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Lee Comerford

An Andalusian Cycling Experience with Eat Sleep Cycle

By | South Spain | No Comments

Last week saw our first tour of the season in Andalucia – home to the mildest ‘winter’ climate in Europe and it proved to be one of the top European winter cycling destinations to escape the winter blues.

We spoke to Eat Sleep Cycle tour leader & partner Lee who was responsible for the arduous task of making sure everyone had a good time whilst riding their bikes in the sun. He gave us his impressions of the Southern Spanish region and what the cycling is like there.

Andalucia – Cycling In the Foothills of the Sierra Nevada

My first impression of the area was that Andalucia has the most relaxed atmosphere I have ever experienced. People love being outdoors and can be found wandering around or sat in the squares enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Everybody is friendly and welcoming.

An Andalusian Cycling Experience - Sierra Nevada Cycling Tour

We spent 4 of the 6 nights in Orgiva in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range as part of our Andalucia Cycle Tour. A distinctive feature of this area is the white villages built into the hillside – it’s a jaw-dropping sight! While we were there we also cycled up to the highest village in mainland Spain, Trevelez, which is located at 1,400 m and is famous for it’s dry cured ham because the air is dry and sweet in the mountains. So of course we enjoyed a Jamon Serrano bocadillo on the best sun bleached balcony in town! All day we enjoyed smooth winding roads with a perfect road surface at 1,000 m elevation in the sunshine.

“We had a small friendly group of three: one Canadian gentleman, one Swiss lady and an American lady. The delivery team consisted of Lluis, who is from Granada, Spain and myself.”

2,000 m Daily Elevation

In this area there are many hillsides with unusual sloping gardens which are used to dry out and sweeten grapes for tasty raisins (which of course, we included in our ride food) and dessert wine that we enjoyed during dinner. We cycled around 100 km with 2,000 m of elevation each day which sounds like a lot, and there’s not too much flat in that particular area, but the climbs are not steep, often averaging between 3-5%

An Andalusian Cycling Tour - 2000m Daily Elevation

Worry Free Descents

The descents are so much fun! To be tearing down them in December without worrying about a wet corner was simply exhilarating! There is usually good visibility around the bends so it’s great for cornering practice and we did plenty of that. We were treated to a different route every day and didn’t repeat anything. We also did not need any van transfers, which is important to Eat Sleep Cycle as we much prefer that our guests spend time riding and not sat in vans.

Dry Andalusian Air and The Unforgettable Juan

In Andalucia the air is much drier than in Girona and the region also benefits from a far milder climate. My bike was as clean after a weeks riding as it was when it left Girona. Also, Andalusian people are some of the most open people in the world and accept you in right away. For example, as we reached the small village of Guájar-Faragüit, an elderly man relaxing on a chair tapped the seat next to him, I sat down and we enjoyed a brief but life changing chat and I’ll never forget Juan and the lovely village that he was born in!

An Andalusian Cycling Experience with Eat Sleep Cycle

Benefits of Local Cycling Guides

Our local guide Luis added so much to the tour. One particular day he took us on a personal tour to Grenada, showed us the Alhambra from all the best view points, took us to his home and we went inside a cave house. It was unbelievable.

Cycling In Andalucia – Some of the Best in Spain

I think Andalucia has some of the best cycling in Spain and is an untapped territory for most cyclists. I wouldn’t like to ride here in the summer as the temperatures would be stifling and it would be full of tourists but I definitely intend to ride here much more in the winter!

If reading about Lee’s Andalusian adventure has you dreaming of those smooth roads and sunshine then why not take a check out our cycle tour of Andalucia or some of our our other south Spain cycle tours?

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

High Mountain Cycling Tour

6 Steps to Prepare for a Cycling Tour in the High Mountains

By | Epic Tours | No Comments

If you’re planning a cycling tour in the high mountains, like the Pyrenees, the Alps, or the Dolomites, use our 6-step guide to prepare for your trip.

CYCLING IN THE HIGH MOUNTAINS: THE GUIDE

When you signed up for the tour you probably had an ambitious training plan which would get you to an optimum fitness level. Often, work, family and life in general all get in the way of this.

