Mike Beddows headed to Portugal’s Douro Valley for an extended weekend of journey biking, sight seeing and wine tasting. Right here’s his expertise in his personal phrases:
Throughout one other monotonous afternoon of working my day job, I acquired an sudden name. On the opposite finish of the road was Alun from Journey Bike Rider, and he had a proposition for me. Bryn, ABR’s editor, was as a consequence of journey to Portugal to experience a route alongside the Douro Valley, however he was recovering from sickness and unable to go, so the spot was open and was I prepared to, as a daily contributor to the magazine, attend? Typically in life you need to make robust selections, so I made a decision to take one for the workforce and every week later I discovered myself on a flight to Portugal to experience Freeride Spirit’s new journey tour, the Porto and Douro Valley Expertise tour.
I used to be to be one of many first individuals, a guinea pig if you’ll, to pattern Freeride Spirit’s new bespoke journey excursions. My vacation spot was Porto, one of many oldest cities in Europe, and I’d be chilling out for a night earlier than mounting my steed and heading alongside the gorgeous Douro Valley, the primary place on the earth to turn into a licensed wine area.
On the best way over I’d achieved a little bit of studying and found that Freeride Spirit is an already well-established tour operator that specialises in off-road excursions round northern Portugal. Based by a chap referred to as João Roxo who, earlier in his profession, had spent a few years driving enduro to knowledgeable degree, the primary focus of Freeride Spirit was all the time driving within the dust, however João had noticed a chance. As a way to accommodate the rising numbers of journey bike riders, Freeride Spirit has launched various road-based excursions which focus extra on driving thrilling roads, seeing unimaginable sights, and dwelling the excessive life within the night. An ideal mixture of journey and luxurious.
Once I later spoke to João, it was clear that he’d put loads of thought into what he would need from a tour if he have been the client and, sparing no expense, that’s precisely what he’s providing. His philosophy, and it’s one I now agree with, is that if individuals are spending the cash they’ll need a top-drawer expertise of incredible lodges on the finish of an thrilling day of driving the most effective roads round on one of the best bikes for the job. Every journey would absorb one of the best surroundings within the space and supply quite a lot of experiences alongside the best way, from non-compulsory off-road segments to wine tasting.
Anyway, again to my journey. On arrival at Porto airport, I used to be greeted by Miguel Guimarães, certainly one of João’s colleagues at Freeride Spirit. After a quick drive we arrived on the seafront to have lunch at an exquisite restaurant. Sitting there, just some hours after leaving Manchester, I used to be already serious about how fortunate I used to be.
Some lunch and a mile or so later, we have been on the mouth of the Douro River. It was becoming to see it assembly the Atlantic Ocean, because it was the Douro that we have been to be following for the subsequent few days, and it might carve a powerful line for us to hint. Earlier than lengthy, we headed again to our lodge for the primary night time, the Palácio do Freixo.
Sitting on the banks of the Douro River, the Palácio do Freixo is an 18th century palace and it makes for some mighty spectacular lodging. (Observe: Freeride Spirit chooses a choice of lodges for any tour, and there’s no assure that you’d get the identical ones that I stayed in. Relaxation assured although, all lodging is prime notch.)
The Palácio do Freixo is uncommon in that the reception, bar and restaurant are all in the primary palace constructing, whereas the rooms and spa complicated are subsequent door in a transformed flour mill. It makes for an expensive and characterful place to start out a motorbike tour, and whereas I used to be dwelling it up within the spa I couldn’t assist however be excited to go away the next morning.
The subsequent day I awoke to our bikes ready for us on the lodge. That is utterly totally different from excursions that I’ve been on up to now, the place I’ve been whisked off in a mini bus to the bikes. It’s a bit contact, however having every little thing prepared and ready for you actually goes a great distance, and it was the primary of many indicators that confirmed that the blokes at Freeride Spirit are greater than prepared to go the additional mile.
I had determined to decide on the KTM 1090 Journey R as my bike for the subsequent two days, and the one I acquired to experience was model new (solely 5 miles on the clock). I went for the 1090 Journey R as I used to be wanting ahead to the off-road sections of the tour and was eager to attempt it out, however if you’d like a decrease, extra street biased choice, you will get the usual mannequin, although even this is able to eat up filth. For the extra succesful, KTM 1290 Tremendous Journey Rs can be found. All the bikes have been fitted with exhausting panniers which took my baggage with ease.
