Friday, December 7, 2018

What makes Piedmont Cycling Resort different?

What makes Piedmont Cycling Resort special? 

This is an excellent question, one we've reflected upon since we created Piedmont Cycling Resort.  We make a rather bold claim that it's "More than a Bike Hotel" and that's why we call it a Cycling Resort rather than Bike Hotel.

The Italy bike hotel concept began along the Adriatic sea coast. There are dozens of hotels there catering to summer holiday-makers during Italy's national vacation month - August.

The rest of the time, they sit mostly empty. How do we know? We went there as a guest of one who was interested in working with us many years ago. We asked why they were pursuing this type of client and they explained that they had thousands of empty rooms and were looking for some way to improve their occupancy rates in the off-season.

Don't get us wrong, this area has some great riding (we sampled it) great food and great weather pretty much year-round, but the fact is these hotels were built and continue to exist to cater to the beach goers in August who lay in the sun all day and party at the disco all night. Sure, they serve breakfast to their late-rising clients in the mornings but overall these high-rise hotels exist solely to cater to summer holiday-makers.

 Their original focus was on cyclists from Germany who would come down in the spring to escape the cold and wet of the north but gradually they began to market their program to others. But the entire effort was to do one thing - put people into these otherwise vacant hotel rooms and cycling would prove to be a great way to do that.

They added bike rooms and other amenities to attract avid cyclists and their families, but in the end the entire program was an add-on to their main business - running a hotel.

There's certainly nothing wrong with that but...

Piedmont Cycling Resort is truly different. First, we don't have a hotel that we're trying to fill in the off-season. We chose Hotel Ariotto for this purpose after first choosing it simply as a lodging on our original Paradise in Piedmont guided tour. It became our HQ soon after, not only for its location barely an hour from the Milan airport but also because of the warm hospitality, great cycling, peaceful roads and wonderful food!

As time went on they created specific amenities for us like the laundry room and bike garage along with a special place to park our support vehicles nearby. They added apartments a bit later so we could simply rent one of those for the season rather than checking in and out of a hotel room all summer,

They let us setup a bike workshop...a real bike workshop as you can see in the photo. We recently reviewed a competitors website and noted a cheap workbench with a couple bike tools hanging from a pegboard - hardly a real commitment to cyclists and their needs. This pointed out their real motivation is to fill their empty hotel rooms.

We're not worrying about filling any rooms in the off-season. In fact, we live in Sicily because the weather's not that great during this period in Piedmont. May-September is best and that's when we are there, solely to cater to our clients. If you're interested in off-season (winter) cycling, let us know as we might be able to help you since we're in Sicily, a place where plenty of pro teams come to get some early season fitness.

The riding in Piedmont's Monferrato (a UNESCO World Heritage site now) is out-of-this-world and there's never any issue of how fast (or slow) you need to go since the rides are self-guided. We provide GPX files as well as our famous written RideGuide with detailed directions. If you prefer to ride with a guide on a bicycle*, we can make that happen too as well as providing a support vehicle* and guide* - it's all up to you.

It's the same with bikes*. Sure, we could have simply ordered up a fleet of Italian-branded (but made in China) bikes, we might even have received them at a huge discount in exchange for the promotion. But we chose to create our own custom fleet of bikes that we're proud to offer you - any one of which we'd be happy to ride ourselves. They're maintained exactly as our personal bikes as well. 

The same goes for mechanical services. Zio Lorenzo is on-site to help you put your own bike together, fit one of ours to you or do anything else needed to keep your wheels turning, even if it requires a trip to a local shop*.

Same for massages*. We could have someone rub your legs while playing some new-age music and putting hot rocks on your back, but instead we have a real sports-massage guy on-call, one who works with the local sports teams and a guy good enough to find (and fix) a problem one of our clients had this past season that his personal massage therapist had been unable to deal with.