1. Rest is Best

First things first, do not worry. The most important step is acceptance of your state of fitness because it is possible to enjoy a tour in the high mountains with any fitness level.

You must travel to the tour well rested. Do not attempt to cram in last minute training because there will be no physiological benefit in this short time frame. Continue to spin the legs and do your normal social/weekend rides.
Any intense block training programs should end 1-2 weeks before the tour to allow you to recover and rest.

2. Bike set-up

The bike you use for the tour should be treated to a full race service. Although you will not be racing, conditions in the high mountains are harsh on your bike, equivalent to a race. Descending large descents wears out brake pads and heats up rims, rough roads and rain can result in punctures if your tyres and tubes are not serviced/replaced, bearings are very hard to replace remotely and you don’t want that creak for 2 hours climbing each mountain, do you?! It’s money well invested on your own bike, or go for a rental bike which will be set-up and serviced perfectly for the conditions.

3. Bike components

Gearing is the most common mistake in the high mountains. You will always want more gears, so go for the maximum: Compact crankset (50-34) and large cassette (11-32).

Carbon rims should be used only by experienced riders, who can give the rims adequate time to cool down. Disc brakes can be safer in wet conditions.

Think about your contact points: saddle and shoes. Use what has worked best for you in the past and don’t make any last minute changes or upgrades. If you rent a bike, bring your own saddle and pedals.

4. Nutrition

Related closely to training and recovery, your diet influences how you perform and your enjoyment of the tour. “You are what you eat” has never been a truer statement.

Try not to drink too much alcohol on the run-up to the tour and keep your diet consistent to what you know works well.

On the tour stick to nutrition that you have tried and tested. It’s fine to reach for a gel at a time of need but if you don’t normally use them, do not start the day with them. Eat as much normal food as possible and only reach for the sugary treats when you have to.

Straight after your ride try to take in a protein shake or snack straight away. This is when your body needs it most and is essential to effective recovery for the next day.

5. Kit

Our favorite saying is; “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Weather in the high mountains can change quickly and forecasts are not that reliable. Even if your tour takes place in the middle of summer, at the top of the Stelvio pass (2,800 m elevation) it is cold all year round.

Pack cycling kit for all conditions, including shoe covers, long fingered gloves, a buff and a very good waterproof jacket. Laundry is normally done every other night on tours so bring at least 2 of everything.

Your daily ride bag (for the support vehicle) should contain a full-set of kit which you will cherish after a downpour.

6. Know your ride & Pace Yourself

Effective pacing on a long hard ride can be the difference between finishing the day on the bike or ending it in the van. You will often see the key climbs written on the top of a professional riders crossbar so he/she knows when to get in the right position or just when the suffering will end!

If the ride involves 3 climbs then its best to leave the all-out effort to the last one. If you know your threshold power or heart-rate, you should be staying below this to ensure you do not burnout too quickly. Don´t let other riders tempt you into the red too early, know your limit and ride within it.

We hope these 6 points help you to enjoy your epic mountain cycling tour this summer! If this has got you excited about the possibilities of cycling in the mountains, why not take a look at our tours in Italy, the Pyrenees & the Alps?

Gravel Cycling Girona Ridley Ignite Bike

5 Reasons Why It’s Time to Try Gravel Cycling

By | Cycling | No Comments

GRAVEL CYCLING FOR ROADIES

Let’s face it, once a roadie always a roadie. Or not? Read on to see why you should seriously consider gravel cycling as a new discipline to add to your repertoire of excuses to ride and reasons to go to new places.

1. Gravel cycling can be really fast.

If you are a roadie you are probably a speed junkie – hurtling down descents at uncontrollable speeds and trying to do the same up-hill. On the right gravel tracks, and with the right set-up you can pull upwards of 30 Km/ hr. The gravel bike you’ll want in this instance is basically a road bike with disc brakes and wider tyres, so you can still get aero, tuck into the drops for descents and lean into the corners, with the added joy of keeping those tyres the right way up!

