Last year we ventured into Switzerland in seek of cycling adventure. What we found was more than we had dreamed of.

One of the best mountain climbs we have done, followed by one of the best climbs we have done. Then more… All in epic low rolling cloud, enveloping and caressing us up to and beyond 2,000m.

On cobbles.

It was another recce for a Sommet Independent Trip this year. Sommet Independent is one of our flagship, custom options, alongside our Fully Supported Cycling Trips; both tailor made, or bespoke if you like, handbuilt trips putting you and your dreams first from the minutes of first contact until long after the trip is finished. Both are all about you. Fully Supported is just that; we are there with you all the way, full personal, technical and vehicle support all trip long. Where Sommet Independent differs is that we deliver a trip for you which you then experience on your own. In your own company. Be that solo, or with friends, but completely free in your own space. All the details have been taken care of, no hassles of arranging airport shuttles, no worries about dodgy dowloaded GPX files taking you astray or up the wrong mountain; nor worries about hotel quality or being cycling friendly. We have got that all covered, and more, delivered to you ahead of your trip. You just go and ride.

I digress. Back to Switzerland. On awakening in our, lets say traditional, quaint, Swiss mountain hotel, with accompanying charm, it was one of those drizzly days where you might (well, I might in Barcelona) decide to pass on the ride for the day normally. But, this was the Gotthard Pass awaiting. A long, true mountain climb, which is largely all cobbled and has no access for traffic. That drizzle, in such circumstances, becomes that epic rolling cloud mentioned above. Warmers on, jacket ready, off we go.

The smooth tarmac initially out of the village at the bottom made us wonder if we were on the right road. Where are my cobbles? Cobbles to climb into the sky. Patience. An army truck or two later and a few more sweeping bends, crossing the motorway bypass – which allows for our traffic free progress – and then there it was, the end of the smooth and onto the cobble. Now, they aren’t Roubaix cobbles, but they are still cobbles. A little greasy too.

Soon after that barrier – CX dismount and vaulted (stumbled) over – which makes an already amazing climb a paradise. No cars beyond this point. Just the gentle chatter of the chain from the gentle cobbles, the beating of the heart and the heat of the breath fogging in front of the face while parting the clouds higher and higher. Other worldly. Like a throw back in time on these roads of yesteryear.

Sweeping bends and ancient bridges, hairpin bends and precipices beyond. The Gotthard has it all. I could have gone up and down all day. Popping out at the top though, we had another on the agenda. Descend into the valley for a short traverse to the Furka Pass. The descent off the Gotthard has an option of all smooth tarmac or half on cobbles then the rest on tarmac. Maybe the former was more sensible in the greasy conditions but, as mentioned, epic was the feeling of the day so cobbles it was.

Where the Gotthard shows Swiss engineering adeptness of a recently bygone era, the Furka is a more modern representation of just how to build a mountain road. Super smooth, super curvy, not a pothole or weather induced pimple in sight. Just velvet, sweeping and hairpinning (sic) up to beyond 2,000m again. What a climb. And what a descent.

Ever since that day, we have talked about going back. Weekly it gets mentioned, often several times a week. We are going back.

The point here, aside from a tale of exploring, is that with Sommet Independent, we are opening up these sufferings we have endured to discover the best bits of Europe for you to ride. And for you to go and ride them Sommet Independent or Fully Supported by us. We are giving you the choice and the opportunity to make the most of riding in Europe, and do it the way you want.

 

photography by theMUSETTE.cc except for a couple by Nick Frendo, where stated.

 

Five months to go until the wonderful La Resistance cycling event and our collaborating trip in Annecy in the Alps. The mixed terrain high mountains adventure we can’t wait for.

Part of our DNA is to look for rides and cycling trips that are interesting, challenging, fun, refreshing. On all terrains. So as soon as we found out about La Resistance we jumped at the chance to be involved and we are now the official travel partner. We have put together a cracking long weekend escape to encompass the event and take advantage of Annecy for an extra couple of rides on top of that.

Anyway, this week eight hardy souls galloped through the lanes, fields and bridleways of Kent getting their legs, bikes and minds ready for September. There was, perchance, a little more mud on show than there will be in the Alps. But the essence of camaraderie and adventure in the dirt and on the connecting bits of road that was ever present. A grand day out and plenty of fun.

Imagine that, way up high in the fabulous Alps…

We had a ball. There’s another taster ride on the horizon in a couple of months, for which we hope to just about have our bikes cleaned up. And before long, it will be time for our long weekend escape trip over to Annecy to do the real thing, La Resistance. The journey has just begun…

Photography by Jim Clarkson, Ross Muir and Nick Frendo.

We have partnered with La Resistance to create an escape in the high mountains (the Alps) taking on mixed terrain for a whole new adventure. Find out more in our Trips area.

