Tag Archive: Cycling

  1. Geneva to Milan

    Leave a Comment

    4 days of the most beautiful cycling scenery.

    A guest blog from Simon, our support crew and photographer for our latest geneva 2 Milan route. Find out more about the route here


    At the start line in Geneva


    The Italian Lakes had always been on my bucket list so when I was offered the opportunity to get paid to see them it was a no brainier ! Tasked with being part of a 3 man crew to assist 8 good friends cycle from Geneva to Milan I packed my bag and off I went.
    The starting point was Geneva, a beautiful city surrounded by the Alps which lies on the Lake that has the same name. The cyclists and crew all met each other the night before over lobster and beers…as you do !

    At 8am’ish they were unleashed for the 4 days and 335 miles to Milan. The first stop, a quick photo call, was only after 1 mile to have a quick pose on the Pier in front of the “Jet d’Eau”. Sadly, however, someone forgot to turn it on for us but the Lake and Alps still provided a fantastic back drop.


    So, off the riders went again. This day’s ride was 99 miles to the Swiss town of Saglesch. The first 2hrs cycling was alongside the Lake and each turn opened up a new view that took your breath away. And so that theme continued throughout the day. Looking back I can easily say that this day’s route was the most scenic that I have ever had the pleasure to travel along. The Lake, the mountains, the green fields, the pretty towns, the quiet roads, the meandering streams, etc etc. We even managed to squeeze in a lunch stop at the UCI Headquarters in Aigle!


    Our riders enjoying the quiet Swiss roads and cycle path from Vouvry to Sierre.


    And in case you’re wondering, the route was a cyclists dream. Not too hard and not too easy…perfect 😊. After a few coffee stops and a leisurely lunch the smiling cyclists reached their hotel and quickly settled down to a cold drink or two or three !

    On to Day 2. A leisurely 75 miles today…except that it has a 10,000 ft climb up to the Nufenenpass ! Over breakfast it was clear that the cyclists were a bit anxious over what was ahead of them. It didn’t help that they hadn’t had a good nights sleep. The nearby church, keeping to its local custom, rung its bells every QUARTER of the hour through the entire night. I am surprised the bells are still in one piece ! So, after a few bike repairs by Ebba the handy mechanic, the cyclists set off again. However, it wasn’t long before they started the first climbs of the day. Just a little warm up for what laid ahead. A coffee stop and a lovely lunch later the cyclists were prepped and unleashed by Sam, the Crew leader. They were now cycling into the mountains ahead and the Nufenenpass. It started off with long gradual roads which were nice and quiet and meandered through the beautiful scenery. As with day 1, each turn delivered a new “wow” moment. The cyclists were now splitting up and riding to their own individual ability. Each time they passed me, as I took photos, I expected them to unleash expletives at me and to leave them in peace. Instead they grimaced and always murmured “how much further”. The road was now tighter and steeper with switchbacks. When they left lunch it was a barmy 20c.


    The struggle is real – climbing the Nufenen Pass


    Now it was decidedly colder and cloudier…we are getting higher ! Eventually, one by one, they all made it. Smiles broke out as they posed by the sign at the top and then headed straight into the warm cafe and tucked into a well deserved hot drink and delicious looking warm apple pie. The temperature was now only 9c and the clouds were coming in. Time to go now and they had a 14 mile decent all the way to the hotel. Again a mixture of long sweeping roads and switchbacks and for the speed freaks a cyclists dream. Funnily enough, when they reached the hotel it was time to consume cold drinks again (and again) and curse the mountain that they had just conquered.


    Day’s 3 and 4 unfolded in much the same way. Beautiful scenery, sunshine, lovely roads and towns, tasty food and even time for a lunchtime swim in Lake Maggiore.


    Eventually the final ride into Milan and ending in the lovely Piazza Duomo. What an adventure for 8 good friends who just kept smiling and pedalling all the time. I take my hat off to them and I am now frantically pestering my friends to cycle the same route with me next year. Fingers crossed 🤞



    At the top of their last climb on day 4 – The Madonna del Ghisallo
  2. Italy to Wales by Bike

    Leave a Comment

    A guest blog from one of our mechanics, Gwydion. He’s since been bike-packing around the world, read about how he got the bug for travelling the world by bike and how this one decision changed his life and he’s now travelling the world fixing bikes as well!

    The birth of an idea

    It was whilst working on a vineyard in northern Italy that the though first came to me. On the flight over I couldn’t help but think of all the places I was missing out on, the towns, the views but most importantly the people. I always had a curiosity for bike touring and as my season was drawing to a close I realized that the best time to attempt it was then, I had no out goings back home, I was about to get some money in the bank and I also had the greatest luxury of all, time. Something I was going to need in abundance. The thought stuck with daily, as my motivation to put grapes in buckets was now fuelled by a desire to buy a bike. Something that I had not done in my adult life. The idea was born, to cycle over 1000miles, with close to 70,000 ft of climbing back to my home in Wales. Sure I hadn’t been on a bike since I was twelve, but how hard could it be?