2. Zero traffic

This has to be experienced to be appreciated. Imagine a road training ride without a single car, lorry, even pedestrian. Only the tweeting of birds and that lovely mechanical sound from your bike. Not only does it make for a far more enjoyable ride, it’s far safer too. You get points with your better half because you are partaking in a safer style of cycling.

3. Many more routes and combinations.

Have you run out of roads to ride? Come on, we all get tired of the same road leaving town or slog back home. Imagine taking away the need for your route to be tarmacked. Having wheels on your bike to enable you to jump up on the curb and skip through a park or around that dodgy roundabout (put your posh carbon rims to one side for once). You will see where you ride in a completely different light. From our Hub in Girona, we ride the gravel paths around Rocacorba, a famous road climb in the area. On road, there is one way up and one way down. You see the mountain from the same angle every time. On the gravel bike, you can duck and dive around the beautiful landscape taking it in from every angle. It’s unreal!

4. You may not actually need a new bike.

We all love a new bike and we hate to break the n+1 rule but we will. Around Girona, we ride many of the gravel routes on our Ridley road bikes. The trend in road already is wider rims and wider tyres. With a 28mm rim and nice wide tyre, setting the pressure right will have you hurtling down gravel paths like they are a road. For the more technical ascents and descents you may need more clearance for a wider wheel, so why not have a through axle set-up that you can change from road to gravel wheels. BOOM – 2 bikes in one!

5. You can still ride in a group

One of the drawbacks of mountain biking is it takes away the social aspect of riding together, which we love on the road. 2 abreast is not possible on a technical trail if you’re going up or down. But on many gravel trails, it is still possible. In Girona, large groups take to the gravel trails for their Sunday social rides.

We’re sure that if you try you too will get the gravel bug! In Girona, we have gravel bikes for rent and can show you the best trails. Contact us to find out more, or check out our Girona Gravel Adventure. 

Cycling in Spain Top Destinations

Top 10 Must Ride Cycling Destinations in Spain

By | Cycling | No Comments

Spain: A Country of Bucket List Cycling

There’s much more to cycling in mainland Spain than sunshine and smooth roads. From the highest paved road in Europe (Pico de Veleta in the Sierra Nevadas) to the green countryside of the País Vasco, Spain’s vast and diverse landscape will have you begging for new adventures. Be sure to tick off these cycling destinations from your bucket list.

1. Girona

There is no doubt that Girona is the cycling capital of Europe. Home to hundreds of professionals, the old town has a charm that is hard to not fall in love with. Riding is the perfect mix of flat, rolling countryside and some challenging climbs in the foothills of the Pyrenees. If you want character, culture and good food alongside high-quality cycling, look no further than Girona.

2. Andalucia

South Spaniards are very laid back (and who can blame them in the roasting temperatures of the Summer). But visit Andalucia from October through to May and you’ll have a spring in your pedal stroke. The rustic towns of Antequera & Ronda both provide a great base to ride from and are easily accessed from Málaga airport. Visit Andalucia for your taste of authentic Spain.

3. ‎Picos de Europa

Hugely underrated, the Picos de Europa or “Peaks of Europe” were named by Columbus for being the first mountains he saw on his return from America. They are beautiful rock formations comparable to the Dolomites. Don’t miss Lagos de Covadonga, a stunning series of lakes over 1,000 m up in the sky. Puerto de San Glorio is a hidden gem of a climb that will leave you wanting to find more “off the radar” climbs and there are plenty of those in the area.

4. ‎Cantabria

Los Machucos was the climb which sparked rider protests in the 2017 Vuelta España. It’s brutal kicks are rewarded by stunning rural views all the way up. Cantabria is home to many other feature climbs of the Vuelta such as the Peña de Carbaga and Puertos Alisas & Ason. There’s no wonder that when the Vuelta reaches Cantabria things get exciting.  Close proximity to Santander & Bilbao is helpful for logistics but you are better off avoiding the big cities and staying out in the lovely countryside.

5. ‎Sierra Nevada’s

You are just as likely to see a skier in the Sierra Nevadas as you are a cyclist. Often used for altitude training by professional cyclists, you’ll need your climbing legs on because it’s up or down with not much flat! There are plenty of authenticly Spanish places to choose to stay in the region, from the cultural hub of Granada to tiny villages in the mountains.