Then there's the food and wine, Of course it's wonderful and we know our competitors do a great job as well. But since we are not the hotel owners there is no reason for us to insist you dine in our ristorante every evening. You're free to enjoy dining here or at a nearby osteria or even cook for yourself if you take a self-catering apartment. If you'd like to explore ristoranti further away, you can take advantage of our Mangia Bene* plan and dine with us at some of our secret hideaways where they know us and we know the menu inside and out.

Do you have non-cycling family members? Unlike many of the Bike Hotels, they're not limited to playing on the beach all day though our resort features not one, but two swimming pools. Day-trips* are available for shopping, sightseeing, wine-tasting and more so there's plenty for non-riders to enjoy while you're out enjoying the ride through scenic vineyards and through quaint hilltowns.

We believe Piedmont Cycling Resort offers an unmatched selection of amenities, the perfect location for cycling and the benefits of our 3+ decades of delighting avid cyclists.

*denotes services available at extra cost

Sunday, November 25, 2018

More Living the Dream

Another dream comes true...?

Uncle Larry went to bed last night and had a wonderful dream. He dreamed he woke up Sunday morning and after a leisurely breakfast took a walk around the island with his lovely wife.

It was a sunny, but windy day, a day we'd already planned to skip cycling-wise as the forecast called for rain. But since the sun was out why not take a walk?

The dream continued when he spied a round sign on a wall near the bridge that leads to the tiny island of Ortigia where we live.

"Wow! Look at that!" he exclaimed to Heather. "That is really cool!" She was already way ahead of him (big surprise) saying "Look inside here!"

So we did. The space inside was full of tables and chairs with the walls covered in framed classic cycling photos!

This was the kind of place Zio Lorenzo had once (briefly) dreamed of opening: a cycling-themed bar!

A place filled with cycling memorabilia like this.

And this...

And this.. Larry half-stumbled around inside with his mouth half-open. Could this be a real place? He kept snapping photos as if it was all going to vanish in a few seconds.

By this time some of the waiters and staff were walking past as they prepared for the day's business.  Larry asked if the place was new, as he didn't remember seeing it back in May and sure enough, it had just opened in June.

Heather suggested we have a drink and linger a bit which Zio Lorenzo agreed to instantly! We took a seat under photos of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali with this as our placemat.

And this for a menu.

Yes, they have one in English so we shared that one, but of course all the dishes sound better in Italian so they have that too.

We ordered some drinks and some snacks at midday. They feature foods and wines from all over Italy - the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) refers to an enogastronomic tour as much as a bike race. We couldn't help but point out to Gemma and her nice staff that our slogan after all, is 
Pedala forte, mangia bene!

Larry soon woke up to find that he was NOT dreaming, A place like this really exists, right here in Ortigia

Che fortuna!

Giro d'Italia
Salumeria con Forno e Cucina
Piazza Pancali 7/8
39 0931 1626104

Friday, November 23, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!


We have plenty to be thankful for, at present it's our "retirement" to Italy that began just a few weeks ago. Our house in Iowa has been sold so we're "Italians" from now on. This is the view we enjoy each morning.

Above you see Heather enjoying her breakfast. Yep, it's a tough life (so far) but someone's gotta live it.

And today we took a nice ride out into the countryside. As those who joined us for our Sicily guided tour a few years ago, it's a bit hectic and congested getting off the island and out of Siracusa but it's not too many kilometers before we're enjoying scenes like the one above.

The critters were standing atop the rock wall or on their hind legs to reach the tasty things above, but they quickly bailed on that when Uncle Larry whipped out the camera.

Spring and the Giro d'Italia will be here before you know it, don't wait to reserve your Piedmont Cycling Resort vacation!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

3 Italian bicycles - a history

A Tale of Three Bicycles

We know that most bike tour companies or cycling resorts now offer rental bikes. How do they go about choosing what to offer you? Is a big-brand name important? Do they offer whatever they can get free or at low-cost? 

