Dolce Vita Bike Tour Report
Saturday, 16 September 2017
I just returned from leading a group of Brompton riders along bike trails in the Dolomite Alps of Northern Italy. Following is a brief report.
Two of us in the group carried our bikes aboard the first flight leg to London, where we all met up for a tour of the Brompton Factory (which was amazing). While there, we watched Will Butler-Adams demonstrate the new Brompton Electric to Sky News reporter Gemma Evans.
Upon conclusion of the video interview, Will offered us the opportunity to test out the prototype electric Brompton that he's been riding for several months. It's a pedelec with 3 modes and a long lasting battery. I tested it and could easily envision myself commuting on this bike to and from work at our Brompton shop in New Orleans. Given that my 1 way commute is 22 miles and the battery can last 100+ miles, it should easily power the bike in both directions for 2 or more days. I'll still pedal but I won't arrive sweaty from fighting the near constant headwinds encountered on the trail atop the Mississippi River levee here in hot and humid N'awlins.
The most memorable aspects of the factory tour were:
- The emphasis Brompton is placing on their e-bike, from R&D to precision calibration and full-on production.
- The difference in size between this facility and the old factory. Astonishingly, all space is in use.
- The new, state of the art powder coating facility will allow Brompton to add boutique colors.
- The look of the new Black Lacquer; it's gorgeous!
Since we flew on a smaller plane from London to Venice, all of us checked our Bromptons on that flight. We had scheduled a private airport pickup and were able to easily fit all riders and bikes into the vehicle.
The following day, we took a train to Udine, biked around the old town and had giros for lunch. Afterwards, we caught another train up into the Iron Valley and biked along the Alpe Adria bike trail in a mostly downhill direction. Though primarily a paved rail trail, there are a few, relatively short sections that are gravel. There are also some steep uphill sections that circumnavigate tunnels which are unsafe or have caved-in. Regardless, the Bromptons did fine and it was only necessary to walk the bikes up a few, short sections.
For the next 2 days, we rode through the Vinschgau on another paved bike trail. This trail is part of the Via Claudia Augusta, a trail that runs from Germany to the Adriatic Sea. Like the previous trail, the scenery was stunning. While it didn't have all the tunnels, galleries and trestles of the first trails, the mountains, apple orchards and more made up for it. By the way, there were gravel sections on this trail but they were less in number.
The next trail we rode starts in Toblach/Dobbiaco (all towns in this region of Italy have a German and Italian name) and crosses the Cimbanche Pass. This ride is full on gravel with ups and downs. Unless you're exceptionally fit, there are sections where it is necessary to walk your Brommie (especially if it's a 3 speed). I'm glad everyone used their luggage blocks because loading the front wheel really makes the bike more stable in the gravel.
As one approaches Cortina d'Ampezzo from the north, the trail becomes paved, making for a fun and rapid descent into town. Cortina is very fashionable and this is a great place to people watch.
Other than one section where a mountain slide took out the trail, the rest of the journey is an easy ride downhill to Calazzo d'Cadore and there is a great bicycle grill on the trail near to the end. Unfortunately, the weather went downhill so we hopped on a local bus to cover that section (easy to do as the trail parallels the highway).
For our final ride, we biked along the Valsugana Trail, which is another segment of the Via Claudia Augusta. This valley is lower in elevation but dramatic in a different way. The valley walls shoot up sharply and converge into a narrow gorge before the village of Valstagna so the bike trail hangs from one wall of the gorge on a metal deck. Again, the trail is almost entirely paved but there are sections where you ride on lightly traveled country roads.
All in all, the Bromptons performed superbly. We had just 1 puncture and one issue with an aftermarket H&H luggage block coming loose. As the group ate one final meal together, everyone agreed that they will be doing more long distance touring on their Bromptons in the future and several riders agreed to do another ride with us in Europe next year.
Link to photos (posting new ones daily): instagram.com/ridethisbike