Showing posts from August, 2018

#RoadsFromRome Day 7 - Descent Out Of The Alps

Today began with a beautiful sunrise, sat drinking coffee in my wild camp high in the Austrian Alps. It finished with the comfort of family at my sister's home in Villingen. Between the two came mountains, lakes, sunshine, and thunderstorms.

I began by descending down the remainder of Hahntennjoch Pass, onto the valley floor below. Once onto the deep valley below, I immediately transitioned into a long and gradual rise towards the top of Hochtannberg Pass.

This final Alpine climb of the tour was cool and pleasant. I stopped for a quick coffee and a second breakfast just before the summit, but otherwise kept spinning the legs to the summit at 1675 metres.

It was a fast and flowing descent from Hochtannberg, heading westwards alongside the river. There was only one notable climb left before arrival at Bregenz, in the form of the punchy Bodele Losen Pass, which heads up through pastures and farmland, looking back on the wide Alpine valley.

From Bodele to Bregenz. I could smell my br…

#RoadsFromRome Day 6 - Timmelsjoch and Hahntennjoch

Today was as close to bike touring perfection as they come. Beautiful climbs, amazing views, and a superb start and end point to the ride.

My day started in the luxury of the Hotel Terme Merano. Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed relaxing in the Sky Spa, then a four course meal, followed by a 10 hour sleep, and a huge breakfast this morning. I started the day feeling rejuvenated and eager to ride.

Straight out from Merano I was into the ascent of Timmelsjoch. Gradual at first, it rolls up the valley floor, and then with 35 kilometres to go it begins to ramp up.

Round broad hairpins, through forested stretches, and then out onto the open slopes. The views of the snow sprinkled summit were enough to keep me looking skywards rather than staring at my stem; while the feeling of fresher legs and a full stomach kept me pedalling strong.

By the summit it was gone midday, and the sun was beating down. It lit up the winding hairpins I had just scaled, and meant even the descent from the 25…

#RoadsFromRome Day 5 - Short N Sweet To Merano

I had a good night in the cooler temperature of the Dolomites last night - it was a change to need to wear all of my clothing to bed, and use my sleeping bag rather than lie on top of it.

The day started with a great little descent down one of South Tyrol’s many beautiful dedicated cycle paths. Weaving through apple plantations, it felt like familiar ground; I really do love this region.

Today was always planned to be a short day, and because of a change of schedule I was even more keen for it to be - rather than stay in Merano for two nights, I have decided to push on into Austria tomorrow, in the knowledge that my pace over the passes is slower than planned, and also because of forecast weather coming in. In effect, it means today is my rest day.

The only climb of the day was up and over into the Val d'Ultimo. I stopped for breakfast at the bottom, and then cracked on with the decent length climb. It still clocked over 1500 metres elevation gain, but on almost deserted s…

#RoadsFromRome Day 4 - Into The Dolomites

Today started in the flatlands of northern Italy, and gentle backroads took me northwards into Lombardy. Before long I was at the southern tip of Lake Garda, and worked my way up the western shore.

A comedy moment came when I jumped on the wheel of one of the many cycling clubs riding the lake's shores, and then realised so too had the 60+ year old gent in the canvas shorts and beret on the 20 year old Peugeot that I had just passed. It was comical because we actually ended up overtaking and leading out the entire cycling club on the next small climb. I gave him a solid "Bravo!" when we did part ways.

As I left the lake behind, the road climbed gradually alongside the river. Passing deep blue lakes and taking me ever closer to the distinctive Dolomite peaks.

By 16:00 I was at the foot of the final climb for the day - the Madonna Di Campiglio. I stopped for a coffee and gelato, and then began the 15 kilometre climb into the mountains proper.

It was a beautiful la…

#RoadsFromRome Day 3 - Front Loaded

Straight out of camp, and into the first climb - a Haute Categorie 15 kilometre ascent of the San Pellegrino in Alpe. It is a serious 9.5% average, with frequent ramps of 15% and the final three kilometres often 18%.

I was reduced to grinding pace before long, and my speed even fell so low at times that my computer auto-paused. It was a true beauty and the beast climb though, with amazing views out over the villages below.

At the summit, I began one of the best descents that I have ridden to date... starting with single-track road, then wide new tarmac; it was a constant thrill for over 30 kilometres.

After a lunch stop of pizza, patisserie and espresso from a bakery, I continued further down the valley and onto the flat lands around Modena.

Strava routing did me proud, and it took me on a great mix of small country lanes and relatively deserted B-roads for the rest of the day. Even the thunderstorm that arrived mid-afternoon was quite welcome and refreshing.

By 18:30 I had…

#RoadsFromRome Day 2 - Siena to Lucca via The Hills

Not a great first wild camp last night - I made the mistake of camping too close to a house, and the little dog was barking solidly until 3am. Still, waking up to the view of the Tuscany hills is pretty special.

After a quick bag of freeze dried porridge, and a coffee, I hit the road.

It was 40 kilometres from my wild camp to Siena, and they were mostly quiet backroads signposted with the familiar names of 'L'Eroica' and 'Via Francigena'. I recognised a few sectors from riding the Strade Bianchi GrandFondo last year.

The final ramp into the city is notorious, but once you are in the cobbled streets it really is something special.

After a second breakfast of coffee and the best donut I have ever eaten, on a side street off the main piazza, I was set for the day.

Heading north from Siena I went through small villages and towns bustling with Tuscany life. A lengthy climb took me up onto a plateau at one stage; providing amazing views out over the plains.

