Bucket lists are everywhere these days and a lot of what social media is about is people showing that they’re ticking things off their list. I noticed when I started to get active on Instagram that a lot of cyclists were posting images from the same places. I’m thinking Mont Ventoux, Sa Calobra, The Stelvio, Alpe d’Huez, The Tourmalet and others. These are great places to ride a bike and I should know, I’ve ridden them all. But social media and cheap travel are conspiring to ruin them. Go back, say 30 years and those places were still there, but without social media they were less well known, and without the budget airlines, more difficult to get to. And there was no such thing as a bucket list….
So what does all this mean? Riding up the Tourmalet a few years ago for the first time in ages I couldn’t believe how many other cyclists were doing it, or how much traffic there was. At the time I was doing a DIY Atlantic to Med ride along the Pyrenees, mostly on the French side, and to my surprise, the Tourmalet was my least favourite col. Of course it’s the same amazing climb it always was and the magnificent views haven’t changed, but the crowds, the fumes and people getting in my way on the descent made me very happy to get back to the deserted roads I used for the rest of my ride. I didn’t do a poll, but the crowds of riders on the Tourmalet must have had a lot to do with bucket lists and social media.
So am I annoyed? Well yes and no. Of course I was disappointed not to have enjoyed the Tourmalet more than I did, but the other side of the coin was that everyone flocking to the same place meant that I had the whole of the rest of the Pyrenees almost to myself. So after sitting grumpily in the café at the top for a few minutes I calmed down and realised that for me it wasn’t a bad trade off. It means I won’t ride the Tourmalet again, at least not in peak season, but there are plenty of other cols to ride, and of course living here means I can nip down to the Tourmalet for a day ride out of season if I feel like it.
There’s a lesson to be learnt from all of this. Cyclists and crowds don’t mix too well. Crowds produce traffic which is always best avoided on a bike, and even other cyclists can be annoying if there are too many of them. But bucket lists really help with this – they tell you where the crowds will be, so all you need to do is go somewhere else and there’s always plenty of choice. Want to ride in the Pyrenees? Look at a map and pick somewhere you’ve never heard of surrounded by cols you’ve never heard of and go there. It’ll be great, and because it’s not on anyone’s bucket list, you’ll have it to yourself.
It’s not just about mountains though. As a cyclist it’s always better to avoid places you’ve heard of because if you’ve heard of it, so have lots of other people and it’ll be too crowded with too much traffic. But be happy about the bucket lists though because it’s thanks to them that the obscure gem you’ve tracked down is so idyllic. So use bucket lists as a guide for where not to go.
If you fancy riding somewhere beautiful which isn’t on anyone’s bucket list, get in touch. Meanwhile I’m off out to ride some deserted roads in the sunshine!