February 19th, 2019
Planning some overseas rides for 2019?
Get the lowdown from the Richmond Cycles team on their experiences of cycling abroad.
Richard takes the cultural route around Romania
Transylvania might not be the first place that springs to mind when you’re planning a cycling holiday. And if you’re a speed demon you probably won’t have The Slow Cyclist tour company on your radar. But Richard and his wife found this to be the perfect compromise on their trip last Autumn.
“This was as much a culture tour as a cycling tour,” says Richard. “We flew into and out of a city but the rest of the time we were rural, exploring the Saxon villages of Transylvania. We stayed in local farmhouses, a rectory, a chateau – all beautifully appointed.”
“The scenery was absolutely stunning. With the Carpathian Mountain range as the backdrop we did a lot of stunning single track cross country cycling, through forests and foothills with almost no traffic. The towns we visited were all citadel towns where there’s a fortified church in the middle on the high ground and a village built around it. We’d stop somewhere for lunch, then head up the ridge for the afternoon, then back for a lovely dinner, always homecooked food.”
Founder, Oli Broom, talks passionately about the trips they run. “We believe travel is worth taking time over; that a great holiday means getting under the skin of a place and discovering the food, customs, history and people that make it special. Our guests are discerning travellers with a bit of juice in their legs; those who appreciate our intimate knowledge of some of Europe and Africa’s most special landscapes and cultures.”
On the last night the group took horse-drawn carts up to the fields outside of town. “We watched the sun go down over the citadel with the mountains in the background and virgin forests on the hillside,” remembers Richard. “Then the cows that had been in their fields for the day started heading back into town, so we followed them. They all know where they live, they just walk to their houses and through the gate. We were literally out there ‘til the cows came home.
“My wife and I both enjoyed that trip hugely. I cycle every day and a couple hundred kilometres a week whereas she cycles maybe a couple hundred kilometres a year. But it was a tour we could both do, that was magic.”
With trips scheduled regularly to Rwanda (Volcanoes, Lakes and Gorillas), Wild Tuscany, Mountain Villages in Zagori and Saxon Transylvania there are plenty of reasons to check these guys out.
Belinda goes local in Northern Europe
“A bike can take you further afield, take you to places you might not normally go to,” says Belinda when we ask her about the benefits of cycling trips abroad. “You can get around a whole city or into the countryside, up mountains and along rivers. It’s a faster way to explore than by walking yet it’s approachable enough that you still get to meet locals. Also often the roads and cycling infrastructure are better (especially in Germany and Switzerland) as is the climate!”
Belinda has been touring Europe by bike since the 1990s. Early trips included riding from Krakow to Budapest over the Tatra Mountains and from Prague to Venice over the Julian Alps. “Then I went from Bordeaux to Barcelona over the Pyrenees and that’s where I met my husband. Twenty years later we’re still cycling together.”
As a big fan of the Dolomites (“my favourite mountain range”) some of Belinda’s best trips have been tackling the Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo amongst others. “But my all time favourite trip was to Switzerland. We climbed many of the major passes (Grimsel, Furka and Gotthard) and on the last day we tackled three major climbs (Gotthard, Lukmanier and Oberalp) which took in all the different language regions of Switzerland. An epic ride.”
So where would Belinda recommend for a more relaxing trip abroad?
“One of my personal favourites for a holiday rather than a training camp or hardcore cycling experience is the Black Forest. You can cycle along the flat landscape by the Rhine, up and down through vineyards and into the mountains. They have a very strong food culture, with great restaurants and markets. The area produces many outstanding wines which you can taste at numerous wineries. And there are thermal spas if you want to unwind after a ride. What’s not to like?”
Training Camps to Wine Tours with Matt
Matt has plenty of overseas trips under his belt, partly thanks to his role as ride leader for cycle tour company Viva Velo. They offer training camps in Mallorca, bespoke tours all over Europe and point-to-point rides like Avignon to Nice, or London to Paris.
“Whatever our clients want we’ll organise,” says Matt. “While they’re with us we take care of them and make sure they’re having a good time. We book all the lunch stops and hotels, do the routes, and ride with them. Depending on the trip and the budget, we’ll also have a support van.”
Matt took a group to Tuscany last Summer, one of the year’s most enjoyable trips for him.
“It was amazing. And hilly. It’s either up or down, there’s not really anything in between,” he laughs. “But the views are incredible. Every corner you go around there’s a castle or a vineyard or an old house or a cobbled town. And the food and wine’s amazing.”
So wine stops are allowed then? “They’re encouraged! The trips we organise can be anything from people who are more interested in the wine with a bit of cycling on the side, to people who are well up for doing serious training camps.”
What would Matt’s advice be for first-timer cycle tourers?
“Firstly get a good group of like-minded friends, with relatively similar ability. Then book it with people who will make suggestions and guide you but not dictate what you do. The best place to start is Mallorca. Everything is established. It’s as much of a challenge as you’d ever need, but you can also have a load of easy rides if you want to.”
If any of this has inspired you to find out more about cycling holidays abroad we’d be more than happy to chat further and help with route planning, bike packing (see Belinda’s event on 27th Feb) and any essential (and non essential) kit to make the trip as smooth as possible.