#RoadsFromRome Day 1 - Strade Bianchi

Today's ride began from a monastery. It wasn't intentional, but my last minute Expedia booking did turn out to be a fitting place to take refuge from last night's thunderstorm, as I rode into central Rome from the airport, ahead of my departure on the Via Francigena today.

Sunshine came in abundance from the outset of the first proper day of the #RoadsFromRome. I was pleased to leave the bustling city behind, and even more excited to find the first stretch of gravel.

Through backroads and rolling lanes, the route took me northwards into more substantial hills, accompanied by stunning views.

I stopped for coffee and gelato around noon; a much needed counter for the exhausting 35 degree temperatures.

As the afternoon went by the thunderstorms began to build. I watched the forked lightning striking through the skies of the Tuscany hills, and part of me wished the rain would come my way, to wash the salt from my limbs.

Around 20:00, with 200 kilometres on the clock,…

Gearing Up - The #RoadsFromRome Kit Selection

The #RoadsFromRome will be my third trans-European bike tour. It is interesting to compare my set-up from the #CoastsandCols and #7Countries7Passes rides; things have evolved, developed, and been refined over the last three years.

Kit selection for a bicycle touring / bikepacking trip like this is a very personal choice, so here is a run down of the apparel, accessories and gadgets that are coming along for this year's 2500 kilometre ride...

Luggage and Camping Kit My luggage and camping kit largely come from two brands: Thule and Vaude. The lightweight one-man tent, summer weight down sleeping bag, and casual shorts and tee all come from Vaude. The small pannier set and handlebar bag provide a well-made fully waterproof luggage solution from Thule.   Thule Shield Rear PanniersThule Shield Handlebar BagRestrap Frame Bag Small [reviewed here]Vaude Lizard GUP 1P TentVaude Rotstein 200 Down Sleeping BagVaude Sleeping PadVaude Thermal Seat Cushion/PillowVaude Sveit TeeVaude Topa Light…

Review - KitBrix CityBrix Backpack

KitBrix bags have accompanied me on numerous adventures. Their bombproof and organised design makes them ideal as race-day kit bags or equipment carriers. The CityBrix Backpack is a new release from the South Coast based brand; an everyday rucksack for the ultimate organisation in both work and play.

I travel a lot these days; sometimes out of choice, sometimes out of necessity. After a while you become less stressed by the hassles and deadlines of international and daily travel, and you learn certain tricks to make things run more smoothly. One of those tricks is luggage… having the correct bag makes a significant difference to how organised and efficient you are when travelling.

The CityBrix Backpack takes the hard bottom base, rugged water-resistant exterior, and compartmentalised design of the original KitBrix bags, and morphs it into a comfortable and practical everyday backpack.

It is a clever and effective design. Let's take a deeper look…

Compartmentalised Storage The …

Review - Thule Vital 8 Hydration Pack Backpack

Thule produce some of the world's best travel bags and everyday backpacks (take a look a my past reviews of Thule products here). This July, the Swedish brand launched their new on-the-bike hydration pack range, and that got me excited; because I know how clever, intuitive and long-lived Thule bags are. The new Thule Vital 8 Hydration Pack Backpack has not disappointed...

I met the designer of the Thule bags range at Eurobike this summer, and he was just as I expected he would be — passionate, enthused, and with a real attention to detail. He explained how the design team enjoys "geeking out" on the Thule bags, and adding innovative and unique features, motivated by real world testing.

Innovation and uniqueness is certainly something I have seen in abundance with my past Thule bag reviews, and the same attributes shine through with the new hydration pack range.

The Thule Vital 8 is made to be an all-day mountain biking or bike-packing backpack. With 2.5 litres of fluid …

Review - Pro Bike Tool Workshop Tools -- -- Chainlink Pliers - Chain Tool - Interchangeable Y-Wrench - Adjustable Torque Wrench - Hex Key Set

My first introduction to the Pro Bike Tool brand came with my review of their multitool and pumps earlier this year; they proved to be great quality, and fast became part of my workshop and ride pack's core arsenal. In this review I take a look at five new releases from the UK brand - Chainlink Pliers, Chain Tool, Adaptable Y-Wrench, Torque Wrench, and a Hex Key Set.

Review - Pro Bike Tool Adjustable T-Handle Torque Wrench Set My favourite first - the Pro Bike Tool Adjustable T-Handle Torque Wrench Set. Having owned one of these, I am not sure how I ever went without one before...

Unlike most socket-set style torque wrenches, this T-handle wrench fits neatly and comfortably in the palm of your hand (and your pocket). It is simple and easy to use, and has a great quality feel to it.

The torque level is adjusted using a 6 mm hex key, and can be set to either 4 NM, 5 NM, or 6 NM. The chuck bit can be changed to be either a 3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm, or T25 bit; all of which are neatly store…

Review - Aussie Grit Off-Road Bike Apparel

The Aussie Grit range of off-road bike shorts, jerseys, gilets and jackets is the brainchild of Australian F1 driver Mark Webber, who has always held a passion for mountain biking and high-level design. It is premium quality apparel, created to excel at providing both comfort and performance out on the trails.

I have been testing out three clothing pieces from the Aussie Grit range: the Flint Thermal Bike Gilet, the Flint Bike Shell Jacket, and the Flint Men's Bike Shorts.

Despite the time of year, and that two of these garments are foul/cold weather kit, I have managed to get a decent bit of time in the saddle wearing them, and I have been impressed by the quality and design.

Aussie Grit Flint 2018 Men's Bike Shorts Review 'Baggy' cycling shorts are tricky to get right. Some brands go for tough and durable fabrics, but at the expense of the clothing feeling cumbersome and overly warm in the summer months. Others go for super lightweight materials, but with the compr…