6. ‎Asturias

Oviedo is a bustling city with all the culture of Asturias and its wonderful food, friendly people and interesting architecture. Ride for just 5 km south and you meet what can only be described as a theme park for cyclists. Scores of short steep climbs scattered over several valleys, the Big One being the Angliru. Often stated as the hardest climb in cycling its something every cyclist should do, but just once.

7. ‎Basque country

With its own language and Spanish-Basque and French-Basque regions, the Basque country is a mixing pot of cultures which creates the best food in the world. Rolling green hills line the distance with characteristic white and red chalets. It’s a treat on the eyes and lushness that of course warrants some occasional rainfall, typical of the north Spain area. Whilst the climbs are not long, some are steep so you can easily rack up plenty of climbing metres over a days ride.

8. Costa Brava

The Costa Brava runs from France down to Blanes (a town just northeast of Barcelona). It’s one of the most unspoilt coastlines in Spain, with no billboards or high rises to distract from the jaw-dropping views. Easily accessible from Girona and coastal towns like Begur and the more popular Tossa de Mar, the winding and hilly road that hugs the coastline provides hours of sun-kissed enjoyment. Whilst traffic is never that bad, in the winter you’ll be lucky to stumble across other cyclists, let alone cars.

9. ‎Calpe

Whilst Calpe is not the most charismatic cycling location in Spain, it makes it onto the top ten list due to its popularity for training camps with professional teams. Miles in the sun on smooth roads are sometimes all people look for and this is a good place for that, with affordable hotels plentiful. Test your legs on the likes of the Cumbre del Sol and the Col de Rates.

10. Andorra

In at number 10 (because it’s technically its own country and not actually in Spain) the tax haven of Andorra is packed with slopes to delight the most hardened of cyclists. Every year Andorra hosts La Purito, the toughest sportive in Europe, and thousands flock to attempt 5,200 meters of elevation in one painful ride. Andorra is best enjoyed over 2 or 3 days (or 1 if you’re feeling sadistic). Must ride climbs are La Gallina, Collada de Beixalis, Col D’Ordino, La Rabassa and Els Cortals D’Encamp.

Have a favourite region to ride in that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below. If you’ve been inspired by any of these locations and want to find out more, contact us and we’d be delighted to help.

Ridley Helium SLX

First ride: Ridley Helium SLX

By | Cycling | No Comments

The brand new, custom painted Ridley Helium SLX had been sat staring at me for 3-weeks. I’m a bit funny with riding a new bike without a proper fitting session and I simply hadn’t had time. But when Tiesj Benoot won Strade Bianche on it, I dropped everything, put on the nearest cycling clothes (lucky for you no photos of that catastrophe) and headed out into the Girona sunshine.

A new bike normally feels strange on the first ride. Especially because this time, I decided to trial a new saddle. I’ve had some numbness troubles downstairs and determined to fix that, will test the Eat Sleep Cycle Fizik saddle fitting programme (Test any saddle before buying). I am starting with the Antares which is wider than my previous Arione. Idea being the sit bones rest on it rather than that important nerve which eventually causes numbness. For the first few rides, the sit bones hurt a bit, but that’s a sign of a good position.

In addition, this was the first time I’d used Rotor cranks. Since they are manufactured in Madrid it seemed fitting to have them on our rental and race bike fleet. I know, you can’t fault Shimano, but I wanted to give it a go. I’m not sure if it’s the shape of the Rotor cranks or if they genuinely are better but they felt good from the offset.

Other upgrades on the bike include the legendary Fatboys, the creation of Drew Gill at Spin On These (http://ridefullgas.com/). I could write a blog just on these wheels which have broken the age-old idea of narrow tyres and high pressure. The opposite results in more comfort, more grip and a better looking bike! Finished with the new Ultegra shifters, brakes and derailleurs, what is left is a very light and attractive looking bike.

From the off-set the bike felt stable, if not a little high at the front. The Helium has a reasonably large stack and I´m used to riding slammed race bikes. Due to a combination of back problems and more riding in the high mountains, I’m open to giving a higher front end a go.

