The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally arrived, and fans everywhere are digging out their costumes and lightsabres to mark the occasion. Kids will be opening Star Wars-themed presents this Christmas and you'll even be able to tuck into Star Wars-themed food. But how to combine cycling and Star Wars?
We've already looked at some of the Star Wars themed cycling kit that we spotted at this year's Interbike trade show, but we want to go further into the franchise, and get up real close to some of the locations.
If you're a fan, you've probably spent more time than you'll let on picturing yourself in the deserts of Tatooine or in the forests of Endor. Who hasn't ridden down a forested trail while outpacing imaginary storm troopers?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – ride the filming locations
The dramatic mountains and ice-covered peaks feature large in the newest installation in the Star Wars series, and happily those things often go hand-in-hand with awesome riding locations. So make like Rey or Finn, put on your battledress and go!
This location is a prime example of Iceland's raw, wild, volcanic terrain. With hyperreal colours and steaming vents, it's a place that already looks otherworldly. Located in the north of the island, it's easily accessible from the main perimeter road and there are plenty of walking and cycling routes in the area. Be warned though – the name Myvatn means 'lake of the midges' so might be best avoided in the summer!
Iceland itself is an incredible location for both road cycling and mountain biking, with mindblowing views aplenty, and Visit Iceland has a few good starting points if you're interested in going.
Skellig Michael, Kerry, Ireland
Jutting out of the sea, this unpopulated rocky peak is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was once the site of a monastery. Wild and majestic, it lies just over 11km off the coast of Co. Kerry in Ireland, and can be reached by ferry.
However, cycling on the island is a major no-no. Luckily, there's plenty of excellent road cycling and mountain biking to do in Kerry itself. Ballyseedy Woods outside Tralee has trails and a little search online will find you plenty more. The Ring of Kerry is a well known scenic road cycling route that also sees several charity rides and sportive events each year.
Puzzle Wood, Forest of Dean, England
Puzzle Wood is an amazing moss-covered dell in the expansive Forest of Dean in the UK. The name comes from the footpath maze that has been built there and weaves in and out of the Iron-age earthworks that form small peaks, gullies and caves in the area. It's an eerily beautiful spot.
It's also right next door to the amazing riding that's to be found in the Forest of Dean. Although the area is good for road cycling, it's particularly great for mountain biking. There are miles and miles of official tracks and locals trails, including a downhill area with jumps, drops and table tops.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
The jagged peaks of the Isle of Skye will feature in the new Star Wars film, and if you're looking for challenging, dramatic scenery you'd be hard pressed to find better.
Perhaps the location scouts were inspired by Danny MacAskill's The Ridge, filmed on the island he grew up on?
Ride the rest of the Star Wars Universe
Delve further back into the Star Wars film series and you can find yourself riding in Tatooine, Endor, Alderaan or Naboo. And all without leaving the comfort of your own planet – though you may have to take some time off work to actually get there.
Del Norte County, California, USA – Endor
Redwood National Park by Michael Schweppe
The towering redwood trees in Del Norte County, California doubled as the wooded planet of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Director George Lucas even recruited 100 local people as extras for the filming. While you can't ride on the actual filming location - it's private land - the Del Norte Trail Association has a list of trails you can take your bike on.
Grindelwald, Switzerland – Alderaan
Snowy Switzerland doubled as Alderaan, the home planet of Princess Leia Organa which was destroyed in the original Star Wars film. Although we would probably recommend skiing rather than cycling in the winter here - unless you like fat biking - the summer mountain biking is incredible, with cable cars to take some of the strain out of the experience.
Tunisia – Tatooine
Tatooine features heavily in a number of the Star Wars films, and a significant chunk of the filming was conducted in various locations around Tunisia. The hot, rocky desert setting provided the perfect backdrop for an extraterrestrial desert planet.
Exploring Tunisia by bike does require some pioneer spirit. Although there are some companies running road and mountain bike trips, you should expect to do a fair amount of research to scope out where to go and who to travel with. However, you're likely to be rewarded with the opportunity to explore mountains that are relatively off the radar.
Whippendell Woods, Watford, England – Naboo
Whippendell Woods were home to many people's favourite character, Jar Jar Binks from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. The woods are part of Cassiobury Park, an ancient woodland area and designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. Because of this, cycling in the park is limited to certain paths, so it's more a location for gentle leisure riding - and if you go in spring time you'll be treated to a stunning display of bluebells.
However, it's a good location to start or end a ride out into the scenic Chiltern Hills, where there are many road cycling routes to choose from, often passing through idyllic English towns and villages.
Know of any other good rides with a Star Wars link? Let us know in the comments below!