Lastly, we have been able to get going. I used to be itching to get off and expertise the roads of the Douro Valley whereas additionally getting my first probability to pilot a KTM 1090 Journey R. After a number of miles, I had already come to the choice that I had made the only option for my fashion of driving.
Our guided tour (you possibly can, for those who’re so inclined, go for the self-guided model the place SatNavs pre-loaded with the route are offered) started and adopted the Douro River as we headed inland and away from Porto. Earlier than lengthy, we diverted away from the river and into the hills to the south. The tour manages to remain off the key highways, concentrating on the extra distant stretches of tarmac that move by means of huge scenic countryside, and man, have been they unimaginable! Visitors is minimal, and on some sections it’s potential to select up velocity and actually join together with your bike. The roads loop across the hillsides, typically with hairpin bends to deal with, on a regular basis providing ample imaginative and prescient and permitting you to take the occasional racing line.
The KTM 1090 Journey R is ideal for these roads, and superb on the off-road sections we might be driving in between them. It’s such a succesful bike and, with TKC 80 tyres fitted, it handles no matter you possibly can throw at it with ease. When you’ve by no means ridden a contemporary KTM then I urge you to take any alternative to take action. I really like my KTM 950 SE, however at over 10 years previous it’s getting a bit lengthy within the tooth, although the KTM 1090 Journey R is the one bike I’ve been on that I might contemplate swapping for.
Earlier than lengthy, we moved off the quick roads and onto the lesser travelled routes. Right here, you get to come across distant dwelling as you move by way of secluded villages. In a few of them, it’s as if time has stood nonetheless and somebody forgot to kickstart the clock. It’s superb to see how some individuals nonetheless stay, and I don’t imply that in a nasty method. Life appears very sleepy, and loads of livestock roam the filth and cobbled streets. I discovered myself questioning how any of those villagers made a dwelling, although I anticipate most of them are farmers and, for probably the most half, stay hand to mouth. Everybody we handed by was completely happy to see the bikes and waved at us as we rode on by.
The paths which are encountered on the tour are nice enjoyable they usually enabled us to actually check our bikes’ off-road talents. There’s nothing troublesome concerning the tracks, however Freeride Spirit makes some extent of claiming these off-road sections are optionally available for many who need them. There’s all the time a street part to bypass the filth if required, however I’d say give them a go! They’re chosen as they hyperlink one of the best bits of tarmac or go over the perfect passes within the space with the most effective views.
The day flew by, and after driving onerous all morning we visited a vineyard within the afternoon for a tasting session. The Douro Valley is world-famous for its wine, and this tour takes you into a number of the greatest wineries round. This one is often the second night time’s lodge, nevertheless it was absolutely booked on the times we travelled, so we pressed on to the riverside city of Pinhão the place we stayed within the Quinta de La Rosa Lodge, which can also be a working vineyard.
The Quinta de La Rosa was utterly totally different to the Palácio do Freixo from our first night time in Porto. It’s much more rustic, with a standard vibe to it, and the views from my bed room’s balcony over the River Douro have been merely beautiful. It appeared impolite to not sit back with a number of glasses of wine on my bed room balcony whereas I mirrored on the driving I’d simply accomplished.
Day one was unimaginable, with a mix of every little thing I might want for, and day two was simply as nice, with extra of the identical unimaginable roads and off-road tracks, however the surroundings is one thing else! You’re, in any case, driving by way of the guts of the higher Douro, which was categorised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Website.
My spotlight of day two was taking a quick cease on the ruins of the Citadel of Numao, a medieval fort which was constructed a while within the mid-10th century. After a few years of occupation, it fell to ruins within the 1700s and it now provides some spectacular ruins on a rocky hill 677m above sea degree.
In contrast to many medieval ruins I’ve visited earlier than, this one is free to stroll round, and it’s even potential to scale the partitions and stroll alongside between the turrets. It’s a implausible expertise, although a bit harmful as there are not any obstacles to cease a careless tumble. Being in a distant space, it additionally means the prospect of bumping into some other guests is slim at greatest.
Ultimately, after many extra miles of implausible driving, we reached our most distance from Porto, which additionally occurred to be the Spanish border. Right here, the Douro River acts as the road between Portugal and Spain, earlier than it slithers into the space in the direction of its supply within the Picos de Urbion, south of Bilbao. We’d be heading in the other way, and whereas we’d been travelling east for the previous day and a half, we’d be heading west, again to Porto.
