Bishop Bikes Field Trip: France Edition
Join Award-Winning Frame Builder Chris Bishop for a Unique Road Cycling Tour in the Basque Hills and Beautiful Pyrenees plus Invitation-Only Visits to View Rare Historical Collections from France’s Golden Age of Bicycle Construction.
Start: Biarritz End: Bayonne
8 DAYS/9 NIGHTS – FULLY SUPPORTED 4400€ Deposit of 500€ LIMITED TO 8-10 GUESTS
Lodging 3*/4*/5* Hotels, Meals, Cycling Nutrition, Mechanical Support, Guide, Luggage Transfers, Museum Visits & Seminars, Road book, Bidons, Souvenir Tour Poster, Bishop T-shirt & Jersey. Shared Double Room (Single Room Supplement Available for 500€).
4-12 July 2020
France’s history with cycling runs centuries-deep. There are few places in Europe where the relationship with the bicycle is stronger than in the Basque Country. Join artisan frame builder Chris Bishop on a once-in-a-lifetime field trip to this very special region to learn more about the lasting legacy of crafting and riding metal bicycles, from the turn of the 19th century to the heyday of the Tour de France in the 1980’s. Visit two collections of rare and highly valuable handmade bicycles from legendary frame builders like René Herse and Alex Singer plus view authentic examples of advances in technology across the ages, as well as treasures from Tour de France heroes throughout the most important decades of the iconic event. In addition, there will be several intimate talks about frames and frame building over a fine meal and a great bottle of wine, where you can discover what inspires Chris to build some of the most beautiful bicycles in the modern world. When we aren’t talking about bicycles, learning about bicycles or dreaming about bicycles, we will be riding bicycles. We encourage you to bring your most beloved handmade steel frame and spend 7 days putting it through its paces from the Basque coast to the soaring heights of the Pyrenees summits. Routes will be of reasonable length and elevation to allow us to put in a good day of riding but also rest well and enjoy a nice evening meal. Terrain will range from rolling roads with moderate ups and downs to categorized climbs, some stretching into the alpine zone.
Pastoral landscapes and soaring views guaranteed.
Climbing famous Tour de France mountains on a finely tuned machine is what cycling dreams are made of. The Basque Country and the Pyrenees National Park is a very special part of France. Both regions are home to breathtaking views and spectacular roads, fields of the brightest green and rivers of the clearest blue. Free-range farm animals and wildlife abound. Bright flowers decorate the slopes, some found nowhere else in the world. It’s difficult to see the details of this especially beautiful environment unless you take the time to slow down. We encourage all of our guests to do just that. If you want to pull to the side of the road to snap a photograph, take a breather or simply stop to take in the view…we think that’s a great way to ride. If you want to set personal goals or scald a blazing path to the summit…you absolutely may. You decide how you want to pedal and we’ll support you. This is intended to be a relaxed, highly-satisfying tour with plenty of two-wheeled memories to make.
No one will be dropped. No one will be left behind. You do not have to be race-fit to meet this challenge. You just have to be comfortable on your bike and have the proper fitness to spend several hours climbing at a pace you find sustainable. Please have some experience navigating long and sometimes steep descents. There will be vehicular traffic on our routes. In general, drivers in France are courteous to cyclists and will respect your space. We encourage you to bring a rear light to help them see you clearly. It also helps to have some experience riding in a group. Pace line skills are not necessary but can be helpful during windy conditions. To ensure the absolute safety of all our guests, alternate transportation is provided during significantly poor weather. There will be experienced guides and a professional mechanic. Water and snack breaks plus a mid-stage lunch highlighting local ingredients will be provided. Handmade steel frames are encouraged as your bike of choice for this tour. Don’t have one? Contact Chris at www.bishopbikes.com
Routes will average 100km +/- per day unless otherwise noted. In the event one of our guests feels unable to complete the day’s stage, there is the option of riding along in the van. There is also an optional rest day during the tour for anyone needing some extra time off the bike. One entire day will be spent traveling. Most mornings will allow for an unhurried breakfast before our ride. We aim to return in time for a swim, a shower, a stroll about town and/or an aperitif before dinner. Dinner in France can be a lengthy affair but we will try to maintain a turn-in time before 10pm each evening. A general outline of events follows:
Saturday, Arrival. Collect guests from Biarritz Airport, San Sebastien Airport or local train stations: Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz or San Sebastien. Deliver guests to host hotel in Biarritz center. Deliver bikes to Capra Velo for assembly/service. Sunset welcome dinner on the beach & trip briefing.