Instantly I noted great responsiveness when accelerating to beat the red lights out of town. The bike felt super stiff. Once into the countryside things started to speed up and in the aero position, I was pushing 50 km/hr easily. A great start!

It was the first climb that signed and sealed my decision to ride the Helium this year. As the bike is the race choice of our sponsored race team “Rocacorba Racing” it only seemed fit for that climb to be Rocacorba. At nearly 1,000 meters it’s tough, with gradients of over 14% in places.

As soon as the slope steepened the bike just seemed to ride away from me, begging to be ridden faster, jump out the saddle on the bends instead of cruising around and keep the pace up all the way to the top. Wow, the bike is light and yes I noticed a big difference from last year’s race bike (a Guerciotti).

Chatting to several other professional riders in Girona who also ride the Helium, we´ve heard plenty of stories of the bike being under the legal limit of 7 Kg. But us amateurs don´t need to worry about that and every gram in our favor is potentially more kudos!

All that was left was the ride down and a combination of the Fatboys and bike stiffness made that very enjoyable. The slightly higher stack was not detrimental to the descent.

Last and not least, the bike looks great. Ridley´s custom paint jobs are top notch, with a full colour palette and several designs to choose from. I went for a stealth look, with a touch of Rocacorba Racing blue, but below you’ll see just how adventurous you can be with it…

Nutrition-for-Cyclists

Nutrition For Cyclists

By | Cycling | No Comments

All cyclists have felt it… A tiredness that stops legs from spinning, head dipping, dizzyness, confusions and a general unhappiness. Such a sudden change from “wohooooooo I´m the Tour de France champion” to “I hate cycling!” How can this be?

We asked Gemma Sampson, Accredited Sports Dietitian & Performance Nutritionist (Dietitian Without Borders) for an expert opinion.

What is the bonk in nutrition terms?

 

It’s like running out of fuel when you’re driving in a car. Your body stores carbohydrate as glycogen in the muscles or glucose in the bloodstream to use as fuel during exercise. When you bonk, your blood sugar levels are low and you’ve used up most of your muscle glycogen.

You’ll feel lethargic, lacking energy, sleepy, slightly confused with jelly legs, reduced power and a higher heart rate. It may be difficult to talk and you may feel quite emotional.

What should you do when it happens?

 

You need to get your blood sugar levels up quickly, so it’s important to eat something with carbohydrate that’s quick and easy to digest. For example an energy gel, dried fruit or some sweets. Follow this up with an energy bar or something more substantial to keep you going longer.

Is it dangerous? Should you find food very quickly?

 

If your blood sugar levels get extremely low it can be dangerous to your health. But the biggest risk, particularly when riding on the road is the possibility of crashing or injury when feeling lightheadedness, dizzy or confused.

Getting some carbohydrate into your system quickly and getting your blood sugar levels up to normal will help improve your concentration to keep you safe on the road.

How to avoid it?

 

Prevention is always better than cure! Eating carbohydrates in the form of foods or drinks during your ride will help keep your blood sugar levels up and maintain your glycogen stores.

Exactly how much you need will depend on how long or how hard you are riding, as well as how trained you are.

For rides over 60 minutes aim for 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour. Make a note to start eating early and often, every 20 or 30 minutes rather then forgetting to eat or drink until it’s too late.

To learn more about nutrition with Gemma Sampson visit her website, dietitianwithoutborders.com

Girona cycling news

Vision for a new type of Bike Shop

By | Cycling, News | No Comments

It’s just under 4-weeks until the opening of our new Girona Hub and you are all invited! https://www.facebook.com/events/157923644829501/

The Hub, as we are calling it, is the culmination of learning from 2 previous smaller shops in Girona, hours of debate, benchmarking, research and endless sketches by our more creative third, Louise. We love keeping our old sketches and notes, because often, our initial concept which is based on pure imagination and passion, is the one we end up going for. As soon as we start thinking about the cost of rent and reform, persuading the right brands to be there, ideas normally get downscaled and it’s easy to lose the ability to think big. For the Hub we are thinking very BIG.

