COVID-19 Self-Testing Kits for USA Travellers

Since the CDC issued new guidelines on he 7th May, anyone travelling back to the United States can now use certain self-administered tests to satisfy the requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test result. The test need to be taken within 3 days of the return flight. We’re currently recommending the Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag At-Home Rapid Test Kit , and would advise ordering a pack of these self-admnistered tests at least two weeks before departure.

How to purchase and use a self-administered test to satisfy testing requirements on return to US.

BEFORE TRAVEL
Order your test kits before leaving the USA:

We would advise ordering your tests at least a week before your planned departure date, as shipping will take around two days within the US. A pack of 6 tests costs around $150, and allow around $15 shipping costs. You will need to bring your own test kit on tour with you.

When ordering, you will fill out a brief form giving your reason for ordering tests, for which you would select the option “To obtain pre-departure COVID-19 test results for re-entry into the United States as mandated by the CDC“. The site will approve the prescription – individuals only need prescriptions to purchase a pack of tests, but results are valid with or without a prescription. The tests will have an expiration date, but usually have a 9 month shelf life.

You can pack your tests in your carry-on or checked luggage.

Download the App
To take the test during your trip you will first need to download the NAVICA app, which should work on almost all iOS and Android smartphones. Downloading the app and creating an account can be quite time conusming, so we strongly recommend that you do this before departure. Once you have taken your test, the NAVICA app will save the result and create a timestamp, whch you will then need for departure check-in. Everyone in your group will need their own account in the NAVICA app.

DURING YOUR TRIP
Taking the Test

You will need to take the test within three days prior to your flight home.

To take the test go to the eMed website and click “start test.” You do not need to make an appointment, and the service is available 24/7.

Two devices are required to complete the test – the first is the smartphone with the NAVICA app installed, and the other will need a webcam and browser so that you can connect with a doctor. The second device can be a phones, tablets or laptops – we can help with this, so do ask us.

A doctor will connect with you via video chat to confirm your identity and to validate your test result. Anyone with their own personal NAVICA app account can use a self-administered test, and verify their results via eMed website.

Travelling back to the USA

Simply show your NAVICA app at the airport to confirm your certified negative test result.



Le Tour du Mont Blanc with Ride & Seek

More Groupetto than GC contenders, we are a group of friends with a certain number of Alpine climbs, Etape du Tours, and Marmottes to our names even if crossing the finish line each time was never an easy accomplishment. This time we were looking for something different. For someone else to look after us, the logistics, the itinerary, the support van, the refreshments, the hotels, the food…. All we wanted to do was to show up and ride our bikes for a few days.

With that in mind, I reached out to Dylan at Ride & Seek. Together he and James came up with the idea of a circuit around the Mont Blanc. Largely inspired by the route of the ultra-sportive of the same name, this is a brief account of the trip: a 4-day challenge, like nothing we had ever done before. 3 countries, incredible riding, stunning views, flawless organisation, and a sense of camaraderie and achievement that will see us make this a regular fixture of our cycling calendar.

Day 1 – Megeve to Chamonix

We arrive in Megeve with Dylan and James waiting for us. We relax after the 6hr drive from Paris, unpack the bikes, transfer our bags to the support van and prepare to roll out for 50km warm-up ride from Megeve to Chamonix. Lovely back roads and 800m+ of climbing allow us to check all is well with the bikes and to prepare the legs for what is to come. Chamonix is busy, the restaurants full but a table for 8 is waiting for us 2mins from the hotel. A large plate of pasta and a tiramisu the size of the task ahead accompanied a briefing from James on the following day’s ride – the toughest of the 4 days – 90km with 3400m+ of climbing from Chamonix to the summit of the Col du Grand Saint Bernard.

Day 2 – Chamonix to the Grand Saint Bernard Pass

We all meet at breakfast with a view of the Mont Blanc. Excited and slightly nervous, we roll out for the first of 4 climbs – Col de Montets, with its 9km at 5.1%. A gentle start to the day is in order. Once past the summit, we freewheel down across the Swiss border, the PCR tests and COVID vaccination certificates remain firmly tucked away in our jerseys as Swiss customs seem wholly uninterested in our presence. Next up was the Col de Forclaz – 6.9km at 6% – this was tougher and the coffee stop at the top was a welcome break. Things started to get serious now as we headed to the foot of Col de Champex – 14.6km at 7.6% – this one started to sting but was a beautiful climb with panoramic views and a steady gradient. As we arrive at the summit we are 1800m+ into the day and the picnic lunch next to the Champex Lac was picturesque and perfect timing. After lunch, the final difficulty of the day beckoned. The Col du Grand St Bernard – 26km at 6.1% – finishing at 2469m altitude. This has figured 5 times in Le Tour and is classified HC coming from the Swiss side. The climb is long and grinding but with a manageable gradient until you leave the main road for the last 6kms. The mountain pass heading up to the Auberge de l’Hospice perched at the summit is tough and rarely falls below 8.5% but the views are stunning and help with that final effort. Our rooms at the Auberge are waiting for us and the after-ride beer and generous dinner are well deserved and much appreciated. Unsurprisingly we are (very) early to bed.

Day 3 – Grand St Bernard Pass to Bourg St Maurice

It’s 2° outside, we are at 2469m altitude, the sky is blue and views incredible. Today we are riding across Italy to finish in Bourg St Maurice. We don winter kit, long bib shorts, arm warmers, thick winter gloves, take some pictures and begin our 30km descent into Italy. Once into the valley, we make a mental note to someday climb the Col du Grand St Bernard from the Italian side – it was breathtaking. The support van awaits and we change back into summer kit as the Italian sun bakes down on us. A cup of coffee and we set off for 30kms along the valley, once again with the Mont Blanc surveying our progress. We pass Aoste and stop at a restaurant in Morgex at the foot of the Col du Petit St Bernard. On the menu is pizza, coca-cola, and some minor bike maintenance. Dessert is a 27.6km climb at 4.5%. We plan a stop halfway up at the beautiful mountain village of La Thuile where the van is waiting with refreshments and encouragement. So far so good, nothing too tough up until now. The remaining 13.3km alternate between 4.5% and 7% with a long segment of 1.2km at 8%. The last 2km are ‘only’ 4.5% but by now we have a headwind, often a risk at the top of this climb, and we finish in the same gearing as the section at 8%. On the descent down to our hotel in Bourg St Maurice we nip into an inviting bar at the ski resort of La Rosiere for a sneaky beer and to catch the last 45mins of the TdF stage. Once arrived at the hotel, we log our 120km and 1800m+ into Strava and head out for dinner.

Day 4 -Bourg St Maurice to Megeve

The final day and another big one with 75km and 2300m climbing taking us back to Megeve. The Cormet de Roseland – 18.6km at 6.1% – begins within 500m of leaving the hotel. No doubt the most visually stunning climb of the trip so far. We even have the pleasure of a crowd to cheer us on towards the top, as the camping cars, polka dot flags and cowbells jostle for space ahead of the TdF passage the following day. Another well-timed coffee stop on the way down to Beaufort, before attacking the final climb of trip – the Col de Saisies, 15km at 6.6%. By now the legs were screaming and it’s all in the head for the last big effort. The climb was fairly constant and no doubt the views were stunning however my eyes are glued to the Garmin, focusing on every pedal stroke and slowly ticking off the distance to the top. Reaching the summit was an immense sense of achievement, equal to any of the “Finisher medals” we had amassed, Lunch followed, one final group photo huddled around the summit sign, and off we went. By now the rain was coming down for the first time of the trip, making our final challenge to navigate a mountain descent on wet roads. Despite a couple of scares, we all stay upright, regrouping at the bottom and forming a peloton for the final 7km into Megeve.

As the town was frantically preparing to host the Tour de France the following day, our Grande Boucle was coming to an end, we had the pain of 330km and 8100m+ in our legs and smiles across our faces. Another ticked box on our cycling bucket list. This was exactly the challenge we had come looking for. Over dinner that evening there was only one topic of discussion: Where would Ride & Seek be taking us next year?

Thanks Dylan, thanks James, thanks to Ride & Seek and see you all next year.

