Training Preparation for your Epic Cycling Adventure

Riding through the Dolomites on Caesar

Deciding to take part in a Ride and Seek tour is a commitment to high adventure; it is also a commitment to yourself, other group members, and your friends and family. It will be a memorable adventure that will extend you in unexpected ways, giving you a real quality of life experience as well as a huge amount of fun. It is fair to say that the better prepared you are for your cycling adventure, the more you will enjoy the experience.

There is no set template for training but one principle will always hold sway. This relates to being consistent with your training. There is little long-term benefit from blitzing your training blocks and then having big breaks between the blitzes. Better to work off the premise of building up your fitness over a period of time through regular riding. In the context of our multi-day tours, we also recommend incorporating back-to-back days on the bike as part of your training as a way of replicating the flow of the tours themselves.

Looking down in Italy from Col Agnel (2744m) on Hannibal

Proper preparation will give you more enjoyment, and a  sense of achievement. Training is a big part of that preparation, but there are a few other things that are just as important. Tip number one is to negotiate with your stakeholders – family, and friends – and be open about what the trip means for you, and importantly, the time commitments involved in training prior to the event.

While we are talking about stakeholders, there is another consideration, safety, particularly when descending. I’m all in favour of enjoying the thrills of fast descents but you can have just as much fun at 80% of your maximum downhill speed as you can flat out. Descents around the world vary and are designed differently and it is easy to misjudge cornering speeds. Being a long way from home is also not the best place to let your downhill ego take control both on tour and training for one!

It’s worth thinking about the implications of being part of a group. Cycling can be a very solitary pastime but it is also a wonderful social activity. You will find that the interactions you have with the group will add a great deal to your enjoyment. A bit of give and take, mutual support both on and off the bike spread the happiness bugs and builds connections.

Pont Julien on our Local Adventure in Provence

Science has rapidly advanced our understanding of training, however, you can train “scientifically” for your tour and still get it wrong. We need to be discerning and do the sort of training that is appropriate for our event, and that is quite possibly very different from how you might train at present. Employing a ‘coach’ with a clear understanding of how to use wattage as a guide can be invaluable. Angus Burrell from FTP Training can help with personalised coaching. 

Angus Burrel FTP Training
Angus Burrell from FTP Training

Each tour requires the ability to ride consecutively for up to 6 days before a rest. If you choose the Hannibal tour you will also need the ability to ride tall mountains. If Napoleon is for you, then being comfortable on longer rides with the possibility of headwinds is what you train for. And if your preference is for a 2 cup tour on the lower difficulty spectrum you will still be looking to saddle up for multiple days in a row.

A couple of things may conspire to prevent you from doing the most appropriate training. One is the tyranny of Strava! Forget personal bests and being competitive with mates. Long and slow is the way to build the sort of endurance you need to flourish on these tours. One day of intensive work in your weekly or 10-day training cycle by all means, but no more. Most of us are time-poor and we compensate by going harder. When I train for these events I plan back-to-back days on the weekend riding with slower mates.

Being comfortable on the bike for extended periods is very important. Proper bike fit, good quality nicks, stretching and core strengthening work all pay big dividends. Recent saddle design changes have led to great improvement in comfort, particularly for women.

In a Nutshell

No mountain is insurmountable if you do the training 🙂

–  Rest. This is when your body adapts to the training load and adjusts to handle higher workloads. Increasing training load without increasing rest leads to poorer performance. Plan a 4-week cycle of gradually increasing distance then have a week with 50% less riding. Increase distance in the next 4-week cycle.

How to ride tall mountains when there are none nearby to train on?  Find some long hills, about 3- 5 minutes of climbing. Climb in a very low gear, spinning as close to 100 rpm as you can. Descend, then repeat seated but using the biggest gear you can, cadence between 55 and 60. Gradually repeat the number of efforts. Every third effort, do it standing in a big gear.

When you get to train in the mountains, start climbing in a relatively easy gear and spin. Towards the top, try and change to a harder gear and alternate standing and sitting. Break the climb into segments and focus on riding that segment well. Monitor and observe what is going on and focus. Match your breathing with pedal strokes. Relax the upper body and smile, it works!

Remember to taper and not arrive at the start of your tour completely smashed. Also, don’t underestimate the effect of jetlag, it will affect your performance so arrive a couple of days prior to the event if you can.  Get an aisle seat on the flight and walk/stretch often.

Thanks to Kieran Ryan who rode with us on Vietnam Untouched and has been coaching cyclists around Australia for more years than he can remember!

– Do you want more help with your training? Our training partner Angus Burrell of FTP Training ( can help in this regard. Angus has worked for many years across the cycling world coaching athletes in all disciplines of the sport. Angus offers a remote coaching platform so regardless of where in the world you are he can support your training goals. Angus has extensive experience bike packing and touring all over the world. He is in a unique position to fully understand the demands of riding day in and day out. Angus has developed a 6 week & 12 week training plan to set you on your way, he is also available for personalised coaching to bring you to your epic adventure in the best shape possible! Contact Angus directly at:


Ride and Seek’s Tips for travel in 2022

Considering taking a trip this year? Read Ride and Seek’s guide to travelling in 2022, covering insurance, tests, and choosing the right companies!

Travelling in the pandemic has looked different depending on where you’re from and where you’re going. While travelling is an inherently bold act, the need for caution along with boldness has been a difficult balance to strike. Ride and Seek design and run epic bicycle trips all around the world, so our own sense of adventure and boldness is perhaps higher than the average tour operator.

