European Bike Tour Blog
Want to learn more about our bike tours in Europe? Looking for travel tips with your bike? Seeking out a little european bike culture? Check out our blog and feel free to share your thoughts and comments with us!
Looking for a little Christmas Fitness Motivation? You’re not alone. Christmas season and winter is a hard time for any athlete. All the events and distractions vying for your time can seem insurmountable. How do you enjoy this amazing time of year, not gain the 12 pounds of Christmas and still stay fit? Here are a few tips to guide you through this busy season.
1. Plan ahead and find a balance. Christmas is an important time of year socially and professionally. Let yourself be social, relieve stress and burn off steam from the active summer and fall. However, pick your battles at this time of year. If you love wine and know you will have a few glasses, maybe don’t enjoy all 28 appetizers. Determine what you are truly craving, enjoy it in moderation and be satisfied.
2. Quick, healthy snacks and meals. I don’t have to remind you that the more weight you pack on now, the more weight you will have to lose later! A little weight gain in the off-season is ok and is useful for recovering from a season, just don’t let it get much above 5% of your body weight. A simple suggestion: I tell my athletes is to stock the house with veggies, fruit, nuts and other healthy snacks and meal options. This makes it convenient to eat healthy while tired and busy.
3. Don’t eat as a form of fidgeting. With the many social events of the season, people find themselves eating as something to do, instead of satisfying their hunger. It’s easy to hover over the food and keep their hands busy by grabbing a few extra crab cakes. Put all the food you intend to eat on a plate to monitor quantity, step away form the food with a nice glass of wine and enjoy a conversation. Never go to an event ravenous and try and eat healthy while still indulging in a few of your favorites.
4. Strive to maintaining a healthy active lifestyle. This is extremely important. As schedules get busier, expect training routines to change. If you are out until 1am, it may not be an option to get up at 5am and ride your bike. Be flexible with your training, don’t just cancel it. Get creative with your scheduling and try some new activities during a lunch hour or around work (yoga, TRX classes, lunch time runs, spin classes, etc). Set realistic training goals over the season and develop a schedule that is attainable. Cycling for even 30 mins to get the blood flowing and keep the metabolism up will do wonders for preventing weight gain and keeping the body and mind stimulated. Having set workouts in your schedule will help keep the eating regimented at a time of year when meals seem never-ending.
5. This season try setting a challenge for yourself. It can be as creative as you wish, with the goal to keep yourself active. An example includes: making a goal to workout 5 days a week in Dec and Jan, including cycling 2x/week and exploring 3 new activities over that same week. Another example: doing a certain amount of daily pushups and sit-ups. Give yourself a reward at the end of your challenge to help motivate yourself. Maybe buy those new bike shoes, a jacket, wheels, a trip, etc. These types of challenges help you keep some structure in a time of year where there is little routine.
6. Enjoy other activities. Have the mantra of an active, healthy lifestyle, rather than specific training. Try something new or engage in some of your favorite activities, such as skiing, snowshoeing, xc skiing, fat-tire biking, sledding with your kids, etc. When you are on the bike, try adding some intensity for time crunched sessions. Intensity will help maintain fitness, increase strength and power and improve your cycling. If you are still struggling with motivation, join a group. These can be organized like hiring a coach, attending spin classes or strength programs, or can be as easy as finding a workout partner. It’s always good to be held accountable. Remember though, you don’t always need to spend money to train or get fit.
Good Luck. Happy Training and Happy Holidays!
This guest post was written by Grant Burwash, BSc. Kinesiology.
Photo credit (unchanged): PetitPlat -Stephanie Kilgast: http://www.flickr.com/photos/_sk/5166374321/ liscenced by: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Whether you’re a cruiser kind of person, brand new to cycling or a mega-cycling-enthusiast, In Situ Travel’s Wish List covers Christmas gift ideas for cyclists of all ages and stages.