Everyone at Eat Sleep Cycle is a passionate cyclist and has their own childhood memories of their local bike shop. A place they went to gaze at a bike they couldn’t afford, ask about the latest frame material (oooooh carbon fibre!), or persuade the mechanic that their bike is more important than the other 8 he has to do, to make that weekend race.

What is happening to our poor local bike shops? Just like many other digitised industries, it’s getting harder and harder to make a buck and many are forced to close. The brutal truth is a bike shop can not sell clobber and compete with online retailers. It’s definitely time to rethink the local bike shop, so much so that we´ve come up with a completely different name for ours.

The Eat Sleep Cycle Hub will be an inviting space to hang out, meet your friends for a ride, or chat to us about anything to do with cycling. You can break your legs in our “Pain room” or enjoy a massage in our “Recovery room”. Top class mechanics are on hand to solve any problems with your bike. If you do fancy a new bike, make sure it’s the right fit with our Retul fitting service. Or maybe you just want to try another discipline and rent a gravel or mountain bike for one day. Whether you are a pro, weekend warrior, or just starting out, we want to meet you. This is not an elitist center for the fittest but a place to go if you love cycling.

Plan your dream holiday escape anywhere in Europe with our trip planners. Of course there will be bike clobber, but it will be carefully selected by us so you’ll only see the best and latest stuff on our shelves. It will be like a cycling heaven! Is that thinking big enough?!
Of course we couldn’t deliver all these speciality services without working with other local businesses and experts and that’s what makes the ESC Hub a collaboration with the community. Through our club and mens/ womens race teams we will continue to give back to the community and develop cycling in Girona.

Don’t take my word for it. Come and check it out for yourself! https://www.facebook.com/events/157923644829501/

Els Angels Girona Cycling Climb

Cycling Climbs of Girona: #2 Els Angels

By | Cycling | No Comments

Els Angels, often mistakenly called “Hells Angels” by Girona newcomers (a simple error in pronunciation, not down to its difficulty…read on) is the climb that got me to Girona. Tired of poor training routes around my work for lunchtime escapes, I was determined to do any job that had good riding on the doorstep. So when I zoomed in on the windy switch backs of Els Angels in Google Maps, the base of which happened to be 500 m from the office, I knew that job was for me.

Funnily enough, when we (Louise and I) moved to Girona, the very next day was the annual hill climb competition up, you guessed it, Els Angels. It’s part of the annual Girona Cycling Festival run by Bike Breaks, the best cycling festival I’ve seen and I love to participate in every year.

The night before the competition I thought I better check out the climb. Louise had really bad cramps that week. Foolish me had booked an apartment on the 4th floor with no elevator and that had aggravated her legs. So it was a lone recce of a climb that was to become an integral part of my life.

The first thing that hit me is it is literally 5 mins out of Girona center. I didn’t even have to stop at a traffic light to get there. A common complaint from locals is it isn’t enough time to warm-up. Anyhow, there I was at sunset in June cruising up this beautiful wooded climb thinking “I’m in paradise…..ah yes, a race tomorrow, must take note of bends…and stuff”. A few things came to light. It’s reasonably long at just a smidgen over 10 km. It flattens off and even descends at least twice. That’s a nightmare for keeping a high power going but a lovely break if you are cruising up. It has a bit of everything – long straights, switch backs, hidden sections in trees and open sections staring out onto the mountain range. It’s a truly special experience.

You know you are at the top when you see a large cross. If you are feeling strong at that point you can do the 500 m extra to the Santuari of Els Angels where you will be treated to stunning 360 degree views.

The day of the hill climb came. I pushed Louise to the start line, she could only pedal with one leg. Our hopes of her winning the posh watch (to pay our first months rent) were blown so the pressure was on me. But there was no way I could beat these local guys. Great excuse to pay the man a visit though, its my favourite place to be.

I ALWAYS go off to hard on TT’s, especially up hill. But on a short one that isn’t always bad, it depends how badly you can bury yourself within your own pain and suffering! I just went as fast as I could, span those pedals at the highest cadence I could whilst pushing as hard as I could. I wasn’t looking at any numbers which all would have told me to stop. At the top I collapsed, you could tell I’d tried hard put it that way.

