“Ter Experience”: Why Designing Your Own Route Is a Risk Worth Taking
After months of COVID restrictions, unable to travel freely and to see loved ones, Sonia Colomo headed out for a short bikepacking trip over Easter, taking the opportunity to ride both an existing route as well as her own creation. Here, she discusses the advantages of designing your own route and experiencing a tailor-made adventure…
Over the Easter break I was allowed to move freely around Catalunya, the first time in quite a while that we’d been able to do so, due to COVID restrictions. The weather forecast wasn’t quite good enough for a 5-day ride, so I planned a couple of 2-day routes with a day of rest in between for when the rain was expected. My base would be Girona, a well-known destination for cycling, whether that be mountain biking, road or gravel. Although it’s not far from where I live, I don’t often ride in this area so I jumped at the opportunity to spend some days exploring there.
The first route I cycled is called “Summits9”, which was created by Gerard, a friend of mine from Girona. His off-road route tackles many of the area’s most iconic climbs, while combining these passes with gravel paths and more challenging sections that are more comfortable on a mountain bike.
For the second route, I created my own challenge and named it “Ter Experience”. The first half of the route is uphill from the sea into the mountains, and the second half is based on a track that is ridden annually for a race that follows the river Ter. Sunrises and sunsets are always special to me, and the idea of seeing both in the sea and in the mountains couldn’t be more appealing.
Although it’s nice to ride other people’s routes, I also love designing my own and always try to make them as beautiful as possible. While I prefer mountain biking and off-road trails, I won’t say no to quiet tarmac roads as the elevation slowly gains, as long as they have views that leave you in awe through every twist and turn. I don’t mind if a route is physically demanding, with sections of hiking – in fact, I quite enjoy the pushing and the uncertainty that comes with the struggle. You know it will be challenging and hard in places, you know you’ll probably be pedalling all day to reach your destination before sunset; but you also know that there’s no better way to spend the day than to ride feeling the connection with nature, with your bike and yourself.
I particularly love crossing rivers; you never know if you’ll be able to cross it without getting wet or if you will need to take off your shoes and soak yourself. It’s all part of the adventure and variety makes it just perfect. So I designed a route that could allow me to go from the sea to the mountains and back to the ocean; from sea level, my route would take us up to almost 2,000 meters elevation, where we could sleep in a small rocky refugee in the middle of nowhere. I called three of my friends who were up for the challenge, and off we went.
The first day, unsurprisingly, included a lot of climbing. It began easy, riding flat gravel paths along the coast but before long we were led to technical rocky climbs, river crossings and plenty of pushing as the Pyrenees loomed above us. We arrived at the summit with the very last light of the day, before lighting a fire and making a bed for the night on the floor.
I’m always the one in a group waking everyone up in the morning. At first, they usually hate me for it (I can be pretty annoying: “get up, I want to ride now the sun is up!” on repeat), but they’re grateful once they see the sun rising over the horizon, when they feel the morning breeze as the first light of the day touches our faces.
The second day was less challenging in terms of elevation, but there was still plenty of distance to cover. We descended along the river Ter, which led us through my hometown where we stopped to see my parents for lunch. I hadn’t seen them in months due to COVID restrictions. It was the best of lunches, in great company right by the river.
We arrived at the same beach from which we’d started just as the sun was setting again, having ridden a variety of landscapes on our loop, with even a visit to my family squeezed in. Despite the risks of creating your own unknown route, it’s only by designing your own adventures that you can control so much. I can honestly say that the final sunset was one of the best I have ever seen, and I’ve seen my fair share! I had had one of the best days out in the wild with my friends and the sky was on fire. Can you imagine a better way to finish a holiday?