Stocking Stuffers and Small Gifts ($10-$40)
DeFeet Levitator Lite Socks A long-time favorite sock of pro-riders and newbies alike, these socks are lightweight with 360 degree airflow and long-lasting durability. The multiple colors are a bonus. $12
Bicycle Wine Rack Planning a cycling trip through a famous wine region or pedaling to a friend’s place for a Friday night dinner, this nifty little wine holder carries a bottle with ease and style. The leather holder effortlessly buttons around the top tube of most bike frames. $34
Snakeskin Arm Warmers These bright beauties are intended for a female cyclist, but there are many milder tones that would suit any gender. Give your arms a little dazzle for those chilly rides. $40
Alchemy Goods Belt Anyone who has changed out a flat will appreciate the craftsmanship of this funky belt. Made entirely from old bike tubes, this belt blends fashion and function. $38
You’ve Been Good This Year ($50-$400)
Gore Xenon 2.0 Gloves There are many choices when it comes to cycling gloves, but these durable gloves have rave reviews among cyclists. With reflective pull-off strips, increased stretch and strength in the first-to-tear places and strategic foam padding, once you wear these it will be hard to wear anything else. $55
Oregon Cycle Wear Wool Cycling Jersey This custom jersey business based out of Oregon designs and ships to anywhere in the world. Their wool long-sleeved jerseys are classic fit and vintage style, and can be worn for a winter ride or with jeans to grab a coffee with your pals. $86
Sidi Genius 6.6 Carbon Vernice Bike Shoe Rumored to be Professional Ivan Basso’s favorite road bike shoe; this swanky shoe has a multitude of incredible features. Carbon fiber sole, adjustable heel security system and two way ratcheting caliper buckles are some of the few things you’ll love about this shoe. And the stiffness, and the razor sharp power transfer, and the identical intake vent system… you get the idea. $379
Get Ready To Break The Bank ($400 +)
Pure Fix Cycles ‘Hotel’ This little number ensures you’ll stand out: it literally glows. No really, this city commuter glows in the dark. Featuring a flip-flop hub (ride it single speed or fixed gear) and solar activation, the track-style frame will keep you light and bright. $400
Garmin Edge 810 Bike computer Call us biased (we use Garmin exclusively on our bike tours), but this is simply the best technology for outdoor riding. Featuring GPS that works anywhere in the world and a mind-boggling amount of other data, these little computers do just about everything except feed you gels. $490
Flykly Wheel Flykly is the answer to wanting an electronic bicycle but being unprepared to pay for an entire bike. Solution? A wheel that can go onto your bike you already own. Once you start pedaling the electronic assist kicks in and brings you to your pre-determined cruising speed (via the Flykly app, of course). This wheel is so cutting edge it hasn’t debuted to a US audience, but there is a line-up and an easy way to preorder. $590
BMC Time Machine Arguably one of the best time trial bikes on the market, the BMC Time Machine is equipped with every single feature you’d ever want for racing. This version features Di2 electronic shifting and a killer paint job. Watch for the machine at every major cycling road race in 2014. $7,999
(Please note none of the items above are sponsored. i.e. they are not paid endorsements. We just thought we’d share some fun ideas with you.)
As the temperature drops and the autumn light fades to a winter glow, having the right winter cycling gear is important. Here are a 5 clothing tips to get you through the cold months.
A fellow cyclist once mentioned there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. Highly suspicious that this cyclist resides in a sunny climate where it’s warm year round with little need for more than a windbreaker, even on the coldest day. You may be like this lucky cyclist, but if you’re one of us facing cycling in sub zero temperatures, there are a few pieces of cycling gear you can acquire that will make your winter cycling much more enjoyable- and safe.
