Tuesday 24 November 2015

Bike Como!

Lake Como at Argegno
They are my two words of the day! This time last month that's where I was, and that's where I'd love to be now given the grey damp atmosphere hanging over us in London! I managed to grab a quick weekend away for a cycling trip - something which I haven't done in ages.

It is easy to get a flight to Milan and then catch a local train up to Lake Como. Furthermore, I didn't have to deal with the hassle of carrying my bike on a plane. I hired a nice Pinarello from a local company there, Lake Como Cycling. That made the cycling side of my trip slick and seamless.

I spent time working in Milan not so long ago and for about 18 months Como was my regular hang-out. It was just a case of a local train from Cadorna station, near my bedsit, and in an hour I would be on those beautiful lakeland shores enjoying the sights and sounds of this sought-after destination.

On a bicycle it's a beautiful area to ride. It's not entirely flat, but there are plenty of non-challenging slopes. In fact, if you don't want to go far you can just ride around the gardens near the Villa Olmo.

Start of the climb into the Intelvi Valley
If you want to go further there is an undulating road to Bellagio. While there, look round this chic little town centre and marvel at the views of the northern side of the lake and enjoy a gelato before returning to Como. As you round the twists and turns in the road the Como skyline makes a gradual appearance, then you drop down very fast, and before you know it you are back on the Lungolago.

Alternatively why not challenge yourself a little more and ride up the classic Madonna del Ghisallo climb, and if you are feeling really energetic go over the excruciatingly steep Muro di Sormano. The reward is a beautiful descent after the Pian di Tivano back to the lake road at Nesso.

Or from Ghisallo you can just descend to Ponte Lambro, near Erba and then return to Como via little villages on quiet roads and do a lovely descent from near Ponzate.

These are all routes that I used to do in those days. I thought I'd done the best bits.

Well actually, there's a fair bit more - as I found on my recent trip.

What about the Intelvi Valley. Folks don't really talk about that.

Get past Cernobbio, which can be a bit busy and then go on a quiet road below the main SS340 road, passing small villages, including Laglio, where George Clooney has a property. You arrive at Argegno and the fun starts there.

A 10km climb leads up to a series of villages with Intelvi in their name, the main one being San Fedele Intelvi. At this point we are in border country, as Switzerland is literally a stone's throw away. If your bike chips along a stone that stone could just as likely land in Italy as Switzerland!
Lugano near Porlezza
It was a beautiful sunny day in Italy, but strangely enough on my descent to Lake Lugano the day was quite a contrast on the Swiss side - cold, damp and grey. The sun had completely by-passed that area, but still the views of the various settlements along the lake shores were atmospheric.

I could have returned to Lake Como via the SS340 to reach Menaggio but why do that when you can go into the Val Rezzo! So that's where I went - another gradual climb up to an area that was practically devoid of much human life, just various hillside farms and old buildings. I did see a postman in his mini van-float. He must have had a fun job delivering mail to all ten recipients - even if they were spread over a 20km radius!
Up in the hills at Val Rezzo (near Carlazzo)
In any case the valley was beautiful. There were signs to go to other valleys further up, like the Val Carvagna with grottos and suchlike. However, time was marching on for me so I eventually had to drop back down along another twisty but scenic descent to the Menaggio road.
Como - my favourite lake!

I must admit, by then I was getting a little bit tired as I began to feel the 70km I had ridden. My lack of fitness was beginning to tell, and I began to contemplate letting the ferry do the remaining 20km for me back to Como. After all, I had done 60km the previous day and over these two days I hadn't had any cake! A trip along the lake would be a just reward. In the end I soldiered on by bike back to Como - I had no choice. The ferry man at Argegno said that on this busy Saturday afternoon he couldn't admit a bike until the 6pm crossing, and I wasn't prepared to wait two hours.

Back in Como, I felt really satisfied to have visited the old hang-outs that I knew and loved, as well as some new very interesting territory. And I still had time to go along for the passeggiata and have an ice cream.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Still enjoying the Islabike.....

My niece, that is rather than me! She is on a Cnoc 16 which she first got to test out in the summer. Although my niece was only new to bike riding and had never ridden a two-wheeler before she quickly mastered being able to ride with no stabilisers. We took the pedals off and my niece used the Cnoc 16 as a balance bike for a couple of weeks - and she said riding it was great!
I would definitely recommend this as a way for children learning to ride a bike. That way they learn the art of balancing straight away, and you won't get the tantrums linked to removing stabilisers from a kid who has gotten used to assisted balancing!

My niece rode around the park near her house, and also in Hyde Park. She then went for a spin at Ride London in the summer and enjoyed the experience so much she wanted to graduate immediately to doing bike tricks like the big boys doing the BMX tricks demonstration!

So now we are heading in to winter there are fewer opportunities to ride than in the summer, but it hasn't stopped my niece enjoying her Islabike Cnoc16. I am sure that the quality of the bike and its components, as well as its lightness have contributed towards her positive experience. My niece is not so sporty and tends to prefer arts and crafts, but when she got the bike it suddenly gave her something new to get enthusiastic about. I hope she carries on biking. You can read my review of the Islabike Cnoc 16 on the Sportsister website.