The padded shorts didn’t make my bottom look too big. And anyway, what with the kilometres that I would be riding, I was pretty glad to have this mini cushion nestled next to my rear end. As the shorts were placed on top of my bulging little suitcase, I felt ready. Ish. Had I done miles upon miles of uphill practice, in anticipation of my Kara Mia tour? No. Did I have any real biking experience whatsoever? Erm, no. Could I even ride a bike? Well actually that last one is a yes. But I think you’re all catching my drift here. I was a bike tour virgin.
Fast forward to 6 days later. The wind was in my hair. The dramatic landscape was so beautiful that it was almost making me weep. And I, the self-confessed bike tour virgin, was peddling as fast as my little legs could go. Weaving in and out of sweet smelling apple orchards, through cold, dark woodland and down exhilarating hills: there I was. At the end of an incredible week riding through the Dolomites and the northern Italian region of South Tyrol, I had not only survived my first bike tour, but I had loved it too. Still somewhat out of breath, still lagging behind the majority of the group and still the owner of a slightly sore bottom (despite the cushioned lycra), but in short(s): oh-so-happy. And for all of you fellow bike tour virgins out there (there are many of you, I’m sure), I have compiled a little bike tour survival list, which may just make you decide to take the plunge too…
· Buy padded cycling shorts. Yes, by the end of a week of cycling your derriere will still be smarting, but without the padding? You’d be aching after day one.
· Ask questions. If you aren’t sure about directions/where to stop for gelato/which part of the bike is the brake, then ask your more than patient guide. She will help you.
· Realise that it’s not a race. Whether you whizz off ahead or are constantly 5km behind the others, nobody cares. The right pace is your own pace.
· Stop regularly. You’ll want to take photos and guzzle your water anyway, but don’t be afraid to just pull over and take a breather whilst admiring that stunning scenery.
· Pack tissues. Your thoughtful guide will have slipped a pack of Kleenex into your bike bag anyway, but make sure you have an extra pack too. Runny noses are incredibly annoying whilst riding a bike.
· Layers. Layers. And more layers. Temperatures can change so get ready to strip off (wahey…)
· Get off your bike when there’s a hill. If you can huff and puff your way up there by peddling: great. If the hill beats you? Let it. I got off several times and my inexperienced biker legs thanked me for it.
· ENJOY IT. A Kara Mia bike tour isn’t about racing, competing or rushing. It’s about taking to the saddle and letting yourself experience a bit of that rare pleasure that only comes from gently peddling through some of the most exquisite scenery you will ever come across. Your bottom might ache, but your soul will be well and truly nourished. That’s a promise.