With 365 days of cycling possibilities in a year, what was your favorite biking moment or most epic ride so far this year?
Written by Martin Thompson
Martin is co-founder at Cycling Rentals; a long time cyclist, mountain bike lover, environmentalist, full time eater & part time world traveler.
Share your photo or short video with fellow world cyclists here with a short caption and we will publish your photo and shortlist 2 contenders for a final vote vote on our Facebook page. The winner will receive a 25% discount voucher for any of our bike rentals and get mad kudos!
Deadline for submissions is the 25 of December!
Every February, in deepest, darkest Winter, restaurants all over the Catalan countryside load up their grills with a rather unusual vegetable and churn up huge bowls of rich, Romesco sauce, to host a fun food fiesta known as the Calçotada.
Written by Vanya Maplestone
Vanya and Enrique are part time cycling tour guides, and full time vegans. They take photos of food, their bikes and pretty places. See their plant based recipes at www.wonderlandfood.online and follow them on Instagram: @Wonderland_Food & @Wonderland_Locations
Calçots are not unlike a large, fat spring onion, which when grilled over hot coals soften and become sweet and sticky. The centre of the onion slipping easily from its blackened outer layers is then dunked in garlicky romesco sauce before being dropped vertically into the mouth for a fun and tasty food tradition enjoyed by Catalan families and visitors alike, every winter.
It is quite the sight. Salsa Romesco, is a special sauce made from dried red peppers, nuts (usually hazelnuts and almonds), garlic, vinegar and olive oil that is typical of Tarragona, the region where this tradition started.
At a real Calçotada, a 3-4 course menu is usually served, looking something like: a cream of artichoke soup or pan con tomate (coca bread rubbed with garlic and tomato), Butifarra (Catalan sausage) and Crema Catalana (the Catalan's version of Creme Brulée), with a pile of Calçots as the main event.
It is simple fare but is generally an excuse to gather with friends and family on a Sunday, drive out to a country restaurant, eat a lot and laugh as you get covered in charcoal, and start to smell like fire and onions.
Recently passing through Tarragona on our way south from Barcelona we stopped off for a Calçotada before we left the Catalan region. As plant based eaters we opted for a 'Teja' (roof tile) which is a piping hot pile of calçots served on a hot terracotta roof tile to maintain heat as you work your way through the lot.
You are provided with a Calçotada kit when you order, containing a bib, plastic gloves and extra napkins – all of which you look at wondering how on earth you could need so much stuff for a few grilled onions, but need them you will.
It is messy, hilarious fun with the added game of seeing who can eat the most calçots. Siestas afterward are unavoidable and you will potentially not eat for 24 hours following your Calçotada, so they are quite the memorable experience if you find yourself in Catalonia in Winter. And we highly recommend that you do.
The Most Famous Calçotadas in Catalonia
Address: Carrer de la Font F, 14, 43813 Masmolets
Telephone: 977 60 59 60
Restaurante El Rodavi
Address: Av. Can Nicolau, 47, 43881 Cunit, Tarragona
Telephone: 977 94 39 54
Hours:1-4pm; closed Monday
Hostal Restaurant Grau
Address: Pere el Gran 3, Santes Creus, Tarragona
Telephone: +34 977 638 311
Hours: 1-4pm; closed Monday
Font Les Planes
Address: Carrer Vallvidrera a Sant Cugat, 08017 Barcelona
Telephone: 932 80 59 49
Hours: 9am – 7pmSunday to Thursday; 9am-11:30pm Friday & Saturday; closed Tuesday
Address: Carrer Gran de Gràcia 57, Gràcia
Telephone: +34 932 187 370
Hours: 1-4:15 & 8:30-11:45pm; closed Sunday & Mon. evening
Written by Viv Stuart
Viv is a keen and knowledgeable cyclist who has been bringing groups of friends to the Algarve in Southern Portugal for the sun, fun and great riding
For 5 years now I have organised a cycling week in the Western Algarve for me and some of my lady friends. The first trip in 2013 there was just 5 of us, the numbers have increased year on year and last trip there was 12 - yes TWELVE!!!
We always base ourselves in the gorgeous village of Burgau just west of Lagos. We self cater in a couple of 3 bedroom villas and every year Cycling Rentals have provided our road bikes. They have been a major key player in the success of our trips and I cannot thank them enough for their support.
We usually ride 6 of our 7 days and average 80 kilometres a day. I plan the routes in advance and cycling in any direction from Burgau is just fantastic!
