A wise writer once said that you should use exclamation marks as if you are only allocated a single one over your entire life – in other words, keep calm and do not exclaim. Well, we’d like to use TWO lifetimes worth here to introduce The Bicycle Diaries!! This is instalment one in a series born from an idea to explore our collective bicycle experiences. To look with open eyes and minds at the subtle and not so subtle roles a bike can play in our lives, what they mean to different people and how much that can vary.
Strap yourselves in because we gon’ be covering a lot of ground; subjects will vary from naked Portlanders to stolen French bicycles. We’ll laugh at stacks in San Fran and wince at all manner of crumpled frames. We’ll even sympathise (read: laugh heartily) at schoolgirls getting lost on bikes in German ‘blizzards’. But most of all, we want to come back to basics and reconnect with all the joy and crazy adventures that exist out there on two wheels.
Anyway, we digress. Allow us to introduce subject numero uno: Justin Sires, one of the Directors and resident crazy man (the ‘crazy’ part will be obvious in due course). Answering the call for ‘your favourite memory of you and your bike’, we received the below from him:
‘My most memorable biking memory is climbing Stelvio Pass in Italy last June.’
“A sojourn on bike back in Italy!?” we contemplated warmly back in June of last year when we waved goodbye to Justin from Aussie shores. Secretly (actually blatantly), we were envious of all the gelato, pizza and pasta he would be consuming during the Italian summer while the rest of us endured the gloomy winter. But how wrong we were.
For those unfamiliar with the Stelvio Pass, consider these fun facts for a bit of perspective:
- It is the highest paved road in the Eastern Alps – see here for a brief summary
- Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear fame) described it as ’15 miles of asphalt spaghetti draped on an Alp’ – here’s the evidence of this
- The pass features in the Giro d’Italia bike race (note: not for amateurs) – check this
Anyway, now that we are all fairly well acquainted with this particular stretch of road, let’s get the lowdown from Justin…
It’s one of the most famous climbs in the world and one that I must admit I was both excited and daunted by on a 2 week Italian cycling trip.
We started our day by descending one of the other sides of the Stelvio into Switzerland and after a pleasant hour and a half of flat riding through picturesque countryside, on a blue sky day, arrived at the base of the eastern side climb, at which time the weather started to turn for the worst…
We stopped in for a feed at a Swiss chalet where the group fuelled up on schnitzel and chips hoping that the weather would pass, yet much to the groups dismay it didn’t…
Deciding to go for it we started the 22km and 48 hairpin journey to the summit.
Getting into a good rhythm early I proceeded to ride the rest of the group off my wheel and spent the last 5km in solis battling fatigue, rain and the plummeting temperature. I was under dressed for the conditions but stopping to rug up wasn’t an option…(writer’s note: hells yes it is always an option!)
Reaching the top and looking back over what I had achieved in a respectable time and adverse conditions was one of the most satisfying physical achievements of my life.
A few warming hot chocolates followed at the summit, followed by spritzers and a big feed that night to celebrate what was a memorable day with the team!
Classic Justin – taking ‘carbing up’ to extreme levels. And there’s plenty more weird, whacky and wonderful stories where this came from – stay tuned for part two in this mixed bag of escapades.
Photo credit: romaniamotorcycletours.com