than buying dozens of small plastic water bottles, you should be able to fill up from giant bottles carried in the support vehicle.

Rajasthan cycling tips from our vacation reviews

January is a great time of year to be cycling from a weather perspective - around about 22 degrees once the initial chill had dissipated.
Ė Keith Masters
“Make sure you have the correct cycle gear – breathable tops that can dry quickly and not cotton T- shirts that can stay wet once they are sweaty. Be prepared for a great welcome but the kids will laugh at these funny tourists in their Lycra!” – Ian Langford from our leading Rajasthan cycling vacations supplier, Exodus Travels

“Don't plan on convenient, ever-present wifi at your hotels. Be mentally prepared for very slow riding and the endless wild receptions as we rolled through village streets; young and old alike excited beyond measure!” – Peter Judd

You can find out about cycling vacations around other parts of the country in our Cycling in India travel guide.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bill Bourne] [Top box: Abhijit Kar Gupta] [Small group tours: Tiago Rosado] [Why go slow?: Mitchell Ng Liang an] [How tough is it?: Vyacheslav Argenberg] [Jodhpur & beyond: Flicka] [The fort to fort ride: Regan Vercruysse] [Exploring beyond urban Udaipur: Arjuncm3] [Too hot?: lensnmatter] [Keith Masters quote: Sayan Nath]