We have taken our bikes on the train from Lagos to the lovely town of Silves and then cycled back. A large percentage of our groups have also ridden to the Foia the highest point in the Algarve. There are enough restaurants in Burgau for us to eat somewhere different every evening. We have memorable lunch stops at some amazing beaches and also inland destinations,
On our day off we usually go kayaking from Lagos, another amazing day! We always have an on-line food delivery on our arrival with just about every essential item that 12 ladies could need.
We are not "Spring Chickens" either! our ages range from 40-69 and we have a fabulous time, roll on our next trip in September 2018. Give us a wave if you see a "peloton" of 12 ladies whizzing by!!!
Cycling abroad is an exciting and great holiday, nice and challenging. Four friends have made successful journeys in 14 different countries the last 17 years, Although we have experienced some common challenges (brain & heart infarctions), we have kept fitness and are still cycling!
Written by Sigurd Solberg
Norwegian world cyclist, still going strong at 72!
We were 49-56 years when we started along Donau and have since cycled within the borders of Ireland (W), Poland (N), Croatia (E) and Spain(S). Although we have experienced some common challenges (brain/heart infarctions), we have kept fitnes and are still cycling. We are following the same kind of planning, adapted to age, conditions and experiences.
Our advice is: Do not go more than 4 persons together, carry your own luggage, spend the nights at hotels, perhaps bed&breakfast. We have learned that four people are convenient, 2 double rooms, you can eat together, you can split up easily for one night – if you feel its necessary, its easy to arrange. To carry the luggage is something to learn. You do not need much clothing. Wool is essential (also in summer), also daily washing (of something). One pair of shoes is maybe sufficient. We use always watertight bags. Regularly you need only one bag for a 1 week trip (2 bags for 2-3 weeks). We often like to go down along rivers, it is a guaranty for nice travel.
How do we decide where to go? Desires and initiative counts. Often we want to visit people we have met at cycling-journeys before or who have visited us in Norway - sometimes we end or start the journey there. Commonly we buy the air transport and two nights- the first and the last- in advance. The other lodging we arrange during the journey (if advice does not tell us that this will not be possible).
We have never lacked accommodation – from 87 spontaneously arranged lodging – every time, although difficult, was arranged. Sometimes, these stories have become our most beloved moments: once a closed hotel was opened by help from the neighbors, another time we were handed over the hotel keys and locked the hotel in the morning - because the owners went on holidays.
In our last journey, in northern Portugal the first week of November, we happened to use the firm Cycling Rentals and their services. It was an unambiguously positive experience, the most reliable bicycles we ever experienced, reasonable priced and very practically arranged (hotels, transport). Thank you!
Most of our cycling clients and friends bike tour a lot more that I do, so I thought it would be nice to share their inspiring stories with you. If you have a tale to tell of your two wheeled journeys, why not share it right here?
Written by Martin Thompson
Martin is co-founder at Cycling Rentals; a long time cyclist, mountain bike lover, environmentalist, full time eater & part time world traveler.
Some of the best bike touring stories are not all about the bike or even the ride, but about the people you meet along the way, and the experiences you have - or the emotions! A classic bike tour that never fails to elicit all of the above is of course the Camino de Santiago, but some of my own unforgettable rides have been much closer to home.
Below are a few of my favourite and most inspirational bike tour stories, that simply put the joy of pedaling in me. But I would love to hear about your most memorable experiences on a bicycle!
Although it's always been politically charged, the northeastern region of Catalonia is arguably Spain's finest cycling destination - and arguably not Spanish!
Written by Martin Thompson
With a language that long predates Castilian Spanish and a rich heritage of cultural and political power through the ages, the Catalan region in the north east of the Iberian Peninsula has plenty to offer to cycle travelers, beyond the upheaval of recent events.
From the snow capped peaks and foothills of the Pyrenees to the pine clad shores of the Mediterranean sea, Catalonia boasts a stunning range of idyllic scenery and superb riding conditions. The numerous secondary roads and exquisite cycling trails make exploring the region by bicycle immensely enjoyable and rewarding.
With sufficient variety of terrain to suit every type of cyclist, the only real difficulty is choosing the best route for your limited travel time and that is why we have worked so hard to put together a bike tour of our very favourite province in Catalonia: Girona. Home to dozens of professional cyclists and racing teams, the Girona province has all of the finest Catalan attributes - great scenery and route options, through ancient villages and monumental landscapes from the ocean to the mountains. Could a cyclist dream of any more??