    It’s not the bike, it’s the legs.

    After spending a week in Venice, visiting bicycle shops between espresso stops, I realized a tight budget was the first difficulty of my trip. I had only just stepped into the bike world and I felt as though I didn’t have enough money to be a ‘cyclist’. That on top of my limited bicycle knowledge meant I wasn’t sure what I was getting for my money. The plus side of this though meant that I only really ever had one choice, being the cheapest bike I could find. An eight speed city bike designed to take people on their commutes. My doubts had grown over the week after seeing all the pricey bicicletta’s on display. Was this bike going to take me home? Was I able to ride it home? The decision was made when I asked the owner of a local shop if he thought that the city bike would make it to Wales. He looked at the bike, then back to me and said;

    ‘It’s not the bicycle, it’s the legs.’

    I bought it there and then. I had my camping gear, I picked up some panniers, put it all together and balanced it in such a way to stop me riding in circles. I was ready to go.

    Moving forward

    I was five miles outside of Venice when had my first puncture. Standing on the side of the road with an upturned bike, tube in one hand pump in the other. Not only did I lack a spanner to remove the wheel, I didn’t even have a clue how to change the tube! How could I be so foolish! Stubbornness and pride forced me to walk until I could find a bike shop. I had the tube changed, bought a spanner and was taught how to change it for future mishaps. Fortunately I only had a target of 40 miles for that day. I would meet back up with my friend’s family who I had been staying with for the past couple of months. When I arrived I spent the night losing weight off of my pack and watching YouTube videos of ‘bike maintenance for dummies’.

    With the first day of cycling under my belt and a lighter load, I had a growth in confidence for tackling the Alps, however ahead of me was my first night wild camping. I was equipped with a bivi and a blanket and for the first few days I had no fuel, I was dependant on fire to cook my food. Finding the right place wasn’t too hard. It needed to be off of the road and away from any visible trails, I’d lay my bike down, set a low sleeping set up and cook my food while there was still light. As the days went by I became more adept to not only selecting good spots but also the speed I could lay out my home from home. I continued on my bikes and over the following couple of weeks I would make my way to the Alps.

    What goes up…?

    When I first saw the Alps ahead of me I felt very overwhelmed and unprepared. Physically I was in no condition to ride the climbs. The only thing I could do was work within my comfort zone. In the first day on the mountains I would be walking alongside my bike rather than riding. It felt like I was cheating however it was the only thing I could do to move forward. Daily targets went out the window and the mentality became ‘as long as I end the day closer to home, then I’m doing okay’.

    The beauty of spending a couple of weeks cycling uphill not only meant that I had incredible views, but also meant my time in Austria was mostly downhill. This in turn meant I cleared most of the country within a day. As I progressed through my trip I was beginning to get notably stronger on the bike. My confidence had grown while riding and I had my camping and set up all figured out. The problem with this was my days were flashing by, the lack of climbs across central Europe meant I was covering much more distance in a day. I had discovered an incredible infrastructure of bicycle routes that took me right through the heart of the countries. I was in my element, this was my life now, I could keep going forever. But before I knew it I was in Calais awaiting my ferry. The trip was almost at an end.

    I almost begrudged the following days back home. I missed my coffee stops, I missed pretending to speak a different language. But strangely enough the thing I was going to miss most of all was cycling each day. I began my trip with the idea that a bicycle would be the perfect way to get to a destination, however as I progressed I realized that the destination was just an excuse to ride my bike. Either way the trip came to an end. I had cycled the whole distance, more than I had ever done in my life. But something wasn’t right, id reached my goal, but it felt far from the over

    Looking back at what I learnt during my trip, three things really stuck out. Firstly keep moving forward, you will only end the day closer to target. Secondly, always be open to learning from others, find what works for you and make it your own. And finally, that this was only the beginning of my trips by bicycle.

    Gwyd is now one of the best mechanics we’ve ever worked with and all round great guy, check out his website at goodgearcycles.co.uk 



  3. Cycling The death Road in Bolivia

    Leave a Comment

    Since I spend most of my time cycling on road bikes, on roads, in European countries. It seemed like a great idea that my first introduction to downhill mountain biking should be cycling the infamous Death Road in Bolivia. Sorry mum!


    I was staying La Paz, at 3640m it’s one of the highest cities in the world. Just walking up a hill takes your breath away! I met my guide, Carlos, in the city, loaded up some bikes and off we went, up even higher into the Andes mountains.

    This where where we were heading.


