Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Some little cycling stars in a sky filled with cycling tosh

Ordway, Colorado is a peaceful town, prone to rather robust winds. Depending on which way you cycle you're either going to find it really easy, or incredibly difficult to enter. But nestled in a back street is the perfect person to kick off this blog about cycle travel's unsung heroes. Gillian Hoggard was named a 'trail angel' back in 2006 by the Adventure Cycling Association for the free and welcoming accommodation she offered to cyclists riding the Transamerica trail across the United States. Her little oasis of homegrown veg and cute flowers in a land of sand and brush was burnt to the ground in 2008 making this section of trail rather bleak. But she's now back in action and is confident she'll be ready to host by the spring. Or in her words: 'I have two lads here who are putting in good efforts to make it so … ' Get on your bike, head to Ordway and ask for Gillian. An old school method that works every time.

Moving eastwards we come across the Great Lakes area of North America – probably not the first place you think of when it comes to cycling owing to the vast quantities of water housed there. But if you like your riding kitsch and a little bit quaint you could do a lot worse than head to Mackinac Island which sits between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Cars are banned from Mackinac meaning transportation is by cycle, foot or horse drawn carriage only. But while the tourists take to the Victorian-era streets on gentle pushbikes, the 3.8 miles squared island also harbours some good singletrack. Hire a bike at Ryba'son Lake Shore Road close to the ferry terminal for £28 for the day and set off inland. You can pick up a map from the Tourist Bureau or download one here. Access to the island is by ferry between April and October.

And on the subject of mountain biking we move from an island to Ireland. By now you must have heard of Break the Cycle
It is a film by graphic designer Andy Yoong which not only documents downhill riding in Ireland but shoots it on the backdrop of some of amazing scenery. A lot of the movie was shot in Mourne Mountain area around Rostrevor but spots in the north – including Belfast and the north Antrim coast also get a look in. It throws a spotlight on a country often overlooked when it comes to documenting fantastic riding. If you feel like investigating further, download a copy of January's MBR which has a feature on the Emerald Isle or talk to First Tracks Guiding who run mountain bike courses in County Down and County Armagh. If you want to ride on location then you can book accommodation with Rostrevor Holidays

Away from the mud and onto the easier to ride surface of tarmac and we head into the French Alps. No, not THOSE Alps, but the ones you probably haven't associated with fantastic road riding yet. Velo Vercors is a holiday company in the Rhone Alps set up by ex-racer Roger Dunne and his wife Teresa. Based in St Jean-en-Royans the landscape on offer is that of deep valley gorges and grassy plateaus. With Roger at the helm the daily rides on offer can be tailored to clients needs and if you want to ride 120km with a 3000 metres of ascent, you can. The bonus is the roads are very quiet so the only sound you'll hear is your own gasping breath.

Speaking of tarmac, there's a lot of it in London. Which is why The Trax is a pretty cool concept. It's a new cycle club for riders up in Tottenham and north London and focusses on all off-road disciplines including BMX, dirt jumping and downhill. It's based in Lordship Recreation Ground and organises race days, trips out to the Surrey Hills, skills sessions and youth meets. It's unlikely it will challenge the ever-growing track scene in the capital but is a nice slant on urban riding anyway.

And finally to a place more often associated with surfing than cycling. Despite being only 50 miles across, Kauai in the Hawaiian islands has a developing road riding scene which is gaining fans among the off-road fraternity. “Why is cycling on Kauai so good?” says professional mountain biker Joanna Petterson “Well let's just say I like picking avocado from a tree on my ride, the mountain climbs and ending my ride by jumping into the ocean and catching a few waves.” Triathlete Stacy Ricciardi runs a boot camp on the island, primarily for female cyclists, offering lengthy but friendly training rides around the island, often finishing for breakfast in the town of Kilauea. So while the mountain biking may be technical and slippery, the road riding is beautiful and ends with pancakes. You can contact Stacy by email:

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