Our priorities are Made-in-Italy first and foremost. Campagnolo components are a must - how can someone claim to be passionate about all things Italian and equip their bikes with anything else? 
Finally, they must be bikes we have test-ridden and found enjoyable to ride with trustworthy handling characteristics.

Here's the history of our bike rental program:

We've always thought the best bike for your Italian cycling vacation is YOURS. No bike is going to fit as well or be as familiar as your own and for many years that was it with us - bring our own bike. With our major airport pickup/dropoff that was pretty easy, something that can not be said for a lot of our competitors who begin their tours in a tiny town, which means you either drag your bike box onto a train or pay some big fees to be hauled out there with it in a taxi. We've now made it even easier, click HERE to find out how.

But starting in 2002 our clients bicycles didn't always arrive with their flights. It seemed the TSA (thousands standing around as some would say) would take so long inspecting the luggage that your bike might not not go on the same flight with you, but instead on the next one to your destination, causing some clients a few chewed fingernails or worse, missed riding opportunities until their bike arrived.

After a season or two of this we began to think seriously about adding a small rental fleet. After speaking with a few clients who said they'd jump at the chance to rent a Made-in-Italy bike rather than worry about theirs in the custody of the airline "gorillas", we called our friend "Chairman Bill" of Torelli.

In 2005 the result was the bike you see above, a Torelli Gran Sasso that Bill kindly (a total surprise to us) had painted up in our favorite color scheme. We'd owned a few of Torelli's tig-welded steel bikes over the years so we knew they'd well match the personal Mondonico bikes that Bill and Antonio had nicely provided us a few years earlier. A great ride, sure handling and 100% made-in-Italy with Campagnolo Mirage 9-speed triple components and a weight of 10 kg*.

We named each one after an Italian winner of the Giro d'Italia so our clients could pick theirs out each morning as Larry lined them up, ready-to-go.

Our clients loved them! Quotes like "I don't miss my Colnago" were quickly added to our website and soon we'd be hard-pressed to supply a properly sized bike to everyone who wanted to ride one.

We needed more bikes! By 2009 Bill had sold Torelli and move on to publish BikeRaceInfo, but we knew who in Italy had produced those (now out-of-production) Gran Sasso bikes and contacted them directly for something more up-to-date. We chose a bike that at one time had actually been sold by Torelli but had since been discontinued as the market moved to full-carbon machines. 

We're very conservative when it comes to bikes, waiting to make sure something is well-proven before offering it to our clients. Our new "Standard" bike (the Gran Sasso was now called "Classic") was anything but standard with an aluminum tubeset similar to Columbus' 7000 series "Airplane" and a carbon front and rear fork along with our now familiar tricolore paint scheme.

In fact, just a few years before, bikes like this were standard-issue to the top pro teams. They were light, sturdy and could easily be made-to-measure to fit the pros properly. It was rare to see (compared to nowadays) oddball stem lengths and angles on pro bikes. We were confident these would delight our clients

They were built-up with Campagnolo's 10-speed Veloce groupset, offering compact gearing rather than the venerable triple. Campagnolo's Khamsin wheelset was installed to provide a total weight of 9 kg*.

Again, our clients loved them! The sloping top tubes gave us a bit more flexibility in sizing while the combination of aluminum frame and carbon fork (front and rear) provided a great ride. The ride was described as superior to some high-end, very expensive big-brand names that we won't mention here but Larry might tell you in person. The proven Torelli-Mondonico frame geometry offered handling just as sure and steady as the Gran Sasso. We now had enough bikes to delight everyone.

But a few years later we began to think about a full-carbon bike as the marketplace became dominated by this material. Some of our clients told us they'd never ridden a bike not made from carbon fiber! Carbon Torelli bikes were not Made-in-Italy but we weren't real keen on switching brands or ending up with something we didn't have 100% confidence in. If we're not willing to ride one, we're certainly not going to ask you to ride one!

