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Chalk it up to Lance Armstrong and the legions of yellow bracelet wearing he inspired, or chalk it up to Americans getting off their duffs and starting to exercise more, but suddenly, biking is red hot. Maybe it's the independent challenge of the ride coupled with the camaraderie of a group, or the chance to sample another culture (or state, if you bike domestically) literally on the ground level, with guides who know their back roads and the back stories to places you pass along the way. Whatever it is, some tour operators we talked to have noticed a healthy uptick in business lately; many trips in the fall are already sold out. And unless it's indicated, airfare is not included in the prices listed here.

Backroads (tel. 800/462-2848; www.backroads.com) runs biking, walking and multisport trips--over 200 of them this year--around the world for families, groups, and single/solo travelers. They offer participants great support along the way, challenging routes, and plenty of nighttime socializing. On about a fifth of their tours you can opt for less luxurious but equally good accommodations by selecting "Classic Casual Inn" versus "Classic Premiere Inn." For example, the casual inn price for their six-day Taste of Tuscany North of Siena trip (www.backroads.com/trips/BTTI), is $2,698 versus $3,698 for departures in September, of which there are many. They also offer trips to Ireland, which go through Cork and Kerry in the Southwest (www.backroads.com/trips/BIRQ), from $2,498 per person starting September 18 for the casual inn option. Or you can bike through Spain and Portugal (www.backroads.com/trips/BSPI.html) for eight days, from $3,998, through the Minho wine region in Portugal from Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Biking trips to the Czech Republic and Austria, Nova Scotia, Alaska, Southern Vermont, Bordeaux and San Juan Islands are sold out, but cancellations sometimes occur. Backroads also runs tours in Latin America, Morocco, Bali, China, Japan and New Zealand. You can receive a discount if you book early; for some tours, such as Thailand Biking, you'll pay $2,998 instead of $3,298 if you reserve by October 31, 2005 for trips that depart through March 31, 2006.

Bicycle Adventure Club (tel. 858/715-9510; www.bicycleadventureclub.org) provides perhaps the ultimate do-it-yourself experience. The nonprofit organization helps pair you with ride directors, which are volunteer club members who organize the rides and arrange the logistical matters. You need to pay a $50 annual membership fee, bring your own bike, participants share van-driving duties, and most trips are two weeks (rather than one). The club runs trips in the U.S. and in Europe. For a less informal and less expensive trip, it usually costs about $100 a day, according to Bike Tour Reviews (www.biketour-reviews.com); requests from the company for specific prices were not answered by press time (this part of the website is only accessible to members). Currently, there are spaces available in the Sonoma County Bicycle Tour September 24-October 2, and the rating earns a 2C, which means moderate terrain and between 55-70 miles daily. There are some overseas tours, including Grape Expedition that starts in Lyon, France and runs from September 17-October 1, and Italia: Costa a Costa, starting in Capo Conero Italy, from September 17-October 2.

Escapades Bike Tours (tel. 202/232-1531; www.bikeescapades.com) is a bike travel operator offering trips through several of the worlds most scenic cycling routes. It's a smaller company and trips this year thus far have included Texas Hill Country and France; in February there is a tour through Arizona in the Sonora desert. For autumn, they're running a Fall Foliage Hudson River Valley trip (www.bikeescapades.com/options/) October 7-14 for seven nights, for $1,895 based on double occupancy. The trip includes historic hotels and bed and breakfasts, admission to museums, the historic home of Franklin Roosevelt (among others) and six dinners in local restaurants along the way. It starts in Rhinebeck and the final evening's dinner takes place at one of the restaurants run by the esteemed Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Note: Their Maine trip, which you can read about on their website, is sold out.

Eurobike (tel. 800/321-6060; www.eurobike.com) has been in business for over thirty years and was the first U.S. Company to offer bicycle tours in Europe. There are tours available in fifteen countries on their schedule, but all of the Spain tours are sold out. The accommodations are luxurious but they do offer an Econobike option on certain trips, with three-star accommodations instead of both three and four-star. Fewer meals are included, so you can do your own thing. All of their tours to Spain are sold out completely, but they're running a couple of specials (www.eurobike.com/specials.html?SESSID=215d886e31a63cea7e848569fe07f58b). One is Bordeaux-Dordogne, a moderately easy trip for ten days, September 17-26, priced at $3,195 (regular price $3,345). The Provence Complete, which has the same difficulty rating, an eleven-day span October 8-18, is $3,645. Be sure to mention the special when booking. Additionally, there's a Vienna to Prague trip that departs September 3 with space left, and a Romantic Radeln (www.eurobike.com/biketour/2005/radel.html?SESSID=215d886e31a63cea7e848569fe07f58b) that encompasses France, Germany and Switzerland. It's a nine-day trip that's priced at $2,555.

For self-guided tours that put you on the road with your own map and your own time, try the bike trips from LB Freedom Tours (tel. 01-44-22-63-377; www.lbfreedomtours.com). The six-year-old company, which has offices in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, bills itself as a self-guided bike and walking tour operator covering the Alps, Italy, France and Mediterranean Islands. Currently they're running a special on Bike Sardinia (nine days) in October for £755--about $1,358. It's good for a departure to this island off the coast of Italy on any day in October and includes accommodations in three-star hotels, full breakfasts and dinners, bike hire, equipment, route notes and maps and English speaking assistance. You can search through dozens of vacations, and click on departure dates, fill out an online form and the company will get back to you with information about availability; prices are listed in both pounds Sterling and U.S. dollars. The company also prides itself on allowing two nights per location so you can really get the feel of a place.

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