Here are some answers you might have when considering a cycling holiday with us. If you have another question that’s not covered here, please get in touch.
HOW FIT DO I NEED TO BE?
A cycling holiday with us isn’t a training camp – we offer fun, sociable rides, with the slowest rider never being left behind (we promise!) The emphasis is on enjoying the scenery, the company and the food.
The terrain around St Antonin is quite hilly, but it’s not too steep. It’s ideal for riders who want to stretch their legs without reaching the heights of the Pyrénées. That means it’s not really suitable for complete novices, but if you’re capable of riding 60 – 120 km (40 – 70 miles) in a day at a moderate pace with some coffee and cake stops, then a cycling holiday with us will be perfect for you.
On gravel the distances will be less but the fitness you need will be similar, perhaps a bit higher. You’ll also need some technical skills to cope with rough trails. Everything we ride here is manageable on a gravel bike but can be rough in places, so you will need to have some experience riding off road.
Our custom and self-guided breaks are tailored to your ability; everything else has a detailed itinerary, so you’ll know what you’re getting before you sign up. We know these roads well and could probably ride them in our sleep, so just let us know what you’d prefer.
If you have a partner or kids who prefer a gentle bimble on a bike while you’re off on a longer ride, we can suggest some shorter, flatter local rides for them. (Our bike hire partner also has electric bikes if your other half needs some help on the hills – see below).
For our road rides, you won’t be surprised to learn that a road bike is best! Flat or dropped bars are fine, but hybrids are too heavy. Electric bikes can also work well, especially to even things up for a couple with different riding abilities. It can be quite hilly around St Antonin, and while the gradients are rarely steep, most people find a compact chain-set works best with a low gear of at least 34×27. The roads are mostly smooth, but there are sometimes bumpy sections, so 700x25c tyres are ideal but not essential.
On gravel my preference is for tubeless tires of at least 700x40c. I also find that the stock gearing on most gravel bikes is too high so I ride a 1x transmission with a 32 chainring and an 11-42 cassette. However if you already ride gravel, you’ll know what you like!
You don’t want your cycling holiday spoiled by a mechanical breakdown, so make sure your bike is fully serviced before you come and that your tires are in good condition. If you do have bike problems while you’re here, though, we have a fully kitted out workshop, plus a great relationship with our local bike shop if you get stuck.
If you’d rather hire a bike, we work with Velo du Lot, a great local bike delivery service specializing in cycling holiday hire with a wide range of bikes (including some lovely high-end Pinarello, Cube and Giant carbon bikes). They also have touring bikes, kids’ bikes and electrics if you’re coming with friends and family who’d like to ride locally. We can arrange for your bikes to be delivered to us, so they’ll be ready to ride when you arrive for your cycling holiday. Gravel bikes are more difficult, but we can source them given sufficient notice. They come from further away so the delivery charge is higher.
CAN I BRING MY FIXIE?
Much to the amusement of local riders, I’m often to be seen struggling in the hills on a fixed wheel – so yes, it’s possible to ride a fixie here. You need to be strong and a decent climber, and avoid some of the steeper gradients (we can tell you which ones). A fixie that works well on flat urban rides may not cut it here, though. You’ll need a fairly low gear to cope with the climbs (I use 66”, 44×18), and good brakes for the technical descents. I use two brakes and I’m glad to have both of them for the stopping power, but also because it’s good to have two lever hoods to hang on to when you’re climbing.
You can download maps for your GPS from Velomap, a free mapping service for France which I’ve always found really good (there are full instructions in English and German on the site). If you’re having difficulty with velomap, get in touch and I can help you out.
The best paper map for road riding is the IGN 1:100,000 Sheet 161 for Montauban and Albi. It’s pretty detailed and it shows every road we use. You can pick it up locally when you arrive, or you can get it online in all the usual places.
Gravel is more difficult. The best paper maps are the IGN 1:25,000 series but they’re not entirely accurate. Electronic mapping can be useful is also inaccurate. Google earth shows huge numbers of trails which don’t exist and all the others I’ve used are far from complete. You need local knowledge which is where I come in!
St Antonin is an increasingly popular holiday destination, and there’s lots to do here if you don’t want to ride a bike.
The town has a lively arts scene and there are plenty of outdoor activities as well. See here for more.
There’s very little public transport, though, so if you want to explore further afield, you’ll need a car.