Today I led a custom bike tour for a recently retired executive couple, Doris and Bill, from New Orleans. After fitting them on their bikes and preparing them for their 3 day tour, they asked the revealing question, "Are there any hills on this tour?"
There were 3 route options and I advised them to take the easiest route from Impruneta to Greve through Ferrone. Then I made sure that the client had the kind of pedals that they want. In both cases, flat, no clips. These are quite heavy hybrid bikes with mountain bike gearing. They were in for a long day on the road
Doing these "Meet and Greets" are a good training opportunity for me. So I offer to ride a little longer and further with the clients, and they implore me to stay with them, because so far as I've seen, they don't have experience navigating maps and route sheets. They appreciate the company, and I enjoy the socializing and practicing my local knowledge.
It was a slow day. I wanted them to feel confident with reading and navigating the route sheets, so I stayed in the back to make sure they were okay. I felt a little bad for them, because they were somewhat timid and they kept going the wrong way.
I was ever the coach, telling them to go piano, piano at their own pace and knowing how much they're going to appreciate the the next caffe and gelato stops, as they slowly cranked up the hot hills in the mid day heat. They called the hills "mountains" and although the highest hill they climbed was only 1,000 feet above sea level, they surprised me, saying that they could feel an "altitude change" since they live at sea level in Louisiana. They also wished that the bike had more gears, (they had a 30/32) or maybe the brakes were stuck!
So, it seems (so far) that the typical client isn't really a cyclist, but more of an adventurist and sightseer. Which means that I need to focus less on the riding part and more on imparting stories and knowledge of the area to keep them entertained as they huff and puff up the hills.
I stuck with them until they got to Greve, where they stopped to have lunch and I departed. Dying to crank up the speed, I continued riding south, up Panzano where I checked out the beautiful church on the top of the hill which offered killer views of the surrounding countryside. Then I rode on to Radda to explore some more roads. On my way back towards Greve (where I left Doris and Bill), I saw two cyclists ahead of me way in the distance, and I thought that if I could catch up with them, maybe I would find some company to ride with back to Firenze. When I caught up to the riders, it was Doris and Bill going the wrong way! They told me that Bill's derailleur fell off when he shifted gears on the Panzano climb. I called Dominick and he immediately put me in touch with his friend's bike shop in Greve, where I led them to get the bike repaired. When we got to the shop, there was a line of customers waiting to be helped. After 2 hours, the problem was resolved and the clients were on their bikes again heading for Radda. It was already 5 PM when I started heading home. So, by the time I got home I had rode 120K in beautiful Chianti country, learned a little more about the typical client who goes on these tours and found the Greve Bike Shop, Ramuzzi,which is good to know for the future.
As I rode back to Florence, I confirmed again the fact that this is the most beautiful place to ride a bike in the world. I feel blessed to have found my place here in Italy, specifically in Tuscany, and more specifically, in Tuscany on my bike. Thanks Great-Grandpa Ciro Mazzella, for never becoming an American citizen. Or I would never have been able to be a citizen and to live in the Italy that I've had a love affair with all of my life. I was meant to be here, in more ways than one.