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?
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!
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.
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.
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
Make your own Calçotada at home!
Want to try calçots but can’t make it over to Spain before the season ends? Try this pasta sauce to get the flavour of a Romesco sauce (the best part of the Calçotada is the sauce!) and taste a little bit of Catalonia right in your own kitchen!
Cycling Rentals Smoky Romesco Pasta Sauce
Serve with your favourite pasta shape or some zucchini noodles for a low-carb option.
-Vegan, Gluten Free.
Written by Vanya Maplestone
Vanya and her husband Enrique are part time cycling tour guides, and full time eaters. 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
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!
Thinking of cycling in Spain and perhaps taking your bike on the train? Here's what you need to know before you go!
Written by Didi Knowlton
When undertaking a long distance bicycle tour it can make sense to cut out certain long haul sections of the journey, especially if you are short on time. One of the best ways to travel these parts of your route is to simply put your bike on the train - or is it?
If you are bike touring in Spain, there are a few things you should be aware of if you want to use the rail services for any part of your journey. You should be able to take your bikes on the train on most rail routes using the Regional or Media-Distancia trains, and making sure that you book your train seats ahead of time and add a notification that you will be bringing a bicycle.
If you are travelling with friends, you also need to be aware that there is a maximum of 3 bikes per train composition.
You can get more details from the official Renfe website.
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