Tag Archives: Cycle touring

Touring Italia!

The food coma started to set in… Only 10km from Pienza. We crawled into the small yet lively town. As our bikes bounced over the cobblestone streets, the atmosphere was lively. It was Saturday afternoon and the bustling markets were still thriving. The smorgasbord of Italian delights had overwhelmed us from our lunch stop. We preceded to find a shady spot under some trees and passed out next to our bikes.

Italy Touring route
Taking the back roads through Italy

After seeing some of Croatia 4 years ago, cycle touring through her neighbor Italy, has been a dream for some time. Every tour is a chance to experience and meet the locals and landscape while enjoying the food grown from their land. That extra meal and snack can always be justified when clocking up the kilometers each day! Hollie and I rode around 500km from near Bologna to the outskirts of Rome. 

On tour. The best kind of way.
On tour. The best kind of way.

What we didn’t have when starting out each day we picked up from local shops and markets. Food tastes better when it’s bought from the grower and the owners of shops – especially when asked for in another language. Yes, we mastered a few phrases! An instant level of rapport and connection was made when we used Italian to get what we wanted. Of course using your hands added to the experience!

Streets filled with history and delicious
Streets filled with history and delicious

An unexpected and favorite place we stopped for lunch one day was Grieve. Seriously the best Gnocchi and Ravioli ever tasted! A beautiful balance of flavor and texture washed down with some vino. Responsible amounts of wine, of course were essential so that balance wasn’t compromised. An Italian breakfast consisted of an espresso and cometto (Italian croissant). A fairly rich start to the day but a delicious one at that. “Keep right!” sounded strange at first but important nonetheless as we pulled out onto the roads after lunch with full bellies.

Transporting the essentials
Transporting the essentials

We continued along some incredibly beautiful countryside enjoying the smaller things that often made the difference. I remember clearly these moments, for example a smile and wave from a farmers tending their crops or a curious group of kids checking out the bikes and we had a few interesting looks! The chance of them meeting two Kiwi’s on tour was probably small, plus Hollie did look pretty good in Lycra. Sometimes it probably looked like an Icebreaker commercial as we peddled our way South. We decided to ride as far as Orte and catch the speedy train into the heart of Rome.

Transition points can be challenging
Transition points can be challenging

Rome was huge. It was not even peak season, however we got a good taste of the city as a whole including seeing the museums, art galleries, exhibitions, the Pope and local relics. Sometimes good old fashion people-watching was all the entertainment we needed as we ate lunch on the Spanish Steps. The shopping was pretty good! I resisted the urge to buy a leather fanny-pack and opted for the leather jacket and Italian suit instead. In the back of our minds we visualised how much space we had left in our luggage and how realistic it was wearing it all on the plane to save space!

We had the fortune of acquiring a crevice between a wall and an elevator at the base of an apartment building. It was perfect for stashing out boxed bikes while Hollie and I escaped the city for a few days and checked out the Almalfi coast. Air B&B was useful to find affordable accommodation in just the right location. Once we arrived on the coast we settled into a B&B and hired a scooter which was AWESOME! We clocked up over 100km exploring the narrow roads which lined the stunning coast. Colorful houses checkered the cliffs above small beaches

More art history than you could shake a stick at.
More art history than you could shake a stick at.

It’s incredible what two passionate adventurers can pull off! I challenge you, the reader to choose a bike for part of their trip next time instead of the bus or car. You might surprise yourself how much more full-filling your holiday experience could be. Stay tuned for the video… If you have any questions on cycling and touring, just ask. If you’d like to sponsor our next one, then that’s great too!

Cycling around some Alps

One of the reasons for taking on a trip like this was to get myself in the best shape possible prior to donating one of my Kidneys to Dad. Anyone can get in a car and enjoy this part of the world, however the experience becomes so much richer on many different levels using a bike. As I edit this trip together I am counting down the days before I can snowboard again. I’m in Whistler, Canada and it’s been almost 5 weeks since the transplant and I feel pretty good to ride next week!

The video below is a documented video of Christina & I cycling around part of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. We enjoyed surprisingly nice weather considering the coast’s damp reputation, that was until the last day arriving home in Wanaka.

Powered by copious amounts of snacks including One Square Meals, Whittakers Chocolate and assorted nuts we claimed 1026km over 8 1/2 days.

Wanaka – Makarora – Lake Paringa – Fox – Hokitika – Arthurs Pass – Methven – Farlie – Omarama – Wanaka

Thank you to all our friends and family who met at the Federal Diner in Wanaka and supported us. Enjoy the 6 minute and 30 second to showcase the awesome trip we did.

Alps Loop from Richie Johnston on Vimeo.

1026km Alps Loop

It seems we sometimes loose awareness of how beautiful this country really is. As Christina and I rode past native bush, along the West Coast and over mountain passes or senses were over-whelmed by pure awesomeness. The smells of moisture evaporating from the roads surface, thick forests and silage reminded us every kilometer how rich this experience is. Apart from the black & white stealth bombers (Magpies), the trip was a relatively smooth one.

As I did no training for the ride, I was a little anxious with Christina’s ‘keen’ itinerary to average 120km per day. The encouragement we gave each other – not to mention the countless RWC supporters giving us plenty of room and honking their horns was fantastic. With an All Blacks flag secured to my bike, I soon found the best way to create maximum ‘flappage’, while ensuring that it was free from my hungry chain.

Considering we rode along a coast renown for over 2m of rain each year, we stayed relatively dry. Apart of course from the epic hill climbs where sweat was pouring from us like bullets… “Be sure to keep breathing…” remarked Christina the Yoga instructor/massage therapist as we climbed higher and higher into the Southern Alps. Riding from Hokitika to Arthurs Pass was one of my favorite days. Climbing too 900m above sea level into a head-wind, we checked into a backpackers that reminded me of France – this was a real treat.

We were half way and our fitness was were it needed too be. Sunny days and incredible views bought us into Methven where we arrived in time to watch the rugby. A super windy day as we past Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki – Super exhausting day. However some superb Lamb Shanks at Omarama from Kahu Cafe prepared me for the final day – up over Lindis Pass and home to Wanaka.

Greeted by friends, family, wind, rain and even the Otago Daily Times – we made it too Wanaka 1026km and 8.5 days later. What a fantastic way to see some of NZ’s finest country and meet the people who live in small towns. We past about half a dozen other cyclists and hopefully inspired others to take on a similar challenge.

Video to come…

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Photos and words by Richie Johnston, WordPress