As ours was a two-day journey, the route again to Porto was on the quick roads. Longer excursions are nicely catered for, and I’ve been assured that main highways are prevented. Again in Porto, my last night time was spent within the Classic Pestana Ribeira Lodge, the perfect lodging of the journey purely for its location. It was proper on the waterfront within the older a part of the town, eating places are in all places, and road performers ply their commerce late into the night time. What a incredible place to finish an exquisite journey.
I’ll undoubtedly be again to experience with Freeride Spirit, however subsequent time I’ll be bringing my spouse and I’d even prolong the journey to absorb one of many many river cruises that have been seen chugging up and down the river, sampling wine alongside the best way. The journey I did makes for an ideal weekend away to recharge your batteries in an adventurous setting, however I can see the tour being notably well-liked with couples.
You might have held off on excursions up to now via not incomes sufficient ‘brownie factors’ to assist you to get away, or just due to the sensation of guilt you get from leaving your different half, however now you don’t should. Merely convey them alongside! It ought to be a simple promote. High quality motels, some with spas and swimming swimming pools, and enjoyable driving via a number of the most lovely surroundings round. Throw in world-class wine tasting and nice meals, and also you’ll be reserving your subsequent couple’s getaway.
The Good Bike For The Job
Whereas I had the selection of a KTM 1090 Journey and a KTM 1290 Tremendous Journey R, I made a decision to go together with the 1090 Journey R. Having ridden an previous 950 SE for the previous few years, I used to be gobsmacked by how pleasant the extra trendy KTM’s are! The 1090 Journey R eats up each tarmac and dust with ease, it’s snug, and it’s a ferocious beast once you need it to be. It’s been a few years since I used to be final on a sports activities bike (my wrists and shoulders can’t take that punishment anymore), however once I flicked to Sports activities mode on the 1090, all of the years of driving them got here again instantly. It might be classed as an journey bike, however it performs like a sports activities bike when within the right mode; the throttle response is prompt and never for the faint-hearted, with quick and extreme acceleration. Throw it into Road mode, which is my favorite for touring, and also you get a extra sedate and, in all honesty, safer-feeling journey.
Meals and Drink
The Portuguese love their food and drinks (particularly Port wine). I needed to shortly get used to altering my consuming habits although, because the Portuguese appear to eat later than we do in Britain. On the primary night time, we have been consuming dinner at 10:30pm (on a traditional work night time I’m already tucked up in mattress by then!), and the next day lunch was at three:30pm. I’m positive that should you didn’t just like the considered this then the guides will alter to go well with accordingly.
For me, I benefit from the expertise of various cultures and making an attempt new issues, so I simply went with the movement. One factor I notably loved was the beer. The well-known model in Portugal is Tremendous Bock, a light-weight, refreshing lager that’s greatest served in a small glass and ice chilly. I’m used to consuming pints, so it appeared unusual to do be consuming from such a tiny glass, however I used to be knowledgeable that it permits the beer to remain recent and stay cool for the interval it takes you to drink.
No Package Required
Among the best issues about driving with Freeride Spirit is that the corporate will give you all required driving package. Earlier than your journey, you’re requested on your jacket, trouser, boot, gloves, and helmet sizes, and on arrival on the lodge you’re handed the gear that you simply’ll put on throughout your journey. With the gear offered for you (and it’s top-quality Rev’it! and Schuberth gear), it means which you could journey mild and never fear about getting your personal cumbersome driving package there, saving on flight prices and problem if you get to the airport.
Need To Journey The Douro Valley?
I used to be driving on Freeride Spirit’s Porto and Douro Valley Expertise Tour, which is obtainable all year long. With three to six-day experiences obtainable, every part besides flights, gasoline and lunch is offered, with costs ranging from €1,480 (£1,309) per rider and €740 (£650) per pillion. You possibly can select any mannequin of KTM 1090 Journey or 1290 Tremendous Journey that you really want, and your bike will come full with baggage and a headset communication system for dynamic group driving communication. All lodging is in 4 or five-star inns, and daily will see you overlaying roughly 125 miles with elective off-road routes alongside the best way. For extra info on Freeride Spirit, and to get your self booked onto one of many firm’s excursions, head to the official website.
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