I started working on trips a few years ago. At first I was attracted to life on the road thinking I would be spending all day, every day riding my bike in some of Europe’s most iconic locations. My first trip was the Maratona dles Dolomites, it doesn’t get more iconic then that. The Dolomites are special, jaw dropping beauty, some of the Giro’s most epic battlefields, the people are incredible and so warm, what more could you want. What I didn’t realise was that I wouldn’t be riding at all, my role was driver, mechanic and general dogs body. Maybe I was naive, maybe mis-sold. Turns out it didn’t matter. I was in one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been and more importantly I met some incredible people, who at the time were guests and soon to become firm friends.
I realised pretty quickly that guiding is about people as much as the places. The journey not the destination, how I deliver an experience or show them somewhere or something they would never have found on Strava or Google. It isn’t about the five star hotel or Michelin starred restaurants or how fast I can get them up and over a mountain, it’s local culture, food, knowledge and even that unexpected view around a corner. One of my favourite rides is Sant Hilari – Sasqueda reservoir in Girona. As you turn off the main road and head up a short sharp climb then drop down and the reservoir reveals itself, all of a sudden it stops people dead in their tracks, break out their phones and start taking loads of photos, always makes me smile.
I love to take people to Christian and Amber Meier’s Espresso Mafia and watch Christian talk to people about his passion for coffee, explain the process of roasting and watch their faces light up. Even the non coffee drinkers start enthusing and begin to understand the difference between high street and speciality or “Organized coffee”.
People often send me a few emails before the arrive asking how hard the riding is, how should their bikes be set up and what gearing, sometimes a little intimidated if it’s their first big mountain trip, or first time they’ve ridden back to back hard days. Ensuring they go home with a sense of achievement, hopefully having learnt something new about a place or culture or even learnt that they can ride harder for longer and push themselves further than they first thought is all part of the job. Creating these memories that last for people to share with their friends and family is the key to a great trip.
I’m passionate about bike stuff. I love talking about it, products, kit, brands, sharing my knowledge and beliefs, no doubt some misguided based on “The Rules”. The places I’ve been and the people I’ve been lucky enough to ride with. I can bore you to death while we’re riding or as I like to think, distract you from the challenge ahead.
All the above means many start off as guests but leave as friends. That’s WHY I GUIDE.
See you on the road.
Images courtesy of TheMusette photography.
The big move Girona.
The draw was too strong. After three years of being a visitor and creating trips for guests and friends here in Girona I decided the time was right to make Girona home.
Co- Founder, Sommetier, friend and chief snapper Ian Walton along with Amber and Christian Meier have been an incredible help and motivation in me making the leap.
I have always felt like Girona is a very special place, not just the cycling and all the cliché culture, food etc but more importantly the atmosphere and friendships I’ve made here, it feels like I have roots already.
There is the group of locals, like Ramon, Jordi, Miqui and Nancy and Anna from The Service Course. Luke, Federico, Sara from Espresso Mafia. Levi, Patty, Jordi, Lisa and Nicky from La Fabrica. All have been a part in helping make the move, so easy, even though they probably aren’t aware. And of course Mike, Michelle and Francis at La Bruguera who’ve hosted me as I have packed my life into a car and driven to my new home.
Then there’s the group of friends who I can always rely on for coffee and rides, Tristan and Peter for when I need a good kicking and many more.
Thank you all.
Obviously the cycling is special. Every day I’m out looking for and exploring new roads, new experiences and journeys. Back in the UK I found it hard to work and ride for a decent amount time on the bike. Here I’ve found myself out riding at 19:00 onwards and putting in 70 to 100 km’s, going from struggling to fit in 10 hours to consistently riding 20 – 30 a week. My love of cycling, my fitness are at what feels like an all time high.
Now I’m guiding most days in this paradise. It appears that I’ve made the right move. Join me on the road as your local Girona cycling guide to find out why we love this place I now call home.
Our Sommet Cycling 2017 kit is now available to pre-order.
We took the plunge on Nick’s design for the 2017 kit recently. We popped aside the numbers needed for the trips and then went about shooting a few to try and flog some to the eager punters out there…yourselves (email Nick to get on the pre-order for the next lot…).
Best laid plans, the kit just about sold out before we even shot the damn stuff. Word of mouth got it flying out but we still got out and shot some stuff, although it was more an abridged shoot before a ride or hijacking a ride.
We had dreamy Ramon fondling Christian’s Speedvagen (while he awaits his own hand built, but titanium, dream bike to arrive – this month!!) and playing air wheel on his very own Enve’s for said build. And we had the Swedish masseuse, Therese, riding up and down Rocacorba in preparation for some daft Everesting challenge. I was happy to be in the car shooting on that one, and hanging off the gliding platform and giving the ‘models’ heart attacks. All part of the job.
Chapeau is a UK clothing brand with centred around quality and inclusivity. Where better to show it off then our favourite town Girona.
So we gave them all they needed…locations, models, bikes, accommodation, friendships and lashings of what makes Girona great. Happy to share our Catalan home and knowledge. They brought their kit, themselves and photographer, Jon Baines (IG:@designdefined).
Here are a few shots from the weekend with Conductor and Chapeau in Girona. Have a look at their sites to see more from the shoot. And to see more of Girona, we are back with tours in May and beyond. Drop us a line for more information.
Foot note about Chapeau, from Chapeau.
“Chapeau’s core values are simple.
‘Chapeau’ translates as ‘hat’ but it means far more. Used to indicate respect for a fellow cyclist’s efforts, achievement or endeavour Chapeau! is a spoken doffing of the cap.
Respect and encouragement are qualities we admire in cyclists. We believe in always greeting a fellow cyclist, whether with a nod, a wave or a cheery hello. The spirit of inclusivity and fellowship makes cycling an individual sport that we’re proud to be involved in.
To all fellow cyclists who obsess over their gear, who cajole themselves to head out early, who drink cappuccino after 12, who covet other bikes but remain staunchly protective of their own — Chapeau!
We aim to create cycling apparel with modernity, detail and personality. Made well, fit for purpose and great looking.
We want every cyclist to enjoy every ride. We want to inspire the belief that everyone can have a great time on a bike.
We have a point of view but we’re not judgemental. There’s no codswallop, you’ll never have to decipher the meaning in what we say.”
All image rights Conductor / Jon Baines except where stated.
Via Girona. In June. Come explore Catalunya with us.
You might know we do a lot of single or dual location trips. A few randonnées where the specific need of the location will show that as a better experience (see our Norway FARA trip as a prime example).
Our local dual location beauty is our Girona and Catalan Pyrenees trip. A full week split between Girona and her cosmopolitan lifestyle and riding and up country mountain Catalunya in Ripoll.
Ripoll is surrounded by the mountains of the Pyrenees, with an abundance of challenges and amazing, quiet, climbing and exploring by bike. Off the bike it is steeped in history. It was the heart of the liberation of the nation from Moorish domination in the middle ages and the spiritual home of the oft considered founder of the Catalan nation – befitting the age, his nickname is a beauty; Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós). It’ll be warm and toasty riding though, so no hairy legs, even if you are called Wilfred.
We will have half the trip in Girona, the other half in Ripoll and their surrounding, stunning riding. We will take in the cuisine and culture they both have to offer; that contemporary, world leading cuisine in Girona to the fresh country fair of a farming and outdoor nation.
Drop us a line for more information.