Sunday, Stage 1. Collect guests from host hotel. Deliver to Capra Velo for coffee and last minute cycling needs/adjustments. Go for a ride. 100km rolling route into Spain. Fern-filled forests and magical roads. Traditional Spanish Basque villages. We will stop for a beer and the local specialty: croquettes before filling our bidons with cold, clear water from a natural spring and returning to Biarritz. Dinner featuring products from the Côte Basque and a night cap at host hotel.
Monday, Stage 2A & 2B. Collect guests from host hotel. Deliver to Capra Velo for coffee. Early start 30km quiet river path plus some rolling roads to the spa town of Cambo-les-Bains to visit a small, private bicycle museum by special invitation. Lunch at a traditional Basque grill. Another 30km ride after lunch into the deep French Basque borderlands. A traditional Basque dinner and a restful evening at our riverside Basque mansion in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry. Home to Irouléguy AOC wines.
Tuesday, Stage 3. Depart Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry and ride a rolling but steadily ascending 100km through the heart of the French Basque Country, past the historic Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the starting point of the Way of Saint-James (Camino de Santiago). There will be a noticeable difference in the height of the hills on the horizon as we make our way towards the mythical mountains of the Pyrenean range. Our stage ends in Arudy. Dinner specializing in regional cuisine will be a short promenade from our Chateaux hotel. Rest well for a big day tomorrow.
Wednesday, Stage 4. Depart Arudy and settle in to our long climb through the Ossau Valley, home of the AOC Ossau-Iraty cheese and up the stunning shoulder of a famous Tour de France climb: the dramatic Col d’Aubisque. We’ll pause briefly at the summit for a coffee and a slice of blueberry tart plus plenty of photographs before continuing towards the shorter (but still steep) climb of the Soulor. If we’re lucky and the weather is clear, you’ll likely be distracted by the soaring views and herds of free-ranging sheep, cows, horses and goats. Take your time, enjoy the climbs and breathe deeply the mountain air. This is why we ride. Your efforts will be rewarded by a thrilling descent through the myriad tiny hamlets surrounding the Pyrenees National Park. Don’t be afraid to test your legs at the end of this stage. Tomorrow will be a rest day if you choose or you can join us the next morning for a ride to the summit of the infamous “Terrible Mountain”…the legendary Tour de France mountain called Tourmalet. Dinner utilizing seasonal, local ingredients at our small, family run auberge in Saint-Savin.
Thursday, Rest Day. Sleep in. Relax. Linger over breakfast and maybe enjoy a stroll through the village. Go for a swim or a hike or do absolutely nothing at all. Welcome to a rest day in the Hautes-Pyrénées. For those with fresh legs or an adventurous nature (weather permitting), join your guides for a ride to the summit of the most famous mountain in the Pyrenees, perhaps in France, if not all of cycledom. We will pedal steadily to the top of the Tourmalet and take a group photo in front of the huge statue of Octave Lapiz, winner of the 1910 Tour de France and one of the first men to cycle over the hors catégorie climb. Enjoy the spectacular descent back to our hotel, where you can spend the remainder of the long summer day to do as you please. Encore dinner at our auberge in Saint-Savin.
Friday, Stage 5. After breakfast, we’ll point our wheels north and enjoy 80k of rolling (mostly) downhill towards “Old France”, ending in the culinary gem of the Gers, known to the locals and lovers of fine food and wine as Gascony. An area rich in duck foie gras and deep red wine, we’ll arrive early to our historic hotel to rest our legs and freshen up for a special dinner in this equally special village of Madiran. The local wine of the same name is perhaps known only in the Southwest but will leave you spellbound. It is said that despite a diet of indulgent cuisine, the people of Gascony have the healthiest hearts in all of France…thanks to the wines from their ancient soil. Dinner in a Priory. Slumber in a Chateau.