Aside from the phenomenal cycling conditions, aprés riding activities are just as delightful, as Catalonia offers some of the very best cuisine in the western Europe - yes, I would say they even give the Italians a run for their money! World class wines and superior accommodation put the finishing touches on this remarkable part of Spain and will have you not wanting to leave. But when you do, you will no doubt come back for another ride!
Andrew Leach and friends recently cycled the Camino, starting their adventure in Pamplona on a gruelling schedule to Santiago using our Camino Rental Pack. Here is his own account of his journey and experience riding across Spain.
Written by Andrew Leach
I first heard of the Camino de Santiago when I was walking the Pyrenees about 10 years ago. I thought at the time it would be interesting one day perhaps to continue my journey on to Santiago de Compostela and so complete my journey from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Last year a French acquaintance named Paul had just returned from his 'Camino' and we spoke of travel, walking, food and many things. Although he never entered my house as he was delivering logs, there was an empathy between us. I brought him back some special Abondance cheese from France which he likes, as a thank you for the wood. He inspired me to cycle the Camino.
The History / Legend of St James is much a character of Legend in Spain as St George is in England. Facts about his life are hard to come by, although it is certain that he was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem in 44 AD... the rest is however hypothesis. His body and head are said to have been taken by his followers Athanasius and Theodoro to Jaffa where a stone boat was commissioned and within a week this boat and precious cargo were washed up at modern day Padron only 20k from modern day Santiago de Compostela where he was buried.
For 800 years he appears to have lain undisturbed and forgotten until a hermit called Pelagius had a vision of a star shining on a field (Compo - Field; Stela - Star) and his tomb was discovered. Some time later king Alfonso II declared St James patron of Spain. He was often reported to be seen in battle against the Moors on a white charger. A Church was built over his tomb and so the modern history of Santiago de Compostela began.
This summer Gerard, Michael, Neil and I set off for Bilbao to cycle the Camino. We carried just the very bare essentials... it was going to be hot.
We planned to cycle about 100k every day, over some beautiful landscapes to parts of Spain which we had never heard or imagined of .. look up Burgos, Leon, Logroño.. to name but a few of our stops, these places were a revelation to us.
The people we met along the way came from all points of the compass; Levenshulme to Christchurch NZ and everywhere in between.
Everyone we met had a different story and reasons for their journey.. too many to tell here, although one chap we saw in Santiago dressed as an old fashioned Pilgrim had been walking for years and has lived off the land without money or any modern day accouterments. Others had walked the last 100k to receive their certificate. Some people had walked/cycled from Poland, Austria or Italy, you name it and here were to be found pilgrims. One German boy I spoke with had walked into Santiago in bare feet.
The reasons for their journeys? As numerous as their origins, spiritual, penance, in memory of loved ones, a challenge? Others because it was just there to do.
The food along the way was in most places wonderful (pilgrims fare on average for 3 course was on average €15 inc of wine, coffee & water) Accommodation was excellent and inexpensive, we stayed in small hostels or converted Monasteries, which offered good value. We could have stayed in an Albergue for about €5-€10 per night but the thought of a large dormitory for the night wasn't for us.
At every stage along the way you received a Stamp to prove the distance you have travelled and at the end you receive a certificate once your credentials are produced .
We travelled through the Navarra region and on to the Castilian flatlands at between 800 and 900 meter for two days in the searing heat with little or no shade and arrived in Galicia with it's green mountainous landscape. I hope to return in the future to explore and experience some more of this beautiful part of Spain with it's friendly people and interesting culture. It is really a hidden part of Spain which I would imagine few British people have visited.
On our penultimate day we stopped in a small town called Sarria and visited a small church, we sat outside had a sandwich and drink and set off again. We all said we needed more food and a coffee and decided we would stop somewhere soon. We must have passed a few dozen places selling coffee and were leaving town up a steep hill when Neil's foot slipped off a pedal, we all stopped to see if he was ok when a voice from behind me said "Hello Mr Andrew Leach, how are you". At first I didn't recognize the face with the goatee beard and black shirt and I was trying to figure out who it was; then I realised it was Paul... the Guy who had inspired me to do the Camino. Was this Divine intervention, purely coincidence or just chance? He was working at a restaurant and served us some excellent fare and we talked for a while said our goodbyes and cycled on.
