Every year since 2004 I have undertaken a short European tour. Here you will find details of the routes, the hotels and restaurants which have I used.
What started as a one off to mark my fortieth, has turned into an annual event. Away from work and family, on my own, it is my idea of a retreat without religion. I ride between four and six days, never staying away for more than a week but I feel a huge benefit from it. There is the absorbtion in the physical effort and the accomplishment of finishing some great rides.
With the exception of Tuscany, I have visited places I would be unlikely to go with my family, so it's been a chance to see new areas. I stay in reasonable hotels and eat in good restaurants when I can. It's the combination of the riding, the food, and interesting places to stay which produces the quality of the tour.
The tour also provides a focus for months of planning over the winter - choosing the area, picking out a route, finding hotels. I've found Trentobike.org very helpful in undertaking the research and felt I should reciprocate with my own accounts of the journeys I've undertaken. Invariably, despite the research, there is something to be learnt from the experience which would make it better. In part I have put these pages together for my own benefit, recording my own memories, but those who may be tempted to go to some of the areas I have been, I hope will find my descriptions helpful.
I have yet to put together accounts of all the trips but will get round to it someday. Slovenia in 2007, photo below, was particularly good.
I bought an audax or light touring bike in 2004 for my fortieth birthday. It's been perfect for the type of touring I do. The bike has a 631 Reynolds steel frame made by Bob Jackson in Leeds. I have a Shimano Tiagra groupset, with a triple ring and a nine gear 11-34 cassette - I can pretty well climb up anything with that set up. I use Continental Gator Skin 28mm tyres. I have sks mudguards. I use Shimano A520 spd pedals.
I have a rack attached and use two panniers for my tours. I stay in hotels but don't particularly travel that light. I used a pair of Altura panniers for the early trips but for the last four trips I used Ortlieb.
Since 2008, I have tracked my trips using a Garmin 305. This device has made such a difference to me. Courses can be preloaded on to the Garmin, so I no longer need to check my map at regular intervals. It's particularly useful for getting in an out of towns and finding hotels. I download my routes from Bikeroutetoaster. On my return, I can then download all the data from my trip.
One other useful tip is to have decent lights in the mountains. Whilst I don't ride after dark on holiday, there are times I've needed to go through unlit tunnels. It can be very scary without proper lighting. I've now got a Hope light.