Albania 2017: Until about a year ago we never thought of the possibility of tandeming in Albania. This was a country closed from most of the rest of the world during the communist era, certainly from us, so we had no knowledge of the country and didn't really know what to expect. Our friends at TourCO (Tour Colombia) set up a cycling tour in Albania and asked us to join them so they and we could evaluate the country as to its suitability as a tandem touring destination. So we were off for a nearly 3 week visit to this wonderful country. We found it to be poor but catching up to the rest of Europe. The people are warm and friendly, the government is corrupt, infrastructure is dilapidated and falling apart, the diet is Mediterranean, the roads are a mix of good, ok, and terrible, and it turned out to be a delightful place to ride. The bicycle is not widely used and drivers expect people on bicycles to yield at all times. They had no sense whatever that a tandem could go fast and would take its rightful place in the flow of traffic. This was ok most of the time; there was one instance in which a car turned directly in front of us and almost hit us, but otherwise drivers mostly gave us room and were ok with us riding in a predictable and assertive way.
Roads were mostly pretty good.
But sometimes not great.
And sometimes downright terrible. We had our Primera Ultra tandem with Vittoria Randonneur Pro 700x35c tires mounted on Rolf Prima Tandem Wheels. This set up was fine. We have the bike fitted with an 11-34 10 speed cassette (Co-Motion specs 11-32), giving us a 30/34 climbing gear. In the mountains we wished for lower climbing gears and if we do this again we'll take a bike with Rohloff hub drive so we can get those lower gears.
Scenery was great. This is Permet, a town where we took a day off the bike to do some hiking.
Here is our happy cycling group at tour's end in Vlore, Albania. We were the only tandem on this test trip. Our opinion on suitability for tandems: by all means consider the trip (email me for details), but be advised it is mountainous, with some rough roads, and with accommodations that are 2 star for the most part, but a bit basic (rustic) in a couple of places. I'd be happy to answer questions.
Days riding: 9.
Miles ridden: 362.5 miles.
Elevation gained: 31,985'.
Here are a couple of videos about the Albania experience:
Northwest Tandem Rally: This year the rally was in Seattle, an excellent venue for tandeming. We spent most of our time working in our booth and dealing with rental tandems, so we only got out briefly for two of the rides.
The two Spain adventures (Mallorca and Northern Spain) began and ended in Catalunya. Overall, combining the two tours, ride statistics were:
Days riding: 16.
Distance ridden on these 2 tours: 788.3 miles.
Elevation gained on these 2 tours: 60,089'.
The objective here was to evaluate this area for its suitability as a location for tandem touring. For us, the results were a bit mixed. The scenery is, like on Mallorca, spectacular. Roads are good and there is little traffic. Accommodations, though widely spaced, are excellent. The food is delicious. The people are warm and welcoming. But there is lots of climbing. Although we avoided the high passes of the Pyrenees, each day had one or more smaller passes for us to climb. And it was hot, sometimes brutally hot.
For us, at our age (late 60's) and in our condition, this represented pretty much the outer limit if what we could comfortably do.
Some were rougher; the captains had to remain alert.
For our stay in early May, the weather was just about perfect - 50's and 60's at night with daytime highs in the 70's all the way up to 100's. No rain. Very little wind.
Also, it's inexpensive. The villa had all the expected amenities and was only $440 for the two of us for the full 8 days.
There were 3 grocery stores and multiple small produce markets within an easy bike ride of the villa, so grocery shopping was a breeze. We did not rent a car and did not need one.
We were joined in Vietnam by two other tandem couples and one single rider. The tandem couples, pictured here on the road from Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang, were also on Co-Motion tandems with Rohloff hub/Gates belt drive, one a Java and the other an Equator. Again, these tandems and this drive train were well suited to the conditions we encountered. Not all roads were as smooth as the one pictured here.
Mallorca is cycling friendly and is well endowed with excellent cycling routes, both flat and mountainous. The road surfaces are in great shape, for the most part. Motorists are courteous. There are gobs of bike shops. Scenery is spectacular. There are cyclists literally all over the place.
Spain 2017 - Mallorca: We began a month long sojourn in Spain by spending 8 days on the island of Mallorca (or Majorca, if you prefer). To do this we rented a 4 bedroom, 3 bath villa with 2 other couples and did day rides out in all directions from there. For Mallorca this is a perfect way to go. Our villa was well located on the north end of the island, halfway between the towns of Pollenca and Puerto Pollenca, on a quiet road.
2017 - Vietnam: We spent most of the month of January touring and tandeming in Vietnam, checking out the country for tandem touring and checking out NZ Pedaltours as a tour company to use for organizing tandem touring. Both were big winners. We think we want to go back to Vietnam, its beauty, and its warm and welcoming people. For this tour we took Rollie, our Co-Motion Speedster that has Rohloff hub and belt drive. This was a good choice for the rough roads and challenging riding conditions we encountered (including rain for the first 3 days, even though it was the beginning of the dry season).
For couples contemplating a tour in this area our advice is: definitely do it, but be aware of the challenges - lots of climbing and potentially strength-sapping heat. Let us know if we can offer any further details on our experience and/or insights that can help you with planning yours. email@example.com
Days riding: 8 (plus a short ride around Bilbao).
Distance ridden on this tour: 527.2 miles.
Elevation gained on this tour: 40,692'.
Here the captain is relaxing near a floating fishing village we stopped to view. The whole experience was relaxing and reasonably paced. Although we saw and learned so very much, we came home feeling rested.
Days riding: 11.
Distance ridden on this tour: 510.2 miles.
Elevation gained on this tour: 17,683'.
Our objective here, really, was to assess Mallorca as to its suitability for tandem vacationing. Verdict: absolutely perfect in all respects! If we can help in making a tandem vacation for you on Mallorca possible, let us know. firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, you can see from this photo that the bike we selected for this trip was our Co-Motion Primera Ultra (we are the couple in the middle).
For our 8 days on Mallorca:
Days riding: 6.
(luggage lost by Lufthansa cost us 2 riding days).
Distance ridden on this tour: 261.1 miles.
Elevation gained on this tour: 19,397'.
Spain 2017 - Northern Spain: A second and completely separate tour began after the 8 days on Mallorca, with a flight to Bilbao and from there a tour from Bilbao to Barcelona, along the southern edge of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Driving to the rally with 2 tandems on top, 2 tandems inside, and 3 tandems on the back!
Total days ridden at the NWTR this year: 2.
Miles ridden: 52.9.
Elevation gain: 1849'.