2018

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.

Giant TCR Advanced beach

Giant TCR Advanced 1 Disc

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!

France summer 2017 with Saddle Skedaddle

Earlier this summer I spent several weeks in France guiding two trips for Saddle Skedaddle. The first of these was the iconic St Malo to Nice, taken over three weeks.

This is a great way to do the trip if you have the time available as it gives you longer to enjoy the journey and the places you visit.

At the start of July I headed to the French alps to guide a group over some of the Tour de France regulars in Skedaddle’s Classic Alps Passes trip.

This was great as it linked some new areas for me with more familiar ground.

It’s always good to get back to the big mountains! I’m looking forward to another St Malo to Nice trip in September when the cool autumn mornings start to arrive.

Poppies

Del Norte al Sur: San Sebastián to Tarifa with Saddle Skedaddle

The first trip of the season with Saddle Skedaddle and it was a big one! Having previously done St Malo to Nice and Land’s End to John o’ Groats, it was great to take on another iconic end to end journey.

From the first day, the climbing begins.

Climbing over the Cordillera Cantábrica
Climbing over the Cordillera Cantábrica

There’s some huge open landscape views along the way.

Wide open spaces
Wide open spaces

There was so little traffic on the route, you sometimes wonder where everyone is!

Rolling towards Valverde de los Arroyos
Rolling towards Valverde de los Arroyos
Cyclist friendly roads
Cyclist friendly roads

Over a couple of weeks we had a few drops of rain but the clouds often made a dramatic backdrop to the scenery.

Dramatic skies
Dramatic skies

On the highest point of the route, we even rode in to the clouds.

Climb to the Collado de Serranillos
Climb to the Collado de Serranillos

Roads clung to the side of the hills overlooking the ever changing landscape.

More incredible scenery
More incredible scenery

One of the great things about the trip is the diverse range of incredible accommodation it visits.

Monastery converted to hotel at Guadalupe
Monastery converted to hotel at Guadalupe

As the trip gets further towards the south, the hills don’t let up. There’s a steep climb to the picturesque town of Zuheros.

Rolling out of Zuheros
Rolling out of Zuheros

Towards El Chorro the mountains get really impressive, the roads taking a sinuous route through them.

The road to El Chorro
The road to El Chorro
Sunshine and traffic free
Sunshine and traffic free

During May there are thousands of poppies lining the route, with occasional fields cloaked in bright red.

Poppies
Poppies

Ronda was the penultimate town we visited. Sat atop vertical cliffs and strung together with incredible bridges, this is somewhere I would like to return to.

Ronda view
Ronda view

With one last climb to go, the route is beautiful to the end. Watch out for the strong Levante wind descending to Tarifa. There’s a reason windsurfing is so popular here!

On the road to Tarifa
On the road to Tarifa