1. Prevent finger freeze
Normal long fingered bike gloves that usually do the trick during a brisk fall ride might not cut it. Consider picking out a warmer glove with extra insulation and water protection. Pearl Izumi PRO Softshell Lobster Glove does just that, without too much added bulk. http://www.pearlizumi.com/
2. Tuck in your tootsies
Fingers aren’t the only extremity that gets chilly while you’re pedaling outdoors. Frozen toes can be uncomfortable and downright painful. Consider a heavier winter boot (often called a winter bootie) to cover your cycling shoes. Louis Garneau H20 Extreme Shoe Covers feature 3mm of neoprene protection covering you from water and wind. Happy Bonus? Fleece lining. http://www.louisgarneau.com/
3. Protect your noggin
You’d never ride without a helmet, but a helmet alone does little good to keep your head warm in the bitter temperatures. Try a lightweight wool headpiece that fits snugly under your helmet. This Rapha wool winter hat features head contouring soft mesh lining, a wool exterior and ribbed ear guard. www.rapha.cc
4. See and be seen
Chances are if you’re headed outdoors during the winter you may be faced with reduced visibility due to rain, fog, snow or shortened daylight hours. Protect yourself by ensuring you’re wearing an article of highly reflective clothing. This Niagara jacket by Canari is not only waterproof and windproof; it has a clinchable waist and wrist feature alongside reflective accents on all side for increased visibility. www.canari.com
5. Re-think your base layer
Warmth for outdoor cycling starts from the first thing you put on next to your skin. That layer should be warm but breathable and lightweight, just like Icebreakers Sprint Long-Sleeved Crew. The primarily wool base layer has thumbholes to keep the sleeves in place, and is naturally wicking and odor-resistant. www.icebreaker.com
Do you dare to brave sub zero temperatures? What do you use to get the job done?
Since we have bike tour in Germany’s Black Forest, we sometimes get asked if it coincides with Oktoberfest. Well, maybe, but just because you’re anywhere in Germany in October (like the Black Forest), doesn’t mean that you’ll be there for the world famous Oktoberfest. So here are a few quick facts about Oktoberfest in Germany:
Most of Oktoberfest takes place in September, not October. Yes, that’s right, despite its name, the festival takes place primarily in the month of September. The original event took place in October, but for numerous reasons, it was moved to earlier in the calendar. Some of these reasons are weather (it can be cold in October in Germany) and to coincide with German Reunification Day (on Oct. 3). In 2013, Oktoberfest runs from September 21 to October 6.
Oktoberfest is a celebration in Munich, not all of Germany. There is sometimes a misconception abroad that Oktoberfest is a national event. In reality, it traditionally takes place only in Munich. The original event was in 1810 and centered around marriage festivities of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. The meadow which now is the focal point of the modern Oktoberfest is named Theresienwiese (Therese’s Meadow) in the princess’ honor.
It’s more than just about beer. Yes, beer is focus and enjoying the festivities from within a beer tent is a highlight for many visitors. But in an effort to keep the event family friendly and appeal to more people than just drunken crowds, there are carnival booths, amusement park rides and other kid friendly activities.
In just under three weeks, the Rio Cycling Club will be starting their custom bike tour in Italy with us. They’ll be joining us for 11 days in the Dolomites, Alps and Tuscany. The routes are filled with spectacular views, just like this one. We hope you’re excited!
We like this quote from John F. Kennedy, so we thought we’d share.
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”
As part of our Bike Tour in the French Pyrenees, we climb the Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque on our last full day of riding. Are you looking for a good place to celebrate and chat with other cyclists and swap stories? We have a suggestion for you.
Right at the top of the Col du Soulor, at the intersection of the roads of Soulor and the Col d’Aubisque sits a great little restaurant called “Les Marmottes“. It’s a family run restaurant and bar with a front patio, rear deck, and a cozy interior. If the sun is shining and the spectacular views of the peaks stretch out before you, sitting on Les Marmottes’ rear deck is a great location to celebrate conquering the climb you just rode.
As a matter of practicality, we’d typically recommend that you ride both the Col du Soulor and the Col d’Aubisque before sitting down at Les Marmottes, because even if the Aubisque is not as challenging from the Soulor side, it still has a decent pitch in the last few kilometers. Why not wait until your climbing for the day is over before celebrating. Besides, if you’re returning towards Argelès-Gazost, your ride is almost all downhill from the top of the Soulor anyway.
Check out the other climbs we also ride on our Bike Tour in the French Pyrenees.
Some Tips And Opinions On When To Go, What to Consider and How to Plan Your Bike Tour in The French Alps.
