Guided bike tours, charity rides and organised challenges are tempting milestones for testing your cycling limits and fortitude. The more experienced and confident we become in our bikes and fitness levels, the more we look to where the next challenge or exhilaration will come from.
Thanks to the knowledge, endeavours and vision of the excellent array of cycling holiday companies and cycling event promoters in the Pyrenees, there are a growing number of testing events across the region and beyond. The Raid Pyreneen and the Tour D’Etape are popular challenges among cyclists who’ve clocked up a few thousand miles over their career in Lycra. Others are happier signing up for a dedicated week of guided cycling led by people who really know the lay of the land. Then there are the custom-built training camps with all the trimmings to push you that little bit harder.
These types of challenges are not for everyone. Packing your wheels for a one-off event, like the Etape du Tour, requires a swift in/out approach. These challenges also require a degree of freedom, time and disposable cash.
What if you don’t have quite that much freedom? What are the options for cycling new territories when you have a family in tow or you’re heading out in a group of mixed abilities and mixed interests? What if your next cycling ambition is to explore the freedom of a new geography and scenery at your own pace, where you’re in control of how much you cycle, how far you cycle and how hard you cycle?
There is huge scope in the Pyrenees for organising a slightly more sedate expedition that will ease you into the terrain and acclimatise the body.
France, and The Pyrenees in particular, is home to such a cross range of cyclists because they love it. The motorists are generally considerate and the tarmac is not made of bits of left over Roman Empire as it is the UK.
Location is key in order to explore the area with minimum of fuss.
You may want a family holiday, where there’s plenty of variety on tap for the whole family, with easy-going cycle routes for the youngsters and the chance to sneak in a few hours to bag some famous cols when they aren’t looking. If you choose the right base, many an iconic climb can be nailed within a similar time to your average Sunday ride out.