Les Cinglés



Fidele Soul Rides – South Island (New Zealand)

Cathy was born and raised in New Zealand but now resides in Sydney, Australia. She joined us on the inaugural New Zealand Maori tour in 2020 which gave her a chance to reacquaint with her homeland. It is from that tour that she has chosen her soul ride.


In 2020 I was lucky enough to join the inaugural Ride and Seek Maori Epic, starting in Auckland and finishing in Queenstown, something like 20 riding days and 2000 km. Completed just prior to border closures and lockdowns.
For me the whole journey was something of a Soul Ride, having grown up in New Zealand and having a good deal of familiarity with where we were going.

One day we rode past a friend’s house and they were able to tell us a bit about the local history, another day we stayed in a hotel that I am fairly sure we had stayed in on family holidays (which is going back a long time), and so it went on. I am sure everyone was a bit tired of hearing my nostalgic tales.


However, as my Soul Ride, I am selecting one day’s riding in particular, From Westport to Greymouth, on the South Island stage on the often-wild West Coast. The whole of that coast is very remote and is often subject to wild weather, which thankfully we mostly avoided. I say mostly because a few days later we did get to experience some true West Coast rain at Haast. (annual rainfall in Haast is 4300 mm or 169.3 inches.) But for this ride the Coast was at its sparkling best!

The ride was about 100k, although we did an extra that day taking it up to 123km and 1244m of elevation. (R&S Extra Loop – challenge accepted!)

To me, the essence of the West Coast is its remoteness and wild beauty. I have been there many times; hiking, travelling by car, and also once before on a bike (tandem) following a similar route, before returning for this much more extensive cycling adventure.

Today the West Coast is much less populated than in its heyday but this is set against its history of early Maori migration and also in European times of fur sealers, as well as mining for gold and coal. So on the ride we had to use our imagination to picture these different aspects of its history.
There is a bit of information here https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/new-zealand/articles/a-brief-history-of-new-zealands-south-island/
https://westcoast.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/434

The ride started out from our accommodation in Westport, crossing fairly open terrain, inland to start with, and then reached the coast at the tiny town of Charleston, in the 1870s and 1880s a thriving gold-mining settlement.
Once on the coast, we were never far from the rugged rocky shoreline, climbing and descending with spectacular bushland on one side and crashing waves on the other.

The most spectacular views were to be seen on the section where we stopped for lunch at Punakaiki also known as Pancake Rocks for the magnificent layered rock formations, crashing waves forming blowholes of surf and spray.

https://punakaiki.co.nz

From there we continued on to Greymouth taking in an extra loop to visit a disused mine, the site of the Brunner Mine disaster, one of the worst in New Zealand’s history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunner_Mine_disaster

From there we retraced our path to take us on to Greymouth. First checking out the wild entrance to the port before heading to our accommodation and a fine meal at a local brewery.

Our author Cathy on the recent Strzelecki tour

I’d do it all over again!



Guide Soul Rides – Sardinia (Italy)

Simone Scalas is a proud Sardinian who is the trip specialist on our 3 Islands Bike Tour. Having written books on cycling in Sardinia and with 20 years of bike guiding to call on, his ‘soul ride’ from his hometown of Pula is guaranteed to be a cracker.

Coastal riding at its finest

My soul ride takes place in the amazing Costa del Sud in southwestern Sardinia. It starts in Pula, a lively village that relies on tourism yet has its own authenticity. The local cyclists gather at the Piazza de Popolo main square to start this ride, or for biking into the mountains. A perfect place to have a coffee while waiting for the late riders to join the group.

Our author – Simone Scalas

The ride begins with 15 km of flat roads, parallel to the main road, and you can decide to pedal along the coast breathing the sea breeze, or immersed in a peaceful countryside coasting the hills, or combining a bit of the two landscapes.

Then you head inland towards Domus De Maria village, starting to taste the more rural Sardinia. For lazy riders like myself, it’s the perfect first coffee stop :). From here we start climbing, and it’s a gentle, with almost no cars, solitary and scented climb among wild Sardinian maquis and granite.

Marking the top there’s a “Casa Cantoniera”, one of the several ancient roadman’s houses, all of them coloured with pompeii red paint and always in scenic locations. From here you can stop to admire the landscape embracing the fisherman natural harbor down the coast and the spectacular twisting road all the way until Teulada, the next village of the ride.

Teulada deserves a stop, first of all, to let your brakes recover, then to taste its “Pani cun Tomata” bread with tomato, which is typical from the village and absolutely tasty. If you don’t find it at the main square bar (shame on them), just walk to the nearby supermarket or bakery and get it fresh, fantastico!

Well, so far the ride has been just beautiful, yet the best has to come :).
Soon after a few km, you’ll hit the coast at a Porto Budello natural harbour, and here starts the absolute beauty. You’ll ride for about 25 km, up and down along the coast, enchanted by the never-ending long sandy beaches, small secluded coves, solitary Spanish watching towers, and the silence. Well, here and there you’ll have some short yet tasty climb, but the views will let you forget all of them.

Fancy a mid ride swim?

This stretch of ride ends with some of the most picturesque beaches of Sardinia, the marvellous Tuerredda Beach with its turquoise waters, then the endless Chia Beach with its golden sand.

If you are hungry, you’ll have several restaurants to stop, but the locals (not just the cyclists) have their beer, sorry their energy drinks, at the “Mongittu” bar, you’ll recognize it by the locals, no worries.

Nora

Then, after the climax like in a perfect theatre piece, you have time to chill down again and relax along the last 15 kms taking you back to Pula. Usually we finish the ride in Nora, the ancient Phoenician the Roman town, beautifully settled in a little promotory among the lagoon and the sea.
Again another great spot to celebrate the end of the ride with the last beer!



Guide Soul Rides – Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy)

Chris Small is originally from Scotland but moved to Italy 20 years ago to pursue his career as a professional squash player. Now based in Florence with a wife and two kids he has transferred his sporting prowess from squash to cycling. He guides for us all over Italy but his true passion still rests in the hills of Tuscany. His soul ride below is a cracking ride which actually features in part on our Hannibal tour.

A ride through the land of Chianti Classico

Living in Florence, Italy as a cyclist during times of Covid-19 isn’t really a hardship and the choice of rides is infinite. Florence is a city of just under 400000 people and 10 minutes of riding in any direction take you out of the bowl where the city lies up into the hills. As a rule of thumb here every 60km is around 1000m of vertical and my favourite ride is no different.

The view from Piazzale Michelangelo over Florence

I start by setting off in the direction of Piazzale Michelangelo which is the postcard viewpoint over the top of Florence before starting the long 10km climb to Imprunetta. On arrival in Imprunetta, I continue south on rolling terrain before starting a beautiful climb called La Panca which is 6km long at 4%. After a short descent from here followed by a 2km climb through the vineyards I get rewarded with an unbelievable 6km fast descent with vineyards and olive groves on either side.

Greve in Chianti

The next 35km is a loop round 4 of the most famous towns of the Chianti Classico wine region, Greve in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Castellina in Chianti. Any one of these towns would make for a fantastic week-long holiday and I pass through them all on the one ride. These were the roads that made up a large part of stage 10 of the 2016 Giro D’Italia Timetrial won by a fairly unknown Primos Roglic.

From Castellina its only 40km back to Florence and the terrain is simply a dream. 3 long downhills on silky smooth asphalt and only one gentle climb to the town of San Casciano. 116km with 1600m of vertical and back in the house in time to feed the cat before making a hearty pasta lunch. Riding a bike doesn’t get much better than this and if you are ever in the area I can drop the tcx file or feel free.

Chris Small on his local roads in Tuscany




Fidele Soul Rides – Frenchmans Cap (Tasmania)

Doug Bruce has offered up two for the price of one with his soul rides in Tasmania. Regularly towards the top of the Ride and Seek Strava Club classification he would have been spoilt for choice for Tassie soul rides.

Hobart, Tasmania (credit Tourism Australia)

A “Soul Ride” eh? Well, I’m greedy so I’m going to list two rides: my “go to” ride from home and then the ride I love above all others, my true “Soul Ride”. I reckon this is fair enough because I can only rarely do my Soul Ride – or bits thereof – because it requires fairly involved logistics. The “Go To” ride is a tremendously varied loop that takes me from where I live overlooking the city of Hobart, across the Derwent Estuary, through terrific countryside and then back again.

