Alex, the founder of Steel Vintage Bikes, did a bike trip in Portugal in the middle of March. It supposed to be a relaxed ca. 430km long trip from Lisbon to Porto. Due to hard wind and heavy rain it became a challenging one but still absolutely worth it! Here are some impressions from it:
Berlin is a great city to be for Steel Vintage Bikes but the winters here are just too long. At the end of February I already couldn't wait to start my cycling season and decided to go to a warmer place. One of Berlin's advantages despite of cold rainy winters is that you can get anywhere in Europe quite cheap and fast. So I picked Portugal and planed a quick 5-days trip from Lisbon to Porto. At that time we were promoting our new touring model of Holdsworth Mistral bike which I chose to ride there and test it out. Mistral has a hand-made steel (Reynolds 531) frame and we were able to trim the weight of the complete bike with dynamo lights, mudguards and lights under 11.5kg in size 58.5cm (large). The panniers of my choice were Brooks Norfolk as they supposed to be water proof and look great.
When the bike was ready to go, I posted an Instagram story about going from Lisbon to Porto. Few minutes later Zepe sent me a message there offering to pick me up from the airport and drive me to the hotel. He was following us on Instagram and curious to learn about who we are and meet the real people behind. I was surprised again about the quickness and reach of social media and actually being quite a useful thing :-)
Day 0: Flying to Lisbon from Berlin (direct flight with easyjet). The Holdsworth Mistral bike was put into a cardboard bike box and survived the flight without any visible damages. My new friend from Instagram - Zepe picked me up from the airport and kindly offered to quickly show around the city. We ended up drinking too much of the amazingly cheap and good Portugiese beers and I was able to learn a lot about the city, Portugiese history and come nice bars there.
Day 1: After sleeping till late recovering from the sightseeing tour last night I assembled the bike and was ready to go around midday. Zepe spontaneously decided to join me on the first day and cycle together until Cabo da Roca. He was happily sharing his deep knowledge and interest of Portugiese history and culture with me as we cycled through Lisbon and further west to Cascais. Unfortunately the weather in Portugal in the mid March can be quite changing and so, after a good start with sun, we were caught by a heavy rain somewhere after Cabo Raso. In few moments we both were completely wet and cold. This was also the end of the first day - after only ca. 35km of cycling :-D Zepe decided to cycle back to Cascais and take a train from there back to Lisbon and I stayed for the first night in a nearby hotel with a great ocean view from my room.
Day 2: My second day started and ended with heavy rain. Actually, it was raining all day long. Nevertheless I was still motivated to go ahead and continue cycling. Putting up all my bad weather equipment, I started the tour and reached the most Western point of Europe - Cabo da Roca - after about an hour and half. I didn't stop to enjoy the view as there was no view and continued cycling asking myself why my early-spring-escape plan didn't work. On that day I only was able to do around 80km and arrived in Porto Novo wet but happily tired.
Day 3: My third day was THE day of the tour. It was sunny, dry and there was almost no wind. I woke up early, stuffed my face with delicious Portugiese breakfast pastries and was able to cycle about 150km up to Figueira Da Foz.
Day 4: On that day the weather changed again and strong wind from the North was making the cycling more difficult than it should have been when I was planning the trip. My plan was to actually reach Porto but I only made the half of it and was more exhausted than yesterday. I stopped in a town with funny colourful striped houses - Aveiro.
Day 5: The last part of the trip from Aveiro to Porto was very quick. Just about 80km and I already arrived around 2 p.m. My finishing award in Porto was an amazing weather and the view over one of the cutest cities I've ever been to. Tiago from SUB 954 bike shop was super nice and helped me finding a cardboard box to package the bike and even brought it to my hotel. Few hours later another instagram user, Matej, contacted me and asked if I were up for dinner and drinks. And so my trip ended as it started - I went out for dinner and drinks with a local which I am very thankful for as it made this short bike trip very special :-)
I would totally recommend this tour to anyone but would suggest doing it bit later - end March or even beginning of April when the weather is more stable. Cycling in Portugal is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Everyone I met was kind to me and even though I didn't speak the language, it was easy enough to cycle alone and get along. Not to forget about very delicious Portugiese food and wines that you can enjoy during the trip there ;-)
My technical feedback: Holdsworth Mistral touring bicycle was great and my workshop team did a good job. So I have had no problems during the whole tour (not even a puncture!). I was riding Panaracer Pasela PT 700x28C tires and I love them - they have enough grip on wet roads but roll still fast enough. The big plus was the low weight of the complete bicycle so that I had a feeling of being fast - almost like a road bike. The geometry was bit longer than on the road bike so that even loaded it had a good traction and the bigger spacing for the tires was useful. Mudguards saved my life there :-D I was bit disappointed in the Brooks bags though as they were clearly NOT water proof and I had to use plastic bags to protect my clothes from getting wet. The Cambium saddle, however, was a good choice for me!
I would like to thank everyone who made this cycling trip so special: Zepe from Lisbon, Tiago and Metej!
Please feel free to comment!