So you’d like to go biking in the French Alps and you’re wondering what month would be best to plan your bike tour? We often recommend the month of June. Here are a few of our ideas and opinions why:
- The available season is relatively short due to many of the famous mountain passes being closed due to snow during the late fall, winter and early spring.
- Depending on what passes you’d like to ride, this can determine when you should go. For example, if climbing the Col du Galibier is essential during your trip, you shouldn’t really plan on going before June. In May, for example, you might be able to ride most of the way up, but the last few kilometers will probably still be covered in snow or even if not, the road might be closed due to avalanche danger. Play it safe and don’t ride past the barriers, even if the road appears to be ok. Or play it even safer and plan your visit for the summer.
- Alternatively, climbing Alpe d’Huez is possible almost all year, because the road leads to the ski resort and therefore is frequently cleared of snow. Not that you’d necessarily want to climb it in the middle of winter, but if you are traveling in the spring or fall, you can feel pretty confident that the road will be open for you to ride. Be prepared though for dramatic changes in temperature as well as the onset of a heavy storm. These are the mountains, so you should always be prepared for all weather conditions, no matter what time of year.
- If your goals include several different alpine passes, a bunch of the famous Tour de France climbs, and covering a bit of ground, as we do in our Bike Tour in the French Alps, you might want to consider the month of June. Of course the weather can be good in July and August, although noticeably warmer. You will also have to contend with the peak tourism season and the Tour de France. Keep in mind that most of Europe will be on vacation in August, so road traffic will be at its fullest and accommodations will be at a premium. July is synonymous with the Tour de France. If you’re not trying to see the race, you should plan accordingly to avoid the massive crowds. Of course if you are trying to watch the Tour, here are a few of our tips to watch the Tour de France in person.
- If June just doesn’t fit your schedule, we’d recommend September as well. The summer crowds have left, the weather is still very nice and the snow should still be at least a few weeks away.
Part of our bike tour in the Dolomites, the Sella Ronda is certainly one of the trip highlights.
The Sella Ronda is a loop of approximately 50 kilometers that encircles the Sella mountain range. It consists of four passes: Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Campolongo, and Passo Pordoi. One can start the ride at numerous points along the loop, including the popular towns of Canazei, Santa Christina, Corvarra or Arabba. Canazei is just slightly off of the loop, but a relatively short and scenic climb out of town will put you at the southern junction of the Passo Sella and Passo Pordoi. You can ride the route in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, but we tend to think that the clockwise loop is prettiest.
While not an extremely long loop, it is challenging. You’re either climbing or descending for almost the entire ride. In terms of the difficulty of each of the four climbs, the Passo Pordoi and the Passo Sella are arguably the hardest. Of course it can depend on which direction you climb them from. In addition to the clockwise direction being the most scenic, it is also generally considered the harder direction to ride the Sella Ronda.
Here are some quick stats:
Distance: approximately 50-55 kilometers (depending on where you start)
Total Climbing: approximately 1900-2000 meters (depending on where you start)
- Passo Sella: 2244 meters
- Passo Gardena: 2136 meters
- Passo Campolongo: 1875 meters
- Passo Pordoi: 2239 meters
More images from cycling the Sella Ronda
I was in search for a new turbo trainer for this winter and ultimately decided on the Elite Qubo Home Trainer. Here’s my review and thoughts on it so far.
Let me first say that this review and my thoughts are in no way affiliated with Elite, nor In Situ. This is my own, personal home trainer and my thoughts about it. Neither Elite nor In Situ paid for or sponsored for the trainer’s purchase or review. I just thought that readers might like some ideas if they themselves are searching for a new bike trainer too.
After several years of foregoing the use of a home trainer, preferring instead to venture out on the roads and trails, no matter what the weather, I started to realize that maybe the quality of my workouts was suffering. I held on to the noble notion that it builds character to weather the elements while riding one’s bike. But in honesty, I know that I would often ride easier or shorter than I probably should have been for training purposes, especially if the roads were snowy or icy. With this recent winter being a bit more serious than usual, I decided it was time to get a new stationary trainer. (I had a old Blackburn Trakstand years ago, but it was long since gone).