Arriving in Santiago was something of an anticlimax, with it's busy streets and pilgrims everywhere and we were tired after another long hot day in the saddle.
Did we have a religious experience? what had the journey taught us, we spent some hours discussing this over dinner that night.
It was a great journey on a terrific landscape, meeting interesting people... And you find out things about yourself and what your body is capable of. I cycled for 5 days with a badly sprained ankle, most people we met had blisters and bandages here and there.
Everyone was in agreement that it was a real sense of achievement, one we're unlikely to forget in a hurry.
February is usually a great time to cycle in Portugal, but if you go North, you need to expect some rain and some cold days. The Cycling Rentals crew decided to load up the mountain bikes and find out just how much.
Written by Martin Thompson
Every year we use our own bicycle rental services to go on a team cycle tour holiday - out of season, so we can be back in the office to make sure that your bike holiday goes rolls smoothly when the sun is out! This year we decided to explore the little know Grande Rota do Côa, a European GR that follows the Coa river in northern Portugal from Guarda to Vila Nova de Foz Côa.
The route offers stunning scenery and a glimpse at a vanishing way of life in the very rural interior of northern Portugal. If bucolic wilderness is your think, this is a ride to seriously consider! Most of the route follows the meandering Côa river valley and crosses a various points the river itself and several tributary streams - which as we found out can run pretty deep in the winter!
Guarda to Sabugal - 50 km Road & Trail
The first leg of our journey was a train ride from the Portuguese capital. Leaving Lisbon on the Intercity train to Guarda, we discovered that only certain compositions, running at specific times will take your bike on board (you can find out more about taking your bicycle on a train in Portugal here). Fortunately we had a fine bottle of Irish Whiskey to keep us warm as we waited for the next train and a video shot for a big name fast food brand going on in the streets below.
Once we boarded the right train we made a quick stop in Coimbra, changing trains and grabbing a bite before heading on to Guarda, which is known for being Ugly, Strong and Cold - by the town's own reckoning! While the train ride had been anything but ugly, it was certainly cold on the platform and based on the weather forecast, it was about to get much colder. And wetter.
Cycling out of town was quick and painless and we soon found ourselves on ancient roman cobbles and very glad to be on our 29er mountain bikes as we trundled towards the leaden skies ahead. Although we had enjoyed a break in the frosty weather in Guarda, it was pretty clear that the temperature was dropping as we approached sunset, and the rain was starting to taunt us. It was time for some more whisky, and we could have been on the Scottish highlands for the wind chill on our faces - but the peaty flavour of Ireland soon had us dancing a jig.
Our resolve stiffened by the drink and our cockles aglow, we made it to our hotel by nightfall and were very pleasantly surprised by the glowing warmth and snazzy decor. The fragrance of fresh pine and new varnish were unsurprising as the hotel had been finished only a few moths earlier and on this night, there was only another couple joining us for dinner. But not before a dip in the huge spa pool, where the young couple was treated to the sight of one of the team members soggy boxer shorts as I had failed to pack my speedos... Dinner was fine and ample, as was the bar bill, and an excellent night's sleep was had by all - even as we watched the rain fall ceaselessly, through the panoramic windows.
Why in god's name were we doing this??
Sabugal to Castelo Mendo - 65 km Road, Trail and Cobbles
Having dragged out a fabulous breakfast as long as we possibly could, we agreed that 65 km in the rain weren't going to ride themselves, so with 3 layers of winter gear we rolled out into the gray drizzle. The ride was clearly a beautiful one - as far as we could make out. We rolled over the first on many roman low stone bridges, built of solid granite slabs and made to stand the test of time.
With breakfast still keeping us strong it was becoming apparent that perhaps winter was not the best time of year to undertake this river-side route - as the well prepared literature on the website had made so abundantly clear. But now, wet to the socks and bracing for snow, we were committed - and all roads led to Castelo Mendo - or so we thought. Passing ancient toll bridges and practically uninhabited hamlets, we felt like so many hobbits on a brave but hopeless quest as we reached a frigid village, where we were informed by the only inhabitant in sight, that road ended there as the river had burst it´s banks up ahead.
Following a bracing snack of pilfered breakfast sandwiches, the decision was made to head back to the previous village and take the main road from there to our night's destination. This call was not made lightly as hypothermia was a very real possibility, in fact a guarantee! The powerful wind was blowing icy rain right at us in horizontal sheets as we battled our way back along the darkening landscape of barren fields and boulders.
