Once I heard about Ticket to Experience’s new “cycle surfari” from Bordeaux to Bilbao – biking 300 miles over seven days and browsing en route – I jumped on the probability to affix. OK, so I solely ever cycle a couple of miles to work. And positive, I’ve by no means been on a surfboard. However how arduous can it’s?
Cycle trip France to Spain
It’s a sunny afternoon in September after I meet the opposite seven members of the group at a campsite in Lacanau, close to Bordeaux. The journey is geared toward competent surfers, however primary classes might be supplied – and the situations are excellent for my first surf lesson. I even handle to face up a few occasions, earlier than a night across the campfire and a sound night time’s sleep on a comfortable camp mattress in my one-man tent.
The following morning, I skip pre-breakfast browsing, conscious that I’ve a 55-mile bike trip to Biscarrosse forward of me. These 55 miles flip into 75, thanks to some unsuitable turns (this was a recce journey, in spite of everything). However the trip by Les Landes is basically straightforward, by flat farmland, and there’s a lake to swim in after we arrive at our vacation spot.
One of many group catches a curler coming in from the Bay of Biscay
Max, the journey chief, guides us by some yoga stretches earlier than we crack open the beers. Most nights we eat do-it-yourself meals with wine on the campsite (paella, fajitas, Thai inexperienced curry), however tonight we head out for pizza. With our baggage transported and camps arrange every day, we don’t want to consider pitching tents.
It’s on the second day of biking that the dimensions of the problem hits me. My drained legs are desperately making an attempt to maintain tempo with the peloton in torrential rain – what had I let myself in for? Fortunately, it’s a shorter trip, largely by a pine forest, and the solar comes out after we attain Mimizan. Surf situations are too harmful for inexperienced persons, so I relaxation by the pool.
Yoga classes put together drained our bodies for the subsequent stage
Seashore yoga kickstarts the subsequent morning, adopted by browsing. Then it’s again on the bike for an extended trip to Seignosse, a small surfers’ city surrounded by forest simply exterior Hossegor, one other surf mecca. On cycle paths virtually all the best way, we whiz previous fairly villages, however don’t have time to cease and discover. Within the night, we refuel with craft beer and tapas on the Heads Seashore Brewing Firm.
The following morning, massive waves at Hossegor are fairly scary for a novice; nevertheless it’s nice to see the group’s extra skilled surfers in motion.
Immediately we’re heading into the Basque nation. We cycle alongside busy roads to vigorous Biarritz for lunch, then by Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a stunning fishing port with grand 18th-century buildings. Our closing cease is Hendaye, a seaside resort close to the Spanish border. I cease for a glass of rosé earlier than dinner again on the campsite.
The lengthy uphill throughout the Jaizkibel hills
Morning dawns brilliant and clear and I paddle out on the board – inexperienced persons keep inside their depth within the white water, so it is a step up. And the biking is about to step up, too. To get from France to Spain we have to cross the Pyrenees over Jaizkibel, the western-most vary. It’s an extended, sluggish, excruciating climb to the highest (547 metres). I tuck in between two riders (one is the Olympic snowboarder Jenny Jones, who typically works with Ticket to Experience) and pedal in my lowest gear. Reaching the summit is an unbelievable feeling: we spherical a nook and run into an expert biking staff, who fill our water bottles and take our pictures whereas we catch our breath and take within the view.
I’ve no hope of maintaining with Jenny on the descent – she sprints off whereas I cling tight to my handlebars, making an attempt to not fly off the facet of the mountain. It’s nonetheless the longest, quickest downhill of my life, and I like it; it makes the agony of climbing price each painful minute.
A well-earned relaxation at a restaurant
We don’t have time to cease for lunch in San Sebastián, biking straight previous the tempting pintxos bars earlier than tackling extra hills on the best way out of the town. We do handle a pitstop in Orio (for Oreo ice-cream) earlier than reaching Zarautz and its lengthy seaside. On future journeys, there might be a relaxation day right here to maximise browsing time.
The penultimate day of driving is alongside a beautiful, rolling coastal highway that sweeps as much as panoramic headlands after which all the way down to fishing villages and small cities. We cease for a beer on the quayside in Lekeitio, the place a feria is in full swing. It’s too flat to surf, so we swim out to a tiny island, Isla de Garraitz, as an alternative. Biking to our clifftop campsite, I get off and push – it’s so steep, I concern falling off backwards.
Zarautz’s lengthy seaside is good for a spot of browsing and rest
Days go in a blur of biking, browsing, consuming and sleeping, nevertheless it’s lastly time for the final push: Bilbao. We flip inland, stopping at Guernica for espresso and at Larrabetzu, a city on the Camino del Norte pilgrimage route, for lunch. One minute we’re biking by hail storms, the subsequent by blazing sunshine.
There’s a closing climb into Bilbao, a metropolis cruelly ringed by mountains – our whole accumulative elevation for the journey is 4,267 metres. Breaching the town limits and plunging downhill to our hostel is pure euphoria. I neglect my exhaustion on a bar crawl of the Casco Viejo, and squeeze in a visit to the Guggenheim the subsequent day.
After this debut journey, Ticket to Experience shortened the route (it now begins in Mimizan) and added a few simpler choices (Bordeaux to Biarritz, and northern Spain). Different adjustments embrace an easier camp set-up, and extra of a mixture of tenting and hostels. I might additionally recommend paying extra consideration to diet on the highway: I’m fairly positive Tour de France riders don’t stay on cheese baguettes.
So, a cycle surfari proved a bit tougher than I anticipated. OK, lots tougher. However no ache, no acquire – and the sensation as we cycled into Bilbao was price any quantity of ache.
The journey was supplied by Ticket to Experience. There’s restricted availability on cycle surfaris from Bordeaux to Biarritz (18-25 Might and 4-11 Sept, £1,195); Bordeaux to Bilbao (25 Might-2 June and 14-22 Sept, £1,295); and northern Spain (8-15 June, £1,195). Journeys embrace transfers, most meals and surf tools however not flights and bikes