When I was called up for first place I couldn’t believe my ears. With a time of 22:40 I’d managed to secure the watch. We’d be staying in Girona after all.

Girona Cycling Els Angels Hilll Climb Granfondo

Last June was my 3rd Hill Climb competition. It never gets any easier. Though the climb itself only averages a measly 3%, when you go full gas it really hurts! I have beaten that first time by over a minute, now at 21:32 (14th on Strava with a pretty prestigious crew). Its my claim to fame, one of the only races I’ve ever won and a piece of suffering I like to re-visit every year to check I’m still cycling enough.

VITAL STATS

Distance: 10.1 km
Average grade: 3.0%
Max. Grade: 8%
Altitude at the top: 414 m
Elevation difference from the bottom: 344 m

Club Ciclista Eat Sleep Cycle

Eat Sleep Cycle’s 1 year Anniversary

By | Cycling, News | No Comments

So much has happened in the first year of Eat Sleep Cycle that for the first time in my life looking back actually slows time down. “Were we really painting the walls of our first shop the night before it opened just one year ago?!” I have never enjoyed reminiscing so much!

Yesterday around 60 cyclists descended on our Girona HQ to celebrate one year delivering amazing cycling experiences: 10 Pyrenees trips, over 30 Girona trips, hundreds if not thousands of bike rentals. But much more than that it was a day to celebrate with friends, loyal clients who have been with us since the start and anyone simply in town who likes riding bikes.

From the very start we set out to create a different type of business. At the core of what we do are the tours and bike rental but Eat Sleep Cycle means much more than that to us and hopefully the people that come and meet the community. The weekly social evenings and rides have brought locals, tourists and even non cyclists together. New international friendships are made, epic bike rides are planned and more people have more fun.

One of the early social nights. These days upwards of 30 people come along!

I’m sure that all new businesses have funny stories about how they got to where they are today. I sometimes wonder how many of those are kept secret and at what point they can be told!

We started with 7 bikes purchased on credit cards and stored in our apartment. When a client was in town they would call me and I would run down to the street, inviting them in and explaining we are new and looking for a shop…

We ran our first trip in August 2016 by recruiting friends. We rented a van, booked the cheapest accommodation we could find and set out into the wilderness. At the time Brian was still a reporter and had to stay back to finish some articles. He’d booked an apartment with one room less so Louise and I spent the night on the floor of the kitchen next to the noisy fridge (He claims this was intentional to prepare us for the first months in business; backs to the wall but staring at the stars!). I was determined not to switch it off to protect the mornings orange juice. The blow-up mattress was completely flat by the morning!

Day one of our very first tour! Girona to Biarritz, August 2016

From our small savings we found a 30m sq shop and got to work painting, drilling and squeezing in 20 bikes. Clients would constantly bump into themselves or our bikes but still seemed to return to us. This first shop was opened on November 11th 2016 and that marked the date of our anniversary yesterday.

Six months later and we opened our HQ just across the road. The shop had been on the market for a long time and it was only the three of us (Louise, Brian and I) who persuaded the lovely gentleman Jordi that we were the reliable people he was looking for. We have now become good friends with Jordi and his lovely wife. We found local superstar Boris; an outstanding mechanic, creative whiz and all around incredible person. Rien from Belgium completed our 2017 team perfectly; mechanic, web designer very strong cyclist.

The opening of the new HQ, June 2017

Between Brian “breaking” into hotels to find coffee for our clients the next day, Lou making a minor error in the route planning meaning an extra Pyrenees climb for our otherwise exhausted clients and me hurtling that first rental van around the switchbacks without strapping the contents down, there have been many challenging moments. One thing I am sure of is not the importance of these mistakes but how we react, deal and learn from them when they are made.

Hopefully this explains how we have come so far in such a short period of time. Our genuine social motivations, continuous improvement and a multi-disciplined team, each person bringing skills and different personality traits; together forming something much bigger than the sum of each of us.

