One man and his bike

Dan’s bike packing trip through the Canary Islands

Every year Red Kite’s Dan takes off for a few weeks cycle touring to experience the total opposite of the weather here (sunshine and warmth!) and explore interesting places.

This year he chose the Canary Islands. After making us all envious with his tan and post-holiday glow, we asked him about his trip.

Why did you choose the Canary Islands?

“There’s lots to explore in the Canaries. Each island is remarkably different. Away from the standard holiday resorts, they feel exotic, a few of them are volcanic with very different geology. Really beautiful places in their own right. They are also compact; you can ride hard days but at any point you can be back in the comfort on your hotel in an hour. 

Some people approach adventure cycling as the pursuit of hardship. I like to have a bed to go back to. I also find it’s really good for fitness. Most people find their fitness dips over the winter. I try to keep my fitness stable all year round, then do a good block in February, so by the time March comes, I’m ready for the season.

I like a lot of time to myself and I’m very fortunate to have an understanding girlfriend. Going away for a chunk of time on my own is a nice refresher. I come back with a cleaned-out brain. 

What was your route plan?

I was away for two and a half weeks, flying in to Gran Canaria where I stayed 5 days and was joined by a friend. That was like a training week. After my friend left, I got the ferry to Tenerife and rode across the whole island. 65 miles from one port to the other along an old highway. 

After that I caught the ferry to La Gomera which is much greener and less touristy with a rainforest at the top.  I spent four days riding a circuit of the whole island dipping down to the fishing villages.

Then it was on to La Palma, a volcanic island that’s recently erupted. Some of the roads were still closed. Finally, I got the ferry back to Tenerife and flew home from there. 

What was the riding like?

All the riding was upwards. There’s very little flat. But it’s different from riding hills in the UK when you can see the summit so you tend to ride faster up them. If you know you’re going to be climbing for 3 hours you just go at the easiest pace you can.

You get fantastic views at the top and then the pleasure of an easy descent. The roads were good, almost universally smooth and even, so you can fly round the corners. 

Exploring the islands by bike gives you the freedom to move around the island at your own will. You’re not constrained by the timetable of public transport, or unpleasant drives up windy roads. You don’t have to push yourself either, you can stick to a nice low mileage like 30 miles a day or use an e-bike for some extra assistance. 

What bike did you ride and what accessories did you take?

I ride a Trek FX 2 that I’ve adapted with drop handlebars. Accessories are very important – comfortable shorts, convenient luggage. My luggage was similar to the Altura bike packing kit we sell at Red Kite Cycles. You have to be disciplined in what you carry. My total weight was 10k which didn’t affect the riding experience. I only took one pair of cycling shorts which got washed every night. 

Of course, it’s important to have a good bike. You can go cycle touring on any style of bike within reason. Small adaptations are helpful such as getting racks fitted for luggage. It is important to have your bike properly serviced before you go. You don’t want to be scrambling around to find somewhere to get it fixed or even having to wait out some of your holiday for a part to arrive. 

The one bit of kit that made a real difference was a Garmin GPS. Even a fairly basic one means you don’t have to look at a map.

Any advice for people wanting to try adventure cycling?

There’s a growing interest in bike packing / cycle touring / adventure cycling – whatever you want to call it. Both trips around the UK and abroad. There’s been a lot of interest in riding the King Alfred Way in the last couple of years, a 350 km loop through southern England that takes in Stonehenge.

Bike packing can be whatever you want it to be. I’ve bike packed in some pretty exotic places but you don’t have to go to Kazakhstan to have a cycle adventure! Dial it down in terms of where you go and how far you ride, and it’s somewhere in between hard exercise and a nice relaxing holiday. 

If anyone’s looking for advice or planning a trip, I’d be more than happy to chat (at length!) and offer some tips.