Here’s the Strava link to my “Go To” Soul Ride :

https://www.strava.com/activities/4820938554

MONA museum (credit MONA)

It takes me down into town, around the historic Hobart waterfront, along the Intercity Cycleway for ~ 10 kms, out past the famous world class MONA, alongside and across the river, along a quiet road through an industrial park, through countryside where there are horses, sheep, alpacas, miniature ponies, cattle, even goats.

On past hayfields, market gardens, vineyards, and a couple of cellar doors and the road winds its way to Richmond, a historic town with the oldest bridge in Australia. Usually, I stop here for a coffee, especially if I’m with my favorite riding partner.

Richmond, Tasmania

Five kilometers after leaving coffee one arrives at the base of Grasstree Hill, a much-loved steady climb of just over 4km in length. The descent takes you back down towards the Derwent River and the Bowen Bridge. Across the other side, the route winds its way back along the river with wonderful views of kunanyi, the Hors Categorie climb that stands 1272 metres above the city. If you’re likely to visit Hobart sometime down the track and would like to start and finish this ride from a cafe favoured by cyclists have a look at this version of the ride:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35708832

Di riding just above the descent into Queenstown

Were I a better climber, the ascent of kunanyi from Hobart’s waterfront would have to be my Soul Ride. Back in the day it was the penultimate stage of the Tour of Tasmania, where in 1999 Cadel Evans announced himself – via the dulcet tones of one Phil Liggett – as a possible future champion of the Tour De France. That prediction would come to fruition with victory in Le Tour in 2010. It’s 22 kms to the top of kunanyi from the city and on a clear day the 360 degree views are absolutely stunning. For me, the climb to the top is something of an ordeal but it’s all worth it for the fabulous descent!

View of Frenchmans Cap on my Soul Ride

As for my Soul Ride, it’s got to be this one:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35709038

This is especially ‘soul’ if I can organise to do it with Dianne, my wife, and life partner. The route starts at Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in Australia and the terminus for the Overland Track which is the most famous multi-day wilderness hike in Australia. Of the total 90 or so kilometers of riding all but a few kilometers traverse the Southwest Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Southwest Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area

Despite a net elevation loss of 500 metres, there is still about 1000 metres of climbing, but none of it very steep or very long. A big, big highlight of the ride for me is the wonderful descent to the famous Franklin River, but the views along the way – including the mystical, remote Frenchmans Cap – are just wonderful.

Franklin River crossing

Despite this being the only road from Tasmania’s capital city to the west coast, traffic is never heavy and if you start early in the morning you will see almost no vehicles for the first couple of hours. Much of the ride traverses Buttongrass Plains, a vegetation regime endemic to southwest Tasmania. When you’re not surrounded by buttongrass you are immersed in the Tasmanian temperate rainforest, the air laden with the scent of leatherwood honey.

Buttongrass Plains

Towards the end of the ride you descend to and cross Lake Burbury, one of the large hydro dams in the Tasmania’s southwest. A steady climb takes you to the top of the so-called “99 Bends” descent into Queenstown, with the ride finishing at the historic Wilderness Railway Terminus. Between start and finish there are at least three great spots to stop, relax, sightsee and refresh your water supplies. A truly magical ride.

And as a bonus here’s a great video by Doug of the 99 bend descent down to Queenstown. Some great Tassie imagery to inspire throughout the video.

Doug & Di on Caesar 2016


Guide Soul Rides – Mt Buffalo (Australia)

Dave Moore lives in the country town of Cootamundra in NSW, Australia. He guides on our tours Down Under and co-led the inaugural Strzelecki Tour in 2021. His soul ride is from the spectacular Victorian Alps and is a legendary Aussie climb – Mt Buffalo. This climb features as an extra loop option on Strzelecki.

Mt Buffalo was Australia’s first ski field with the Chalet opening in 1910 and is approx 70km round trip from Bright in the Victorian Alps.

The start of the climb and NP entrance

Mt Buffalo National park toll booth signifies the start of the climb, with the road sheltered by tall stands of mountain ash and thick undergrowth, providing protection from the scorching sun and the buffeting winds.

Not long into the ride you pass the car park for trekkers walking the 20kms Big Walk trail to the Chalet. With smooth road surface following the ridge line, multiple hairpins, altitude is quickly gained. Mackeys’ Lookout has views towards Bright and brings a stark change in the landscape with The Font on the left, a rock face of striking granite that seems to rise upwards forever and valley views on the right.

View from the top

A short descent to Mt Buffalo plateau is where I turn left past the cricket pitch, several sharp ramps and just under 21ks you arrive at the Chalet with stunning vistas, making the hard work worthwhile. The joy of the ride can turn to momentary disappointment if the coffee van is closed, ask Cathy who I rode the mountain with on Strzelecki :).

Instead of turning left, you can ride straight on past Lake Catani, lined by smaller snow gums, subalpine grasses, and bogs to Dingo Dell, named due to resident Alpine dingos and onto The Horn, with the final 3kms gravel.

A well earned beer at the end of a legendary climb

A cracking descent followed by a refreshing ale at the Porepunkah hotel or the Bright Brewery brings my soul ride to an end.

Dave Moore


Guide Soul Rides – Provence (France)

Dylan Reynolds is the founder of Ride and Seek and is based in Provence, France. His chosen soul ride is a 75km(46 miles) loop ride with 1400 metres (4593 feet) of elevation – with an optional out and back from Chalet Reynard to Mont Ventoux!

A soul ride with an iconic out and back option 🙂

My go-to regular soul ride is an out and back up the Gorges de la Nesque which takes around 2 hours to complete. Whenever I’m short of time and need to clear my head this is my ride of choice. It combines all the elements that I consider important for a soul ride – great views, low car numbers, and not overly arduous. I have a nice warm-up on back roads to the Gorges to warm up the legs and then the climbing begins. The profile below confirms my comment regarding it not being too tough though.

Gorges de la Nesque elevation profile (credit Cycling Cols)

With Mont Ventoux in my backyard though it would be amiss to not include the ‘Giant of Provence’ on my choice of overall soul ride. I have taken the liberty of making the ride to the top an option though which is in keeping with the idea that a soul ride should not blow your legs off :). The ride I profile here is also my favourite loop ride when I have a bit more time on my hands. It incorporates the Gorges de la Nesque, a ride from Sault to Chalet Reynard, descent to Bedoin and then home to Mormoiron. The 6km climb from Chalet Reynard to the summit is an option!

View from the top of the Gorges de la Nesque (738m)

This loop ride is shown here on Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/5018922115/embed/c5c0b00b3ce553253ab7aeb5e5334c9f00b8a48b

The first part takes us from our village to the start of the Gorges de la Nesque via a series of back roads. Once on the gorge road, the great thing is that there is a trunk road that is more direct to get to Sault and so most traffic avoids it. In the summer the tourist traffic can be a little annoying – camper vans and motorbikes in particular – but if you ride it out of season or early in the day you have to yourself.

View from the Gorges with Mont Ventoux in the background

One of the surreal things about this ride is the boar you often meet at the top. For those who aren’t expecting it meeting a wild boar on arrival is something of a surprise. It is a common feature given the unofficial boar sanctuary that has been created by an American couple at the top though. Sadly Bill, who was an ex-Marine and member of the Foreign Legion, passed away in 2020 but his wife continues the project.

Meeting the locals

From the top of the Gorges, we ride towards the town of Sault. You can pass through the town for a coffee if you wish, or can turn earlier on to avoid the climb up. There is plenty of climbing to come so any respite is welcome although a pre-climb coffee can also hit the spot. The ride up Mont Ventoux from the Sault side is continued the ‘easy’ one of the 3 ascents. It’s all relative though! The profile below shows the whole climb.

Mont Ventoux from Sault (credit Cycling Cols)

You can see from the profile that the ride up to Chalet Reynard is fairly gentle in terms of gradient and hence the option to head down from there. The extra loop option to ride to the top of Mont Ventoux is more challenging and hard to resist if you’ve got as far as the Chalet though. I tend to do the final out and back climb to the top 50% of the times I do this ride. The ascent to the top is always emotional no matter how many times you have done it.

A 12km out and back up to the top – hard to resist?

