Category Archives: Skedaddle Office

What’s so good about our cycling holidays…

We’ve been travelling the world on our bikes for more than 20 years and what inspired us all those years ago still inspires us today. That travel should move you and that there is no better way to meet a place properly – its people, its culture, its natural wonders – than by bike.

We don’t do passing by, we do pedalling through
You can do something wonderful on two wheels, whether it’s weaving around cobbled city streets or pumping the knees with the hilltop picnic point in sight. Our local guides and their knowledge of the best food, wine and sights, give you an unrivalled opportunity to discover more about the people of a country and their culture; to really meet a place you’ll never want to forget.

A very different kind of ‘all inclusive’
We believe in being outdoors. In the rain and the wind, in sunshine and stillness. We plan for whatever the day has in store for us and look forward to being surprised. Because unlike back home there’s no autopilot or zoning out, we’re here to feel everything we can. All the sights and sounds, the odd bump along the way, just pedalling on and breathing it all in.

Life’s too short to not ride a bike
Medieval towns, rural villages, 
cafés in the harbour; views, smells, endorphins, goat bells and warm breezes, beads of sweat and the best bloomin’ picnics you’ve ever tasted. Meeting new people and sharing your journey with them, makes for the freshest and most enjoyable type of experience.

Whether you choose to go for our small-guided parties of around 6 to 15 people or decide to ride self-guided with friends or family, our hand-picked destinations and routes, led by local experts, are designed to make sure everyone has an incredible time.

The lowdown on road cycling in Latin America

Our Road Cycling Product Manager and Tour Leader, David Hall has sampled many a road in his time and over the years he’s developed a strong passion for cycling further afield. He’ll regularly be found on his bike in Costa Rica and Colombia and is the envy of the Skedaddle office at Christmas when he’ll be off cycling tropical climes! Read on if you’re keen to discover more about Saddle Skedaddle’s road cycling opportunities in Latin America…

Long Haul VS Europe… How do they compare?
For me, and many other road cyclists for that matter, riding in the European mountains such as the Alps and Pyrenees is quite hard to beat. Here in Europe there is a huge cycling culture firmly engrained, as well as plenty of noteworthy, iconic mountains, made famous by the Tour de France and other famous races.

Whilst Europe might be considered by many to be the spiritual home of road cycling, it can’t claim exclusive rights on cycling culture. Many Central and South American countries also have long, rich histories in professional cycling and they also offer some superb riding opportunities including some enormous mountains, stunning scenery and seemingly endless miles of almost unexplored roads.

The professional riding scene is also very well-developed and Colombian and Costa Rican riders such as Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Andrey Amador are pretty much household names for many British cycling fans. One great thing about offering trips in far flung destinations is that it allows us to extend the cycling season because come December, when most European mountain roads are covered in snow, we’re almost guaranteed perfect riding conditions.

What makes Latin America so appealing, do you think?
Well apart from the fantastic riding, I just love the general sense of energy – there’s a certain buzz and vibrancy that’s impossible to ignore. Music and dance are such an important part of Latin culture and having a good time seems to be very important to Latin people – it’s hard not get drawn into the party atmosphere.

What’s your favourite long haul destination?
To be honest, each of our three Latin American cycling destinations have their own unique attractions, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.

If I’m pushed I would opt for Colombia. Cycling is as ingrained in the Colombian culture as it is in any European destination and we enjoy the company of local riders out on the roads every day. The scenery is very dramatic and the climbing is unrivalled. One of the highlights of our tour is the ascent of Alto De Letras, at around 52 miles it is reputed to be the longest climb in the world and it is certainly one of the more challenging rides in the Skedaddle portfolio. Colombia is the only place I know where you can spend an entire day tackling a single climb!

Then there’s Costa Rica – one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. It’s a tiny country accounting for 0.03% of the earth’s surface yet home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity. I just love the way that the nature comes to us as we ride through the country as we travel from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific. There aren’t many places on earth where you can cross a continent in less than 2 weeks.

