Tandem Travels!

In almost a polar opposite to my recent power training post, I also absolutely love riding tandem bikes. It’s simply what cycling is all about once you strip away the fast ride politics, the endless number crunching, the Strava files and training plans. Being on a tandem is about getting out there and having fun just enjoying the journey together.

10003662_737741379590434_191494495161767985_oTotally pro…

My wife isn’t a sporting cyclist so riding a tandem allows us to cover much, much more ground than if we were on a bike each. Probably five times as much at least. All with a smile on her face and as you know – happy wife happy life!

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The photo above was taken during a laid back ride through the vineyards and lakes of Hungary a couple of years back. Such a beautiful country. There’s nothing quite like exploring pastures new by bicycle. Plus she can take scenic photos, read maps or guidebooks, pass up glasses of wine, etc. All from the back seat! #winning 

Sometimes though the tandems on offer at the local cycle hire shop are not exactly high tech machines! This particular one below we hired in Slovenia. I had visions of it busting in half with any out-of-the saddle climbs! It did the job though and got us to Croatia and back – even though it was close to 40 degrees C that day. As you can see from the photo I am resting in the shade after some hard graft on one rickety looking contraption…

A hot day for a tandem ride on one strange looking machine.

Sometimes us tandem cyclists even travel in packs! One of my favourite tandem rides was the inaugural Woking CC Tandem Club Ride, where six of us tandem enthusiasts took to the quieter roads of Surrey and Berkshire in search of the finest tea and scones on the county. It was a fantastic day out on two wheels. Needless to say if I had a little more storage space (and Tassie wasn’t so lumpy) I’d buy a tandem tomorrow!

1781515_737741079590464_6114498468907289941_oWoking CC Tandem Club Ride – Outside the cafe stop in Windsor Great Park.

Bike packing like a boss

So you’ve got a fancy road bike, you’ve racked up some training miles and now you want to go explore pastures new. Maybe even tick off a few epic Cols. Well unless you’re hiring out there, you’re going to need to pack your bike!

img_2732In my opinion there’s no substitute for a proper hard case bike box. Sure soft bags are lighter and usually slightly smaller, but if you want the best peace of mind for your (probably quite expensive) road bike then it’s GOT to be a hard case box. Nobody wants to arrive at their destination to find a snapped derailleur or worse, a crushed carbon fibre frame!

My favourite is the Bike Box Alan. It’s got plenty of padding, Velcro straps to hold everything in place, anti-crush pole plus loads of extra space for all your other gear such as helmet, clothes or nutrition. While not the cheapest and at a shade under 11kg not the lightest, in every other way the Bike Box Alan really is a cracker. Mine has protected my bike when flying across the globe and also when moving house.

img_2734Foam protective layer sits between frame and wheels. Note the anti-crush pole.

Yes, I bought a bright pink one! ;-) It’s taken some hard knocks along the way and there’s plenty of scratches to the outer case, but everything inside has always arrived in perfect order exactly how I packed it. You can’t ask more than that.

Pokljuka Climb, Slovenia

This is a Catagory 1 road climb in Slovenia starting from just outside Lake Bled and rising up through Triglav National Park to the Triglav Pokljuka Sports Centre and also a ski resort near the top.

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As it winds it’s way up the mountain, the road rises for over ten miles and 2500 feet at an average gradient of five percent. There are a couple of signposted 12% and 18% sections and a max gradient of 20 percent. Triglav Pokljuka Sports Centre has a cafe at the top, but there’s not much of a view.

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Lake Bled is a fantastic base for road cycling, mountain biking, hiking or just lazing around the incredibly fairytale-like lake. There are also plenty of other adventure sports such as white water rafting and paragliding available to book from the town.

On the day I cycled traffic was minimal and the road surface smooth apart from some damage repair closer to the summit. My attempt was on a mountain bike I hired in Bled so I really, really must get back to Slovenia one day with my road bike. There’s plenty of other challenging climbs through the Julian Alps I still need to ride!

Cycling in Slovenia

As I’m currently “between jobs” I’ve been doing a bit of travelling around Slovenia . So far it has been great, if a little on the toasty side at times! Earlier in the week my wife and I hired a tandem and rode along the Slovenian coastline to Croatia, passing through olive groves, vineyards and the salt flats. By 11am it was registering 40 deg C on my Garmin!

f76cbda9-46fe-442f-bd77-ce86571867d1At the moment we are at Lake Bled, at the base of Slovenia’s Julian Alps. I tried to hire a road bike but they were all booked so had to settle for a clunky, beat up mountain bike. Guess I can’t complain for €10/day.