    At the top of a mountain pass (nearly 5000m in altitude), we donned a few layers of warm clothing and then a few more of protective clothing. There was the offer of a full-face helmet, as well as protective, trousers, knee pads, elbow pads, jacket and gloves. I was riding a full-suspension Trek mountain bike; it looked the part and I was excited to do a different kind of cycling. After a few practice loops and remembering that the brakes were the opposite to the UK (!), we were ready to go. Just one more thing; first we needed to make an offering to the Pachamama. The Pachamama, roughly translated as Mother Earth, is the pre-Incan god still revered by many in Bolivia and also Peru. We tipped some neat alcohol on our bikes, on the floor as an offering to the Pachamama (who would protect us on our journey down) and then drank a small sip ourselves, call it Dutch courage.

    The first section was a nice ease into getting to know the bike and its braking distance. This part of the road was smooth tarmac and it was downhill all the way. Once I’d got the measure of my bike, I was getting down in a nice aero position, tailing my guide the whole way. We picked up some serious speed, overtaking the few and far between trucks that still use that part of the road.

    We regrouped after a long, sweeping right-hander and then took an unpaved road to the side of a tunnel, where bikes weren’t allowed to go. Unpaved is an understatement and this was my first introduction to cycling on some seriously uneven terrain. The road was mostly dust and gravel with rocks and boulders scattered it. I soon learnt which rocks the bike could handle going over and which might bring me down. “Watch out for babies’ heads,” Carlos would shout over his shoulder – that means a rock that was too big to bounce over – you can guess the size.

    After a brief respite back on the tarmac, we took a left turn onto the proper Death Road. Luckily this is now closed to normal traffic, so the only vehicles are locals and cycle support vehicles. This is the start of the Camino de la Muerte (Death Road). Starting at La Cumbre Pass (at 4850m), it descends all the way down to the town of Coroico (1200m) – that’s a lot of elevation loss!

    Looking at how far down we had to go.


    The road was bumpy as hell, single track and more rocks and stones than gravel. It’s not surprising that there used to be an average of 250 deaths per year on here due to careless driving, bad weather and the sheer drops around blind bends. Whilst some cyclists have died on here, it all seemed to be within my comfort zone, just about! Navigating our way down was about 80% freewheeling and managing the brakes, 10% pedalling, 5% skidding around tight bends I’d misjudged, 3% bouncing over things and 2% clinging on for dear life.

    We stopped many times for pictures and safety briefings about the technical aspects of the next bit of road. The more altitude we lost, the hotter and hotter it got. Little waterfalls sprayed us as we zoomed underneath, which was nice and refreshing, but soon we needed to stop and put some layers into the support van.

    The views were incredible, but we barely had time to appreciate it as I was too busy concentrating on switching from one line to another, cliff face on one side, sheer drop on the other!

    About halfway down we stopped at a small cross on the road. This is where, our guide told us, an over-crowded bus had slid over the edge, taking with it more than 100 men, women and children.

    So many crosses on the route indicate where people have died.


    A sobering thought as we continued to make our way down, going faster and faster as I became more confident on the bike. Reminding myself not to get too cocky, I pumped the brakes a little more for the final few hairpins and made it to the bottom with a clean run – thanks Pachamama! 🙂


    In summary:
    This was an amazing and exhilarating ride, although it does have some pretty big risks involved. So, make sure you go with a professional guide or tour operator and that the equipment they give you is up to standard. Like we tell all of our riders: it’s not a race and if you ride within your limits, you’ll have a great time.

    Topography – downhill all the way.

    Terrain – the most uneven and rocky surface we’ve ever encountered – keep your wits about you at all times!

    Ability – not for the faint-hearted. Great for confident cyclists and downhill riders.


  4. Climbing the Madonna del Ghisallo

    Leave a Comment

    Day 3 of the Italian Lakes cycle tour was the day I had trained for. This day was a biggie: roughly 100 miles, 10,00ft total climb including the Madonna del Ghisallo; being the patroness of cyclists, I had to try.

    After 25 miles on the saddle, under the hot, 38 degrees Celsius weather, we for a quick coffee in the glamorous town of Bellagio, looking out over Lake Como – the lake we’d been cycling along ever since we left the town of Como that morning.

    Re-energised, we set off. Even the road out of Bellagio was steep with at least 3 hairpins!

    The aim was to never stop; keep the legs turning no matter how steep it got. It was hard, but every time I started doubting whether I could finish it – I saw lyrics from famous Madonna songs; the crew had been up first and written some inspirational messages along on their directional arrows along the way.

    View of Lake Como from the switchbacks of the Madonna del Ghisallo


    I found myself praying my bike would magically develop lower gears. Unanswered prayers! Various Madonna songs in my head did, however, provide a distraction from the burning in my thighs. A far greater distraction was the breathtaking views. But there was no stopping to take pictures – momentum was key here.

    As we neared the top, we saw our names in chalk on the road – the extra boost we all needed.

    The summit!

    By some miracle, I did manage to get to the top. Being met by a round of applause from other cyclists and the crew was fantastic! I felt a huge sense of achievement! I’d do it again!