Autumn Bike Touring or Racing Anyone?

For many, the favorite season may be springtime in Paris, but for me it’s autumn in Tuscany. The temperature and humidity have dropped back to a comfortable level, as have the crowds of tourists. September and October are great months to embark on a bike tour of Tuscany, where you may encounter a few days of rain, but will be rewarded with unending views of grapevines, full and ripe with the bounty for the upcoming harvest, la vendemmia. The colors are starting to change and the need to get outside, to enjoy those last rays of summer, is prevalent, on a bicycle, perche no?!

A bike tour in autumn is a great way to really see the Tuscan countryside.  Biking allows you to feel the geography, (yikes!)….pumping up those 10-15% grades, nothing like going anaerobic to wake you up to feel alive again! Endorphins, always my drug of choice.

No, bike touring is not for the frail and faint of heart.  Don’t be fooled by the picture post card rolling hills, there is always a must-see medieval fortress town at the very top of the steepest climb. “Hill-town”, a description most obvious from a bikers perspective. The very top, that is usually where your hostel or hotel will be located.  But don’t be deterred, there are all kinds of possibilities. You can do short, out-and-back (relatively) flat ride, but to really see the landscape, you will need to be ready to pump up some of those big, beautiful hills. Start training early and often if this is your goal.

There are many wonderful maps that can give you the details of all the tiniest of farm roads.  My favorite– the Austrian, Kompass maps are incredible for biking! Their website is in German…. good luck with that. Probably best to buy them in Tuscany when you come across them at a newsstand. These maps are a beautiful thing, really, it’s embarrassing to admit that I salivate when I look at them, maybe a good indication of my love for the open road!!  Main roads are indicated in yellow (usually lots of traffic) and the white roads are fabulous (often steep) gravel or farm roads that are great for biking if you have a cross, hybrid or mountain bike. My husband, bikin’ Bill loves those white roads, called  strada bianca in Italian.  As a warning, our teenage daughter, Paisley, often at the will of her dad, on the back of a tandem, would like to suggest to the reader to avoid those white roads and any “shortcuts”. These “shortcuts” may add muscle to your thighs, but may slow travel with their steep inclines, thereby not saving time, but traffic. I too, love/hate the white roads, but will choose them over traffic any day. Pick ‘yer poison wabbit!

If your choose to do some biking or bike touring in Tuscany, remember that they are two very different animals. Bike touring requires, strength (steep roads), stamina (long days), and pannier bags, allowing you to change nightly locations and cover a lot of the countryside. Biking can easily be done by staying in one location and doing out-and-back, day trips, allowing you to decide the geography and length of your rides. There are so many possibilities; Chianti, being the most challenging, and the Val D’Orcia (southern Tuscany) being more forgiving and frankly, more spectacular–my personal Disneyland. I know, I have said that many times before, it’s really true!

Not to forget about you competitive cyclists who are lovers of a challenge…… check out these really amazing races that happen to be in autumn in Tuscany:  Gran Fondo di Brunello– a 30 or 50 k mountain bike race to celebrate the great Brunello wine and the autumn harvest. Everyone is a winner, race entry awards each rider a bottle of wine, yeah! Great celebration and pasta dinner held in the fortress of Montalcino afterwards.

L’Eroica is an epic “period piece” race, considered Italy’s equivalent to France’s Paris- Roubaix. Held on unpaved roads, a tradition, some in costumes and racing on antique bikes, really a sight with an amazingly tough course, where mountain bikes are prohibited (wow-che palle!). L’Eroica’s official site.  Check out Dan & Janine Patitucci’s blog, Dolomite Sport for info and great photos.

Hummm…. now even Bill’s  15 % dirt road ‘short-cuts’ are sounding easier. Biking through the countryside, wind at your back, humming a tune, can’t wait to get back on those roads! Enjoy autumn in Tuscany on your bike route/race of choice. So many options, so much to discover for your bad self–so get the maps out and start making plans. More routes and bike trips plans to follow in the coming months… stay tuned or contact me for personalized help:

09/08/2010 09:20 pm | Share | No Comments

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