Next year we want the Anniversary ride to be even bigger. We’ll probably need a rolling road closure to do that but we’re already planning that. We’re heading to the Dolomites and Picos mountains on our tours and the Girona bike rental operation is expanding too.

Thank you for being a client, a friend or just reading this blog!

Trans Picos Angliru

North Spain will surprise you

By | Cycling | No Comments

I must admit I did not know what to expect from our recent reccy to North Spain. I’d heard that it rains so much that riders race with an aluminium front wheel whilst having a carbon rear one, so I knew it would be green. I was in for a very pleasant surprise.

Louise and I packed the ESC van and embarked on the 8-hour journey from Girona. Once out of the rolling hills of Catalunya there came 3 hours of nothingness. Just when we needed a change, it came – we entered the beautiful Rioja region; vineyards now showing red and yellow Autumn colours, the light at bouncing off them and windy smooth roads through the fields. We arrived at Solares, a sub-district of Santander. When we couldn’t find anywhere to eat (I was definitely becoming “hangry”) we dropped into a corner pub and perched on the bar. The man smiled gently and got to work serving us the best damn beer we’d tasted and club sandwich which Louise still claims is the best she has ever eaten. The immediate hospitality from this man and other people in that pub set the scene for our wonderfully friendly stay in this relatively little-known place.

We rode the Peña Carbaga at sunrise, which has stunning views of Santander and the rugged coastline, one of the regions special features. In the afternoon we headed into the Oriental Mountains (which we knew very little of before our friendly barman the previous night) and crawled up the Los Machucos climb, the one the riders protested about in this years Vuelta. I’ve never wished more that I had a compact, at-least a semi-compact, just why would I consider such a ludicrous stunt with a standard crank?! But what a reward at the top! 360-degree unbelievable views and the descent back down was pretty fun too. Following our ride we checked into the Palace (no really, that is the name of the hotel), an old restored, well, Palace which oozes posh but with super friendly down to earth staff. Everywhere you look in this building there is a 500-year old wooden beam or ancient painting. We fell in love the moment we walked in.

The next day we drove along the coast and entered the Picos mountains. Whilst I try not to compare mountain ranges (each one is unique and deserves its own identity) these can be best described as being like the Dolomites; pointy rock formations shocking to the eye and providing treats around every corner. Just like the Dolomites, you rarely ride up them, but skirt around them on the hills surrounding them taking in the views. The Lakes of Covadonga were a treat. At 1100m, the climb up there just gets better and better. The hotel had warned us that the road was closed for maintenance but it was our only shot so we had to try. As we arrived the security guard was turning away a disgruntled car. He looked us up and down and said “a subir” basically meaning “get on with it”. Cycling is most definitely in the culture in Northern Spain and we felt at home on our bikes, proud to walk into cafes in our skin-tight lycra and stinking of the hard work done.

Everywhere we went local people stopped to speak with us and wanted to tell us about the next wonderful place we must see. We met a Basque couple interested in how things are going in Catalunya. A man with a horse. Cyclists out on a ride wanting to exchange phone numbers. Many barmen. Everyone was just so friendly and welcoming.

Our final stop was Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. From the outside it’s a big city but once inside the old town we felt right at home. We found a hole in the wall for dinner, which boasted a 10 Euro 2 course meal (with Rioja wine) and was bursting with happy people. It was perfect. In the end it was hard to leave the city, only a 5* castle and the chance of an epic 4000 m elevation ride would tempt Louise away. The castle would be the ideal spot to finish our trips, the ride an epic ending to the cycling. And so we were to tackle the one and only Angliru, often cited as cycling’s hardest climb. Louise had sent me up the Ermita de Alba earlier in the day (that of course had to be reccied) which has a lovely 30% ramp at the top, so let’s say I was warmed up. We nailed a tortilla bocadillo at the bottom and just went for it. If you want to meet your match on a mountain I’d say this is the place to go on your bike. I won’t try to describe it any more than that, it has to be ridden to be believed.

We drove the 9.5 hours back to Girona with smiles as big as our faces and buzzing about the possibilities of trips in North Spain.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in then get in touch or check out our Picos de Europa Tours.

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