As the name of this blog might suggest, I like to ride my bike and I like to drink (mostly wine). In fact, the name comes from my time as a bicycle tour guide in France where I would ride quite hard in the morning and early afternoon so that I could partake in the wine consumption at dinner (as well as a before dinner apéritif and the occasional after dinner night cap–we don’t need to discuss lunch at this point).
Having ridden all over France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland as well as parts of Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, and Monaco (does that really count as a country?) I came to the conclusion that the best riding (other than in the Alps) was in wine country. The roads are quiet (as long as you know which ones to ride), the scenery is spectacular, and the towns are quaint, beautiful, and inviting.
Since my time in Europe, I have also biked my way all through the wine regions of California, most of Oregon, parts of Washington, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania (yes, there is a “wine country” in PA). And my theory holds true; given the option, I would much rather ride through rolling hills carpeted with vines.
Since starting this site nearly ten years ago (the 10th anniversary is January 12th–buy gifts now to avoid the rush!), I have traveled to countless more wine regions and as I rode around in various motorized vehicles, I peered out the window with more than amazement at the landscape. I would wonder without exception if I could have, should have, brought my bike. Often, logistically, it would not have made sense as the itinerary was packed and I was moving day to day to another hotel.
But then there were times that I didn’t; with a bit of down time, reclining on a bed of varying firmness, a couple of pillows behind my head, knowing that there was just a doorknob between me and endless ribbons of asphalt was both exhilarating and maddening. Exhilarating since the level of freedom experienced on a two-wheeled stallion powered by one’s lower extremities is unparalleled; maddening knowing that there was not such a machine at my disposal.
That exact situation, with only minor variations, I have experienced on just about every press trip that I have been lucky enough to take. Each trip was memorable in its own way and while bringing a bike (or even renting one) would have likely been problematic, I regularly pondered what it would take in order for it to make sense to go through the hassle of bringing my bike.
I kept coming back to the same answer.
If I could get at least Three Rides In, it would be worth it.
There are certainly some logistics to consider when trying to turn any trip into a cycling trip. The first, perhaps obviously, is getting a bike to your destination and as I see it, there are three options. The first, and easiest, is to rent a bike locally. This does not always make sense for me since a) I am freakishly tall (at least according to my brother) and many bike shops simply do not have a bike in my size to rent and b) I am fairly picky and particular about what I ride and frankly, I am a bit of a bike snob.
Another way, which I have never tried, is to ship a bike to your destination. This is perhaps the most economical choice but also the most time consuming (you will need to box your bike and then get it to UPS–I am pretty sure that FedEx won’t ship it) and just seems like a royal pain in the rear (which is why I have never gone this route).
The last option, which is usually my choice, is to bring your bike with you. There is, of course, some risk in allowing the airlines to handle your trusted steed, but thus far it has worked for me. There are, of course, a few things to consider. First, it’s pricey. You will need to invest in a bike carrier. Right before the pandemic, I purchased an SCIcon Aerocomfort bike bag. I have used it a few times now, and I love it. You only need to remove (and deflate) the wheels and secure the bike to the case. It works really well and the bozos at TSA can figure out how to close it back up (because they will open it up).
In addition to the cost of the case, the airlines will charge you (usually) for transporting the bike. Why? Because they can, but I have just come to accept it. I usually fly United, and they charge $150 each way.
Just a few weeks ago, I travelled to Walla Walla, Washington and got Three Rides In. Over the next few weeks, I will be recounting the trip, including where to stay, where to eat, where to taste wine, and, of course, where to ride.
The press trip crunch is understandable. Try Bourgogne Randonées on your next trip to Beaune, reasonable bikes and the vineyards are not too shabby.