Whether I go to the top or just call it a day with the climbing at Chalet Reynard I always grab a bite to eat or at least a drink there. The snack bar does a mean pizza and there is plenty of choice. From here it is time to put on the wind jacket for the super quick descent back down to Bedoin – the most celebrated side of the mountain as it is the classic Tour de France route.

Neapolitan pizza at the Chalet Reynard – anchovies anyone?

At this point, the climbing is done so enjoy the descent! At the bottom there is an option to cut the corner to head more directly back to the village in which we live – Mormoiron – or if I’ve got a bit of time on my hands a beer in Bedoin always welcome. I have hesitation in presenting this ride as an all-time favourite soul ride with or without beer and pizza.



Fidele Soul Rides – Gold Coast (Australia)

Michael Lister lives in a place called Paradise Point in Queensland, Australia. No doubt hard to leave ‘Paradise’ but when he does, his bike ride of choice takes him on a tour of the Gold Coast. Here’s the Strava link to the ride – https://www.strava.com/activities/4777672956

My soul ride takes in the Gold Coast hinterland and our beautiful beaches. I love the crisp clean air and no traffic before heading back to the golden beaches with a view up the coast. My ride starts with the “7 humps”. A series of rolling hills and what’s popularly known as “the wall”…but I ride down the wall so that’s OK.

Lower Beechmont is a popular climb with the locals. It climbs for 10km up to the bus stop. You’ll nearly always find riders sitting having a chat…and contemplating whether to head back down or continue the climb to “the roundabout” (12km) or Binna Burra (23km) with a nice little 1.5km, 15%er at the end.

This is a single day’s ride of 143km if I only go to the bus stop. But I sometimes make it shorter or longer but detouring, at any stage, to explore further or head home. There are many skyscrapers in the distance and plenty of beautiful people in the surf. There are many, many cafés and coffee shops along the coast. Popular with cyclists is Picollo at Miami, Caffene at Lands End. And they are both far enough apart so I can ride off whatever has tempted my taste buds.



Fidele Soul Rides – Great Dividing Range (Australia)

Geoff & Wendy Hastings rode the second stage of the inaugural Strzelecki tour in Australia from Albury to Melbourne. Both have travelled extensively in Australia but Geoff still found a new ‘soul ride’ riding from Traralgon to Warburton which he chronicles below.

Australia doesn’t really do mountains the way that the other continents do them. Not in height at least, with our tallest mountain being only 2,228 metres (7,310 feet) high. But it does do long mountain ranges with the Great Dividing Range stretching down the eastern seaboard for 3,500 km (2,200 miles). The divide attracts higher rainfall than other areas of Australia and is the home of some lush forests.

The southern end of the range attracts a climate that is a combination of high rainfall, warm summers and cool winters. This means that cycling through this area can be the chance to experience a uniquely Australian environment.


The Strzelecki epic from Ride and Seek has taken advantage of this by taking a route that goes right over some of the highest points of the Great Divide ( Mt Hotham) and then into other areas where fantastic mountain roads wind through spectacular eucalypt forests.

Certainly, the day that takes the rider from the town of Traralgon to Warburton on the southern edge of these mountain forests is a day that I would classify as a “soul ride”.

The day I am concentrating on is 130 km in length with about 1800 metres of climbing and it is a day of contrasts. Starting off on Australia’s southern coastal plain the route proceeds on quiet rural back roads. The roads roll along and almost unnoticeably gain altitude until you are in the forests of the Great Divide.

This is where, in my mind, the difference between cycling and other forms of touring really kick in. You move from the farmland quite dramatically into majestic forests with the dominant canopy tree being the tallest flowering plant in the world – the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans). You are enveloped in a world of giants that shelter the understory of lush treey ferns and other Australian natives. Even on hot, windy days it is cool and still down on the road.

There are some wonderful, winding descents with little traffic to cause concern but I would argue you are doing yourself a disservice if you concentrate on the descent and not the environment around you. Winding down through these forests, taking it all in and stopping occasionally to really appreciate the unique flora (and if you are lucky, fauna) is essential. Within the forests, there are small villages that cater brilliantly to Australia’s national addiction to good coffee. Eventually, you reach a rail-trail that takes you right into the town of Warburton under the shadow of mountains covered in temperate rain forest.


The end of the day is one for reflection and celebration in equal measure. Reflection on Australia’s unique beauty and a personal job well done. A local wine, as you are now surrounded by one of our wine-growing areas – the upper Yarra Valley, makes for a perfect way for friends to share stories of an exceptional day.

Geoff & Wendy Hastings


Fidele Soul Rides – Skyline Drive (USA)

Our fideli Jim Cox tells us why he considers the Skyline Drive (and the Blue Ridge Parkway) to be a soul ride for him.

Did you know there is a great cycling road that stretches 575 miles (925 kms) along a beautiful, lush mountain range? A road used by very few cars (no trucks) with no business traffic or commuters. Speed limits of 35 to 45 mph. And what if there was only one (that’s ONE) Stop sign over the entire 575 mile route, would that appeal? Sound like paradise?

Such a cycling paradise exists – in the US – and it’s called the Skyline Drive (105 miles; 169 kms) and Blue Ridge Parkway (469 miles; 756 kms), which are separated by only one Stop sign.

There is no highway more ideal for bicycling in North America than the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, a road built along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges in North America.

On the Appalachian Epic Ride, you will experience the beauty of old forests, the serenity of a road essentially reserved for you and your cycling friends, and abundant wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, red fox, gray fox, bobcats, wild turkeys, and much more.

Stretching from Front Royal, Virginia, south to Cherokee, North Carolina, the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway have a fascinating story. Most of the roadway, observation overlooks and park lodges were built during the Great Depression in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided jobs for building infrastructure projects across the US. Climbs are never steeper than 8%, the maximum that cars could handle in the 1930s, and there are lots of them.

From the lowest elevation of 649 feet in Virginia to the highest of 6,053 feet in North Carolina, the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway provide challenges – and rewards – every year to thousands of cyclists. Why not add this “wonder” to your cycling palmares!

Ride safe, Jim



Top 10 best coastal cycling routes according to our team

There is something truly special about a coastal cycle ride, complete with dazzling water views as the miles slide by. On our epic cycling tours, we get to experience some of the worlds best coastal cycling. Here are our top 10 routes from our epic cycle tours for your reading pleasure according to our trip specialists.

Cycling on the Sardinian coast

1. Sparkling Mediterranean views, colourful Bosa and superb local wines, Three Islands tour, Sardinia, Italy 

Cycling from Alghero to Cabras along the coastal line of northwest Sardinia, we will ride some of the best cycling routes of the island; a journey through 3000 years of Mediterranean history, touching the colourful Bosa on the way. Bosa is one of Italy’s most beautiful towns, with its rainbow of pastel houses a dream for your travel snaps.

The ride starts in one of Sardinia’s most beautiful medieval cities, Alghero, with its lively historic centre. From there you take a rolling road by the stunning coastline – under the wings of Griffon Vultures – followed by a brief hilly section, to end the day immersed in pastures and fertile cereal fields and the vineyards of the Oristano region. An unforgettable day, especially after reaching Cabras for a well-earned sip of Malvasia or Vernaccia di Oristano, the unique local wines. Enrico Casini

Corsica coast ride

2. Pink granite rock formations and coastal ridge riding, Three Islands Tour, Corsica, France

Having been part of all editions of the 3 Islands Tour in their entirety, there are many beautiful coastal rides with stunning scenery that I could write about. However, there is one particular route on Corsica from Calvi to Porto that stands out above the others. This day is my absolute favourite, and it begins literally at the start of the day as we leave the beautiful small and vibrant town of Calvi on an 82km ride with around 1370m of elevation.

Within just two kilometres we are riding on coastal balconies with views of the fantastic cliffs and rock pools below to our right, and equally stunning rock formations of pink granite, inland to our left. This quiet but beautiful road meanders and climbs gently for the first part of the day, before heading slightly inland and onto roads of slightly more challenging construction. Nothing to worry about here though as there is hardly any traffic.

After morning coffee we’re back on the coastal balconies and heading due south, the seawater becomes brighter and more glorious shades of blue. Meandering through tiny resorts we brush shoulders with some tourists, but not too many as we are well away from the large holiday destinations. Crossing the border between Haut Corse and the Corse du Sud we can begin to see the granite formations changing in colour from pink to red.

