Vietnam – a coffee drinkers paradise

Coffee snobs rejoice, for Vietnam is the home of a good brew. Not just good – great. Think about a puddle of sweet condensed milk resting in the bottom of your glass. Think about ice cubes on top, already melting in the morning sun. Think about the little metal filter atop your glass, and the drip, drip, drip of rich coffee, an aromatic brew that will be mixed with the milk and the ice to form the perfect cold drink for a hot morning in Vietnam. Your day has begun.

Could this be the true ‘King’ of Italian wines?

Brunello di Montalcino – Could this be the true ‘King’ of Italian wines?

The story of Brunello embodies man’s quest for perfection.  It begins with the discovery of a special grapevine on a steep Montalcino slope in 1842.  That vine’s subsequent propagation by its founder, Clemente Santi, resulted in the creation of the Brunello wine.

Today, Brunello is considered one of Italy’s greatest wines and a supreme example of Sangiovese at its best.  It has also become Italy’s most recognized premium wine, internationally.  With a total production of 750,000 cases (9L), 65% finds its way into the world’s finest restaurants and connoisseur wine cellars.  The United States has become the largest importer of Brunello, embracing 25% of the total production.  Brunello’s international prominence was recognized by the Wine Spectator when it was selected the “Top Wine of the Year” in 2006.

In Italy at least it is the Piemontese Barolo that has assumed the moniker of being the ‘King of Wines’. Having travelled extensively in both Piedmont and Tuscany though I would contend that whilst this title was first bestowed centuries ago, given the choice I would usually go for glass of Brunello over one of Barolo.

With stage 3 of the Hannibal tour passing right through the heart the area in which Brunello is produced we thought we should at least give a bit of background on this most elegant of wines.

Brunello di Montalcino: Fast Facts

Production: 750,000 cases (9L), Vintage 2008

Vineyard Acreage: 4,700 acres

Grape Variety: 100% Sangiovese Grosso, although over 30 clones are used throughout the DOCG

DOC: Established in 1966; DOCG: Awarded in 1980

Minimum Alcohol: 12.5%; Maximum Yield: 3.2 tons/acre

Aging Requirements – Normale: Minimum of 4 years from January 1 after the harvest, 2 years in oak, 4 months in bottle.

Aging Requirements – Riserva: Minimum of 5 years from January 1 after the harvest, 2 years in oak, 6 months in bottle.

Now, the rest of the story…

The Place:   The Montalcino zone takes its name from the town, which sits high on a hill as a fortified citadel with commanding expansive views in all directions.  The zone encompasses 8,000 acres of vines, 4700 of which are dedicated to Brunello.   The name, Montalcino derives from the Latin, “Mons Ilcinnus”, or mountain of holm oak.  These oak trees grace the commune’s logo.  Vineyards, while extensive, only cover 15% of the land, with forests, pastures, and fields of grain making up the rest.  Indeed, Montalcino is like an elevated island amidst a sea of undulating wheat fields and pastures.  The scenic beauty of the place won it a coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site award in 2004.

Don -Lying some 27 miles south of Siena and 27 miles east of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Montalcino enjoys a much warmer and drier climate than its Chianti Classico neighbor to the north, and Montepulciano to the east.  This, together with diverse soils (including rocky “galestro,” limestone, marl, clay, and sand) make for growing conditions which consistently ripen its finicky Sangiovese grapes earlier the either Chianti Classico or Montepulciano.  In Montalcino, harvest is normally completed by late September, usually before the arrival of the October rains.

The Montalcino Zone resembles a square formed by 3 perimeter rivers: the Ombrone on the north and west, the Asso on the east, and the Orcia on the south.  It rises from the perimeter to a crest at the Poggio Civitella (2168 ft), a short distance south of the town, Montacino.  There are presently four notable wine production areas.

  • Just southeast of the town, the highest vineyards in the zone are located on steep terrain at an elevation of 1,300-1,600 feet.  The site’s cool conditions favor slow ripening, producing wines that are more austerely structured, but are very age-worthy.  Biond Santi’s “Il Greppo” estate is located here.
  • Northeast of the town, on lower slopes, near Montosoli and Canalicchio, the terroir allows the wines to show fuller, riper qualities to complement their structure.
  • Don - Brunello MapFurther north, toward the perimeter of the zone and at slightly lower elevations, the soil contains mainly clay with deposits of marl and sandy limestone.  Areas such as Altesino and Catiglione del Bosco produce a more forward style of Brunello in this area.
  • Recent plantings in the southwest corner of the zone, near Sant’Angelo in Colle, Argiano, Pian della Mura, and Camigliano, have produced impressive wines with balance and structure.  Here, sandy clay soils are often mixed with limestone and “galestro” at the higher sites.  This area is closest to the sea and has a warmer microclimate.

