The first time I traveled Italy was by bike. It was 2015 and I was there for the party on two wheels that is a Backroads Staff Ride. For those unfamiliar, Staff Ride is an opportunity for company employees to gather and cycle together, typically somewhere that Backroads leads trips, as a way to celebrate the successes of each outgoing busy season.
I was thrilled: Tuscany, the region where that year’s Staff Ride was taking place, was a place I only knew through books, movies and the rave reviews of coworkers lucky enough to have led Backroads trips there. I could not wait to see its sights, taste its fresh cuisine and drink its world-famous wines for myself.
I was also nervous: I’d heard it could be a challenging place to cycle. And, as someone newer to the Backroads world as just a second-year Trip Leader, I still had the tendency, like many people, to hear the words “bike trip” and immediately think “strenuous” or “hard.”
My worries were unfounded, though! As it turns out, taking it slow, savoring the details, connecting more personally with your destination, and untangling yourself from the constraints of home, where squeezing in a ride during a busy day often feels like work, not play, are all deeply embedded in the very nature of traveling by bike.
Pedaling through the Tuscan countryside, I realized I had the freedom to make each day as challenging or leisurely a I desired. If I saw a café tucked down a cobblestone side-street I stopped for an espresso treat. If I passed through a town famous for a particular type of cheese, I’d find a wedge to toss in my bike bag for a picnic later down the road. If I couldn’t get enough of the view unfolding in front of me, I’d pull over for a few deep, rejuvenating breaths – and a couple pictures, of course.
Which speaks to the nature of Backroads trips (after which Staff Ride is modeled) in general. No matter what itinerary or destination you choose, Backroads knows that biking does not have to be hard to be fun. They know that every biking trip is an easy biking trip because there’s no pressure to do anything but go at whatever pace suits you best and to enjoy your time where you are, whatever that looks like.
To highlight the delights of traveling at a slower place even more brightly than they have always done, Backroads has developed new “Dolce Tempo” style trips. I, personally, think the Easy-going E-bike Tour of Tuscany’s Chianti sounds particularly lovely, but don’t let my love of easy biking trips in Europe bias you: there’s a Dolce Tempo itinerary for everyone.
Everyone, that is, who wants to discover the freedom that is traveling by bike; freedom to explore at your own pace, freedom from obligations to track metrics or keep up with anyone but your own sense of adventure, freedom, pure and simple and perfetto.