Later in the day we ascend and skirt around the UNESCO listed Scandola Nature Reserve to the cliff tops that almost completely envelope the tiny yet stunning coastal town of Porto. The views at this point are arguably some of the best seen on the whole tour. We have a great opportunity to stop and photograph the port, from different heights as descend down to our magnificent overnight destination.

My advice to any Ride & Seekers for this day is to not rush this beautiful ride, take your time and shoot some fantastic photos for your everlasting tour memories! The route is around 82km with 1372m of elevation. Richie Mitchell

3. Islands and spectacular Japanese bridges on the Shimanami Kaido, Samurai Tour, Japan

I can probably count on one hand the number of other “serious cyclists” I saw during our 10-day trip riding around Japan’s Shikoku Island. The vast majority use the bike as a means of transport and not so much by the aforementioned “serious cyclists”. But this doesn’t mean Japan isn’t a bike-friendly destination, the cars are small enough to be far less imposing on the road, the drivers are extremely courteous and respectful and the road surfaces and infrastructure are some of the best I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. Nowhere is this more evident than the Shimanami Kaido, 80km of pristine Japanese roads and cycle paths that crosses 6 bridges and 6 islands between Imabari on Shikoku and Onomichi on the mainland of Honshu.

Japan is an island nation and as you cross the Seto (narrow seas) this becomes incredibly evident. The area is actually a volcanic mountain range that was filled in by the sea when the polar ice caps last melted 50000 years ago. The network of bridges spanning this sea is a stunning engineering achievement that allows you to propel yourself high above the container ships and fishing boats, passing way beneath, as you head towards yet another island. Some have coastlines of rugged cliffs and rocks, some with beautiful sandy beaches. The route doesn’t just hug the shorelines though, we meander up through the forests into the inner hills before descending back to tiny fishing villages and towns with beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

And yet with all this natural beauty linked by engineering masterpieces I probably only saw enough “serious cyclists” to fill up the other hand. There were many tourists on city bikes with dresses blowing in the sea breeze, but I still felt a sense of privilege to be able to cycle this incredible route, and couldn’t help thinking that one day I will strike up a conversation with someone else who has ridden it, but that day may be a long time coming!

The cycling route can be ridden in either direction (from Imabari or Onomichi). It is well signposted and maintained, and the bridges of the route are accessed by ramped bridges with a gradual incline. Depending on your cycling level, it can be comfortably completed in a day. James Geen

Cycling off Venice

4. Island hopping from Venice Lido to Chioggia on the Caesar Tour, Italy 

The third week of our Caesar tour (London to Rome) is one for the ages as we ride from Lake Como to the Serenissima – Venice. Along the way, we take on the iconic Stelvio climb and then ride over the stunning Dolomites before descending down to the Po valley and on to Venice. Rather than stay in Venice itself, we base ourselves on the iconic Lido di Venezia that is one of the two barrier islands that serve to protect Venice from the Adriatic Sea.

This 11km long island, that is also the venue for the eponymous film festival, provides us with a novel coastal ride as we island-hop to the mainland and to the charming fishing town of Chioggia that is also known as ‘Little Venice’ and renowned for its beetroot! We start the day by riding the length of the island to catch the scheduled ferry to the other Venetian barrier island of Pellestrina. There are 4 main villages on pretty Pellestrina that are known for their colourful painted houses and large embankments.

What makes this coastal ride so novel is how we get from Pellestrina to the mainland. There is no onward ferry to get us from Pellestrina to the mainland and it here that our friend Mario comes in. When we were conceptualising the Caesar tour we were faced with the quandary of wanting to stay on Venice but not sure how to get off! Mario is a local fisherman who provides the seafood for our fantastic end of week meal at the Osteria Al Merca and had heard about our challenge via the owner. Every time we come through now he comes and picks us up from Pellestrina and takes us to Chioggia.

Thanks to Mario we have created a coastal ride that provides a really interesting insight into a side of Venice that few get to experience whilst enabling us to avoid the traffic and industry that are found on the more conventional routes out of Venice. On arrival into Chioggia we grab a coffee and a local tramezzina sandwich before riding down the coast to the Byzantine jewel of Ravenna. Dylan Reynolds

Tangiers lighthouse

5. Cycling the Mediterranean coast from Fnideq to Tangiers on the Conquest of the Moors Tour, Morocco

Travelling in magical Morocco will make you feel like time stands still. Travelling by bicycle here gives you a true sense of being off the well-beaten path. Our final days riding in Morocco is a real highlight of our epic Conquest of the Moors tour. We ride from our stunning beach retreat near Fnideq towards the Northern Mediterranean coast of Morocco.

Within a few miles, we are skirting around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, one of only two Spanish enclaves on the African continent, continuing onwards to Plage Dalia on the North coast. We have our coffee stop at Plage Dalia where we sample Spanish influenced seafood and snacks our friend Ahoud’s fish cafe. With the crystal clear waters calling, a swim is also an option for those looking for a dip in the Med.  From here we follow a remarkable coastal ridge road, beach hopping between Plage Kasar Sjir and Plage Oued Alain before our final ride into atmospheric Tangiers. Ben Weigl

Marco Polo coast road

6. A cycling paradise with dazzling sea views, Marco Polo Tour, Albania

Let’s face it, none of us, before going to Albania for the first time, would have thought of finding one of the most beautiful coastal paths in the Mediterranean. Well, get ready to be surprised by this corner of paradise for cyclists, a series of hairpin bends that you would expect to find in the Dolomites, are set in a mountain overlooking the sea in the wonderful Llogara park in southern Albania, on the Canale di Otranto. Mythical places that remind us of Homeric legends, but also where the sounds and morphology of the Balkans magically meet with the colours and warmth of the Mediterranean. So let’s get rid of prejudices and set off on a bike to discover this wonderful territory.

We leave the lively avenues of Vlora along a coastal path that initially follows the city beach and then continues along gentle cliffs and small seaside hamlets. After passing Orikum, we enter the park in a mountain landscape, after a memorable climb of over 15 km we reach the Llogara pass (1,050 m above sea level). From here we enjoy a wonderful panorama that sweeps from the coasts of Puglia to the Greek island of Corfu, to then dive into the exciting bends overlooking the sea that bring us back to the coast between olive groves and small villages clinging to the cliffs. The town of Saranda, in the far south of Albania, is the perfect place to end an unforgettable day. Marcello Usala

Hvar coastal ride

7. Crystal clear Adriatic waters, UNESCO sites and lavender, Marco Polo Tour, Croatia

Starting our day in Stari Grad (Hvar), we head straight towards the incredible Stari Grad Plains, a world heritage listed UNESCO site. The Stari Grad Plains, built in the 4th century by the Ionian Greeks, are agricultural drywall formations and shelters which are still used to grow grapes and olives today. From there we head through pretty port towns Vrboska and Jelsa and into the wilder centre of Hvar island, riding through pines and rugged rocky landscape.

As we turn and head towards Hvar Town, the final 20km of the ride brings with it jaw-dropping sea vistas and lavender fields. The route meanders through Brusje with its fragrant lavender fields (blooming late June/early July) and onwards with sensational sea views to either side. It is a feast for the senses as we head towards our destination of Hvar Town. We finish the day at the hip Hula Hula bar for sundowners and toast a wonderful day on the bike. Megan Reynolds

Cycling Cap Corse

8. The dizzying heights of Cap Corse, Three Islands Tour, Corsica, France

We leave Bastia behind heading North on the Eastern coast of Cap Corse, we ride a series of little ports, beaches and marinas before the climbing begins. The elevation begins to increase as we climb into the hills to the Northernmost point of Corsica where views of Ile de la Giraglia will await us. As we turn to head back down the Western side of the cape, the coastal views just keep coming. And it is spectacular. The route takes us along cliffside roads, high above the sea with breathtaking views.

The route takes in some of the islands most fascinating historical remnants, the Genoese towers. The watchtowers, built in the 16th century, were manned to signal the arrival of potential Barbary pirates. Fires were lit to communicate between the towers and with the surrounding villages. Some of the towers still remain today, of which you will see some fine examples along our route.

