Friday Group Ride #468

Friday Group Ride #468

I was asked to speak at a transportation conference. As you can imagine, this was a source of mirth for many of my friends, but I went anyway, and I stood in front of a room of about 150 people and talked about cycling as a mode of transportation in Massachusetts. I forget most of what I told those people. The highlights (for me) were the end, when I waxed rhapsodic about how great a place to ride our home state really is, and then a part of the question and answer section where I told a lady who was reluctant to commute to work because the helmet messed up her hair, not to wear a helmet. You would have thought I’d recommended bank robbery.

Afterwards a nice man came up to me and thanked me for extolling the virtues of simply riding a bike locally. He ran a small bike touring business, and he knew what I knew, which is that, despite having no real cache in the larger veloverse, Massachusetts has a lot to offer, beautiful winding roads through farm country (actually all our roads everywhere are winding…apparently straight lines weren’t invented until long after our state was fully mapped), plenty of packed dirt, Class IV stuff, with long climbs and scenic views, and mountain biking of many varied flavors.

Also, we’re in New England. The other states, the ones right next door, have more and better and it all flows together into a pretty magical place to turn the pedals.

Also, this is the United States of America. We have rail trails hundreds of miles long. We have the desert Southwest and the lushly forested Pacific Northwest. Is there any place in this country that doesn’t have some cyclomagic to offer?

But then I get to spend time in Wales, too. And in Wales I get whiplash from sawing my head around to see every dirt path, picturesque ride by, and twisting carriage road worth riding. I’ve never been in a more densely awesome outdoor environment. But I haven’t traveled like some of you have.

This week’s Group Ride asks, if you could only ride in one country for the rest of your life, which one would you choose? I’ve left France for one (or more) of you to extoll. I’d love to hear about someplace I don’t expect to hear about, like Namibia. I’d like to hear more about Japan and Vietnam. It’s tough to say, just one country, but I know that I could limit myself to tiny Wales, for example, and never, ever get bored.

Image: Mountain Bike Wales

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12 comments

  1. Jay

    I would focus on the USA. We live in such an expansive piece of real estate that it pretty much encompasses anything you might want to ride through. To really experience it all would take a good portion of a lifetime. That is all.

  2. rides in be

    I lived for three years in Scotland. During that time of graduate studies I wrote extensively but almost exclusively in Fife around St. Andrews. I never got bored and rarely repeated the same rides. Much like your experience in Wales it was stunningly beautiful and full of small roads that begged to be ridden. The weather wasn’t always great. Nevertheless, I would put it up there as a possibility for lifelong riding.

  3. Michael

    Just one? I guess Ireland, where I made a rule one year that every ride had to have some part I had never ridden, and there were so many roads (eastern Ireland – the west has fewer) I pulled it off. I did have to resort to GoogleEarth a couple of times to scope out roads not shown on any map, and then really look for them when I was out, in order to keep my vow. The riding is quite varied and the drivers mostly pretty good (the tourists are generally the worst). What is missing are truly big climbs – 500 m asl is about the highest pass. Sweden would be another good choice (there I go breaking your one-country rule!). Roads all over, and some of the best gravel roads I have ever seen. You can ride all day on dirt, with only a few cars passing. Quite messy in the rain, of course. Endless forest (and mosquitoes) and the Swedes all go south in July, so things are pretty quiet in the summer. Winters are rough for cycling but a fat bike might do the trick (coupled with nordic skiing).

  4. Neil Winkelmann

    I’ve never ridden there, but Colombia is it for me. I’ve flown over parts of it in a light plane at fairly low altitude, and there are gravel roads there that would entertain an adventurous cyclist for life. In terms of places I HAVE ridden, I’ve never been bored with the Pyrenees.

  5. James Fitzgerald

    I am a dedicated road cyclist, although I have been riding gravel on a road bike for the past 35 years. I have been fortunate to have been able to travel to Europe regularly since 1998. My trips have been centered on the classic alpine cycling countries of France, Italy and Switzerland, so my experience is not as worldly as some others. To pick a favorite feels a bit like choosing a favorite amongst your children, everyone has their merits. But still, one country’s siren song is stronger than the others- Italy.
    Specifically, the Dolomiti, basing out of Corvara, and the Stelvio region, basing out of Bormio.
    Corvara and the Dolomiti will give you the absolute best return on your investment. the Dolomiti tends to be a bit more compact than the grand routes in the French Alps.
    I have ridden the Selle Rondo perhaps a 1/2 dozen times and I still find it jaw droppingly beautiful. 4 beautiful passes in 35 miles. Amazing. there’s also Passo Val Parola, Passo Giau, Passo Falzarego, the Marmolada and in the next ski town of Cortina, a route that includes the magical Tre Cime. If one could only plan one alpine trip I would not hesitate to recommend the Dolomiti as the best choice.
    My second favorite local in Italy is the Stelvio region. More challenging than the Dolomiti. Every day could be a big day with the Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo beckoning, and giving back epic memories that will not fade quickly. Bormio is a perfect host with at least a couple of excellent bike hotels.
    There’s more to Italy than just these two locations that I love; Tuscany, Umbria, the Lake Como region and the Colle delle Finestre, but this article is about favorites.
    Italy

    James Fitzgerald

    1. Chris

      I have to agree with James on Italy, as much for the drivers as the natural beauty, cuisine and culture. Instead of the epic Dolomiti, I pine for the perfect roads and drivers of Tuscany outside of tourist season, or “undiscovered La Marche”. The trade off of heavier wheels and wider tires to handle the chip sealed roads is worth it for the beauty and tranquility.

  6. Ethan

    I love riding in Okinawa Japan, there is no winter, speed limits are half that of the us, and drivers pay attention and give you plenty of space. Not to mention the picturesque scenery and silky roads.

  7. TomInAlbany

    I’ve really only ridden in the U.S. That said, there’s so much to see and do in a country as large and diverse as ours.

    I’d really love to do some Europe though. Maybe when I’m 65…

  8. David A

    The Netherlands or Denmark Bike paths, cycling culture and infrastructure is already in place. Pardon the pun, there is no need to reinvent the(bike) wheel in these countries.

  9. Parker

    Saw so many cyclists during a recent bus tour of scenic Denmark that, except for winter weather, expect riding there would be good.

    Am curious why you prefer cycling without a helmet to not cycling when helmet hair’s the objection to helmeted cycling. Not that helmetless cycling’s akin to bank robbery. Without knowing your reasons for this preference, however, reasonable-safety-as-hygiene strikes me as akin to fitness-as-hygiene. What am I not appreciating besides the fact that most Danes who cycle-commute in Copenhagen do so without helmets? Or that this question deflects from your primary concern this week?

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