Here at YJ we try to pack a bike wherever our travels take us and summer holidays are no exception. It’s not always possible to drag the better half and kids to the Grand Massif in the Alps, and no amount of lidos are going to dissuade them that you’re only there to cycle. So compromise is the name of the game and a beach resort is a likely destination.
From experience I can highly recommend packing a bike wherever you go, as it’s the places you don’t expect to have good routes that can turn up some hidden gems!
Once you get over the cost of adding your bike to airline luggage, you know it’s protected by YJ both in the plane, on a coach transfer, or on the road when you arrive and should the worst happen, you’ve got up to £500 replacement cycle hire – just remember to pack shoes and pedals separately.
Due to being in the very lucky position of my In-Laws having a place in Portugal, we’ve found ourselves staying in the Algarve for the 2nd summer in a row. Now I’m not complaining, it’s a beautiful part of the world, with really friendly locals, great food and fantastic beaches, but it’s a place almost totally focussed on golf. There are some very good cycling areas just North of Lagos, such as Monchique used in the Tour of Portugal and our partners Embrace Sports actually run training rides as part of their Triathlon camps all around the area. However, where we stay in Vale do Lobo (a golf resort) you can’t move for pink polo shirts and checked trousers, yet I’m the one who gets funny looks for hanging around in skin tight lycra.
On the bike and once you head North from the coast and have crossed the A22 (the motorway running all the way to Spain), the hills start to appear as you climb out of the big town called Loule, which incidentally has a cyclist statue (always encouraging). From there it seems the place to head is Salir and all signs are accompanied by a mountain graphic. To be honest there’s nothing too scary as you head into the hills, with 300m being about the biggest. But beware, there are lots of them, especially if you head further North towards Ameixial. The only way to describe the landscape is to say it’s like sand dunes, with the occasional small whitewashed town on top and mysteriously, the same old lady sitting on a bench in each, God knows how she was getting between them all so fast. I suspect however, that she may be something to do with the heat, because as well as relentless short sharp hills it’s also blisteringly hot, getting up to 49 degrees when I was there at the end of July. Arguably this is too hot to cycle, but I’ve never been one for sunbathing and as long as you stay hydrated then why not. I’d also suggest packing some salt tabs, as no matter what colour kit I wore in the morning it was always white by the time I got back.
So to sum up I’d rate the Algarve in summer as a really great place to ride, with very little traffic once you’re away from the coast, a little on the hot side (factor 50 all the way), with some testing rolling hills and the occasional out of the saddle dig – you’ll appreciate your coffee stop after climbing into Querenca.