The route continues down the coast, taking in the incredible black sand beaches surrounding Nonza and onwards to finish in Saint Florent. Set on a sparkling bay, this medieval village is perfect for an evening aperitif overlooking the marina. Simone Scalas

Lunch on Lake Trasimeno

9. Cycle a real historical battlefield at Lake Trasimeno, Hannibal Tour, Italy  

“Cycling around the battlefield at Lake Trasimeno is one of my historical highlights of the Hannibal epic. Rare indeed is it to be able to walk (cycle!) through the exact location of such an iconic battle. but thanks to the ancient sources and the unique geography, we can!” Ben Kane.

On tour, we depart from Pienza (Tuscany) and ride past the noble vineyards of Montepulciano before we make our way to the site of one of Hannibal’s most famous and bloody battles, Lake Trasimeno. To this day, this battle is considered by some to be the greatest ambush in history, with 15,000 Roman soldiers losing their lives, with Hannibal losing only a mere 1500 by comparison.  The battle was reportedly of such proportions that the waters of Lake Trasimeno ran red for days with blood from the nearby battlefield.

In present times, there is still recognition of Hannibals greatest victory, with many information boards which mark significant sites and provide further information on the battle. For our guests on tour, we also picnic at the lake itself during our day ride and contemplate the events of this historical place. From there, we continue through the Umbrian countryside to our destination of Todi, a majestic hilltop town.

10. Tiny coves and temples on Noto Peninsula, Samurai Tour, Japan

Our detailed GPS routes allow riders to get off even the quiet coast routes and be led through the laneways of little fishing villages. The inhabitants here continue to live with the rhythm of the ocean as they have been for centuries. Smooth, fantastically engineered roads greet you as you weave along the coast with expansive views of the Sea of Japan. You will cycle in and out of small coves tucked in among the cliffs dotted with fishing craft.  Temples and shrines decorate the most beautiful hilltops and rock outcrops. Once off the bike, unwind in one of the hotel natural hot springs which are often placed where they afford a slower more contemplative coastal view. Finish the day sampling a wonderful collection of the local fruits of the ocean, decorated so beautifully, it can be said that we dine on ‘edible art’. Ben Weigl

We hope you have enjoyed our round-up of the best coastal routes. Let us know in the comments if you have ridden any of these or give us a heads up on your favourite coastal routes!

 



Tour Specifics – APPALACHIANS


PREPARING FOR YOUR ADVENTURE

Appalachians – Maine to North Carolina



GENERAL TOUR INFORMATION


CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL DETAILS OF HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR UPCOMING CYCLING ADVENTURE




MEETING POINTS & TOUR SPECIFICS


STAGE 1 | BETHEL, ME to GETTYSBURG, PA

(Sunday 30th May – Saturday 12th June) 

For Stage 1 the official start point is at the Bethel Inn in Bethel, ME at 1400 on Sunday, May 30th.

From the airport, we can also pick you up from downtown Portland on the way to Bethel if you arrive earlier. Our recommended hotel in Portland is the Hampton Inn Portland Downtown – Waterfront . The travel time to Bethel is 90 minutes.

Bethel Inn
Bethel Inn MN

The nearest airport for the tour is in Portland, ME, and we have a pick up from there at 1200 on May 30th. We’ll meet you in the baggage claim area.

The stage end is in Gettysburg after breakfast on Saturday, June 12th. Our final hotel is the centrally located Inn at Cemetery Hill. We have a shuttle to the Dulles International Airport on the morning of the 12th. The journey time is around 90 minutes.


STAGE 2 | GETTYSBURG, PA to ASHEVILLE, NC

(Saturday 12th – Saturday 26th June) 

The meeting point for stage 2 is at the Inn at Cemetery Hill at 1500 on Saturday 12th June. We have a pickup from the Dulles International Airport at 1200 for those that fly in on the day. The journey time is around 90 minutes.

Please note that whilst we suggest bringing lights for the entire tour they are imperative on the Blue Ridge Parkway which has a series of tunnels that we need to pass through.

Inn at Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg PA

TOUR CONCLUSION | ASHVILLE, NC

(Saturday 26th June) 

The riding part of the tour ends in Cherokee, NC around lunchtime. From here we shuttle you back to the vibrant town of Asheville for our final night. The last hotel is Four Points by Sheraton in downtown Asheville. After breakfast on Saturday, June 26th we will have a shuttle to Asheville Airport which is around 30 minutes drive away.

Four Points by Sheraton, Asheville NC



Dalmatian Peka with a glass of Dingač

Setting up our Epic Adventures is very much a process that evolves over the course of time. Generally, it starts with a conversation about how cool it would be to follow in the footsteps of a particular historical figure to then poring over maps as to the feasibility of doing it on a bike! If the idea strikes a chord we then find ourselves conceptualizing a route and then trying to join the dots between places of interest along the way. Before we know it the trip specialists are searching out the road less travelled, visiting possible lodging options and searching out eateries that give a sense of the place we are visiting.

With our Marco Polo Cycling Tour the process was very much assisted by the fact our trip specialist Marcello had been running tours down the Dalmatian coast for many years and had studied in Venice over 2o years ago. The tour was very much a realisation of a personal dream to create a tour with Marco Polo at its core and we were more than happy to make it happen. However, there was still a need to test some of his recommendations before we added them to the roster. This was the case with a family-run restaurant in an abandoned village on the island of Hvar that Marcello thought would work well on the tour. It is fair to say Dylan didn’t object too strongly when asked to try it out when on a family holiday in Hvar!

The test run was a resounding success and everything about the experience fitted with our desire to sample local fare and get a sense of place through doing so. Our host and chef Berti took the time to introduce us to his family and explained how he ended up running a biodynamic restaurant specialising in ‘peka’ in an abandoned village on the island of Hvar. It was clear that this dining experience had all the ‘ingredients’ to be added to the list of culinary highlights across the tours we run and our visit there in September proved that to be the case. The meat and seafood peka dishes served up were sublime and so we thought we thought we’d give you more of an insight into what ‘peka’ actually was.

The peka is a traditional dish from the Dalmatian region of Croatia. It’s a relatively simple dish of meat and vegetables, placed in a large pot or pan with a metal lid called a cripnja, and cooked for several hours in the embers of a fire. Much of Croatian cuisine celebrates cooking over the fire, with its grills and skewers, and the peka is part of this great tradition. What appears a fairly rudimentary cooking method produces the most succulent results, and over the generations, the process has taken on its own ritual, with many older homes having a specific place where the peka is prepared. It is often served when there are guests in the house, and restaurants in the area will typically have several versions on the menu, with different choices of meat and fish.

The Peka recipe

– Light the fire at least an hour before starting to cook, and place the cooking pot near the fire to warm.
– Cut the meat or fish into large pieces and place in the pot. Lamb and veal are often used, as is fish and octopus.
– Cut the potatoes and any vegetables you wish to use into large pieces and nestle them in the pot along with the meat.
– Season with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little paprika.
– When you have plenty of embers in the fireplace move them to one side using your fireside shovel, and place the peka pan directly onto the hot stone, making sure the lid is securely fitted.
– Then shovel the embers over the top of the pot and cook until the potatoes are golden and the meat tender and juicy, which will take an hour for fish dishes, and longer for tougher cuts of meat.

The right amount of seasoning and perfect cooking time comes with experience, like so many things in life!

As is often the case the best accompaniment to a dish that is very much a part of its local culture, is a local wine. Here are a few of Croatia’s most fabulous reds and whites. We were very lucky to have our newly qualified sommelier Marcello on the tour to manage the wine kitty 🙂

Dingač is known as the ‘King of Croatian wines’. The Dingač region is on the Pelješac Peninsula in the Dalmatian region and was the first wine-producing area in Croatia to become a protected zone in 1965. The Plavac mali grape, that grows on its steep southern slopes, creates a wine that is dark red, full-bodied and generally strong, typically with an alcohol content of 15%.

Pošip is a robust white wine, golden in colour, and a great accompaniment to fish Peka, including the fabulous octopus peka. The grape is grown mostly on the island of Korčula, and also goes well with the light cheeses produced in the area.

Plavac mali is a ruby red, rich and velvety wine. Its excellent quality has made it one of Croatia’s most exported wines, and a popular choice to pair with game and meat dishes.

Faros is another a top-quality wine produced from the Plavac mali grape. The grapes used to create this dry red are grown on the island of Hvar, the variety having been originally cultivated in the area by the ancient Greeks.