Saturday, Stage 6. Today we’ll have the time to catch up on sleep and enjoy an extra cup of coffee before boarding the van for a short drive to Auch, the capital city of Gascony. Once we arrive, there will be time to settle in for a traditional plat du jour (with a glass of Madiran, of course). After lunch, we’ll visit the impressive collection of Cycles de France. These beauties are the cream of the crop from some of France’s most beloved builders. The co-owners of this one-of-a-kind stable will be there to answer questions and share their passion for these timeless pieces of rideable art. Our own impressive fleet of bikes will make the journey to Pau ahead of us, where we will arrive in time to check in to our modern hotel and relax before dinner. If it feels like the day was spent savoring the local fare instead of spinning the pedals, fear not…you’ll get the chance to put those delicious calories to good use tomorrow. Dinner at our 4*modern hotel in Pau featuring local AOC Jurançon wines. Massage and other spa services available at our hotel.
Sunday, Stage 7. It will be an early morning for our road-wizened guests as we make one brave, final push towards home. Though this will be no ordinary ride! We will reverse the 106km route of the 1931 Tour de France from Pau to Bayonne, where we will roll through the medieval half-timbered old town to our final hotel of the trip. There, we will freshen up from a long day in the saddle and share stories from the road over a hearty Basque meal and a bottle (or two) of our favorite wine. By now, we’ll have ridden countless climbs and ticked off hundreds of beautiful miles with like-minded lovers of handmade steel frames. We hope that this field trip to France will have led to new discoveries, lasting memories and a deeper love for the bicycle. Dinner at our traditional hotel in historic Bayonne, the capital of the Pays Basque.
Monday, Departure. Guests will be transported to their airport or train station of choice. Alternatively, they may return to Biarritz to extend their vacation on the beach or in the Basque Country. Bikes can stay with their pilots or be transferred to Capra Velo for disassembly and shipping home. Assistance with hotels for extended stays or return transportation available.
the fine print:
This fully supported tour includes lodging for 8 days and 9 nights. Breakfast will be provided at each hotel. A picnic style lunch will be provided by Capra Velo staff on all riding days. Lunch at a restaurant will be provided on both museum visit days. Dinner consisting of three courses (including two glasses of wine per guest) will be provided for 9 evenings. Specific dietary needs will be met to the extent of our abilities. Please contact us before the tour with any requests or concerns so we can make arrangements with hotels and restaurants before your arrival. Cycling and non-cycling guides with experience of regional roads, climbs, culture and language are provided. Bidons (2 per guest), a custom jersey and a custom tour poster are included. A detailed road book with route information and/or GPS files will be provided to each cycling guest before the start of the tour. A professional bicycle mechanic will accompany riders each day of the tour. Spare tubes, tires, cables, etc. will be available for the cost of the items. Assembly/Disassembly is not included but is available for 75 euros. Bikes may be shipped directly to Capra Velo and can be shipped home for the cost of postage and insurance. Airfare to/from France, ground transportation to/from Biarritz, hotels and meals outside of tour dates, supplemental beverages and services, incidentals, gratuities and lunch on the rest day of the tour are not included. A suggested packing list and a newsletter on how to prepare for the trip will be provided to all guests before departure. Travel insurance is required.
A note about sleeping arrangements:
Rooms will be shared. We’ll try to match you with a congenial roommate but if you prefer an alternative, you can bring a friend or request a single room package for a 500€ supplement. Hotels TBD depending on availability. The rating and quality level will range from 3* to 5* with modern bathrooms, comfortable beds and WiFi to upload all your incredible cycling photos. Some may offer a spa and/or pool. French hotels can be quite charming, even with their quirks. These will range from a family-run auberge to a fine old chateaux. Either way, we promise they won’t mind if you go to breakfast in your bibs. We will also make sure that your beloved bicycle has a safe, comfortable place to spend the night too. A list of hotels will be available a few weeks before commencement of the tour.
When we aren’t on tour, we operate a fun little bicycle boutique complete with Rocket espresso machine. We are quite familiar with handmade steel frames, including Bishop bikes, and can usually handle any last minute adjustments or repairs. We sell socks and tubes (and other helpful items) if you forget those. Of course we encourage you to bring your own personal bicycle but emergency bicycle rental is available for 350€. We’re available to assemble and disassemble your bike before the tour for 75€. If you prefer not to fly with your bicycle, you may send it to the shop for professional assembly. You provide the Bike Flights label (with insurance) and we will unbox it/assemble and adjust it before your tour then disassemble, pack/protect and re-box it after your tour for 150€. Proof of health/accident and travel insurance required. Non-riding guests are always welcome. Please contact us for details. We’re always available by email, instant message or by phone for any additional questions or travel assistance. We speak French and English.
Merci and bonne route! We look forward to seeing you in July. -Nicole & Scott Davison