It was back in February when I met with Richard and Ann Opper, a couple who asked me to put a bike and wine trip together for them and their friends. They said it could be in any wine region, my choice, and that the biking should be challenging, but not ridiculously hard. It took me all of a minute to come up with the Piedmont region of Italy. It is incredibly beautiful, I love the wines (Barlo, Barbaresco, Barbera) and the hills are more difficult than Tuscany, but not as crazy as the Dolomites.
I looked into several bike tour outfitters and settled on Dreamtrips, a small company out of Acqui Terme. Their website leaves a little to be desired, but they are experts in this region, and very flexible about customizing a trip to a client’s needs. There are many “gotchas” that can happen with local bike outfitters, and I’ve run into them all:
- overused or cheap bicyles in need of a tune-up (especially at the end of the season)
- absolutely no personal service on the trip (many just have taxis move the baggage from hotel to hotel)
- poorly translated route sheets full of mistakes (directions must constantly be updated as the Europeans are always reconstructing and redirecting their roads.)
By going self-guided, we paid about half as much as a comparable trip with one of the large U.S. companies and guides. Dreamtrips did a fabulous job: the routes were beautiful and avoided the traffic found on the busier roads. Lorenzo, the owner-manager, met up with us several times on the trip. One night he drove us to the vineyard-farmhouse of a friend where we had a fabulous meal and drank their wines, which were outstanding. We felt guilty paying only 30 euro a person after such a bacchanalian feast!
If you are considering going with a local outfitter, please do your homework! My website www.BikeTourReview.com can be of help.
There was about 2,000 meters of climbing each day, but the fabulous views and the fun long downhills made it all worth it.
Typical lunch stop along the way. Richard and Anne in the back, Amy Wallen on the left. Her best-selling novel Moonpies and Movie Stars is a very fun romp about a roadtrip from Texas to Hollywoood. Amy’s retelling of the events of each day were hilarious (let’s just say she has a very active imagination
Amy’s partner, Eber Lambert, after a major wipeout on the second day. He was a trooper and still rode strong, never passing up a castle (even if it was a major ride uphill). He is Adam Lambert’s father, and was probably happy to have an entire week where no one talked about his son’s stint on American Idol.
Anne Regier and Robert Takacs are docs from Kansas City. The Annes have known each other since high school, and the two couples have biked through many regions together.
Next post: Winery visits in Barolo and Barbaresco
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