Posts

I love stuff. Cool stuff, functional stuff, shiny stuff and nerdy left field stuff but mainly bike related stuff.

While I love stuff, every bit of it is carefully considered. I don’t want the same stuff that everyone else has, I don’t want to fit in. Every purchase or partnership is painstakingly researched using all available channels, the web, reviews and social media. What I desire and what I find cool the next person may not, but I’m happy knowing that I didn’t follow the herd and I did my homework.

Desire and lust plays a massive part in my purchases, but function is, I hate to say it, more important. [joke] Often I’ll point out I get paid to ride my bike, that makes me a professional cyclists doesn’t it? [/joke] 20 to 30 hours a week makes you a pretty good guinea pig and will soon show and faults or flaws in a product. The way my kit fits, it’s durability and ability to keep me comfortable in sometimes extreme conditions is critical. GPS units that actually work and don’t die mid ride, easy to use as I’m a simple man and scared of tech; a technotard apparently. Shoes that fit, whether I’m in a UK winter or 40 degree Catalan heat and the same goes for helmets, glasses and so on. Groupsets and wheels that I can get spares for and easily repair all over Europe.

My bikes, this is where the lust takes over from the function…ish. Custom, hand made but subtle. Those that know, really know. Tailored for me and my needs, my riding style and weight. My riding is varied, a crit bike’s no good for days on end in the mountains but sometimes I want to go out and tear it up with mates. I feel with Independent Fabrications attention to detail and frame building skills we achieved the right balance and the paint team nailed the finish.

I know the names of the people who built my bike, the man who makes my kit, Luigi at  Q36.5, the team behind my GPS at Wahoo Fitness, Steve and Marc from Veloforte and now Johannes the owner of Evers Cycling Shoes have all been added to my list of suppliers, supporters and most importantly, friends. I bought into these brands because of the people behind them and the quality of what they produce. Tried, tested and built on experience, passion and attention to detail. They bought into us at Sommet because we share those same values and I hope our guests, clients and friends feel the same about Sommet and what we do for them.

I am an unashamed magpie and I do love shiny stuff, but there is way more to it than that.

Nick

Images courtesy of Ian Walton, Bobby Whitaker and me

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.

Nick

Images courtesy Nick Frendo & Ian S Walton http://www.themusette.cc/

 

I used the Festive 500, as many do, as a bit of an incentive to get out a bit more on the bike. I honestly wasn’t bothered if I completed the 500, but using that 500km target as a way to frame a set of rides was handy.

Just a bloody good excuse to go and explore. I fancied aiming for  about half to be off road – either mixed terrain ride on both the gravel Frankenbike (Stanley) and the road bike, or full off road on the Stanley – and as many new trails or roads as possible. Turned out that over half were new and almost half was dirt.

The centrepiece of the week’s riding was to be my Dawn 2 Dusk mixed terrain ride, exploring the Penedès wine region of Catalunya, alone on my own schedule, enjoying getting a little lost then unlost. A genuine mix of gravel (70% ish) and tiny paved vineyard roads connecting villages, wine makers and not a few cafes, castles, dams, streams and national parks and reserves.

The night before, charging the lights and pre-cooking a nice lasagne for the next day’s 5am breakfast got the sense of fun going early. I rigged the bike up with some Challenge Strada Bianca tyres, a road light and an offload light (I wasn’t sure how much darkness I might face, with no return time planned, apart from after dark) for what turned out to be a 10+ hour voyage of mini-discovery. In a place I know very well (my partner is from here and I ride with a wine merchant who lives here – and who did 20,000km last year!) I kicked up dust from coffee to local delicacy, via cava next to historic monasteries and further proved to myself that my ethos of, as often as possible, taking a different turn than taken on the usual ride and I will find hidden treasures, no matter how well the area is known. A journeyride from my doorstep.

We haven’t advertised a Penedès trip, we should. It’s a joy, on and off road. It’s like the famous Tuscan riding, less well known, less trodden path. I can’t recommend the Penedés highly enough, if you fancy a secret Strade Bianche drop us a line; I’ve plenty more exploring to do in this paradise.

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.

 

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!)