Why in god's name were we doing this?? The hardest part of the retreat came on the last little downhill into town, when we realized that our hands were no more useful on the brakes than a clutch of frozen mackerel. Jamming my writs atop the brake levers did the trick and we were soon shivering our way into the village social club. This was the only café for miles - and was clearly the most popular place in town: all 8 inhabitants were there for the afternoon coffee.
In keeping with northern spirit, heating is reserved only for cold days. So the balmy 10 degrees inside the little building were cozy enough that the locals only needed a single outdoor coat - but only marginally better than the 3 degrees outside, and not enough to bring 5 hypothermic cyclists back from the brink!
Through rigid lips I managed to inquire if there was any wood to fuel the cast iron stove in the middle of the room and in no time the locals had a healthy little fire going. In the mean time, Nuno was working the bar and had produced a lava-hot galão for each of us. In the mean time, a rather feisty widow had taken a keen eye to him and suggested her place might be warmer than the frigid little social club - and for some reason I can only ascribe to his hypothermic condition, he agreed!
By the time Nuno returned, even colder than when he left, the stove was doing its job and our digits were starting to move again, enough to get dialing the phone number of the only local taxi service - which served all the surrounding villages! As luck that favors only fools would have it, the taxi was in fact a large 9 seater van, not unlike our own, and able to comfortably take us to our nights destination... 25 km away. John put up a brave fight to suggest we MTFU, brace ourselves and head out into the now subsiding rain, but was swiftly voted down by all, including the amorous widow.
A shot of peaty whiskey sealed the deal and before we knew it we were unloaded at a newly restored village, featuring its own cooking school and spanking new sauna. The boys made haste and finished of the rest of the tipple, as they broiled away inside the sauna, before an exquisite dinner of local delights, served with bread of made by our own, now more dexterous hands! Superb.
Castelo Mendo to Foz Côa - 70 km road, trail and vertical climbing!
The freeze and thaw of the previous day safely behind us, and sparkling sunlight streaming through the landscape window of the breakfast room had our morale a peak levels! And we were going to need it! The ride out was on splendidly flowing tarmac all the way down to the Côa river valley and was only cut short once we found the trail-head. Overgrown and somewhat under water... But it was a beautiful little trail that meandered along the river edge, through fields of early blossoming almond trees and over ancient stone slab bridges - until it abruptly ended in a freezing melt-water stream.
After much deliberation, I decided the only thing to do was jump on John's back and get carried across the icy water. He is a bigger man than I by most dimensions and his piggy back that day will never be forgotten! Ralph jeered me on, but was relieved when John waded back over the floes once again and with Francis's help brought him over to dry land as well!
The rest of the ride had us zig-zagging over single track bridges and scenery that in spring or summer would be so grand that we all vowed to return despite the horrors we had suffered along our way. Eventually the flat Côa valley riding gave way to the steep sides behind the Douro valley, at the foot of the frontier town of Foz Côa, and the only way was up. Up the steepest cobbled road in Portugal, a road so steep and so cobbled that the wonder was how the cobbles hadn't all rolled into the river below!
The only thing that kept us going up that final climb, was the biting cold that had descended with the setting sun. Fortunately the pagan traditions of northern Portugal were in full swing and the town fair was on, ensuring piping hot, deep fried dough churros for all, as we cycled down the main avenue to our nights destination. After a fantastic dinner, irrigated with excellent local wines, the evening ended with a midnight raid of my room, by my dear friends who were clearly missing their wives at that point...
Foz Côa back to Lisbon - 300 km of train travel
A hearty breakfast served in the generous Portuguese fashion of old (3 times more fresh eggs, toast and cake than we could ever eat!), banish any hard feelings from the bedroom raid of the previous night and readied us for the inevitable return back to our homes, offices and the grind of daily life...
But not before one of the most spectacular train journeys in Europe, chugging right along the bank of the stunning Douro river valley, all the way to Porto. From Porto, we had a few moments to gather our wits and luggage before boarding the slick and quiet Alfa train back down to the frenetic buzz of Lisbon. What a ride!
Cycling In Portugal
Cycling In Spain
Bikes & Equipment
Rua José Bento Costa, 5A
2710-428 Portela de Sintra
EU (+351) 212 424 604
EU (+351) 922 134 857
USA (+1) 970 672 0209
UK (+44) (0)208 816 8637
Sign up to receive news, special offers, events & more.