As a company that has operated responsibly throughout the pandemic, we feel it’s partly our role to offer travel advice to anyone considering booking a trip in 2022 — even if that trip isn’t with us!

The whole world is out there and while it’s fine if some people want to wait a little longer before they venture out, we hope this guide can offer practical tips and reassurances to those of you who are already planning your 2022 adventure. If you decide you’d like to head out on one of our Epic Cycling Adventure Tours and you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Everyone Feels Differently About Travel During Covid

Firstly, it’s important to remember that while there may be some absolute value of safety when travelling during covid, we don’t really know what that is. This means that the sense of safety and security is largely a subjective thing, seen through the lens of different countries’ news outlets, different ages, pre-existing health conditions, etc.

In our experience, adventurous travellers are a little more considerate of other cultures and ways of life than those who don’t travel very much. This is simply a by-product of getting out into the world and meeting different kinds of people. Remember that everyone has had a different pandemic experience; this will help you navigate your travels better.

Always Check Travel Companies’ Terms and Conditions

The pandemic didn’t start yesterday, so travel companies don’t have a good excuse for not changing their terms and conditions to accommodate these strange times we’re living in. While not all travel companies have the flexibility to offer incredibly relaxed reschedule and cancellation policies, almost all of them should at least try to make sure that their policies are customer friendly.

Look for lenient cancellation policies and anything else in a tour operator’s messaging that implies they are happy to accommodate last-minute changes due to travel restrictions, positive covid tests, or any other complications that arise. And if you’re in any doubt about the policies, don’t be afraid to ask.

Shop Around for Good Health and Travel Insurance

This advice is good for any travel, regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic. But travel insurance with good healthcare cover is especially important right now. Even if you usually throw caution to the wind, we highly recommend investing in especially comprehensive cover.

As Ride and Seek’s tours often travel through several countries, the insurance cover needs to cover different laws and regulations in different countries’ infrastructure. If you are visiting several countries in one trip, make sure you’re covered for this!

Travel with Companies Who Have Operated Throughout the Pandemic

While it is completely understandable why some specific tour operators haven’t been able to work during the pandemic, there is an undeniable learning curve to running a tourism company during covid. There has been a lot to learn over the last two years and companies who learned on the job are much more likely to have done the practical tests and hard work required to ensure their tours and experiences run without a hitch (or very few hitches, at least).

So, if you’re in any doubt, read a company’s blog and look on their social media to see how they functioned during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Tests Before and During Your Trip

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll all be swabbing our throats and our noses for a while yet. While PCR tests will likely be a prerequisite for long-haul travel for the foreseeable future, it’s also a good idea to pack several rapid-antigen tests too. While many countries will offer lateral flow tests for free or for an affordable price, there aren’t any guarantees, so if you know where you can get some in your own country, we advise bringing several tests with you, just in case.

Pre-Travel Logistics

Somewhat linked to PCR tests is the additional pre-travel logistics required on the run-up to your trip. While we have always had to sort out the various Visas and travel insurances required to travel, many countries have additional paperwork requirements to ensure things are as safe as possible for both locals and tourists.

By all means, do a little research before your trip, but any good tour company will have done most of the work for you, so don’t be afraid to call or email to ask for advice.

There are so many more things to say about travelling in 2022, but the main point we haven’t covered yet is for you to make sure you have an incredible time! Travel is an absolute joy and a privilege, and all of the additional logistics and worries about traveling during a pandemic may distract some of us as we head out into the world on our next adventure.

So, remind yourself to have a wonderful time, to make all the requisite preparations and to then relax and enjoy your trip. If anything we’ve said in this short guide has inspired you to travel with us, you might like to consider a couple of our upcoming epic and mini-epic cycling trips, such as our Berlin to Budapest Bike Tour in August and our Paris to Saint Petersburg Bike Tour in July.

We hope we’ve offered some helpful advice with this guide, but we also hope we’ve emboldened a few readers to stop dreaming and start actively planning their next adventure! 2022 has so much to offer if you can just reach out and grab it!

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.


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!

Our Updated On-Tour Protocol for COVID-19 (2023)

Covid 19 image


With the WHO ending the global emergency status for Covid-19 on 5th May 2023, countries are now being asked to manage the virus in the same way as other infectious diseases. We have consulted the guidelines in the countries we visit, and updated our Covid-19 protocol in order to keep all our guests safe and minimise the risk of illness on tour.

Through our previous experience, consultation with our medical liaison officer, and governing body recommendations, we have a framework for how we will operate on tour in 2023 and beyond. We don’t want to take out the fun from being on tour, so we are aiming to set some basic expectations so we can get on with riding our bikes in beautiful places.


>  We ask that you arrive on tour in good health.

> We recommend that you have been vaccinated. This also applies to our trip specialists and guides.

On Tour

If you test positive for Covid-19 during the tour you can choose to fully self-isolate, and continue your trip separately from the rest of the group – the Ride and Seek team will work with you to make the arrangements for this.

You can also choose to remain with the group, but practice distancing. If so we ask that the following recommendations are adhered to for a period of 5 days or until you test negative:

> Practice self-distancing while riding, as well as during coffee and picnic stops (one of the guides can serve your refreshments, do not touch shared surfaces, utensils, bottles etc)

> Sit separately at breakfast, do not help yourself to shared buffets – the guides can serve your breakfast.

> Sit separately from the group during restaurant lunches and evening meals.

> Wear a mask indoors.

> If you are in a shared room with your spouse / partner and you choose to continue to share then we ask that both parties follow the recommendations above.

