So the day arrived when we found ourselves flying out of sunny Glasgow for the even sunnier climes on Milan. The Italian city was the start of the Ae7 Tour which will hopefully see us freewheel back into Glasgow in one piece in a few weeks time. The whole trip was a bit of a rush to get prepared for. Both of us were working flat out with the business, Gary the new Operations Manager was settling into his position and the new unit was being set up. The prep comprised of “Right, what are we going to need to do the trip? What do we have, what do we need to get?”. A few pages of A4 gave us a scribbled list to work off and that was that. The route we decided we’d work out as we went, partly to add to the old style adventure of doing a trip without a planned itinery, feeling and finding our way as we went and partly because we simply didn’t have the time to sit down and nail the detail. Phased? Definitely not. There’s something to be said for having a start and a finish, a time frame and you just make the rest happen.
The biggest part missing were the bikes, a small necessity for a road trip and after a bit of research and a few phone calls we set ourselves up as a dealer for Ridgeback bikes and bought ourselves two of the their World Voyage models. These are a classic style touring bike, fairly lightweight, good spec for the money and they come with all the bits and pieces you need to just hit the road running or touring so to speak. We built them up, checked them over and packed them away again, their first trial of any kind was to be on Italian soil. I have to say after 2 days of riding in the mountains of Northern Italy the Voyage bikes have well exceeded our expectations.
So on Saturday the 8th June we flew to Milan Malpensa airport. It was a late arrival and we simply arrived, took a shuttle to the hotel we booked whilst in transit in London and basically got the head down for a good nights rest. We had already decided that the first day was simply going to be a get up, set the bikes up and ride for a few hours. If we made any real distance then that would be a bonus. A hearty breakfast started the new day and after building the bikes we consulted Google Earth and set off with a rough route plan. Several stops were required to tweak the gears and brakes and saddles but initial impressions brought big smiles as we cruised along effortlessly on the flat roads near the airport. The Altura Dryline 56 litre panniers we bought fitted on the frames perfectly. These clip on and off so easily, there’s no movement once they’re on and we had plenty room inside to get all our 3 weeks worth of kit in. Initial impressions after two days including some serious rain to test the material is that these bags rock!
So onto the riding! Day one seen us leave Milan Malpensa airport and over the course of the afternoon and early evening we cranked out 80kms on the way to the town of Biella, a beautiful old place in the foothills of the Alps. Now it would be fair to say that we pretty much gave the bikes and equipment a thorough testing on day one. Whilst everyone in Scotland was basking in glorious sunshine we we forced to try out the new waterproofs we bought from Endura as thunderstorms opened the skies in Italy and the rain battered us for a few hours. Ironic really and I did think about not telling anyone back home about this but it’s only fair the waterproofs get a mention as they did a great job! I texted my 12 year old daughter, telling her about the rain and she replied with a 4 line text that went something along the lines of hahahahaha, which sums up the response I thought we’d get when we mentioned it was chucking it down in Italy!
There were a few cheeky climbs on the chosen route and the legs had a good workout for sure. Most of the route was on smaller country roads with little traffic which made for a really pleasant ride through some quaint little villages and towns. It was all going really well and then the rain started … and the wind blew! I did think to myself, day one, for f***s sake! The realisation that the kit was working though and the amazing views despite the weather made the day bearable. Eight hours later we rode into Biella and found a great little eclectic B&B called Sottocoperta. The owner was a really nice bloke and despite the drenched individuals standing at his door asking for a room and about to soak his floor, we were welcomed inside. Pizza, beer, bed was the order of events for the evening!
Next morning we woke up to sunshine. Now that’s the Italy we signed up for! A quick reassesment of the route (the beauty of having no fixed plan!) and after checking out the owners collection of hand built recycled cycles we fixed our panniers and set off on another voyage this time heading north towards the lakeside town of Omegna. Details of that part of the Ae7 road tour will follow in the next blog …