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.
Recently over dinner with friends I was asked what drives me and why I ride. The person in question was clearly motivated by something different, but as valid, to me that’s what makes cycling so great. Their goal was to improve as a cyclist, driven by data and self-analysis, striving to make themselves faster which in turn makes them a better cyclist. Training, pedal stroke and efficiency, cadence and Strava data, all contribute to making them a better cyclist. Right?
I think I speak for both Ian and I when I say we both just love to ride our bikes, sure we both have Strava accounts and power meters and we’re now both “Wahooligans” but it’s the being outside, exploring, meeting people and going places that motivates us. Cake and coffee are the reward, not the amount of kudos when you upload the ride. Whether riding with guests, friends or solo it’s just about having a good time, every now and then, maybe putting the hurt on or racing up a climb, leaving the house at sunrise…. just to check out the sunrise.
It took me a while and still I’m not sure I even satisfied my interrogator. I don’t think they understood my reasons for riding and you know what it doesn’t matter. I ride on my own a lot and I enjoy it. I ride as slow or fast as my mood takes me. It helps clear my head and focus, I can empty my legs, lungs and head, I get to see places people often race through, heads down and starring at their Garmin data and I love it. A ride is rarely prescribed, I never worry about getting lost or #unlost (GRBCC) I can go out and turn round after 30 km or stay out all day, ride to get an ice cream or break myself on my favourite climbs, talk rubbish with friends or encourage guests and new cyclists, so long as I’m on my bike and the sun’s out I’m happy.
Now more then ever I’ll often park up somewhere, stop, take a deep breath and soak up my surroundings. That’s why I ride.
Images courtesy Nick Frendo & Ian S Walton http://www.themusette.cc/