> If you are in a shared room with someone not in your party we will arrange a separate room for you, which will be at your own cost.

> These recommendations will also apply to our guide team, who will follow the same protocol.

> We strongly advise ensuring you are familiar with your insurance policy, and the cover you receive if you test positive for Covid. 


Please note that we will aim to update our protocol as and when local guidelines change. Whilst we are providing a framework to reduce risk during travel, it does not replace personal responsibility for adherence to recommendations, including regular hand washing and maintaining social distancing. This protocol is meant to complement the in-country rules and regulations on tourism and as such additional measures may be adapted depending on the region we are travelling in.



“EU Guidance for the progressive resumption of tourism services and for health protocols in hospitality establishments – COVID-19”  Official Journal of the European Union:

“Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis” Chu, D et al, The Lancet, June 2020, DOI:

Updated EU travel advisories:

CDC Covid-19:

Australian travel Advice:

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

Pantelleria – a Sicilian Jewel

Could Pantelleria be our next European bike tour destination?

In October we will once again be riding the 3 Islands Tour through Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. One of our guides on this adventure, since we first launched the tour in 2016, is proud Sicilian Giuseppe Di Giorgio (pictured above). Giuseppe will be leading us from Palermo to Siracusa on week 3 of this Mediterranean odyssey. When not guiding he is a special needs teacher and agronomist by profession. His passion for Sicily is infectious and his knowledge about his homeland is incredible. As such he was keen to share with us a recent experience he had on the Italian island of Pantelleria, part of the Sicilan province of Trapani. Long since discovered by the cognoscenti – Giorgio Armani spends a lot of time there for example – we thought it would be interesting to present it as a potential 4th island option at the end of what is already an epic European bike tour.

In the words of Giuseppe – 100 Km from Capo Lilibeo (Marsala) and 80 Km from Tunisia, a “black pearl” rises in the center of the Mediterranean – a harsh but sweet and very fertile land, where the luxuriant nature has adapted to live without water, a landing place for all travelers who have always inhabited it, adapting to its wealth. We see this adaptation in the architecture as well. In the ‘dammusi’ houses, born as stone fortresses with barrel roofs and stone walls two meters thick, and the Jardini – large hollow towers that welcome a single citrus tree and shelter it from the wind. the island’s natural gems include the buvìre wells of fresh water at sea level, and the Specchio di Venere – a large natural thermal lake that reflects the colors of the sky.

An example of a dummusi on Pantelleria

In 2016 the first National Park in Sicily was born in Pantelleria, to preserve its dense Mediterranean woods and its ancient agricultural history, establishing a UNESCO site for the cultivation of zibibbo and the production of sweet passito wine.

It is here that I spent a period working with the National Park to become an official guide, like Ulysses, and with a desire for discovery I walked the paths, and cycled the ancient Roman roads, meeting caper growers and hearing stories of resistance – those who choose to live on this island must choose to resist adversity and live in harmony with nature.

When you discover something really beautiful you want to share it immediately with your closest friends, that’s why I called Dylan, to suggest he get to know this corner of paradise, and share it with others. I invite you to spend a few days with me in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, a place of great charm, a crossroads for all people.

Some of my highlights for a stay on Pantelleria

  • Bathing at night in the thermal waters of the Mirror of Venus lake
  • Walking in the Gelfisér lava flow
  • Collecting capers and taste the Passito wine
  • Enjoying an Aperitivo in the Pantelleria garden of Peppe D’Ajetti
  • Cycling all around the island
  • Wine tasting in the dammuso of the Serragghia Plain
  • Eating Pantelleria salad…. capers, oregano, tomatos, onions, potatoes
  • Experiencing a sunset dinner in the port of Scauri
  • Diving among the Punic wrecks with Eddy
  • Taking a sauna in a natural dry bath cave

You can see Giuseppe’s Bio on our Team page, and for more info on our 3 Islands Tour through Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily you can download the Tour Overview.

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

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.

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.

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 – 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 :

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:

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:

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

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 –

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

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!

Hannibal: The inspiration for our original Epic Adventure

In 218 BC Hannibal started his march with one hundred thousand soldiers and nearly forty elephants. On the Ride and Seek Hannibal cycle tour, our aim is to follow Hannibal’s path along the coast of Spain, through France, over the Alps, down to Rome. We consider the tour to be one of our best epic cycle tours on the roster.

In the Second Punic War against Rome, after Carthage’s defeat in the First, Hannibal’s aim was to teach the Romans a lesson and restore Carthage’s pride and power.  After showing his intentions and taking Saguntum an ally of Rome in a bloody 9-month siege, Rome sent ambassadors to Carthage who dramatically demanded Hannibal be delivered as a war criminal. The Roman diplomat clutched a fold in his toga and said: ‘Here we bring you war and peace. Take whichever you please!’ (Livy 21. 18). The Carthaginians opted for war, kicking off what Livy describes as “the most memorable war in history” (Livy 21. 1). The fall of Saguntum is considered the catalyst for the Second Punic War.

Of course, the background to the Second Punic War is more complicated and includes Rome’s harsh treatment of Carthage after winning the First. The terms of the peace treaty took Sicily from Carthage, effectively ending its eastern Mediterranean dominance. And what really angered Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar, and also Hannibal, would have been Rome’s arrogant seizure of Sardinia on top of that, which was outside the terms of the treaty, but Carthage was then too weak to do anything about it.

On our Hannibal tour, we cross Hannibal’s first major natural obstacle – the Rhone river.  Where exactly he crossed isn’t known, but Polybius says it was four days march north of the mouth of the river. This is difficult to judge due to changes in the coastline over 2000 years, but it was most likely somewhere north of Arles. Some scholars even put it further north than Avignon.