Finally our Chile and Argentina tour provides a totally different experience and a unique landscape. The snow-capped volcanoes and towering monkey puzzle trees feel worlds away from the tropical climes of Costa Rica and Colombia. It isn’t without challenges but it is a slightly more gentle tour and as such it’s a great destination for anyone looking to cut their teeth in the region.

Have you got any advice for people looking to travel to Latin America?
I always think it’s a good idea, if you have the time, to try and arrive a day or two before the start of a trip to allow for a little recovery from the long journey and to adjust to the different climate – I’m not very keen on jumping on a bike when I’m still jet-lagged. Another consideration, specifically when travelling to Colombia, is that we spend quite a few days at high altitude – again arriving a day or so early to start the acclimatisation process is a great idea and we always encourage riders to listen to their bodies and take it easy during the first couple of stages.



 Are there any aspects of long haul travel that cyclists are often concerned about? 
We sometimes get questions about security and some folks express concerns that some countries might not be safe to explore. My response to this is simply that we wouldn’t ever offer a trip if we thought it was dangerous to do so – we have absolutely no interest in putting our customers or our staff at risk, it just doesn’t make sense. Of course we expect everyone who joins us to exercise common sense, as we have to in all the destinations that we visit but we’ve been leading tours in South and Central America for well over 20 years and our experiences have only ever been positive … that speaks volumes.

Any parting thoughts?
If you fancy something slightly different, give it a go! I’ve been putting trips together and leading tours in these destinations for years now and they still feel as fresh and exciting as they did the first time around. Even now these are still pioneering tours and on the occasions when we divert from our usual routes and visit new towns and villages, we still find that we are amongst the first, if not the only, foreign tourists to have passed through on two wheels – few destinations can make such a claim these days.

For those keen to sample Latin America on a road bike, we have three fantastic holidays to choose from: Colombia, Costa Rica or Chile and Argentina.

Tuscany to Rome: Top 10 highlights

With 7 days cycling and 227 miles to conquer, the Via Francigena is an exciting new cycling journey in Northern Italy, which makes the most of an ancient pilgrimage route and sees you pedal from the heart of idyllic Tuscany, right up to the oh-so-majestic St Peter’s Square in Rome. Here’s what our Marketing Executive, Frances Wilson, thought of the first official trip…

A place-to-place ride between two iconic destinations promised an alluring challenge I was only more than eager to accomplish; combine this with my chance to finally sample a slice of Italy and I was sold. With the Via Francigena challenge firmly in mind, I packed my new Ana’s padded leggings and headed off with the forewarning: ‘Tuscany is hilly, prepare for some climbs’.

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From the moment I stepped out of the Skedaddle van in the tower town of San Gimignano and saw just how magically manicured, culturally rich and sun-kissed this region was, I had a pretty good idea I was in for a treat. My week away was filled with so many amazing highlights and so here are my ‘top 10’ moments along the way…

1. Post-ride drinks in Siena
The piazza in the centre of Siena was our reward after a stunning and incredibly satisfying ride through rolling Tuscan landscapes on day 1 of the trip. Having dismounted our bikes (don’t forget, cyclists, you must hop off your bike and walk through the square) we wheeled our way through this impressive open space which is so historic it feels like you’ve stepped on the set of a Shakespearean play. We chose to soak it all in by settling ourselves down in one of the many café bars that surround the square, my gin and tonic a refreshing relief after a delightful day in the warm Tuscan sun…

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2. Conquering the cheeky climbs (and the vista rewards afterwards!)
So Tuscany isn’t exactly flat and cyclists joining this tour must be up for a bit of a challenge, every now and again, anyway. Some of these were short, sharp and really quite steep, whilst others meandered up chalk paths (also known as the ‘Strade Bianche’ and utilised on the classic L’Eroica race) in search of an impressive panoramic view. However lung-busting these moments felt, they were always swiftly followed by an overwhelming sense of achievement and provided a fantastic opportunity to take a breather and admire the view from the saddle.

3. All the gelato…
Italy is famed for its food and its ice cream (known locally as gelato) which is equally as impressive as its popular pizza and pasta dishes. Most towns will have a dedicated shop featuring mountains of brightly coloured treats to drool over and they really do make the perfect pick-me-up treat mid-pedal. After a slow start to the gelato feasting, I finally caved on day 6 and guzzled down no less than 3 in one day…yes, I had some severe lost ground to cover!

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4. Poppies, hay bales and canyons…
Idyllic landscapes are found on a minute-by-minute basis on the route and those iconic cypress-lined roads greet you around every bend. This journey takes you through two distinctly different regions of Italy – rolling Tuscany and lovely Lazio (which you’ll be pleased to hear is really rather flat!) Along the way I saw endless fields of blazing red poppies, too many fields of golden corn to count (Lovers of the film Gladiator can eat their hearts out as this is where those stunning ‘Elysium’ scenes were shot) and some pretty cool ancient-looking canyons which greeted us as we rolled out of towns later in the trip. If its variety you’re after, this has it in bundles.

5. Picnic pit-stops
The lunch stops, expertly crafted by the guides, just got better and better as the week went by. When shade was most needed you’d suddenly find the van positioned in a superb spot, waiting with local yummy goodies to fill the belly and fuel the legs. Chickpea and potato salads, platters of local cheeses and ham (even boar), as well as a few juicy watermelon moments all had starring roles and kept us hungry cyclists content and ready to pedal on.

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6. Riding into Rome on the cycleway
My experience of cycling into large built-up areas is generally never that great and although Rome’s historic centre has many treasures to spot from the saddle, I was expecting the last day of our trip to be greeted by signs of industrial life. Whilst we began to encounter a few more busy roads (and our fair share of beeping Italian drivers), the ride into Rome was surprisingly lovely, a route which saw us hop on the city’s bustling cycle path, weaving through picturesque parks, before finally snaking its way towards the Tiber River and our spectacular end to the tour: St Peter’s Square.

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7. River paddling
Cycling can be hot work, at times! Whilst I’m not one to complain about the opportunity to top up my Vitamin D levels, I do every now and then enjoy a means of cooling down from the heat. En route, you’ll get the opportunity to sample famed local hot springs, but it was a cheeky paddle by a waterfall that got me really excited and made my secret inner-hippy heart soar. Having dipped the feet and feeling suitably refreshed I rode on with renewed pedallin’ prowess…

8. Epic ‘true Francigena’ trails
Sampling the original Francigena route was one of my favourite experiences of the whole trip! These roller coaster off-road routes offered some fab sweeping descents and opportunities to really immerse yourself in the peaceful, unspoilt countryside. When the guides offer you the opportunity to give them a go (often you can choose an easier road route instead), as long as you feel confident riding on off-road terrain, I definitely say go for it, it’s well worth the extra effort!

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9. Agriturismo afternoon
Accommodation on this tour was particularly wonderful and choosing a favourite is tough – a luxurious overnight stay is certainly a lot better than pitching a tent for the evening! Each trip has accommodation handpicked prior to your departure date, so it’s best to always consult with our travel experts, if you’re keen to see which places you’ll enjoy. The Agriturismo we stayed at just outside of Radiconfani was certainly one place that stood out for me on this trip though. A family-run farm in the middle of nowhere that came complete with a pool (that had panoramic vistas of the surrounding Tuscan landscapes) and a ginormous fig tree which we ate our evening meal beneath – a magical experience I’ll never forget.

10. Laughing all the way with the group & guides
As cliché as it sounds, it’s not just the trip you go on but the people you go with! It’s amazing how quickly bonds form with previous strangers during a group cycling experience and the memories made as you laugh your way through the various sections of the route – a positive boost can do wonders to help you up those hills! Sharing stories along the way is a big part of the ride and a wonderful way to wile away the miles.

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In a nutshell…
I’ve never been happier gliding on two wheels, surrounded by the most breath-takingly beautiful landscapes you could imagine; all this was wonderfully washed down with lashings of laughter, some pretty tasty food and an amazing sense of achievement. Ciao for now Italy, I’ll be back!

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Can’t wait to get pedallin’ to Rome? Fran cycled our leisure cycling Via Francigena route.  For those keen to kick things up a gear, we recommend checking out our mountain biking trip which explores the same popular pilgrimage route. 

Photography: Alessandro Gallo