Aspen Times Weekly: Ride on
Late spring and early summer are great times to book guided biking trips, especially those in Europe this year. Why? Besides the favorable U.S. dollar-to-Euro exchange (currently $1.10 to 1€), early season in the Europe often has more inconsistent weather and are between spring vacations and summer breaks, meaning fewer people book trips during these times. This means groups are often smaller and fees are a bit lower. The weather may be dodgy, but the scenery and the experience stay the same. In preparation for an upcoming spring biking trip, I reached out to Gerry Flager, who, since 1979, has been a lead guide on “hundreds” of biking trips with VBT (formerly known as Vermont Bicycle Tours).
“The thing with a cycling vacation is the more you cycle before you go, the more fun you are going to have on the trip,” he says. “You can’t just show up and think you are going to be able to do it. You’ll tire, you’ll be in the van, you’ll have sore muscles, you’ll miss seeing things, and won’t put on as many miles. Yes, we can shuttle you back to the hotel — there’s always that choice. You just can’t do enough for yourself before you go.”
If you don’t have the opportunity to get in the saddle on local trails and roads before a trip, the next best way to get saddle time in is indoor training.
“If you are going to do a bike trip, train on a bicycle, but if it’s winter and you can’t train outside, that means getting into the gym,” says Flager. “Spinning classes and the stationary bike are not the same, but those who train in spin classes are going to do much better than no training at all. Get on any bike to avoid the aches and sore butts. It’s a vacation, why would you want to hurt?”
One of the newest and most effective biking programs in the Roaring Fork Valley has been MOi Cycle. Offered at the Aspen Club, Burn Fitness in Basalt and The Aspen Clinic in Basalt, this cycle program targets specific RPMs and heart rate zones, according to Denise Latousek, a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and owner of Burn Fitness Studio.
“Training for a bike trip is a lot like preparing for a ski trip; you can exercise specific muscles to ski or bike, but let’s face it, you get your ski legs and bike legs by actually skiing or biking,” says Latousek. “MOi has been a real game changer for me. My husband and I went mountain biking in Fruita last week for the first time this season, and unlike previous years, where I struggled to get my rhythm down, this was so much fun and much easier than before. Gone was the lactic acid burning you feel with the first hard climb of the season. I was able to clear climbs with ease and ride much longer without the usual tired or uncomfortable feeling in the saddle. The best part was the next day not having the expected butt soreness and stiffness.”
Besides training in the months leading up to a trip, supporting the body with a clean diet, helps riders avoid blood sugar fluctuations and energy crashes, Flager says. Most guided trips will provide snacks, even for those with dietary restrictions, and access to fresh local food is offered to clients on VBT trips, he says. If you will be adding miles to your daily ride, he suggests bringing your favorite packaged organic snack that your body responds well to. “We hope more people that stop and smell the roses, but leaders always have extra miles if you want it,” Flager says. “Even if you want to go solo, they will give you a pump, tire iron and tube as long as you know how to change (a tire).”
Planning clothing in advance for all weather scenarios is also important. As with skiing, it’s all about layers. “Clothes that you can wash out at night and dry out the next day are best,” he says. “Guests always bring too many clothes. I only bring two of everything, and rinse stuff out in the shower.”
For cool or foul weather, Flager suggests a packable, lightweight rain jacket, arm sleeves, tights without padding to put over bike shorts, and if possible, bright clothes so people can see you. He recommends technical, synthetic clothing that let’s your skin breath, covered by a merino wool upper layer. For those who don’t bring their own bikes, a company’s bike will be fitted for you. However, bringing your own shoes, pedals, helmet and in some cases bike seat, will make your rides just that more comfortable.
“It’s a cycling vacation, and you will be getting off your bike to explore, so if you have mountain biking shoes, that will help you not walk like a duck, or you can throw a pair of slip on shoes in your bag,” he says.
Last but not least, Flager suggests bringing a small token from home for your guide. Most guides are local to their destination, and providing a small gift from your hometown is always a nice way to share your own culture, as they introduce you to theirs.
Amiee White Beazley writes about travel for the Aspen Times Weekly. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @awbeazley1.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.