What we do know with more certainty is that his crossing was opposed by the Volcae – an aggressive local Gallic tribe. Hannibal’s strategy was to send his nephew Hanno with a detachment of troops north. He was to cross the river upstream and surprise the Volcae.

Hannibal bought up all the local boats, canoes and anything that would get his huge army and baggage train across the fast-flowing river. The Rhone is no longer a wild river – the only peril today seems to be massive transport barges which speed downstream. In Hannibal’s time, it would have been a dangerous obstacle and he seemed to be very diligent in his preparations.

Once Hanno had sent a smoke signal to notify his uncle he was in position, Hannibal embarked with his main force. When he landed on the opposite bank Hanno sprung his ambush. The Volcae’s raucous howling turned to panic as they were caught in a classic pincer movement. Luckily we don’t face the Volcae as we cross the Rhone and the locals give us a much warmer welcome these days.

Once Hannibal had set up his beachhead on the east bank of the Rhone he began the extensive operation of getting the rest of his troops across the river. Smaller boats crossed in the lee of larger vessels so they didn’t bear the full brunt of the current. The cavalry swam with their rides but the elephants needed more persuasion.

Polybius says that Hannibal built rafts, covered them with soil and urged a female elephant onto these floating islands and the rest of the herd followed. However, once the rafts were detached from the bank, the elephants panicked and were forced to make their own way across to the other side – Polybius believes the elephants walked across the bottom of the river using their trunks as snorkels!

Livy, our other main ancient source, writes that the elephants swam from the beginning following the lead male, who was driven to rage by his driver. This brave man then jumped into the river himself, with the elephant herd following the lead male who, in turn, was intent on catching the driver – who would have swum desperately fast to the other side!

Once Hannibal’s army was across the Rhone he sent three hundred of his crack Numidian cavalry to reconnoitre the surrounding areas. The Roman Consul Cornelius Scipio, who had just landed in Massilia (modern Marseille) did the same and sent some of his scouts north. Scipio was at the mouth of the Rhone and on his way to Spain to intercept Hannibal. It was a surprise to both cavalry forces when they met in a fierce but brief engagement. This was the first clash between Rome and Carthage in the Second Punic War and the Romans had the better of the skirmish, losing fewer troops and forcing the Numidians to flee back to camp.

Once Hannibal learned of the proximity of the Roman army he had a decision to make: stay and fight or speed on to Italy. With so much to gain from making war in Italy, he chose the latter and headed north away from Scipio and towards the Alps. Scipio, realising his intention but unable to cut him off, headed back to Italy to prepare for war on Roman soil.

Hannibal and his army were closing in on their goal but had their greatest obstacle to come: the Alps. This was an enormous challenge for an army, let alone for cyclists like us!

Ride with us into history for some of the best epic cycling of your life!- Hannibal tour.


Guest Testimonials from the Original Hannibal (2012)

Our First-Ever Hannibal Testimonials (2012)

Hannibal 2012 Pioneers – Josh, Stephen, James, Andy, Bob and Steve.

Josh Robinson (Stage 1 – Barcelona to Avignon)

What a journey it’s been so far. Some of us only have a few days to go. Some are going all the way to Rome in Hannibal’s footsteps. All of us are loving every minute, every hill, every vista, every descent, every espresso stop, and certainly every carb-packed dinner.

We’re all here because we want more than a bike ride – we want an adventure. We want to push things a bit. We enjoy not knowing what’s around the next corner. We like dropping ourselves into a new scene and seeing what happens. Fortune favours the brave.

The cycling, through some of the most beautiful landscape many of us have seen, is what gets us up in the morning. But it’s the people that get us through each day.  Whether its the perfectly-timed snack stops or the words of encouragement, friendly rivalry and good dose of humour from our fellow riders. It’s the people that keep the legs pumping and the wheels turning.  Up until a few days ago we were strangers. Now, thanks to a great journey, we’ve become friends.

With Ride & Seek you don’t just discover new places. And the learning doesn’t stop with Hannibal and his elephant-powered crusade. You find out something new about yourself and about other people too. Not bad for a bike ride!

The Epic 4! – Barcelona to Rome

Hannibal cycling tour
The Originals! From left – Dylan, Bob, Stephen, Jason, Terry and Sam

Jason Langer (one of the original 4!)

“It is a rare thing to experience something that changes your perspective on life permanently; even more rare when that something is a choice, and not a challenge that life has forced upon you.

In 2012, the Hannibal Tour, led by Dylan and Sam at Ride-and-Seek, did just that – it changed my perspective on life.  I started the tour with very high expectations – to see the best of Europe, to make friends, to challenge myself physically.  What it achieved was well beyond this.  The Hannibal Tour covered some of the most extraordinary landscape I will ever see, including times when I truly was on top of the world.  Meeting the physical challenge of 26 days of cycling – when I have never in my life before been a “cyclist” – has left me with an incredible belief that anything is possible in life.  I have made lifelong friends from across the globe.  On this tour, I felt more alive than I had since I was a kid.  We all laughed hard, ate and drank like kings, and at the top of the Alps I cried with joy.  And all this, from the seat of a bicycle.

Ride & Seek did a faultless job running the tour – from the hotels to the food, the support, the hire bikes and the incredible history of Hannibal along the way, I cannot imagine how it could have been executed any better.  They were both professional, dedicated, friendly and supportive.  Their experience shone through and is their greatest asset. I already have my next Ride-and-Seek tour planned, and it won’t be the last.”

Jason Langer rode the Hannibal Epic in 2012 and neither he nor we as guides quite knew what to expect as he only learned how to ride a bike 3 years before! We are often asked how hard the Hannibal tour is and whilst the espresso grading system provides clear parameters the subjectivity involved makes it hard to give a definitive answer. One thing for sure though is that we now have Jason to use as an example for all future riders who have doubts. With no experience of multi-day riding, Jason proved to be an inspiration to us all and seeing Jason get to the top of Col Agnel (2744m) was an amazing tour highlight.

Hannibal Cycling - Col Agnel
Jim looking back from the top of Col Agnel

Are you a Stravasshole? Check the criteria

Strava has come a long way since we wrote this article in 2013 but many of the points still hold true 🙂

Cycling in Vietnam and Strava segments
Cycling in Ha Giang in northern Vietnam in 2014 – the first road bike tour in the region. Rich pickings on the Strava front, particularly since you can create your own segments!

“For a lot of us, cycling and running used to be fairly independent things. We’d train, enjoy the pedalling or running, and if we were serious maybe keep time. But Strava is making our individual efforts very public.

Strava is essentially a social media extension. It provides a platform for runners and cyclists to compete online. With a GPS unit or smartphone, you can upload all your GPS information to Strava and instantly it compares your ride to everyone else who has ridden the same route.

It seems that nowadays, with society’s obsession with social networking, it is impossible to mention cycling or running without KOMs, QOMs (King or Queen of the Mountain), and PR (personal record) being mentioned.

This can be quite uplifting when you ride a ‘segment’ which has only been ridden by old grannies, but it can also be fairly demoralizing after feeling like you were really pushing to come home, obsessively rush to the computer and upload your data to find you placed 193 out of 197!

Every ride segment has a KOM and QOM for the person that has done it fastest. So it seems Strava can bring the best and worst out of riders.

The term ‘Stravasshole’ was coined, as you can imagine, in the US and I am yet to come across it in Australia – please let me know if you’ve met any or even better if you have been called one!

Here are some ways you are a Stravasshole:

• Driving your car along segments with your bike GPS turned on and uploading these super-fast speeds ‘accidently’ (This causes much anger on Strava!)
• Riding a Strava segment because you know there is a very strong tailwind to drive you along.
• Create your own segment which you ‘know’ you will KOM of – most likely your reign will be brief, as another Strava user will ‘spot’ the easy KOM ‘kill’!
• Stravaing in a pace line – Strava is most definitely not a team sport!
• Descending yelling “Strava” to get people out of your way. This is the original action which supposedly created the term – the reaction must be awful, I don’t know if you would get away with that here in Australia!

You never know, if you are riding segments in Texas sometime soon you may come across Lance Armstrong on Strava. He is obviously keen on continuing to compete and it could be the only place left for him to ‘win’.

We all know what sort of a Strava user he would be!”

Strava has gone from strength to strength since we wrote this article and the Ride and Seek Strava Club has become a great way for Rideandseekers around the world to ride together.

Standard, Compact or Triple Crank?

As we expand our bike fleet we want to ensure we get the setups right. Our riders vary in experience and our tours vary in difficultly so getting the bikes just right is essential.

The big question which comes up is which crankset and which rear cassette.

So…cranks, ie what your pedals hang off – Standard (double) cranks are 52-39 (ie 52 teeth on the big chainwheel and 39 on the small inner chainwheel), compact cranks which are a more modern take and increasingly popular, are 50-34 and then there are triples 52-39-30 (there are now also semi-compact and all varieties but these will do for now!).

The bigger the number the heavier the gear, the smaller the easier – essential for hills especially somewhere like the Alps on our Hannibal expedition! These are hugely effected by the rear cassette (the sprockets on your back wheel) which can be anything from 11-21 to 11-34 (with a adjusted rear derailleur)

So for our riders what we are trying to do is ensure they have the greatest gear range available, especially when they get to the hills. Now you would assume that a triple will do this, and the truth is if you put the biggest cassette in conjunction with a triple it will. However a standard Specialized Comp Triple, a fantastic bike and the backbone of our fleet, which our riders have ridden and loved due to its range of gears comes with a 11-30 cassette. Therefore its lowest gear is obtained by being on the 30 on the crank and the 30 at the back, a 1 to 1 ratio which makes for a great granny gear, essential for long steep climbs.  A compact crank can actually achieve the same result. The easiest gear for these will be a 34 on the Crank and a 34 on the rear cassette, again 1 to 1 and exactly the same output as the triples easiest gear.

So you may have first been put off by the fact that we aren’t running triples but the truth is you will have exactly the same ‘easy’ gear for those testing days in the hills! You will also have a little less weight and smoother performance. This also increases the compatibility of our bikes as compacts are much more common than triples ensuring easier maintenance and repairs.

This is a table showing the ‘output’ required for each gear combination. You’ll note the 30-30 and the 34-34 are the same. Therefore easiest triple chainring equals easiest compact with a nice big rear cassette!

The Vietnam Tour Lowdown

The Vietnam Tour Lowdown

Meeting arrangements

The official meeting time for the tour is 6pm on Saturday March 15th in the lobby of the Hanoi Imperial hotel where we will spend the night before heading up into the mountains the following morning.

If you plan to arrive earlier we recommend, for the sake of convenience, that you book into this hotel – . We will inform the hotel that you are with the tour group if you book extra nights and they should then be able to coordinate the rooming allocations. Please note though that you should book a deluxe room category if they want to remain in the same room when the tour starts. There are presently some good deals to be found on the Agoda website.

If you are not able to get there before 6pm it isn’t a problem so long as you are ready to go the following morning. We plan to leave the hotel by 7am the following day. Simply let us know what time you are likely to arrive and we’ll organise things accordingly.

Our local partner in Vietnam is Grasshopper so in the event the hotel doesn’t know who Ride and Seek is they are probably working off a booking for Grasshopper.

Getting to the first hotel from the airport

If you wish to use our contacts to organise a transfer to the first hotel you need to have done this by March 12th. Cost of the transfer is $45 (one way) which should be paid directly to the driver. Payment in cash either in USD or VND (exchanged rate US$1. = VND21,000,000.) To book a transfer email Hoia at

If you prefer to do it independently Vinasun and Malinh are two companies that are considered reputable and can be found easily in the airport. The following blog provides a bit of an overview – – on the taxi situation in Hanoi.


We are required to show everyones passports at every hotel. From experience the best way to do this is for us to collect in the passports at the start of the tour and keep hold of them until the end. This isn’t obligatory but it is generally the simplest way to manage things.

Getting money out

We usually wait until we get in country to get local currency from ATM’s that can be located in the airport and across the city. Bear in mind though that most have a limit of the equivalent of $100/$200 per transaction so you might need to make a couple of seperate withdrawals.

Guide tips

Just a reminder that whilst your Australian guides are not expecting tips – a beer should suffice! – it is customary to tip the local guides. The suggested tip is $40 from each participant for the support team as a whole so please take this into account when you withdraw money. Hand this in to Matt or Dylan at the end of the tour and we’ll make sure it gets divided up correctly.

Guide team

Matt and Dylan obviously!

The local allstars!

Lead local guide – Thang. Translates. Requests things for you. Plans the logistics. Orders the other staff around. Travels on the back of a motorbike ahead of the group, so he can point out any major hazards. Orders meals, deals with authorities, manages the money, sweet talks the hoteliers and restaurateurs.

Lead rider – Mr Neth (Chanmakara Hong). Rides like the wind.  If he has any remaining energy, he’ll help Ratha with the bikes. Neth is Cambodian and has represented his country. He’s a nice fella and can ride well.

Mechanic – Ratha. Doesn’t ride. Cleans bikes, fixes bikes.

Cook – Thiem.  Ensures that there is a good variety of vegetables and meats provided by working with the local restaurants who in many cases, have limited capacity. Probably doesn’t sleep enough, drinks like a fish and has a temper. Just like cooks everywhere.

Massage therapists. Two gents who are masters of their profession. They’ll obviously do the bulk of their work in the afternoons and evenings.

Drivers. They drive. Probably smoke and talk on the phone too much, but never when driving. If they do, please feel free to admonish them and dob them into Thang. No, in all seriousness, they love this and they’ll usually do their bit by helping to fill water bottles and joke around with the riders.

Hotel list

1. Hanoi | Hanoi Imperial Hotel | +84 4 3933 5555.

2. Tam Son | Hotel 567 | +84 21 9384 6129.

3. Meo Vac | Hoa Cuong Hotel | +84 21 9387 1888.

4. Bac Me | Huy Duong Hotel | +84 914 420 594.

5. Nghia Lo | Nghia Lo Hotel | +84 29 387 0106.

6. Than Uyen | Hoan Quan Hotel | +84 231 378 4163.

7. Sapa | Victoria Sapa Hotel | +84 20 387 1522.

General Tips

Don’t drink tap water. Always bottled water. Water we provide is OK.  In Ha Giang, don’t drink water in jugs on tables. Actually, it’s fine for the majority of cases, but it’s often just filtered, so it depends on the filter condition.

Ice. Only take it if it has a hole in the middle. This is drinking ice. In Ha Giang, you won’t encounter much drinking ice.

Soap and towels – All hotels will provide these but in Ha Giang there are few frills. Might be worth bringing your own towel and washing products.

Always wash hands. Be obsessive about it. We have never had a case of food poisoning, but there are always cases of viral gastro. We theorise that this is more to do with personal hygiene and the fact that bodies are under significant physical strain from the riding and general conditions.

If anyone is on antimalarials, they’ll probably be very sensitive to the sun, so they need to apply sunscreen more often.

Be careful with cash. A few of the dong notes are very similar in color and with all the zeros, they can be easily mixed up by foreigners. Notably 10,000 looks like 100,000 and 20,000 looks like 500,000. Be very clear on what you are handing to someone and count your change. It’s not such an issue in the provinces, but in Hanoi and Sapa, you need to be on your toes.

Don’t take mini cabs around Hanoi, stick with the Vinasun or Malinh cabs. The others tamper with meters and try all sorts of tricks.

It’s fair to bargain on anything you buy, unless it has the price marked. The Vietnamese love a bargain. Don’t think of it as a ripoff. It’s just a game and one they’ll play hard. Smile, laugh, joke and cut the price by 50%. If you end up at 75% of the original asking price, in most cases, you are doing well. If you do happen to be eating independently, ask for the price on food before you eat. In Hanoi only really.

Toilets – Along the ride route, there won’t be many toilets, so it’s just a matter of finding a large clump of bamboo. Good idea for ladies to take a sarong or something for this and good for everyone to take tissue with them. In many restaurants and roadside stops, the toilets if they do exist, don’t have tissue. In all cases, do not flush toilet tissue. There is a little bin next to the toilet where you put the tissue. 

In all cases, you will get further in negotiation or service requests by asking with a smile and not raising your voice. Even if the response is poor, maintain the smile and the calm voice and just push push push. If you get angry or pushy, the shutters go up and you have no hope of getting what you want.

There are a bunch of cultural taboos but many of these are forgiven by locals as they know foreigners are from someplace… foreign. Just try not to move things or point with your feet. Don’t point. Don’t pat anyone on the head and be ultra respectful of older people and you’ll get along well with all the locals.

When riding, bear in mind that everyone uses their horn. There is no aggression in this. It’s considered the most basic element of safe driving. It’s to warn people that you are coming. So a truck will come up behind you and give a toot, that just means I’m here, don’t move out. If there is repeated and urgent tooting, it means I’m coming, I don’t have enough space, you should get off the road!

Motorbikes are used to merging through each others paths, so they will tend to do the same with you. Riders need to be prepared for motorcyclists, sidling up to the pack and then trying to cut through the middle of it to get to the curb. They don’t mean to be rude, it’s just their way of driving. The riders need to be aware of this and it’s therefore not good practice to ride as a pack through towns. Leave about 3 meters between each rider or each pair of riders.

Trucks and all other vehicles like to cut corners, so never approach a bend or corner assuming that you have a clear run. Always ensure you have an exit point and for this reason, don’t ride two abreast into blind bends and corners.

Locals will sometimes come up alongside riders for a bit of a chat. It’s likely also that some young lads might side up to the ladies if they are in lycra for a bit of a perve. It’s worth keeping an eye on this and for one of the guys to be not too far off most of the time.

Route amendments

As is always the case with running a tour in remote Vietnam we are always at the mercy of the authorities with regards road repairs. Fortunately the monsoon season this year was relatively kind but there are still some significant road works on the route. Most of these we can can get around but on Day 5 there is a stretch which is basically unpassable. On this day we will have a shuttle in the morning before riding.

Visa information

Details about how to attain a visa in Australia via the consulate can be found here –

Guest Survey

Before the tour starts we need some information off you in order to cover our insurance obligations as well as ensuring that we have the correct personal data for you. If you haven’t done so already could you fill out the following form –


March is amongst the best months to travel in Vietnam; conditions are at their very best with dry, bright weather expected the along the entire length of the country. In the north where we are cycling you can expect plenty of sunshine and clear blue skies, and whilst temperatures start to rise it remains cool with little if any rainfall (avg temp: 19 °C).

At night temperatures will go down to around 15 degrees so pack accordingly and during the day we expect a few hot days. Since we are in the mountains though it is always best to come prepared and wind-breakers and arm/leg warmers are good insurance.

What to bring?

This is a section that we could spend an age on but I think that packing is such a subjective thing that it really isn’t worth it. What I will say is that the nature of the tour is such that you will want plenty of bike gear as it won’t be easy to get stuff washed and dried along the way. You’ll find a way to wash your kit but with changing hotels every day it is important that you bring a few spares – there’s nothing worse than soggy knicks!

In terms of evening wear there is nowhere that we go that has a dress code and casual wear is the order of the day. Warm weather clothing is an important consideration. As mentioned in the weather section March is not usually a month when temperatures drop below 15 degrees but even so it is a good idea to bring a wind-breaker and arm/leg warmers just in case.

With your bags your main luggage will be in the back of the van and not always readily available. Whilst it is possible to access these bags during the day we recommend that you also have a day pack that you can keep at the front of the van.

Ride and Seek kit

We have a limited supply of the Ride and Seek jerseys for you to buy for the not too princely sum of AU$80. The photo on the right is our 2014 tour jersey – let us know if you’d be interested and will dig around for your size. Another option is to get kit through our newest sponsor – Danny Shane. We are delighted to be associated with these guys and they are willing to extend a 10% discount to all of our guests. Check out their website to view their range – The image on the left is of one of guests wearing their kit on a recent tour in Europe.

 Training preparation

The grading for this tour makes it clear that this tour is a challenging endeavour and we hope that your training to date reflects this. That said we are also aware that not everyone has the luxury of being able to dedicate themselves to training for a bike tour and a few of you might be a little undercooked.

The important thing to remember though is that you still have time to get yourself well prepared for the tour ahead. Probably the most important thing is simply preparing your body for sitting on a bike for multiple hours and then doing it again the day after. It is important to get that saddle time in so that when you’re on the tour you don’t spend the first few days trying to avoid sitting down!

Also go looking for hills. We don’t want to scare you with the elevation profiles on this tour but this it will be hilly! Whilst it is unlikely that you will have anything that compares to longer climbs we’ll encounter in your backyard you can still get yourself prepared by doing hill repetitions. Whilst it is pretty tedious doing reps up the toughest hill in your neighbourhood this sort of training will really build up your power.

At the same time go a little easy. You don’t want to arrive on tour already overcooked so remember to taper off a little towards the start of the tour. It is important to arrive fresh with your energy levels conserved. Don’t think you can fit in all of your training the weekend before!

Note that when you are actually on the tour you will have access to the van which among other things acts as a sag wagon if you want to take a break. There is absolutely no shame in taking advantage of this and we’d prefer it if you did rather than smashing yourself on one day and being out of action for the next two. You’ll know what condition you’re in so don’t be shy in signalling that you want a lift.

In essence though the more prepared you are physically for this tour the more you will enjoy it. There is still plenty of time to get your fitness levels up before the tour start.

