It was 6th June 2018 and we had to reach ‘EatSleepCycle’ a bicycle touring and rental company located in Carrer del Vern Girona, Spain. Me and two friends had booked three road bikes and a GPS device to ride towards the beaches of Costa Brava.
The Arrival Story:
Traveling from Barcelona to Girona, we had missed our planned 07:15 am train. We were fortunate to secure three seats in an express train that departed at 09:45 am from Barcelona. But we were now good 2+ hours behind schedule.
On reaching the ECS store, we were greeted by Louise Laker at the customer desk. She gave us a warm welcome and guided us to the basement area where she introduced us to Brian Canty. Brian was more than friendly and it took no time for us to be friends. He showed us our bikes ‘Ridley Fenix’ black. During a casual chat with him, we discovered that he had visited India and was fond of Indian food. I noticed a lot of enthusiasm in his character and passion for his clients and business.
Girona is a small city in Catalonia Spain with a population of about 1 lakh people. It is located about 100 kms northeast of Barcelona. Charming and relaxed, this medieval fortress city is packed with a host of museums and historic buildings, designer and high-street shopping options, and a range of top-class restaurants and gastrobars all packed into a series of historic narrow walkways and cobbled streets.
Many Pro cyclists have called Girona a home and lived here including the likes of Lance Armstrong. The cycling teams have found a training ground here due to its excellent terrain, countryside views and climbing opportunities for those who like to take up challenges.
The city’s historic Jewish quarter is worth a look, the city walls another attraction offering unrivalled views of a city that served as a filming location for hit TV series Game of Thrones is a must visit.
A compact city that can easily be traversed on foot over the course of a leisurely morning or afternoon, there is a wealth of options here for the non-cyclist as well.
Anecdote of our Ride:
We decided to sip coffee at a Restaurant next door as we waited for the clouds to clear. With no change in weather, we left the store under wet conditions. Initially, we followed the GPS but it didn’t help. Confused, we found ourselves moving around same locality. So we tried the Indian method of ‘Jugaad’ to find our way. (Jugaad means an innovative fix or simple work around to find a solution). The 1st man we approached to ask direction for Costa Brava, had many questions to ask in return. He had plans to visit Gujarat, India in October. We patiently responded.
We were taking stops almost after every 4-5 km to ratify our direction. The signboards were in Spanish. Internet connectivity was lost as we moved into the countryside route. We faced a mixed weather through the ride ‘Typical Summer heat and light showers in between’. The roads were smooth with little gradients to tackle. Due to multiple stops, we had little clue of time and distance we had covered.
Under a weather of dark clouds and thunderstorms we stopped just before an incline. Sweaty, wet, and a little distressed mood, we saw two bikers coming our way. We stopped them to ask help. Thomas and Mark were two accomplished local riders. As we briefed them about our situation, Thomas gave us hope by saying that we were just 15 kms away from our destination. They both returned back from there after a good chat with us.
With the augment of rains we took on the climb and soon after, started descending. The Zig-Zag turns were tough to deal on wet roads. The bike was coming down with a speed of 45-50 kms with mountains on one side and a valley on the other. This was the most thrilling experience. It refreshed us completely. Total decent was about 9-10 kms. Covering rest of the distance on flat roads, we were delighted to reach Tossa de Mar beach and meet our friends. A group of 8 friends had come here by road the same morning for Scuba Diving. This was around 4.15 pm. Total ride distance was approximately 100 Kms.
Founded in 2016 by an Irish-man, Brian Canty and his two partners, Lee Comerford and Louise Laker, Eat Sleep Cycle caters for cyclists of all abilities. The trio had begun their venture with a fleet of seven bikes and since then grown leaps and bounds to become one of the biggest tour operators in Girona.
The Return Drama:
We had to return the bikes before 7 pm. After working hard to be there, all we could do at Tossa de Mar was a quick meal and some fresh juice on top of a Castle.
At around 5.20 pm, we reached at the Bus station. The 5.30 pm bus had to be missed – because the driver refused to accommodate us. It’s a small station and services run with an interval of 30 minutes. The next bus had limited storage space and we could adjust only two bikes. We had to split and I held back. Two other friends moved ahead since there is no direct bus from Tossa to Girona, so they had to change again. I boarded a 6.30 pm bus and called Brian to inform about the delay in returning the bikes. He promptly offered help for a support van but we assured him that we shall reach, but not before 8.30 pm. This meant working for extra hours for him and his team simply for us. Finally, we managed to reach back at eatsleepcycle store from where we had started. Lee Comerford, co-founder of ECS had waited patiently for our arrival.
Learnings from our Ride:
- Take a guided tour when riding new routes and long distances – You will have more time to explore.
- Start ahead of schedule and arrive early.
- Strictly adhere to the local transportation timelines.
- Carry hard copy of city route maps.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai