After leaving her desk job in 2006 to explore the world, BikeTours.com travel ambassador Sherry Ott embraced the nomadic lifestyle and has been traveling the globe ever since. Around the world and back again, she blogs all about it at Ottsworld.com.
With so many countries and experiences under her belt, Sherry has seen a lot… but never before on a bike tour! She recently took our Basque Country: Bilbao to San Sebastian via Olite tour, and filled us in on her first two-wheeled adventure.
Read on below to see what she learned along the way!
What’s the best way to stay young? Try new things.
At 48 years old, my knees were starting to bother me from years of running; it was time to try something new. Here’s the good news: I love trying new things. I thrive on trying new things. I would go as far as saying I am addicted to it. So the idea of taking my first biking tour was pretty appealing to me.
The addiction to new is what has kept me on the road traveling non-stop now for 12 years. I’m always looking for new places to go, new things to learn, and new ways to travel. A biking tour would be my perfect answer to my sore knees and my newness addiction. I signed up for the Basque Country tour after the tour advisors at Biketours.com assured me that this would be a great “beginner”’ trip due to its gentle up-hills, bus support, and mostly-flat terrain.
With each new adventure comes learning, and I had a number of lessons I learned on this trip.
This was my first biking tour, so I didn’t really own any special biking gear. My first inclination was to go out and buy a whole bunch of specialized stuff: shirts with pockets in the back, bike shorts, gloves, specialized rain gear, and more. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t the Tour de France. It was a beginner tour and buying a whole new wardrobe wasn’t necessary. Plus, I didn’t want to invest in new gear until I knew I actually liked biking! Instead, I used the gear I normally use for yoga and running and it worked great! However, it is important to check out Biketours.com recommended gear list, to make sure you don’t overlook anything critical.
This was not a race or a contest; this was a vacation. The group was all there to have a good time and enjoy their time off while learning about the region. We got on our bikes in the morning, biked for a bit, and then we had a series of stops and activities throughout the day. We got off the bikes frequently to eat, learn about the culture, visit museums, rest, and interact with locals. We even ditched our bikes and went hiking one afternoon along the coast!
Every afternoon we parked our bikes, and had a lunchtime picnic. However, it wasn’t your typical picnic with hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad. This was Europe. It was high-class picnicking! The picnic was the most incredible spread of local cheeses, cured meats, fresh breads, tapenades, pates, and desserts displayed like a work of art that belonged in the Louvre. And of course, each picnic was accompanied by the local wines and ciders of the region. Each day I loaded my plate, and somehow hoped that I wouldn’t end up heavier at the end of this trip!
You have to pedal up to get down…not always. Basque Country is not just hilly, it’s mountainous. The Pyrenees run through Northern Spain and that is a surprising place to have a beginner bike tour. However, my tour offered some vertical assistance! For the larger mountains and elevation, we were bused up to the top and then got on our bikes and coasted down. In addition, if you just didn’t feel like biking a particular portion of the ride during the day, you could always ride along in the van. So it was really up to you how many hills you wanted to tackle!
You may wonder what miniature horses have to do with biking. During a bike tour, you are exposed to the incredible rural landscapes of the region. Basque Country is a fertile part of Spain and much of the landscape is used for grazing. We frequently cycled by sheep, goats, and cows. On day two, we came across a herd of miniature horses who were ultra-friendly! To my surprise, the horses were grazing with no fences, so they fearlessly walked right up to our bikes. In fact, they were so curious they were sniffing and rubbing against my bike tires!
When I was a kid learning to ride a bike, my father used to run along and push me on the shoulder to keep my speed and balance up as I learned. An e-bike is like my Dad’s hand on my shoulder again helping me along with a little supportive push! I reserved an e-bike because I was recovering from knee surgery and in all honesty, I had not trained one bit on a bike. I was a true rookie. Thanks to the electric boost you get as you peddle, you can pretty easily get up steep hills without breaking a sweat. It basically flattens out the hills and makes bike touring possible for the novice.
This was my first bike tour, but it won’t be my last. After finishing 150 miles of biking through Basque Country, I think my key overall learning was that this type of travel is accessible to anyone. You don’t have to be an avid biker to enjoy a bike tour!
Sherry Ott is a long-term traveler, blogger, and photographer with one goal in mind – to make you wish you were somewhere else. She writes about her travel lifestyle and around the world adventures on Ottsworld.com and her social media channels. She has lived in Vietnam, hiked the Annapurna Circuit with her father, drove 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia in the Mongol Rally, walked the across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, kayaked in Antarctica, and drove an auto-rickshaw across India for charity. She continues to seek out epic adventures to intriguing places in order to challenge herself and inspire people to overcome their fears and reap the benefits of travel.