Of course if you’d like to put together a more scientific approach to your training remember that Matt is a cycle coach and would be happy to help –

The Vietnam Adventure

We are really excited to be exploring the region of Ha Giang on road bikes. A lot of research has gone into making this happen and in collaboration with our partners we believe that we will be running the first road bike tour to this beguiling region.

As such though it is important to recognise that we really are off the beaten track and as such salubriousness will not be the order of the day. Aside from the start and end of the tour the accommodation will be basic – all be it with private facilities, the food simple fare and the road surfaces inconsistent at times.

The scouting trip has been completed and we were relieved to find that the harsh monsoon season has not wreaked the havoc we feared it might have. A couple of the roads have been adversely affected by heavy truck movements and there is some road works that we’ll have to get around. The result will be a couple of changes to the original itinerary but nothing too dramatic.

We look forward to running an awesome tour but please come prepared with an open mind to the adventures that await!

Bikes – General

Bike Build

Please don’t unpack your bike on arrival as it will be taken off you on Saturday evening and shuttled up to the start point. The mechanics will then build them up and they will be ready to ride when we get to the start point of the ride on Sunday afternoon. On arrival at the first hotel you will be issued with luggage tags for your bikes. Give the tags for your bike to Thang at the Saturday intro meeting and he will arrange for them to be loaded on to the shuttle that evening.


The onus is on you to get your bike to the start point of the tour. Whether you choose to pack your bike in a hard or soft case is your prerogative – either way we will transport the case until the end of the tour and can assist in unpacking and packing your bike.

If you require a shuttle from the airport to the first hotel let us know and we’ll put you in contact with our local partner (note that there is an additional cost of US$45 for this).


Our mechanic will have all the necessary tools but we suggest that you bring your own spares along too – inner tubes, pump etc

Tyre choice

The road quality in Vietnam can vary a lot and there is also the added complication of impromptu road repairs to deal with. Our advice is to fit at least 25mm tyres to your bike and if you have sufficient clearance you could also consider the 28mm option.

We also recommend that you choose a tyre that has a reputation for being hardy against punctures.

Gear ratios

There will be hills! A 53/39 is workable on the front but in terms of back cassette we’d recommend that you make life easier for yourself with something like a 11/28. Other options would be to fit a compact chain set or if you really wanted to make life easier and love the idea of a granny gear a triple is always an option.

The Roads

These are a series of shots that were taken during the recent scouting trip. Closer to Sapa we will come across some lovely smooth bitumen but by and large the road surface is all a bit average – hence our suggestion that you bring wider profile tyres that are not prone to flats.





And here is the really ugly and the bad on the ride. The image on the left is where we will take the shuttle on day 5 as they have dug up a large part of the road.  In Vietnam when they decide to do road works they don’t seem to do it in small stretches but rather dig up the whole road and then start the repairs. The image on the right on the other hand is the sort of surface we will find in patches. Not a  problem to ride over but at the same time not overly pleasant. On our Vietnam odyssey we encourage you to expect the unexpected. Our lead guide will be on a motorbike though to hopefully manage those expectations on our behalf.




The hotels at the start and end of the tour are the most sophisticated and will have a reasonable range of options. However, once we are in the region of Ha Giang the cuisine will become more ‘local’ with fewer frills. We will bring some supplies up from Hanoi to provide a bit more variety but as we really are off the beaten track the banana pancakes of more frequented parts of South East Asia will be conspicuous by their absence!

Accommodation summary

On this tour we start and end in 4 star hotels with all the usual amenities. Once on tour though we are fairly isolated and will stay in simple guest houses that with the exception of one all have private bathrooms. Below is a collage of some of the guest houses in Ha Giang.






General hygiene

For food, if you like to eat out of stainless and shiny white kitchens, you should probably not look at where your dinner is being produced. I would say though, that we’ve never had a case of food poisoning on a tour anywhere and the same goes for our partners who have run countless tours in Vietnam. The most common issue is viral gastro, which can be picked up from so many environmental sources. We eat in local restaurants with high turnover of ingredients and not much reliance on refrigeration.

Gels & Hydrolytes

We will provide snacks on the road in the form of fruit and refreshments. However, if you would like to use gels and hydrolytes during the tour it is up to you to bring your own supplies.


The massage option clearly appealed and pretty much all of you have paid the supplement which will entitle you to a 45 minute massage each evening that will no doubt be greatly welcomed. If you haven’t taken up this option and would like to do so let us know ASAP.


Internet is available in Hanoi and Sapa and is reliable in both places. Ha Giang and Meo Vac, not so reliable.  3G SIM cards are prepaid and can be bought from various phone shops around the place. Vietnam has more phone shops than any other kind of business.  There are also dongles/USB modems available that you can slot SIM cards into. SIMs cost maybe $10, modems cost about $50.


This is obviously an important one and is why we asked for your insurance details in the guest survey. Could we also ask that you provide next of kin details and the emergency contact number that your insurance company provides in the event of the need for an evacuation.

As is standard with bike tours we will get you to sign a risk waiver before the tour starts. A few people believe that these waivers are not worth the paper are written on but they are an important acknowledgement of the risks that are involved with going on bike tour. It is fundamental to us that we run a safe tour, but it is also important that all participants are aware of what is involved and have sufficient insurance cover in place.

What’s not included?

Bike hire, flights, visa fees, tips for Vietnamese support team (we suggest $40 from each participant), drinks other than water at meals, insurance, single supplement (price based on dual occupancy).


A few of you are already ‘friends’ with us on Facebook – – and if you use it we recommend that the rest of you join us too. It’s a great medium to post photos and news both in the lead up to and during the tour when we post almost daily. It is also a great way to engage friends and family.