You can probably tell from a lot of the trips I guide that I love a point-to-point journey. If you’re in the Scottish Borders area, there’s a miniature one right on the doorstep. Going from the world famous mountain biking town of Peebles and finishing at a great cafe in Broughton, the John Buchan Way is a brilliant little adventure. Good on foot or bike when the ground is firm.
2019 could be a good year to get on more journeys!
This year seems to have passed in a flash and the fantastic summer weather has given way to a beautiful autumn.
Highlight trips with Saddle Skedaddle this year included a week on one of my favourite islands, Corsica.
Two weeks across France on the classic St Malo to Nice trip.
A north eastern adventure from Newcastle to Edinburgh on the Coast and Castles route.
Towards the end of the season, a trip to new destinations for me: Slovenia and Croatia. It was an awesome contrast of terrain, culture and riding from the Julian alps to the Dalmatian coast. This is a part of the world I’d love to visit again.
I took delivery of this bike courtesy of Saddle Skedaddle in April 2017. I had few quick local rides on the hilly back lanes of rural Lancashire before taking it to Spain and riding from San Sebastian to Tarifa, then to France and riding St Malo to Nice and some classic alps passes. It’s covered a few thousand kilometres now, time enough for me to get to know it fairly well.
The truth is that it didn’t take very long at all to feel right at home on this bike. Building up the size large frame, getting the stock stem in the correct position and finally cutting down the steerer tube revealed a bike that felt very stable and composed, happily climbing and descending all manner of roads. The stock bars at 440mm are also my go-to size, so no changes needed there.
The bike is sensibly adorned with a mostly Shimano Ultegra groupset. The finishing kit and wheels are all perfectly functional, but not exciting, Giant branded components. At the end of a summer of lots of riding the wheels are needing a little attention, as to be expected.
The frame itself is lovely, which is exactly what you want. I’m not usually a fan of proprietary standards, but the teardrop profile carbon seatpost on this bike is an exception; apart from looking smart, it means your saddle will always be perfectly in line! Further, the frame is Di-2 compatible, if that’s your thing, and comes with front and rear through-axles with nice tapered skewers. This non-“Pro” model means the fork’s steerer tube is aluminium, but my unrefined lack of perception here means this is no problem for me and meant I was happier to cut it myself too.
Coming from a mountain biking background, I am all in favour of hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes; I have been waiting for them to come to road bikes for some time. They offer a level of performance and consistency unmatched by any other system.
Then there’s the colour, which is extra useful for guiding purposes!
One of the many great things about my line of work is the travel opportunities it brings. Back in October, only a few days after arriving back from Corsica, I found myself on the long flight to India.
The trip starts in Jaipur, where there is the chance to see the Amer Fort before the tour begins.
Each town that you call in at has a different character. We were there around Diwali and at night the streets light up as the markets bustled.
The majority of the riding was fairly flat, although in the distance the Aravalli hills are often seen.
We stopped over in Jaipur for two nights, one of which was Diwali, a non stop firework display across the Blue City.
A moments peace could be found with a trip out to the desert, swapping our bikes for camels.
Eventually the Aravalli hills were traversed, significantly more climbing than earlier in the trip but also the most beautiful scenery.
The trip finishes in Udaipur, a city on a lake with the backdrop of the Aravalli.
A couple of late season trips in France and on Corsica and those cold, crisp mornings are with us again.
I love the warm light that a good autumn day brings, the afternoon riding up around the UNESCO world heritage site of the Calanques was particularly special.