I also thought about getting a set of rollers, since this was the “gold standard” that so many people seemed to tout, back when I was first getting into cycling. But the trainer vs. rollers debate is a whole different discussion. For the sake of the post, I’ll just say that I chose to go with a trainer for several reasons.
So for me, the choice of a trainer came down to one main factor: was it quiet? My previous Blackburn sounded like a plane was about to take off every time I was on it. That combined with the required fan and the television volume, made for quite the racket! This time out I was going to hopefully change all of that. After googling multiple different variations of “quiet home bike stationary trainer”, I quickly started to notice that the Elite Qubo Fluid Trainer was mentioned often. A few more clicks and a few more comparisons and I had made my mind up. The Elite was the trainer for me.
Here are my thoughts on it from first taking it out of the box, setting it up to its performance.
Set-up: It does require some! Not much, but some. You don’t just pull it out of the box and you’re good to go. A few web reviewers complained that it was not easy to set up. I disagree. It’s not difficult, but it does take several minutes (e.g. 20-30 minutes), including some minor adjustments you might have to make to ensure it’s ready to go for the first use. Pay particular attention to the diameter of resistance unit roller! It comes in two different sizes/diameters and you’ll mount the resistance unit into different holes on the trainer base depending on what resistance unit you purchased. The instructions clearly walk you through this, but take a second to double check before installing. You’ll also have to adjust the side to side position of the resistance unit, so that you rear tire sits in the middle of the drum while in use. Lastly, you’ll play around with trainer’s clamp, to make sure it sufficiently grabs your rear axle, while not being too tight or too loose. You’re also given several plastic feet that can go under the trainer to level it out, if you need it. I didn’t need them.
Initial impressions after set up, but before the first use: Set-up was straight-forward, although I definitely needed to follow the instructions. It wasn’t intuitive. When centering the the resistance unit at the rear, I needed to move it all the way over to the left so that my tire was centered on it. That seems strange to me, but it doesn’t affect the performance at all. I’m wondering though if there are any bikes out there that one wouldn’t be able to center because I don’t think of my road bike as being particularly unique, yet I need the extreme left mounting position for it to sit correctly in the trainer.
Build quality: The resistance unit seems of very high quality. The trainer frame itself seems a bit lower quality with parts being made out of high density plastic and not metal. The vertical arms are metal, but the base is plastic. Even so, the trainer feels solid and is very stable when in use.
Performance: In a word, fantastic! Compared to other trainers I’ve used this is just simply great. There are no resistance adjustments on the trainer and there is no remote resistance control. All of the resistance is automatic from within the trainer itself. This is apparently done by calculating the weight and speed of the rider and adjusting accordingly. If you need more or less resistance, simply change gears, just like on the road. Super simple. The feel while on the trainer is also super smooth, with no slippage. While it does feel a little harder than actually riding on the road, there is more than enough range to spin as a warm up and to push harder gears too. For most of my use of the trainer so far, I haven’t really felt the need to use the big ring. There is more than enough resistance for me in the little chainring and smaller cogs.
Noise Level: So this was my main concern with a new trainer. All I can say is that this trainer is unbelievably quiet. I can’t even really hear it over the sound of the bike chain and pedaling. That’s quiet! As with most trainers, there is still vibration in the floor, but it is not very much. I should also note that I’m also using a trainer specific rear tire to cut down on noise and wear. I didn’t always use to do this in the past, but I’ve heard quite a few comments how this can help with the noise as well. I’ve not tried this same trainer with a normal tire to see if it’s any louder.
Unique notes: The trainer does not come with a front wheel riser, so you’ll either make do with fabricating your own (i.e. the phonebook) or you can buy one from Elite or another manufacturer. I use a thick magazine and it works just fine. It does however come with its own rear quick release skewer to ensure a good fit while your bike is on the trainer.
Summary: I like the Elite Qubo Fluid Trainer very much. Besides a few little quirks with the setup, it performs very well. And in terms of it being quiet, it’s fantastic.