The Grape: The name Brunello, meaning “the brown one,” came from the description of the Sangiovese Grosso grapes at harvest time – a dark colored, dusky brown berry.  Brunello was the local name given to this type of Sangiovese Grosso, originally identified in 1842 by Clemente Santi.  Today, the term is officially reserved for the name of the wine.  Sangiovese grown in Montalcino has comparatively thicker skins, compared with grapes grown in other regions, and excellent anthocyanins. Both of these factors contribute to Brunello’s deep tannic structure and rich hue.

Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted single grape variety.  It comprises 67% of the Tuscan vineyard acreage and is the main grape in 25 DOC(G)’s of Toscana. Sangiovese is an ancient grape, believed to have resulted from a spontaneous crossing during the Etruscan period.  Recent DNA evidence reflects its parentage as a crossing between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese di Montenuovo.

However, there is significant diversity within the grape variety.  Sangiovese tends to be genetically unstable and very adaptable; thus, many clones exist.  Banfi Vineyards has documented over 600 versions of Sangiovese on their estate alone!  Currently, as a result of extensive clonal research trials, the best clones are being propagated.  Most estates are using multiple clones in order to add better balance and more complexity to their wines.

Don - SangioveseThe Wine:   Brunello di Montalcino projects an image of majesty and mystery that heightens its allure.  This aura was cultivated by the Biondi Santi family.  For 100 years, they were the only producers of the wine.  The Biondi Santi estate “Il Greppo,” where Brunello was born, has been called Italy’s first “grand cru”.

However, the wine remained somewhat of an Italian secret until the 1960’s, when word began to spread about the tastings of the extraordinary Biondi Santi vintages of 1888 and 1891.  Soon, the wine world turned its attention to this special place and its remarkable wine.  The Biondi Santi family, led by Franco and his son Jacopo, carry the flag and continue to produce age-worthy Brunello at the family estate.

A growers’ consortium was established in 1967, and has become one of Italy’s most effective with 98% of today’s 208 producers being members.  The consortium has guided a smooth growth in production, while advancing quality standards.

There is, however, growing internal controversy.  Some “modernist” producers would like to shorten the 4-year aging requirement prior to release of the wine.  Some also argue for the right to use small amounts of non-Sangiovese grapes.  These changes are opposed by the “traditionalist” producers who have successfully, thus far, resisted these changes; aside from agreeing to reduce the required time in oak from 4 years to two years.

The Future: The path to wine stardom for Brunello has been like a “shooting star.”  The influx of quality investment over the past 50 years continues and serves to accelerate and reinforce its meteoric rise to prominence.  There are no “industrial” producers among its wine estates.  Although there have been a few bumps in the road, the prospect for continued success is excellent.

As told by Donald P Kinnan

A weekend in the shadow of Ventoux

We’re running a weekend trip to Provence later this month to take on the ‘Geant’ – Ventoux –  not just once but twice no less. We’ve only got 2 places left on the tour so be quick if you’re interested. All details can be found below.

Why Ventoux?

  •          Easily accessible – Marseilles airport is 1hr from Avignon and 1hr 20 from Ventoux.
  •         Affordable flights and convenient flight times – from Heathrow BA flights were coming in at less than £180 RTN  (as of 27th February 2013).
  •        Ventoux – need I say more ….The Giant of Provence. One of the great meccas of cycling and you get to do it twice
  •        Awesome riding in the area around Ventoux. The Gorges de la Nesque is one of best rides I’ve   ever done.
  •        Not just Ventoux – there is riding to suit all tastes
  •        Provencal microclimate – can’t promise nice weather but Provence is renowned for having warmer weather than the surrounding regions. Disclaimer – the Mistral!
  • Bikes – our bike hire guy is based about 20 minutes from Ventoux. Here are the bikes if you need to rent one –
  •        Fantastic food and wine –

The Riding

Day 1- Fri 19th Mazan to Gordes return (60km)

Our ride today is a bit of a warm up for the days ahead. After settling into our hotel we head out in the afternoon on a loop ride that takes us south of Ventoux to the beautiful hill town of Gordes. We ride through the striking landscape of the Luberon national park and head back to Mazan via the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse that was once home to Petrach. Light permitting if you’re keen to ride more at the end of the ride there is great riding all around Mazan.

