Fri 26 – Mon 29 May
I’m spending the last few days of my trip with friends in Siena. Naturally they are big into cycling and are in fact planning a trip to Sicily soon, so my missives are especially relevant. I also get to bore them with my entire collection of photographs from the trip, which you, dear reader, have at least been spared.
After all that cycling I have the legs to climb Siena’s famous Torre del Mangia and enjoy the views of the Piazza del Campo below.
This is a chance to contemplate the trip I’m about to take on the bike in the glorious ‘Chiantishire’ countryside, so-called because of the number of British ex-pats living there.
The deal is I get to ride my friends’ electric bike as long as I take their little boy on the back.
I’m a little nervous at first. Party because I’ve never ridden a bike with a child on the back and party because I’m not used to electric bikes.
With a little negotiation I get let off having to cycle in traffic with him on the back and it’s only when we hit a strada bianca (literally a white or unmetalled road) that I get to try out both bike and boy together.
I realise this isn’t too bad at all. The electric assist has me speeding past my friends on the uphill sections in a way I could never manage on any other bike. (They’re both quite a lot fitter than me).
In fact I can see why they bought an electric bike for touring as well as getting around town. Siena and its surrounding countryside is by no means flat. And their boy is not getting any lighter.
My prejudices around electric bikes being only for lazy people are completely quashed. In fact they can be considered the future. For me, as I get older and my legs start to go, and for everyone for whom cycling can seem too strenuous, too much effort, or simply interfering with their sartorial (and olfactory) elegance.
It’s quite hot and a stop for refreshments is required. This is when I realise we are on the route of the world-famous Eroica, a vintage bike race held every year on the Strade Bianche of Tuscany.
I wouldn’t want to be a driver here. There are too many signs to take in within 100 metres of a junction. Information overload!
We eventually reach Murlo, which has a wonderful restaurant with wonderful food and a view you would think only a millionaire could afford.
The ride home is a little more direct on main roads and it is now quite hot. Thankfully the electric assist spares me the worst of getting overheated.
And so to home. Leaving Pisa in 30 degree sunshine and arriving in Bristol in 16 degree rain and fog leaves me wondering why I bothered coming back! But suffice to say I am glad of my trip and already I am looking forward to my next adventure.