Bogdanuša is a variety also grown almost exclusively on the island of Hvar, producing a dry greenish-yellow white wine. It has a fresh taste, with fans detecting the presence of the lavender that grows alongside it on the Stari Grad Plain.

Prošek is a sweet dessert wine produced in the south of Croatia, predominantly Dalmatia. Because of its production method that requires seven times more grapes than other wines, only a few hundred litres are made each year, making good quality versions more expensive. In Croatia it often makes an appearance on special occasions such as weddings and christenings, but don’t fall into the trap of confusing it with Italian Prosecco!



Our Lightened COV19 Terms & Conditions

Dear Ride and Seekers

With the COVID-19 -coronavirus still dominating the headlines I wanted to reach out to let you know our thoughts on the situation and attempt to assuage any concerns you have. Like you we have been watching closely to determine what impact the new virus means for our families, friends, and businesses.

From our perspective, we are committed to running any of the tours on the Tour Schedule in 2020 that we are permitted to, and our medical committee deems it safe to do so. At this point in time, we have given the green light to 3 tours in 2020 – Hannibal – Across the Alps, Marco Polo – Venice to Athens, and Strzelecki – Sydney to Melbourne. We decided to defer the iron Curtain and Conquest of the Moors Tours to 2021 under advice from the committee.

With regards to the tours due to run we appreciate that this is a dynamic situation that is changing daily though. After months of changing plans, we are not naive about the changing nature of this pandemic and are fully accepting that we might still need to cancel these tours. Indeed, our revised terms & conditions are geared to provide flexibility to change plans up until 14 days prior to departure this year and beyond.

In terms of proactive measures we have taken, the points below relate to tangible changes we have made to the tours. Our COVID19 ‘On Tour Health And Safety Protocol’ also provides more details about some of the specific measures we have in place and the references we have used to put it together.

  • Creating new route options for bypassing the most ‘at risk’ areas that the tours travel through if required.
  • Taking provisional hotel bookings along the ‘new’ routes until we can make a definitive call on the situation.
  • Putting in place clear protocols on tour to reduce the risk of contamination with a particular focus on snack and lunch stops.
  • Revisiting our risk assessment strategies in terms of dealing with illness on tour and the emergency procedures we have in place.
  • Researching the information available from health authorities about COVID-19 and keeping abreast of updates from governments, airlines, and insurance companies.

In regard to the tours that will run in 2020 and into 2021 we believe that offering increased booking and cancellation flexibility is key and we invite you to read our updated Terms and Conditions that designed to this end.

At this point, it feels like we need to take some time to see how the situation will play out, and hopefully, our revised terms provide both reassurance and a practical approach in this context.  My ‘glass half full’ side also believes that the upcoming tours will benefit from fewer crowds in the places we visit, as was found by our cyclists on the  Maori tour in New Zealand back in February.

For now, it is important to keep abreast of the information from our most trusted sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-  https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ – and World Health Organisation are a good place t0 start – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

I hope this position doesn’t come across as making light of this serious situation but rather offers a practical approach for both those who wanted to both postpone tours and those determined to be on the tours they are already booked on.

This situation is very much top of mind for all of us at Ride and Seek, as well as yourselves,  so I invite anyone who wishes to tee up a chat with me to send me an email to dylan@rideandseek.com. Please do not hesitate to reach out anytime.

Here’s hoping that this situation will calm down sooner rather than later and we can all go back to doing what we enjoy most and ride our bikes in amazing places!

Kindest regards to you all,

Dylan

Dylan Reynolds
Founder & Director at Ride and Seek
P  +33 66 696 3431 (Office GMT+1:00)
E  dylan@rideandseek.com
W  www.rideandseek.com

photo



Meet the inspiration behind our first Aussie Cycling Epic

Our Strzelecki Tour takes us across the Great Dividing Range from the Pacific to the Southern Ocean and takes in Australia’s most iconic climbs. But who exactly was Strzelecki?

Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, to give him his full title, was a Polish-born explorer, scientist and nobleman. Prior to landing in Australia in 1839, he’d briefly served in the Prussian Army, and was an experienced explorer with several expeditions under his belt. He initially set sail from Liverpool, England to New York in 1834, where he began an epic geological trip in the Americas, which included discovering copper in Canada, and travelling the west coast from Chile to California. He visited Cuba, Tahiti and the South Sea Islands before eventually arriving in Sydney.

With an ambitious dream of conducting a geological survey of Australia, Strzelecki’s expeditions would see him cover over 7,000 miles in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. While studying the mineralogy of the country he was the first person to discover gold and silver near Hartley and Wellington, but Governor Gipps, in office at the time, asked him to keep his discovery a secret, to avoid a gold rush and to maintain discipline among the convict population. Strzelecki agreed, and in doing so apparently forfeited his own claim to a fortune.

His expedition led him through the Snowy Mountains, where he climbed the highest peak in Australia, naming it Mount Kosciuszko, after Polish leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko was a worthy namesake, considered a national hero not just in his native Poland, but also in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and the USA. He fought on the US side in the American Revolutionary War, and is honoured with statues in several US cities – to fight against the British and then have a mountain named after him in a British Colony is pretty impressive! If Strzelecki had marked his map with the local indigenous name of ‘Targangal’ however, Australians would have had a far easier time of spelling out their highest mountain for the last 160 years.

Strzelecki then travelled south through the area he named Gippsland, after the Governor. After passing the la Trobe River things took a turn for the worse and the party were forced to abandon the horses and minerals and make a dash for Melbourne. They reached it on the edge of starvation and exhaustion, but thankfully alive, in May 1840.

He was accompanied on his trip by James Macarthur and James Riley, and it was mainly thanks to their Aboriginal guides Charlie Tarra and Jackey that the group survived. Cycling trivia fans might be interested to note that James Riley was the great-grandfather of one of Australia’s greatest cyclists, Russell Mockridge. Mockridge won cycling medals around the world, and even beat the pros in Paris in 1952 – a ‘humiliation’ which caused organisers to ban amateurs for years. He competed in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, turned pro the following year, and was one of only 60 riders to finish the 1955 Tour de France, out of a starting line of 150.

Strzelecki then travelled Tasmania (or Van Diemen’s Land as it was then known) for two years, discovering coal while he was there, before returning to Australia. He eventually set sail back to England in 1843, managing to squeeze in further expeditions in China, the East Indies and Egypt on his way back. On his return he published his findings to great acclaim from the scientific community. His snappily-titled Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land won him praise from Charles Darwin himself, and was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.

He produced the first large geological map of New South Wales and Tasmania, which is still on public display at the Royal Geographical Society in London. He later became a British Citizen, and in 1869 was knighted, receiving the title of Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG), an honour specifically for services to the British Commonwealth, most notably his work done as a famine relief agent, which he refused to accept payment for and it has been estimated that the various works in which he was involved in during those horrible famine years saved 200,000 lives.



The Science Behind Making the Perfect Espresso

Espresso lowdown

The Espresso Grading

The Science

Espresso is approximately one ounce of a dark, smooth, heavy-bodied, aromatic, bittersweet coffee drink topped by a thick reddish-brown foam of tiny bubbles.  The foam, or crema, that captures the intense coffee flavours is as important as the liquid coffee underneath.

In more technical terms, espresso is a colloidal dispersion produced by emulsifying the insoluble oils in ground coffee. These oils don’t normally mix with water, but under the intense pressure (9 to 10 bars – 130-145psi) and heat generated by commercial espresso machines, these oils are extracted from ground coffee, formed into microscopic droplets, and suspended in liquid coffee concentrate. It is this emulsification of oils, which forms the crema, that distinguishes ‘espresso’ from strong coffee.

Crema markedly alters an espresso in terms of its mouthfeel, density, viscosity, wetting power, and foam-forming ability, making it the single most important indicator of espresso quality. If there is no crema, it means the oils have not been emulsified, and hence it is not an espresso.

Crema also captures the volatile vapours produced during the espresso extraction process. These aroma molecules, later released in the mouth as the espresso is consumed, find their way to the nasal cavity through the pharynx. They also attach themselves to the taste buds and slowly release volatile compounds until after the espresso is long gone. This accounts for an espresso’s aftertaste, an important quality indicator.