Day 2 -Sat 20th Ventoux (ascend from Bedoin, descend into Maulacene) & rtn via Gigondas (101km)

We take on the Giant of Provence today – Mt Ventoux – and ascend via the classic route from Bedoin. At 1912m this massif really is one of the iconic cycling experiences that has to be experienced at least once. Its presence in the 100th edition of the Tour de France this year is testament to its place in cycling folklore. After the exertions of the climb we descend via Malaucene and then head out into classic Cote du Rhone country. We ride through Gigondas and close to the village of Beaumes de Venise before looping back to Mazan.

Ventoux – the Bedoin climb


Sun 21st Gorges de la Nesque & Ventoux via Sault (the easier ascent) (95km)

As if climbing Ventoux once wasn’t enough of a challenge we’re actually going to do it twice! Today though we approach it from Sault, generally considered to be the ‘easier’ side as it offers a more gradual ascent.  To reach Sault we ride through the Gorges de la Nesque which is a really fun, scenic 19k descent on a twisty, tunnel-laden corniche with a perfect descending grade of 3%. After summiting Ventoux we descend back down to Bedoin which gives you a more pleasant perspective on what you achieved the day before.  A perfect end to a great cycling weekend in Provence.

Note: Every day there is extra riding available for the keen and exit points available for those wanting to get back to the hotel early!

What’s included?

  • Accommodation – Choice of 4 star or 2 star in Mazan (subject to availability) – I’ve stayed in both and they are great and are 200 metres apart. NB don’t put too much emphasis on the * classification in France. The nicest chateau I ever stayed in was a 2* chateau and it was in the best hotels in the world book! Price is inclusive of breakfast. Cost of trip will obviously reflect where people stay. If someone chooses to stay in the 2* place they will save @£80
  • 2 Dinners – Here’s an idea of what to expect
  • Shuttles to and from airport
  • Expert Guide support
  • Garmin navigation (we’ll supply Garmin 800’s and maps)

What’s not included?

  • Bike Hire – £35 per day. The bike is the 2013 Specialized Roubaix with Ultegra running gear. See it here –
  •      lLunches
  • Any other extras
  • Flights –   Since the price is likely to change I have kept this out of the package cost but obviously the sooner it is booked the better. It’s important we get everyone arriving and departing together for the sake of a shuttle. Good train options available from airport to Avignon though if people struggle to get there on this flight. Shuttle can then be arranged from Avignon.

Recommended flight –

BA London Heathrow to Marseilles RTN

Outbound  – dep Fri 19th April 0740 arr 1035

Inbound – dep Sun 21st April  2100 arr 2155

Cost presently around £180


How to sign up?

To sign up send an email – [email protected]  – expressing your interest in the tour.

Once it has been confirmed that we have space on the tour and you have specified your accommodation preference and bike requirements we will send you an updated quote.

Tour cost – £450 

Check this out if you’re after inspiration – It’s a video of Sam and I climbing and descending Ventoux last year.


Collaborating with Rouleur

For our US and Australian riders Rouleur – the world’s finest bike magazine – has teamed up with Ride & Seek to bring you a very special offer. Subscribe today and, as well as getting each issue of Rouleur through your letterbox, they’ll also send you a free copy of Paul Fournel’s incredible book, Vélo worth $45.

A whole year (8 issues) costs just $160 including delivery direct to your door. Visit and use discount code ‘RIDESEEK’  All subscribers also qualify for an exclusive 10% discount off all merchandise at the online store, a subscriber ONLY cover and two free subscriber ONLY photography supplements each year.

On Hannibal’s Trail – 2013





In September 2012 Ride and Seek Bike Tours ran the inaugural Hannibal Epic from Barcelona to Rome. The tour was conceptualised on the back of a BBC documentary – ‘On Hannibal’s Trail’ – that guide Sam Wood presented in 2009.  Split into 3 stages the tour can be taken in seperate stages or as one 27 day Epic. Steve Nash came on board for Stage 1 from Barcelona to Rome. His account of the experience can be read below.

On the Trail of Hannibal

Stage  1 – Barcelona to Avignon

The early morning light trickles across the ominous hills of the Montseny Mountain Range. Situated just north of Barcelona this picturesque area marks the start of a bike odyssey I’m about to embark on that follows in the trail of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, his 100,000 strong army and 39 African elephants.

