I am interested in a bike trip in the Tuscany area of Italy, or any other similarly interesting place. Two people, individual rooms. We are in rather good shape and very accustomed to three- to four-hour bike journeys. Any recommendations for Tuscany? We would like to be independent (not with a group), or with a small (10-people) group. Flexibility seems to be an issue with the sites I looked at. For example, the bike outfitters pre-book the hotel rooms in different cities. Is there a way to have more flexibility, yet still have your bags transported?
-Jim, Denver, Colo.
Most bike-tour companies are going to offer this sort of tour, which you don't seem to be interested in (that is, one where your hotel rooms are booked for you). But a number of them do offer the sort of flexibility you want.Cicloposse (http://www.cicloposse.com/) offers guided and self-guided bike tours in the Tuscany region. For your purposes, the self-guided tours seem most appropriate. You'll get plenty of maps and ideas for great routes, and your bags will be waiting in your hotel when you arrive. However, Cicloposse does generally run itineraries where they choose the hotel, but they do offer plenty of information beforehand so you can thoroughly vet. They also offer individualized tours and itineraries, so you could likely work something out with them if you're unhappy with certain hotel choices.
One option that might work particularly well for you is I Bike Italy (http://www.ibikeitaly.com/). With this company, you'll stay in Florence (center of the Tuscany region) and essentially take day trips from the city with a professional guide. Plus, a shuttle service will whisk you out of the city and into the countryside, so you can start each day's bike adventure in wide open spaces. They also offer a bike tour from Florence to Siena.
Finally, probably the most basic of options is offered in Florence by Bike (http://www.florencebybike.it). This innovative program was originally designed for students, but it basically works like this: Show up in Tuscany, “buy” a bike from them, and then when you're ready to leave, the company buys it back, essentially charging you a modest rental fee. They offer tons of ideas for itineraries in and around Florence. The drawback? They won't transport your luggage around, so you'll have to stay in Florence or figure out alternate arrangements.