Cycling has been a part of my life since I was a kid growing up in a Philadelphia suburb, but my interest peaked in 2001 when I started riding regularly with our local cycling club in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. We have some of the country’s best roads for cycling and fantastic scenery. Our community of cycling enthusiasts is passionate about the sport and there are a variety of group rides to expand your knowledge of the areas winding roads. Yet, I still had this itch to ride abroad, but didn’t know where to begin.
My friend wanted to go back to Italy for another tour, after riding in Tuscany last fall. She "twisted my arm" into joining her, but we didn’t know how to go about choosing our next tour. We found BicyclingWorld.com and that made our decision easy. We chose Italy, October, Singles and Solos (didn’t even know that was an option), and we selected regions in the south of Italy (minus Tuscany).
Backroad’s Puglia (Italy) Trip was returned to us as a selection. I read the description and it sounded amazing. It was exactly what we were looking for. My friend and I wanted to be off the beaten path and loved that it included a walking tour of the architecture of Lecce.
So off we went to the "heel" of Italy’s boot. Instead of riding by one-room school houses in Berks County, Pennsylvania, we followed the craggy coast of the Adriatic Sea. In a typical day we woke up, ate, rode bikes, ate some more, road bikes some more, ate some more and slept. We rode between 20 and 60 miles each day, but each person could basically choose how much they wanted to tackle it.
The Puglia region is rugged and sparse. A daily dose of breathtaking views of the Masserias (fortified farms), the Trulli (odd ancient circular home) and the morning sun reflecting off Adriatic Sea added to the enjoyment of the trip.
Puglia’s main crop is olives for oil (45% of Italy’s production). We saw most of the 50 million olive trees that grow in that region. Our joke became "Turn left at the Olive Tree."
We rode terrain completely different from what we were used to in the Lehigh Valley and met some great people, including our tour guides. I felt so adventuresome, so free. I improved as a cyclist and tackled some long climbs (and made it to the top). I learned a lot about traveling abroad to ride and finally how to properly order coffee in Italian. Our guides were great and included cultural lessons as part of each mornings route review.
Gwen’s list of what to bring
- A pair of bike shorts for every day you will be riding, the pair I washed the first day still wasn’t dry when we left.
- Shoes and pedals
- Saddle (basically bring everything that touches you and the bike)
- Helmet (they may provide one)
- Cyclocomputer…make sure it is set to Kilometers before you go (most tour companies don’t provide that with the bikes)
Any powder you like to put in your water bottles, as you may not get what you are used to abroad. I rode each day on just water and regretted it.