So we waited...and waited. Then waited some more. In 2016 our carbon prayers were answered when our friends at Albabici (who'd replaced Torelli as official supplier soon after the new Standard bikes were added) showed us bikes 100% Made-in-Italy by Michele Favaloro, a guy who has been making bikes since he was a teenager and has been compared to Ernesto Colnago.

Each one is made individually to measure starting with sheets of carbon fiber cloth that Michele wraps around mandrels to create the tubes. We asked for a bike similar to our Standard model but made entirely from Toray carbon fiber. Uncle Larry was able to work with Michele to produce the same geometry, sizing and other features, meaning you get the great ride and handling of our previous bikes in a lighter weight, full-carbon package with the same great paint scheme. Weight just 8 kg*.

We chose Campagnolo's Potenza 11-speed groupset and Ursus Athon wheels and again, our clients loved them! And even better, you can get one of your own, made-to-measure and painted any way you like. Contact us for details.

Each rental bike is serviced exactly the same way as our personal machines with regular washings and careful attention to wear on the components, so all you have to do is enjoy the pedaling!

Bike rentals* are at extra cost so those who still want to bring their own pay no penalty, but in most cases, the cost of bringing your bike as luggage with your airline will be more than the price of a week's rental from us.

*Bike rentals are limited exclusively to Piedmont Cycling Resort clients. 
Weights are approximate w/o pedals but include bottle cages, pumps and cyclocomputer.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Mollo Tutto Vivo a Ortigia

Above: our new slogan

Roughly translates as "I gave up everything and moved to Ortigia" but we didn't just buy a t-shirt.

Click HERE to see a cute video of our new hometown.

Our dream of living full-time in Italy has finally come true! We'll spend a few months here before moving to Napoli so Heather can pursue her Fulbright Scholar role in 2019, then transfer to Piedmont Cycling Resort for the cycling season.

Once that's complete we'll come back down to Sicily for the winter and for all the winters to come.

Don't forget the next Giro d'Italia starts just over 6 months from now so it's not too soon to make your reservations at Piedmont Cycling Resort.

Above: view from our apartment balcony

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Special theme packages at Piedmont Cycling Resort

PCR - Special Theme Packages

After our PEZ review, we've been asked for more details about our special themed packages for 2019. 

We'll start with our Pro Package, which is pretty much what you'd expect from a package with this title, but there's even more. Includes private airport shuttles, 4-star lodging, buffet breakfast, guided/supported daily ride routes, massage*, bike wash*, lunch on-the-road, post-ride snacks, gourmet dinners, cycling clothing laundry service* and more. Enjoy a 7 day/6 night stay for just $5999 (per person) and add a roommate for just $4999.

Or enjoy our Mangia Bene Package which includes all the usual Piedmont Cycling Resort amenities + a nightly dinner hosted by the founders, Heather and Larry. We'll take you to some Slowfood osterie as well as our other favorites to sample the very best in Monferrato dining. Includes transportation if needed, complete multi-course meal and specially selected wines. Enjoy a single superb meal with us or dine with us somewhere different every night for just $100 per person.

Perhaps you're an avid race fan? The famous Giro d'Italia almost always passes by near Piedmont Cycling Resort each year. We enjoy making an excursion (day-trip) to places like Cervinia (above) to see the action live, in-person and you can join us! Depending on the location and route, cycling is a possibility on the day, but either way you'll experience La Corsa Rosa in the best way possible. Excursions start at $500 for up to 4 persons.

Availability limited on all packages so we suggest you reserve sooner rather than later.

* daily upon request

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Piedmont Cycling Resort gets PEZ'd (review)

Piedmont Cycling Resort gets PEZ'd

Click HERE to read the review on PezCyclingNews.

We were happy to host Chris and his dad, Bob at the end of the season this year.

One thing not included in their review was the opportunities to ride in bici d'epoca (vintage) events in this area. In 2019 three events will be held close enough to the resort that we can be back for dinner!

As Chris and his father discovered, the Monferrato region is truly an undiscovered jewel in the world of cycling, wine and food.

Reserve your place for next season by clicking HERE.