 

It’s not the first time we will go up and get high on gravel. High mountain cycling on gravel is done as oft as possible.

The peace and tranquility of only hearing your heart beat, your lungs gasp for air at 2,000m, mountain beasts chuntering as you pass and your’s and your fellow cyclists tyres’ crunching over gravel.

Gravel_08  Gravel_18

The very early morning start, from an inner city suburb, packing the car with your mates, the drive before the rush hour to leave that city madness behind and the munching on pre-made, foil wrapped haut-hearty-cuisine on the go.

   

The mountain water, the tiny villages, the technical twists and turns and the mid-ride lunch with a view.

   

Mixed terrain in the high mountains.

It had drifted on the the wind for many a month. Finally we found a day free for the three cycling photographers to spend a day mixed terrain cycle adventuring from the city to the autodrome.

©ArriereDuPeloton

A Sommet custom cycling creation. The challenge and beauty of climbs, the smell of the vineyards on a gravel trail, the rocky trackstand trials section onto the eerie Autodromo de Terramar. A place where time seems to have stood still.

©HollisDuncan   ©theMUSETTE

 

A track built at the start of last century to host the Spanish F1 race, used for a year then left for nature to re-take what was built over her. Fits and starts of races between then and now, but not much. Still the roar of Bugattis and the like can almost be heard over the gentle breeze.

©theMUSETTE

3 photographers rode to an autodrome…

The three photographers – to whom great thanks are bestowed – are Tomás “Arriere du Peloton” Montes, Hollis Duncan and (me) Ian “theMUSETTE” Walton. More from them all in the future without doubt. Thanks again guys.

 

A true cycling heartland. An indulgence for a personal retrospective of Paris Roubaix visits. Spanning about 5 years and several rolls, of different types, of 35mm film through Rangefinder cameras, here are some happy memories from Northern France.

From an early visit on returning to living in Europe to a 40th birthday last year there is a personal narrative and hopefully an overall narrative of a cycling culture and passion that you can also enjoy.

From the obvious cobbles to the concrete velodrome. From the clambering school kids to the Mavic support mechanics looking for a home for the wheels they have changed throughout the day’s chaos.

And the moments of joy for a winner, moments of reflection for the defeated and the local neighbours reflecting on the excitement outside their kitchen windows.

It’s not just a race, it’s cycling. It’s a sport that allows us to see new places with a special perspective at just the right pace.

To Sommet Cycling co-founder Nick. Birthdays in Classics season…

This cycling image was from a grand cycling explore in Switzerland last year. One of the best set of rides of the year. More on this in our Custom trip. Come explore with us.

For now, have a grand day lad. Feliz Cumpleaños.

 

We have made it. We have made it to the WWW. The start of a new year and the start of a new adventure for us and here is our window to the world

We are Sommet Cycling and we have been planning this for some time. The concept is simple really; we want to give you the best cycling experiences possible by taken you riding in amazing places that we really know. And we mean riding in places not just through and past them. Fully supported where you only have to turn up and ride and enjoy, or a cycling concierge or consultancy service to leave you more independent, you choose. We are at your service!

We started putting the pieces together for Sommet some time ago and towards the end of last year we got ourselves out into that world of social media (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook). All the while we have be tweaking our trips, adding new knowledge (it’s hell having to ride new fantastic routes with mates in fabulous places) testing coffees and cakes along the way.

But finally, once we put the cakes and the coffee down, we got around to building our fabulous website. We reckon it will get some dreams simmering and hopefully inspire some of you to come for a ride with us somewhere in the world.

We have built some off the peg trips in four key cycling heartlands. Girona, the Alps, Pyrenees and Provence. One of us lives in Catalonia so Girona is our local spot, splitting home time between there and Barcelona. Both of us feel like we have lived in the other three spots over the last few years having spent vast amounts of time there.

And then we have our Custom Cycling Trips where you choose everything; from where and when to the level of support.

We are itching to get on the road with some of you in these places and also in many other places as you can let your imagination go wild and pick a place and we will build a trip. We just want to ride with you. We’ve already put a Piemonte trip together and have a couple of other special handmade customs on the canvas.

And what would riding be without kit and goodies? Along with creating those journeys, we have designed a fantastic kit, for if we know one thing it’s not how fast you go but how good you look in a café. And our kit and accessories will look mighty fine as quite a few can already attest to as we have had to re-order it sold out so quickly! (It will make you look faster too. #fact*)

So, please go and have a roam around Sommet.cc We’re excited to finally be out there in the WWW for you to check us out. Drop us a line about anything and hopefully we will see some of you in the real world on a journey one day soon.

 

*this may or may not be exactly accurate.   (doff of the cap to Rocket Espresso – makers of the best coffee machines going – as I tweaked their tag line here!)