While April was out paragliding this morning I rode up one of the mountains to the ski resort and sports centre at the top. For the ten mile climb I was cursing not having my road bike, but at the same time glad of the mtb’s low gearing. Some of the 18℅ drags near the top were real leg sappers! Luckily there’s no shortage of hearty recovery food and beverages to be had here.

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4c4a1fdd-f722-4d7d-96a5-bc30a35e98ecOh and April is now a “proper” cyclist – finding out the hard and painful way that the European’s cable their brakes to the opposite levers! First time using disc brakes too! She went right over the bars and ended up with the bike on top of her. Always the trooper though she was back on and riding again the same day, although I think in future we’ll stick to the tandem. She’s developed some monster bruises on her legs also to go with the road rash.

Got a couple of days in the capital Ljubljana before travelling west to Treviso (Italy) which is the birthplace of Pinarello!

Kolonial – Prague’s Cycling Restaurant

There’s been a multitude of cycling cafes popping up around the woods in the past year or so, testament to the growing popularity of cycling in Britain. It can only be a good thing in my book as cycling and coffee go hand in hand! Recently on a trip to the Czech Republic, I stumbled across a little beauty – a cycling themed restaurant.

Tucked away in the lovely Jewish Quarter of Prague is KOLONIAL. A modern, yet character filled restaurant with a difference. It is billed as a cycling themed restaurant, the only one of it’s kind in the city. I say it’s a cycling themed restaurant, rather than a cyclist’s restaurant, as it’s aimed at non-cyclists as well (which are a large proportion of it’s customers).

Upon entering you are greeted by the enthusiastic staff, who all wear custom Kolonial cycling jerseys as their uniform. I thought this was a great idea! Also very practical as the rear pockets serve for storing notepads, pens, spare change, etc. The local beer bottle images emerging from the three rear pockets were a great touch too!

Kolonial is quite possibly the perfect place for a post-ride coffee. There’s no cycle racks outside, but secure cycle parking is provided inside the restaurant. I enjoyed a delicious cappuccino and cake for 85Czk (roughly £2.50).

The entire restaurant is covered in cycling memorabilia. Images from famous stage races and cycling themed art cover almost every inch of the restaurant. Bar stools constructed from leather Brooks saddles and classic Penny Farthings in the windows really give this place a classic cycling atmosphere. There’s even signed kit from local Pro riders and World Champ medals on display.

My morning coffee and cake was so good I decided to return to Kolonial for dinner as well. The menu is chock full of choices, including some Czech favourites. If you’re ever in Prague and fancy a great meal surrounded by cycling memorabilia then be sure to hit up Kolonial. It’s only a little off the main tourist route and easy walking distance from the Old Town. If you really love it then there’s the opportunity to purchase one of their custom jerseys to take home too. I can tell you I did…

 

Originally published on Wheelsuckers.

Classics season at last!

Now that all the boring desert racing is out of the way the Classics can begin. I don’t care if the great Eddy Merckx co-owns the Tour of Oman, it’s still a rubbish place for a bike  race! There’s been a bit of a lull in any decent road racing since the Tour Down Under in January, but not any more. There’s a packed racing calendar all through March and April.

Of course most will be looking forward to the bigger Spring Classics such as Milan San Remo (which Merckx won seven times!) and Paris-Roubaix, for Bradley Wiggins’ final race in Team Sky colours. I love these one-day races; full of cobbles, climbs and exciting clashes. So now begins two very busy months of racing for World Tour teams!

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Thanks to Wheelsuckers for this schedule of events for the 2015 Classics season:

March

1st Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne (Belgium)
7th Strade Bianche (Italy)
8th Tielt – Winge (Belgium)
9th Roma Maxima (Italy)
22nd Milan – San Remo (Italy)
25th Dwars door Vlaanderen (Belgium)
27th E3 Harelbeke (Belgium)
29th Gent – Wevelgem (Belgium)

April

5th Tour of Flanders (Belgium)
8th Scheldeprijs (Belgium)
12th Paris – Roubaix (France)
15th Brabantse Pijl (Belgium)
19th Amstel Gold (Netherlands)
22nd Fleche Wallone (Belgium)
26th Liege – Bastogne – Liege (Belgium)