The remarkable thing about a properly made espresso is that maximum flavour is extracted from the ground coffee while much of the caffeine and excess acids are left behind. The high pressure of the extraction and the small volume of water that passes through the ground coffee is mostly responsible for this feat.

The information I found came from a website called josuma. If you’re interested in an even more detailed overview click here for A Crash Course in Coffee Science

How we grade our tours?

Espressos are synonymous with cycling and have been an integral part of pretty much every tour we’ve run. There is no better way of getting the group back together than a well-timed coffee stop and the guide teams take great pride in scouting out the best options when they are setting the tours up beforehand

On our Hannibal Tour for example we get to sample the respective delights of the espresso across 3 countries – Spain, France, and Italy. We’re a bit of a traditionalist in terms of our preference and will generally always lean towards the Italian option particularly in the morning when a cappuccino is hard to beat. That said we still appreciate the merits of the French and Spanish options.

It seemed only natural that our grading system for the tours should be based on the coffee. Indeed, it is titled the espresso grading system with the logic being the harder the tour the more espresso’s you’ll need. At the opposite end of the scale, we consider our easiest tours to be ‘cappuccino’ tours.

“Cappuccino”Ride and Seek Bike Tours Espresso Cup

Who am I? I’m relatively fit and am comfortable with steady hills that are less than 750m in length.
Distance: 30-50km (18-30miles)
Altitude gain: 200-500m
Time in the saddle: 1-3 hours
Terrain: Flat to undulating

“Due espressi”Ride and Seek Bike Tours Espresso Cup

Who am I? I ride my bike on a regular basis either for fitness, to commute, or just for fun. I enjoy an active lifestyle, as well as a physical challenge.
Distance: 50 -70km (30-45miles)
Altitude gain: 600-1000m
Time in saddle: 2-4 hours
Terrain: Undulating terrain, with hills up to 2 km in length.

“Tre espressi”Ride and Seek Bike Tours Espresso Cup

Who am I? Fitness is a central part of my life. I ride my bike on a weekly basis and am comfortable with rides of 2 hours or more at a relatively strong tempo. I like a physical challenge and like to get my heart pumping.
Distance: 70-115km (43-71 miles)
Altitude gain: 1000-2000m
Time in saddle: 3-5hours
Terrain: All terrain, with hills averaging 3-4km, but up to 10km in length.

“Quattro espressi”Ride and Seek Bike Tours Espresso Cup

Who am I? I ride my bike an average at least 160km per week and enjoy riding at a fast pace for an extended period of time. I love to push myself to my physical limits.
Distance: 100-160km (60-100miles)
Altitude gain: 1500-4000m
Time in saddle: 4-8hours
Terrain: Whatever is put in front of me!


Conquest of the Moors Food Safari

The culinary experience is a fundamental element of our tours and is one of the reasons we are so excited by our Conquest of the Moors Cycling tour. On our Epic cycling tours, we travel through multiple regions, experiencing the very best of each locale. Eating on tour not only refuels us but gives us a true sense of place as you travel to each special region of a country. Our routes are primarily steered towards riding the most picturesque, quiet roads, but often we also route plan to experience a particularly wonderful dish, wine, or restaurant.

With this in mind, we give you three delicious recipes, chosen to represent some of the incredible yet distinct cuisines of three special countries that feature on this tour – Morocco, Spain, and Portugal.


Morocco- Fruity lamb tagine (serves 4)

Lamb tagine

What trip to Morocco is complete without a tagine? Subtle in flavour and so satisfying, this dish can be used anywhere from on a weeknight to a dinner party. We have also frozen excess quantities of this dish and confirm that is freezes well for those who like to prepare ahead.

For those who prefer a vegetarian option, we have also made this dish without the lamb but added chunks of potato and zucchini (courgette). It was just as delicious.


Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 600g lean diced lamb
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, quartered lengthways and cut into chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp ras-el-hanout spice mix
  • 400g can chopped tomato
  • 400g can chickpea, rinsed and drained
  • 200g dried apricot (sultanas/raisins can be substituted)
  • 600ml stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • Large handful of almonds

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Heat the oil in a casserole pot (one that preferably has a lid) and brown the lamb on all sides. Scoop the lamb out onto a plate, then add the onion and carrots and cook for 2-3 mins until golden.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more. Stir in the spices and tomatoes, and season. Tip the lamb back in with the chickpeas and apricots (or raisins). Add a handful of almonds. Pour over the stock, stir and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cover the dish and place in the oven for 1 hr. If the lamb is still a little tough, give it 20 mins more until tender.
  4. When ready, leave it to rest so it’s not piping hot and serve with couscous or rice. If you have some, you can also sprinkle on a handful of chopped fresh coriander before serving.

Spain- Andalusian Huevos a la Flamenca (serves 4)

This specialty is from Seville and would make an excellent breakfast or lunch. Add some fresh bread (gluten-free if desired) and a green salad to make it a meal. For vegetarians, omit the ham and chorizo.


Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100 grams serrano ham, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes (about 750 grams), peeled and chopped
  • 8 eggs
  • slices of chorizo sausage (gluten free if coeliac or intolerant)
  • cooked peas
  • cooked asparagus tips or a few cooked green beans
  • strips of tinned red pimiento
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped parsley

Method

  1. In a frying pan heat the oil and add the chopped ham, onion and garlic. Sauté a few minutes, then add the tomatoes.
  2. Continue cooking on medium heat until tomatoes are very reduced, about 15 minutes.
  3. Oil four (or eight) oven-proof ramekins and divide the tomato sauce between them. Break one or two eggs into each ramekin. Put chorizo slices around the eggs and sprinkle on a few cooked peas, asparagus or beans.
  4. Criss-cross the eggs with strips of pimiento. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and chopped parsley. Put in a hot oven (200ºC) until whites are set but yolks still liquid, about 8 minutes.

Portugal- Pastéis de Nata (makes around 40)

Portougese tart

If you have ever been to Portugal, the chances are that you have tried the traditional custard tarts, named Pastéis de Nata. These incredible little custard tarts are so delicious they will not last long. If you would like to cheat a little, you could use pre-prepared puff pastry and start at step 4 in the method for preparing the pastry.


Ingredients

For the pasteis de nata dough

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons 1ll-purpose flour, plus additional for the work surface
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 225 grams (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth
For the custard
For the garnish
  • Icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
  • Cinamon

Method

For the pastry
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds.
  2. Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use the scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking to your work surface.
  4. Brush the excess flour off the top of the dough, trim any uneven edges, and, using a small offset spatula, dot and then spread the left 2/3 portion of the dough with a little less than 1/3 of the butter being careful to leave a 1-inch plain border around the edge of the dough.
    Neatly fold the unbuttered right 1/3 of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks) over the rest of the dough. Brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left 1/3 of the dough. Starting from the top, pat down the dough with your hand to release any air bubbles, and then pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Brush off any excess flour.
  5. Turn the dough 90° to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the dough and flour the work surface. Once again roll it out to an 18-inch square, then dot the left 2/3 of the dough with 1/3 of the butter and smear it over the dough. Fold the dough as directed in steps 4 and 5.
    For the last rolling, turn the dough 90° to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface of the dough.
  6. Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge of dough closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight. (The pastry can be frozen for up to 3 months.)
Make the custard
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup milk until smooth.
  2. Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F (100°C). Do not stir.
  3. Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.
  4. Remove the cinnamon stick and then pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot. Whisk in the yolks, strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. The custard will be thin; that is as it should be. (You can refrigerate the custard for up to 3 days.)
Assemble and bake the pastries
  1. Place an oven rack in the top third position and heat the oven to 550°F (290°C). Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into scant 3/4-inch pieces. Place 1 piece pastry dough, cut side down, in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size). If using classic tins, cut the dough into generous 1-inch pieces. Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable.
  2. Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs in the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/16 inch, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan. The pastry bottoms should be thinner than the tops.
  3. Fill each cup 3/4 full with the cool custard. Bake the pastries until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes for the mini-muffin tins, 15 to 17 minutes for the classic tins. Remove from the oven and allow the pasteis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm.
  4. Sprinkle the pasteis generously with confectioners’ sugar, then cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. They taste best when are eaten the same day.
Bon Appetit. Leave us a comment or send us a photo of your creations with the hashtag #rideandseekers