Our first bike trip with HC Bike Tours was a “custom tour” designed by HC CEO Aigars Paegle. Being both frugal and adventurous, we simply asked for the best place to achieve two goals: 1) to explore an “undiscovered” area with great cycling and 2) a place where we would get the most ‘bang for the buck’. Aigars did not hesitate a moment before recommending the regions of Asturias and Cantabria in Northern Spain. He promised quiet back roads with pastoral views and incredible climbs and descents, as well as <luxurious> accommodations and incredible food in quantities to support an active appetite. And did he ever deliver!
Our group of friends and acquaintances had a wide range of biking ability and experience, from a novice with less than a year of experience, to die-hards who live and breathe to bike. We numbered 11 including several couples and several singles, with an age range from mid-40’s to mid-70’s. For most of us, it was a first trip to Europe, and a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip (that we now can’t wait to repeat!!!).
We felt incredibly well-supported from the first moment, when we were greeted at the airport and whisked off to our first night’s accommodations. The day was spent in a jet-lagged haze of bike-fitting (for those who rented) and unpacking (for those who shipped their own), eating and napping, with time a short ‘test-ride’ and mini-reunions as each traveler arrived.
We selected an 8-day itinerary, which provided 7 days of riding and a mid-trip ‘rest’ day with options for shopping/laundry/recovery, hiking or a bike ride. We quickly fell into the simple routines of a bicycling nomad. Mornings were spent on a relatively leisurely hotel breakfast and packing/preparing for the day’s ride, which usually started around 10 to 10:30am.
The rides were incredible, offering a cycling experience unimaginable to those of us who had never biked outside the US. Each boasted quiet, remote roads barely traveled by vehicles (with incredibly considerate drivers!), quaint villages with inviting cafes, and a healthy opportunity for suffering, with multiple summits, incredible vistas and the joy of hard-earned descents.
Post-ride, most days we had just enough time to shower, snack and visit, or explore our surroundings a bit, before it was time for dinner. And the dinners! HUGE portions, hearty and healthy food, and a wide range of choices offered options suitable for any dietary restrictions.
Throughout, we felt pampered by our HC Bike Tour leaders. No need for a map, or even to carry food. Our leaders were ever-present at the front and the back of the group, and in 2 separate support vehicles always ready to provide mechanical assistance, snacks and hydration or clothing exchange. They made every effort to ensure that we were prepared to ride to our heart’s delight. With their support, everyone in our group who wanted to try the mighty Angliru climb made the summit. And they were always there to give a few of us a ‘lift’ to the next summit or hotel when the legs or the weather (or both!) were poor. In short, we all agreed, it was bicycling nirvana!
Though many may not, any tour company could provide this level of care. What really puts HC Tours above the rest, is Aigars’ ability to design routes that go far beyond ‘getting from point A to point B’. He has a knack for finding the narrowest, curviest side roads and putting them together into cycling days that are so spectacular they take your breath away (and not just from the ascents!). We all cannot wait to take our next ‘once in a lifetime’ trip with HC Bike Tours!