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Continuing our dreams of where to ride from our doorstep and further afield, we turn to experts on the world’s top riding locations, and experienced hunters of the most sublime roads and trails to pedal.
For part two, it’s the turn of Olympic track cycling medallist–turned–adventure rider Franco Marvulli and ASSOS photographer Phil Gale.
When it comes to a ride with a story worth retelling, Marvulli’s ambition for a self-supported ride (on a largely unplanned route) from Zurich to Athens — the site of his Olympic-medal-winning feats — is one that really captures our attention.
Read on to see where else might catch your eye...
Phil Gale: ASSOS photographer and ex-bike racer Phil spends close to 250 days on the road each year, hunting down the right light and hairpins:
“Lockdown has been strange. I’m normally on the road so much that being home for over two months straight has been different. I live in Northern Italy, in the same valley as the Stelvio and Mortirolo, so I have a nice backdrop to daily life, but I have been dreaming a lot about where I want to ride when this is all over.
The first place for the postcard from the future would be Jordan. I was lucky enough to head there earlier this year on a whim, which led to some of the most amazing riding I’ve ever done. My route planning was largely based on Google Street View, which did a great PR job for this small country. There aren’t that many roads, and they are often still mainly used by donkeys and goats — expect steep gradients and skull-sized boulders in places. For navigation I relied on a komoot as much as possible, but was too tempted by unmapped tracks and dirt roads that komoot ended up losing patience each time I strayed off the designated route.
I’ve also got the idea of heading to Namibia to ride and shoot. Patrick Seabase once showed me some pictures and it grabbed my attention. With one of the lowest population densities in the world, everything is wide open and I expect that the light will be absolutely out of this world. I’ll go there with my bike and all my camera equipment.
Closer to home in the Italian Alps, I plan on heading back to La Thuile on the French-Italian border. Even though I have mountains on my doorstep, a shoot that I did there last year, following two MTB riders during the interseason, opened my eyes to what potential the location has. Given that my entry into cycling happened on a mountain bike when I was 12, this sort of location and riding will always make my heart beat faster. The timing of the trip? Even though the interseason means that winter’s snow is still on the ground high up, I’d probably choose to head there then to increase my chances of having this location all to myself.
Those three would be the postcards that I’m most looking forward to sending.”
Three-time World Champion and Olympic track cycling medalist Franco has swapped the velodrome for the open road, where he challenges himself to take on huge adventure rides across the world.
“I’ve already got the idea in my head of riding from my home in Northern Switzerland to Athens — 2,150km in 10 days. I’ll be bikepacking my way through the Balkans, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania with the ultimate destination of revisiting the city where I won my Olympic medal. I’m really looking forward to realising this dream.
I’m not a big planner — I have my start location (Zürich) and the destination (Athens). The rest of it will be an adventure; I’ll book my accomodation when I feel like I’ve pedalled enough for that day, giving myself 60–120 minutes to reach whatever hotel or guesthouse I can find online. I use my mobile phone for navigation and always have 1,000 Swiss Francs on my person for emergencies. So far, touch wood, I haven’t used them yet.
For sending a local postcard, I will ride around the Bodensee/Lake Constance. The views are beautiful and fortunately, it’s only just around the corner from my house, and the restrictions have not affected this bike ride.
I’ve ridden across parts of Africa, Scandinavia, most of Italy, and the length of Argentina without having a concrete plan. I always document my rides to encourage people to try the same thing — my biggest advice is to not ‘over-plan’ otherwise you’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t work out. The most important aspect is to make sure your equipment is in the best condition possible — a good bike and the right apparel are key. Oh, and avoid cities. The great outdoors await.