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Long Way Up, Short Way Down

Here are some more pictures from my adventures on the trails of Finale Ligure.

This is my faithful steed in the square of Borgio Verezzi. Don't be fooled by the Wikipedia entry claiming elevation of only ten metres above sea level; that measurement must be from the railway station, down at the bottom of the hill. There is a lot more info on the Italian-language wikipedia page.

The actual town of Borgio is a medieval hilltop knot of houses, of a type that is popular all along this coast: far enough up to be out of easy reach for pirates or other attackers, with a confusing inside-outside architecture designed to disorient them if they did decide to invest their time in climbing all the way up here.

After a bit more climbing, we finally reach the church of San Martino, a full 271 metres from sea level, where I started pedalling. It's best to do this climb early in the day!

From here there are any number of trails across the top of the rocky spur known locally as the Caprazoppa ("the lame goat"). The most famous is the Bondi, named for a local hero who still operates a bike shop in the centre of Finalborgo. This, plus the more technical X-Men trail, make up the drop back down to sea level, just in time to hit the bakery for warm focaccia fresh from the oven.

The locals are sometimes bemused by MTB antics.

A Long-Expected Holiday

Well, I’m back in Finale Ligure. In contrast to last year, this time around we were fairly sure we’d be able to come out here. A year and a half of no travel, plus a pretty stressful end to the kids’ school year, meant that I was looking forward to the trip much more than normal.

The views are spectacular…

…but you earn them with some pretty brutal climbs. A few of those rock steps are fine to hop up, but pull after pull of them is something else. Of course they are much more fun to roll over coming downhill!

This year I was testing out a full-face helmet with removable chin guard. I didn’t need the chin guard’s protection (yet), although I did bonk a tree branch pretty hard with the top of my head — but a normal helmet would have been fine there too.

Top of the climb, ready to head down?

This was a nice flowing bit of trail, but the builders around here have a great love for switchbacks where there is exactly one correct line, and if you put a wheel wrong… well, if you’re lucky, there’s a tree to catch you, and if you’re not, it’s a looong way down!

My guide for Sunday, Martino (highly recommended, incidentally) was one of the local trail builders, though, and was able to show me the right line through some of the more technical areas.

Bikers’ repose. This is not the sort of scene most people have in mind when they think of Liguria! Pian delle Bosse is a proper Alpine-style mountain refuge, white with red shutters, the whole works — and on a summer’s day, the lawn is just covered with dusty mountain bikes while their tired riders refuel.

Buon appetito!

Easy Like A Sunday Morning

This Sunday morning was not a time for epic rides, not least because it's the day after a good friend's wedding… I took a 90-minute loop from my front door, up into the foothills and back down. This landscape has not changed much since Roman times, and probably before; people were tilling the land and making wine around here before the Romans showed up, at least back into the Bronze Age.

This is the gate of Rivalta, on the bank of the river Trebbia.

If the name of the river Trebbia is ringing a bell, you may be thinking of your classical history. This was the site of a major battle of the Second Punic War, in which Hannibal defeated the Romans. The battle is commemorated today by a statue of one of Hannibal's war elephants.

People never believe me when I tell them of the wildlife I encounter on my rides: rabbits, deer… elephants?

Midweek Ride Through The Shire

I took a mental health day off and rode a (metric) century up into the hills. Unfortunately the more spectacular scenery was a) tiring to ride, so I didn't want to stop, and b) on a main road, so there wasn't always a good place to stop even if I had wanted to. These shots are from the earlier, flatter part of the ride.

Riding up the bank of the river Nure (on the left behind the trees)

Crossing the old railway bridge at Ponte dell'Olio

Old lime kilns at Ponte dell'Olio

Who Needs Alps Anyway

Booked a day off work today because 2021 has done a number on me — and I really lucked out, with a lovely warm day for a 100km ride up into the hills. My legs are hurting now, but it was oh so worth it!

I also got to use my new Hestra Nimbus Split Mitts for the first time. These things are not gloves, but over-gloves; you wear them over your normal cycling gloves. They are completely unpadded and pretty unstructured, but that's the point; they are only there to protect your hands from the elements. The idea is that, on a ride like today's that spans from the low single-digits (Celsius) to the mid-high-teens, you can start off with the mitts, but then as you and the atmosphere warm up, you can peel them off and stuff them in a jersey pocket, while still having your usual gel-padded cycling gloves that you were wearing underneath.

