Exploring on two wheels

Hungary is a cyclist's dream come true. Safe and flat bike paths run along rivers and around lakes, passing by historic ruins and highlights of our natural heritage for those who like it more laid-back; while downhill-, dirt- and trial races provide the more adventurous with the right amount of adrenalin.

Biking culture is blossoming in Budapest, with the young and trendy taking to the streets with their stylishly renovated old city bicycle or cool Csepel single-speed bikes. It's not just a means of transport; it's actually a new kind of lifestyle that is celebrated by forward-thinking Budapesters. Biking is more and more becoming a fashionable way to get to work as well – the Bike to Work campaign organised by the Hungarian Cyclist Club (www.bam.hu) is gaining more and more participants every year. Managers in suits and ties swap their cars or the bus for a pretty two-wheeler, rolling along the city in the morning sunshine. How about following their example and doing your sight-seeing on two wheels as well? Rent a beautiful old school bike to blend in with the locals at BikeBase (www.bikebase.hu), a tandem for romantic pedalling at Budapest Bike (www.budapestbike.hu), and if you're in town with the kids, head to Yellow Zebra Bikes, where they offer a wide range of tag-a-longs, baby seats and children's bikes (www.yellowzebrabikes.com). If you wish to go on an organized bike tour to explore Budapest in a very authentic, but also safe way, then you can go on a sightseeing bike tour with budabike.com!

It's not only the capital that is great for cyclists, the whole country is perfectly suitable for an extensive ride on two wheels. What Hungary lacks in big differences in altitude it makes up for with its beautiful and diverse landscape - – a dream come true for anyone who would like explore the country in an environmentally friendly way. Many cycle paths run along the rivers, around the lakes, through national parks, passing by ancient ruins. Among the myriad of routes you'll also find the EuroVelo 6 and 11, part of the European Cycle Route Network, leading along our two major rivers, the Danube and the Tisza. EuroVelo 13 – the Iron Curtain Route is under development as we speak, connecting countries that used to be separated by the iron curtain (www.eurovelo.org).

Hungary's railways lend a helping hand (or rather some helping wheels) for those looking to explore the country but lack the muscle power to make a whole roundtrip. For information on the conditions of bicycle transport and discounted bike-tour tickets, check www.mav-start.hu!

Apart from the chilled-out pedalling some fierce biker competition can be found in Hungary, too. One of this year's highlights: the Bike around the Lakes! series. Tour de Lake Velence has taken contestants around the Velence Lake, Tour de Pelso around Lake Balaton, but you can still catch the Lake Tisza Marathon – choose the 42 km long Capriolo tour to get a taste, the 65 km long PORT.hu Lake Tisza round if you're a practiced biker, or the Cube highway marathon of 134 km if you're a pro.

Whether you're just hopping on your bike to do some grocery shopping or to cycle around the country, safety is of utmost importance. The rules of traffic (called KRESZ in Hungary) apply for cyclists as well, so make sure you know them well – for a summary of the rules and other useful tips for higher safety, head to www.kerekparosklub.hu!