Briefed on the route ahead, with the close companion of my Garmin 800, I’m trying my best to empathize with what Hannibal and his men might have been thinking over 2000 years ago as they prepared to take on the might of Rome. We’re accompanied on our tour by archeologist Sam Wood who cycled this route as part of a BBC and National Geographic documentary – ‘On Hannibal’s Trail’ – and he does a fine job of setting the scene. To make us feel suitably intrepid he chose to overlook the fact Hannibal probably didn’t have GPS technology at his disposal.

As I look around at my new acquaintances, all of whom look the part, I remember how I had ended up here. It had been a brave conversation after a few beers at the foot of Canada’s Blackcomb Mountain. Living by Ernest Hemingway’s advice “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk” I’d had no choice but to sign up. Knowing that the majority of day 1 was downhill only slightly assuaged the anxiety I felt at taking up the challenge.

Within kilometres of setting off I was experiencing for the first time travelling at +70Kmph on two very thin wheels! At this point it seemed a dangerously fast speed to be moving but I soon found myself sticking to pace-lines that I absolutely trusted switching from riding on the hoods to the drops as my speed grew parallel with confidence. At this point I had started to form a new relationship, not just with the iconic timeless beauty of the Specialized three times winner of the Paris-Roubaix race bike, but with myself.

Within any sport, it’s those that don’t train, show up in unimpressive gear, and still kick ass that leave you with a sense of jealousy, and in my own way, I think I had hoped for this but the first day had been a shock to the system. During the final 20km of the ride to Empuries I had found myself drifting into ‘The Zone’, a metaphysical exhaustion state that Bob, a well-travelled cycling guru had advised me of earlier that day. It was only when I ran into the sea at the end of the day that I started to feel ‘normal’ again.

Surprisingly, with the 7am banana filtering through and a couple of Torq energy gels ingested, setting off for Ceret the following morning had been less painful than anticipated. Bathing in the salt strip Mediterranean had clearly worked wonders! However, having descended from the mountains to the Mediterranean in a day we were now heading towards the Pyrenees on our way to France.

Whilst our route avoided the tougher climbs that this mountain range has to offer we were still faced with a fairly imposing elevation profile.  It started to hurt about half way through the day when I faced another grueling climb in the deceptively tough Pyrenean foothills that are found in northern Catalunya. I was fast beginning to understand why the Sky team riders that passed us earlier in the day chose to train in this area. As I pushed and pushed I could feel the lighter and more experienced riders on my tail, occasionally one steadying past, with friendly comments, in voices somewhat out of breath which assured me I was not alone!

Our destination at the end of this day was the charming French town of Ceret that was once home to Picasso. Arriving through the convoluted streets I couldn’t help but feel perhaps that is where Picasso got much of his inspiration, the obtuse lines reminding me of ‘Ma Jolie’. After a brief sampling of Catalunyan cuisine we were now in the Languedoc region that relies heavily on local produce: olive oil, tomato sauces, herbs from the wild garrigue. Whether it was the exertions of the day that played a role I don’t know, but our first evening meal in this region was the finest I’ve ever had.

Not knowing much about the Languedoc before the tour I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d read an article by Steve Razzetti in which he had listed the region as one of the best places in the world to ride but I was skeptical given that hardly anyone I spoke to even knew where it was. However, as we cycled deep into the region I began to appreciate what he was saying. We had the road to ourselves as we passed through stunning medieval hilltop villages and over incredible rolling hills as we headed deep into Cathar country.

It was amazing to get an insight into the history of the Cathar’s who inhabited this area from the 11th to 13th century. Ostensibly the tour was all about Hannibal but we also gained an insight into the broader history of the region too. Catharism was a Christian religious movement that was against what they perceived to be the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Catholic Church. The Pope at the time didn’t take too kindly to this and called a crusade on these rebels to wipe them out. He then followed up with the first religious inquisition to finish the job and all that remains is a series of Cathar fortresses across the region. Perched in the most precarious of positions one such fortress provided a challenge at the end of day 3. Never has a post ride beer tasted so good after taking on the 2km 20% ramp climb to Chateau Queribus.

The most impressive of these fortresses though was the Chateau Peyrepertuse that sits on an imposing 2400m defensive crag which offers breathtaking views in all directions – probably a key prerequisite for a fortress I guess. Not all the guys, least of all myself, were too chuffed with the post ride hike up to this remarkable site but on getting there it was definitely worth it. Once again having guides that were able to explain the history of what we were seeing brought them to life. That said my personal highlight of the day was the wild boar that was served for dinner which had been caught in the woods below the fortress earlier in the week.

