By Michael Barry
Photography by Michael Barry, Jaume Cabruja, Jordi Cantal and Albert Pages
Having ridden all over the world, the Pyrenean mountains remain one of my favourite spots to ride a bicycle. The mountain roads are long, sinuous and quickly rise above the tree line so the views are fantastic. As most areas are unpopulated there is little traffic and it is easy to find tiny country roads that wind their way through the valleys and up the peaks. The small villages are quaint and quiet, with a few locals at the market, playing petanque or gardening. They’ll say hello, give a cheer, and yell an ‘Allez!’ when riders pass.
In the middle of September, we guided a tour that started in Ax-Les-Thermes, France and traveled through the Pyrenees and into Girona, Spain for a group of Canadian cyclists. The trip was organized with Bikecat, our partners in bicycle tours. September is the ideal time of year for cycling in Europe as the summertime tourists have returned to their homeland leaving the towns and roads quieter. Although the evening temperatures are cooler, the days are often warm, dry and sunny.
Many of the riders on the tour had never ridden up and over mountains before, as their riding had primarily been limited to the southern Ontario where the longest climb is less than five kilometers. The riders attacked the long climbs, often racing each other to the peaks. Through the week, they each improved remarkably as they found a rhythm on the climba and learned to brake and shift their weight on the descents. Over the final hour we raced to the hotel. On occasion we found a local creek or pool to cool off in after the ride. In the evenings we laughed over food and drink.
Riding a bicycle is not only the ideal way to see the countryside but also a great way to experience the culture.
To learn more about Mariposa tours in 2017, or to book a private tour please email [email protected]