I jumped on these mitts based on a recommendation from The Cycling Independent because I have hot hands, so there's a gap between the sort of weather where I want my heaviest gloves, that could masquerade as ski gloves in a pinch — basically sub-freezing — and when I'm comfortable in just plain finger-gloves without quilting on the backs. It felt a bit ridiculous to buy a whole other pair of gloves just for those in-the-middle days, plus I'd never know which gloves to wear and probably get it wrong all the time, so this combo of glove and over-glove works perfectly.

At least so far, they definitely work as advertised; they kept my hands warm as I pedalled through the fog, and then I took them off when I stopped for this pic, just before the serious climbing started. This ride spanned from 65m to over 900m, and it wasn't just one climb, either; there was plenty of up & down, as my legs will attest.

That Feeling When…

You know that feeling when you realise you may be a little bit outside the design envelope for your gear? That.

I was on the Bianchi, my gravel bike, not my full-sus fat-tyre MTB, when I ran into a stretch of uncleared road. I thought it was just two corners' worth, but it turned out to be quite a bit more than that, and icy underneath the snow.

Not bad for the last ride of the year!

The Long Way Round

I had the day off today, but the kids were all in school — so I jumped on my bike and went looking for some sun.

I did at least get out of the fog as soon as I started climbing out of the plain, but despite a couple of attempts, the sun never did quite make it through the overcast.

Why do I ride a gravel bike? Precisely so I can do rides like this, with a long on-road approach, and then a fun bit at the top.

To be honest around here I would have been much better off with proper fat mountain-bike tyres; the Kendas on my Bianchi are pretty good for what they are, but they weren’t quite up to literal rivers of snowmelt coming down the path I was trying to ride up — so I stopped for a quick photo op and a breather.

The long way down, back on tarmac.

This sort of thing is good for the soul — that, and the shower beer I allowed myself when I got home… Cheers!

Hipster Bike Downtown

In my last bike post introducing the Bianchi, I mentioned that I had turned my previous steed into a single-speed city runabout. Well, today I was out running an errand astride said hipster conveyance, so I thought I’d get a pic of it too.

I love how the conversion turned out. The gear ratio is fine for short trips around town, optimised for short bursts, not sustained speed. The thing on the back wheel is just a chain tensioner. The flat bars are raised up by flipping the stem upside-down, so it’s actually a pretty comfortable thing to ride. It’s also still a very light bike, with its carbon fork and all, so it’s nippy and manoeuvrable around town. The old Campagnolo drive train was completely shot, and these days a gravel bike frame that won’t take disk brakes is basically unsaleable, so this is a better fate for my old Rat — even if it does mean that I now own more bicycles than the rest of the family put together!

Appropriately enough for such a bike, what I was doing out and about was buying fresh-ground coffee from my coffee roaster. The shop is a couple of streets back from the square in the photo, but they have a century-old roaster, and when it’s running you can smell the coffee clear to the square!

Gravel Bike In Its Natural Habitat


My old gravel bike — an original Cinelli Racing Rats set — had eaten its Campagnolo running gear, so I was due a new bike anyway. Then the government announced a fund to support alternative forms of transportation, effectively price support for bikes, so I dived in. I ordered this Bianchi Via Nirone 7 gravel bike in July and it didn't arrive until mid-November, so only just in time for the subsidy cut-off date! Then what with one thing and another, this was the first time I actually got to take it out, but I am very happy with both look and feel.

The one aspect that is not 100% spot on is that the wheels feel disproportionately heavy. I'm not sure whether this is the Kenda tyres — I've only ever seen the brand on e-bikes, where weight is not the primary consideration — or the wheels, which are generic. Maybe I'll look out for a discounted wheelset in the new year sales and try my go-to Schwalbe Marathons on them, and see what that does for me.

And the Cinelli? Oh, it's still part of the family; I swapped the worn-out Campy drivetrain for a single-gear setup, put straight bars and flat pedals on it, and now it's my hipster city runabout. I'll get a pic of that on our next expedition.