I’m sure that in part it was the fine sustenance that we found in the Languedoc which enabled me to take on each days riding with my legs surprisingly still going strong. However each day still started with a hearty breakfast of carbs and painkillers. Amazing how you can soldier on though when the scenery is spectacular and the food is so good. Seeing the impressive fortified Cite de Carcassonne in the distance on day 6 for example served as a beacon some 40km out and somehow the pain dissipated as it beckoned me in.

Granted as the aggregate distance increased I raised the dosage levels of medication and my joints were somewhat in disarray but with the camaraderie of the group getting stronger as the tour went on there was plenty of support to fall back on. The fine wines of the Languedoc that I have failed to mention also played a role. Staying away from the coast in the high Languedoc we really felt that we experienced the best the region has to offer. We gently ribbed Sam about why we were there when logic would surely dictate that Hannibal would have stayed closer to the coast on his journey but he seemed to have an answer to everything. Since I had no intention of reading the ancient texts of Polybius it was easier to take his word for it.

As we continued on our way to the Papal city of Avignon we joined the extraordinary Voie Verte that is a converted railway that links a number of the regions’ picturesque villages including Olargues, voted one of France’s most beautiful villages and the site of the medieval Devil’s Bridge. Our aperitif on the bridge is an abiding memory as is the fine cuisine served by our Danish hosts that evening who managed to fuse the best of Languedoc cuisine with a hint of Denmark.

My final day on the bike was a bit of a slog as we pushed our way through a continuous head wind, noting the incredible Clamouse cave, the Gorges de’Herault and the Pic Loup Cliffs on our way to the Rhone River. The day was long and tough on the legs, but from deep within the energy was there to sprint the last 20km, and passing through a small French village, youngsters playing a game of football on the street greeted us with chants of ‘Tour de France’. The medieval centre of Sommieres, rich in Roman history, was a highlight but the crossing of the Rhone and heading towards the golden Madonna on the Papal palace in Avignon will be the memory that lives the longest.

There is still much conjecture as to how Hannibal got himself, his army and elephants across the Rhone with a number of outlandish ideas having been put forward. From elephants walking along the bottom of the river with their trunks breaking through the surface to rafts being built and covered in earth to look like land, the list of hypotheses is long. This is very much the case with my own experience of getting from Barcelona to Avignon as few of my friends believe I actually made it under my own steam! In my case the consensus is that I hitched a lift with the support vehicle!

Notwithstanding my skeptical friends I have to say that never at any point did I feel the need to flag down the van. With great support from the Ride and Seek guides and my fellow Hannibal riders the challenge always felt surmountable. Having the routes uploaded on the Garmins was also a bonus as it allowed you to go at your own pace and never worry about losing your way. I’m not sure I could have done what a number of the others were doing and continue on to Rome, but it is amazing how much stronger you get when you conquer an epic ride such as this. I hadn’t started this ride expecting to feel better than I did at the start, but I certainly did. No matter how many things I will forget in life, this ride will certainly not be one of them.

Steve Nash 2012

For more information on the Hannibal Tour visit






Are you a stravasshole?

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 cyclist to compete online. With a Garmin 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!

Jason Langer Testimonial of Ride and Seek Tour

“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.

 Dylan and Sam 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 (below) rode the Epic in 2012 and as his rider profile attests neither he nor we as guides quite knew what to expect. 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. Having only learnt to ride a bike 3 years ago and with no experience of multi day riding Jason proved to be an inspiration to us all with seeing Jason get to the top of Col Agnel (2744m) an amazing tour highlight.

Max Hofman Testimonial of Ride and Seek Tour

Special thanks to Max Hofman (pictured on the left getting some mechanical tips from Sam) for his wonderful testimonial on the recent Hannibal tour.

The only problem though is that Max was clearly so enamoured with the tour that he wrote an essay!

At the end of every tour we ask our guests to fill out a short evaluation which includes a small space for testimonials. Our hope is that our guests will write a couple of  complimetary lines about the tour which we can potentially use to promote the tour in the future.

Clearly this space didn’t suffice for Max and so I thought I’d present his testimonial as a blog post in its own right!

Thanks for taking the time Max – see below

Would you be willing to provide us with testimonials from your trip either regarding the trip itself, your guides or both?

The guides / designers (for their guiding only expresses a small part of their collective brains trust in bringing together this wonderful journey) did a truly amazing job of organizing this tour. Everything from the lush picnic lunches to the most glamorous, traditional filled feasts were impeccably timed and uniquely constructed. Apart from being the first out and last in every day, there was no end to the assistance shown to each and every rider on tour. Their vigilance of rider needs was paramount but it was their joint attributes and professional abilities that made this tour a stand out in so many ways.

