Couch-potato Britons are back on their bikes. At least for their holidays.

Last summer brought a huge revival in cycling tours with some operators reporting bookings up 30%, it was revealed yesterday.

And, despite this year's dismal weather, it looks like even more holidaymakers have decided that two wheels are better than four.

Market research company Mintel said sales of cycling holidays hit 450,000 in 2006 with another 22.5 million other breaks including some kind of cycling adventure, such as a day's bike hire or a mounted city sightseeing tour.

The findings come despite resistance to official government efforts to encourage people to cycle more at home: fewer than one in 50 of us take the bike to work. But they also hark back to the pastime's heyday before and after the last war, when generations of urban Scots discovered their nation on two wheels.

Richard Cope, Mintel's senior travel consultant, said: "Cycling has been given a new lease of life by recent environmental issues, such as sustainable transport, carbon emissions and eco-travel.

"With these topics set to grow in importance, cycling holidays should continue to see a rise in loyal followers. An increased interest in health and fitness and this year's Tour de France will also help keep the nation pedalling."

He added: "Although 16% of adults have already been on some kind of cycling holiday, as many as 12% have not been on one, but would like to do so in the future. This suggests that six million Britons are on track to become first-time cycling holidaymakers.

"Although fly and flop' still dominates the mass market, many well-travelled and well-off consumers are growing bored with sun worship and are seeking more active experiences.

"The growth of independent travel is creating a new breed of holidaymaker, who is resourceful, adventurous and hungry for a taste of authenticity away from the crowds."

Drew Moyes has seen his local club in Mauchline, Ayrshire, more than double in size in the past two decades, with regular weekly rides and continental holidays.

But Mr Moyes, 68, stressed cycling holidays had changed beyond recognition since the days of slow-moving pedallers with their tweed trousers tucked into woollen socks.

"There used to be people for whom cycling was an economic imperative," he said yesterday. "It was a cheap way of exploring their country. It's not cheap now. There are Scottish tours costing as much as £400 a week."

The old mass outings from Glasgow or Edinburgh, of course, were on roads with nothing like the traffic of today. But Scotland has fast developed cycle routes -and opportunities for mountain biking - that make it a major world destination for cycling holidays, despite busy roads. Many cycling holidays, however, still involve a flight to bike-friendly Europe.

Peter Hayman is Scottish councillor for the CTC or Cyclists' Touring Club, a body more than 100 years old that was the model for another now much better-known club, the AA.

Mr Cope said: "Whilst Britons cycle less than many other Europeans, we take more frequent holidays and cycling breaks have enormous potential. These do not have to be the preserve of cycling clubs and the Tour de France-emulating hardcore. Cycling holidays will also appeal to families, sightseers, and those simply seeking relaxation and escape from the crowds."