Their notion of the ‘group tour’ meant that at no stage did the slowest rider feel the burden of having to catch up, nor the quickest rider feel angst that their speedy designs were thwarted. This was assisted by the open nature of the tour’s daily organization which encouraged riders to ride at their own paces and to their own strengths. Well planned coffee breaks and a healthy group dynamic assisted in all riders actively owning their own roles within the riding community; the leading riders were in a constant state of flux with the peloton, creating an agreeable and empathetic touring party.

The sensory delights of the tour were plentiful but nothing delivers a successful tour more than harmonious guiding. The guides who led Hannibal 2012 have a wealth of experience of all aspects of the Hannibal tour and were more than generous of their time and knowledge. Their ease with one another enabled their entire focus to be on the successful completion of detail and thus the collective termination of each day’s binary adventures. Whether it was mechanical dilemmas, corporal needs or cognitive salve, the guides were never found wanting in their attention to their charges.

The treatment of the riders / hoteliers / restaurateurs et al was exemplary at all times and because of the fantastic relationship the guides had with every place, our riding team always received A-class attention. Due to their extensively built relationships along this tour route that has included a BBC / SBS documentary (I would seriously recommend viewing before taking part in Hannibal 201..) and a decade’s worth of bicycle touring experience, our group was able to participate in some amazing historical / cultural aspects as well as being permitted to stay in places (such as the ‘English patient’ monastery) that would be otherwise exclusive for generic cycling groups.

Having followed with interest the progressive state of the BBC Hannibal documentary (now finally showing in Australia), it was with great anticipation that the cycling element extended itself to the general public. In doing so, Dylan and Sam created not only the perfect cyclists’ route but one with a plethora of historical and cultural features. Not only is this famous ‘camino’ a bike enthusiast’s haven that tackles the tour de France big guns but as far as I am aware it is the only current documentary in which you can actively participate. It is akin to being in a wilderness zone with Sir David Attenborough (or perhaps Bear Grylls) alongside to answer every question you can muster, and to encourage digestion of all manner of local delicacies. We were fortunate enough on this inaugural tour to have not only Sam but also another third of the Hannibal documentary trio (Sam’s brother, Ben Wood) to field the many questions that we novice historians came up with. We were only lacking the bull whip and akubra!

If feeling thus a part of a live Indiana Jones set (minus the slings and arrows) was not sufficient, the other half of the guiding fraternity made the compliment whole; with a cycling expert whose binary ability was surpassed only by his fluency in the linguistic elements. With Dylan, a past professional athlete whose curriculum vitae of bicycle guiding excellence is second to none, the tour had the perfect duo for success. Of enduring memory are the eloquent gourmet speeches that accompanied every morsel of traditional food and sip of superb vino; not to mention the charming and colloquial manner in which our language specialist was able to bring a blush to the cheek of the most modest host, with his ardent appreciation of what was placed before us.

In short, the tour guiding experience far surpassed anything I have ever encountered in more than 2 score years of bicycle touring. To retain an amiable, trouble free countenance over two and a half thousand km’s – 26 days of logistical aerobics – and to organize to the most miniscule detail every moment of every day’s ride on such an epic adventure, takes an epic effort. In Sam and Dylan, the Hannibal tour has two gentlemen capable of making such an effort, and indeed they did!

Of the retaining empirical resonance of ‘Hannibal tour 2012’, two things are constant: the success of the tour itself and the perfectly suited abilities of the guides.  Well done Dylan and Sam, we all feel indebted for the wealth of experiences your dedicated guiding allowed us to enjoy. I wish you all the best for future tours and look forward with gusto any time of binary paths are to cross.

Yours sincerely and thankfully,

Max Hofman

Hannibal tourist 2012 stages 2 / 3.

Females on Ride and Seek Bike Tour

Heros and heroines………


Well actually we didn’t have any heroines to speak of as we were decidedly top heavy with guys on the inaugural Hannibal tour.

As our facebook page and the ‘Characters of Hannibal 2012’ clearly attests there was a definite lack of the feminine touch on tour and this is something we’d like to change for 2013 –

The good news is that we already have a couple of ladies signed up for 2013 but we’re keen to balance up the numbers a little more if possible and hence this blog is actually a ‘Call out’ to the lovely ladies of the world.

Check out our slideshow from the tour to get a sense of what a great tour it is and how necessary it is to get more ladies on board!