10th February 2020
Ride with MASON | Mason x RPM90 Tuscany Adventure
Images: Breakaway Digital, Podere Spedalone
The Mason X RPM90 Tuscany weekend is available exclusively to Mason bike riders and company founder Dom Mason will be joining the trip with brand manager Cal Nicklin. We can't wait to ride with you, sharing stories from the roads over delicious food and getting excited for every next day's guided adventures.
You’ll have the chance to chat with them both about the bikes, the brand and what’s going on at Mason HQ as well as getting an insight into Dom’s long history with bike design and predicting future trends.
This weekend is about as Italian as you can get. With avenues of cypress trees, hilltop villages, battered Fiat Pandas and glimpses of historic Siena in the distance...
The riding weaves and scampers among the Tuscan hills and valleys, through vineyards, alongside rivers, and you’re constantly looked down on by high perched villages...But it’s the less travelled places that make this trip; Pienza, Montalcino...and all the little towns you’ll pass through, each has a charm its own, isn’t swamped with tourists and souvenir tat and offers a more authentic experience of this part of Italy.
Nick Miles and Jo Burt, RPM90 Founder & Ride Leader
For your three days riding in Tuscany you’ll be based out of Podere Spedalone, a converted farmhouse agritourismo near Pienza that’s only accessible via a couple of kilometres of dirt track, if you go the short way. It’s nine if you go the long way. Here your hosts Allessandro and Fabrizio will look after your every need, from welcoming drinks to making morning coffees until you tell them to stop. The farmhouse wears its rustic heritage on its sleeve but has been sympathetically renovated to be quietly luxurious and yet with a relaxed feel so it quickly becomes your Italian home. All rooms are comfortably furnished with en-suite bathrooms and equipped with underfloor heating if the mornings are a little chilly.
As well as regular stops for coffee and panini we’ll experience delicious homecooked rustic Italian cuisine each evening cooked up by Allessandro and his team. They pride themselves on serving up the freshest local produce and every dinner will feature vegetables from their garden and their own delicious Olive Oil as well as sampling wine from the vineyards we’ve spent the day riding through.
Each day will start with an extensive buffet breakfast and chat about the upcoming route, terrain and snack stops. The riding around this part of the world is politely described as ‘lumpy’ and the variable off-road nature of the famous strade bianche makes it just that little bit tougher. And that bit more fun. The Tuscan climbs can be both long and draggy and short and steep and the energy sapping corrugated sections of some of the gravel roads will mean that even after an 80km day you will have worked up an appreciable appetite for dinner. The routes are designed to be an entertaining mix of on and off road, crafted from RPM90’s many years riding and exploration in the area, and you’ll regularly find yourself on the route of both the Strada Bianche Pro road race, glad that you’re not racing, and the L’Eroica vintage bike ride, glad you’re on a bike that’s more capable of handling the legendary white dirt roads than something 50+ years old with thin tyres, not enough gears and negligible brakes.
The riding weaves and scampers among the Tuscan hills and valleys, through vineyards, alongside rivers, and you’re constantly looked down on by high perched villages. There’s the chance to climb up through the steep narrow streets. You will ride some fantastic gravel roads towards historic Siena. Enjoy views of this famous city and the tower of the Piazza del Campo. But it’s the less travelled places that make this trip; Pienza, Montalcino, Montepulciano and all the little towns you’ll pass through, each has a charm its own, isn’t swamped with tourists and souvenir tat and offers a more authentic experience of this part of Italy. Despite all its endless postcard views Tuscany is still a working landscape, the strada bianche that we see as a fun challenge, dusty with cycling iconography and retro cool are used as routine roads for the locals so utilitarian 4x4 Fiat Pandas and workaday Piaggio Apes clatter along them at regular intervals, as do old ladies on their shopping bikes, just going to the shops. Any one of the small village emporio with old men sat outside sharing a drink and a chat, that sells everything from espressos to cigarettes to beer to magazines to toilet cleaner to lotto tickets to pasta that you can dive into for a snack to get you over the last climb will give you a proper taste of Tuscany.
Riding Tuscany in May is almost perfect as Spring nudges into Summer. Temperatures can tickle the 20’s which is a pleasant change from UK weather. It’s warm enough to sit outside for espressos, panini and beers but not to hot to make riding, and climbing uncomfortably sweaty. The ends of the day can still be a little chilly though so bring knee-warmers and a jumper.
Post ride relaxation can be taken care of by the outdoor pool that’s tucked away in an olive grove behind the farmhouse, taking a walk up the hill to the Monastery of Sant'Anna in Camprena, the church that featured in “The English Patient”, lounging in the limonaia or just sitting about on the terrace with olives and a wine discussing frame materials, gear ratios and tyre choice.
Every evening there are drinks and snacks on the west facing terrace where you’ll get to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets over the Tuscan countryside before being ushered inside for dinner. Meals are sat around large communal tables to ease flow of both conversation and wine bottles and all courses are made from produce sourced from the large vegetable patches that surround the farmhouse and locally sourced ingredients from the places you’ve just ridden through. It is all done simply and done well in that way that only the Italians seem to manage. They serve cycling friendly portions too.
Your Mason bikes will be lovingly pampered by the RPM90 team; they’ll be unpacked for you whilst you have a welcome drink and settle in to your room for the weekend, and given a clean and thorough check over with an oily rag at the end of each day’s riding. The RPM90 guides will also carry a full range of spares on the rides should anyone have a roadside mechanical, as well as offer tips as to how to best ride the white roads.
There is a 2 hour transfer time between Rome airport and Podere Spedalone which is just enough time to discuss the upcoming trip (and have a nap on the way back), get a feel for the Tuscan countryside and enjoy the passionate Italian driving style.
As a teaser for what you can expect this is the route planned for Day One. It covers terrain that the RPM90 team are intimately familiar with so we know the details and highlights of all the climbs and descents and where the coffee stops are.
We start the trip off on a long section of strada bianche straight from the farmhouse door and ease the legs into things with a gentle climb up along the ridge that gives 360 degree views of where we’ll be riding throughout the day. After nearly 10km of dirt we hit the road for the drop into Torrenieri before heading off road again, this time on the L’Eroica route, and then back onto tarmac for the steady climb up into Montalcino and a coffee stop to get our breaths back after a initial updulating 25km. Unfortunately there’s a bit more climbing to go before we turn right and plummet into one of the lengthier and more technically demanding sections of strada bianche; it starts off flowing past vineyards and gated tree-lined entrances to villas before dropping off the hill in quite a dramatic loose gravel switchback fashion that will show your Mason adventure bike off to its best.
There’s a chance to recover a bit on a stretch of tarmac from Bibbiano as we head north-west towards Murlo and a cheeky little up and down off-road detour that joins back on the same road later on, just because we can. A long easy fast flat-ish section of strada bianche along the bottom of the valley follows to Buonconvento where we’ll stop for snacks to help us the last 20km home, nothing too heavy though as there’s some cheeky climbing straight out of town as we grind onto gravel again.
Any exuberance you may have understandably had at the start of the day might come back to bite you now as there’s a steady draggy gravel climb that will certainly punish any tired muscles, and if that doesn’t then there’s a short section on the next and final climb that will definitely see you looking for the winching gear. Luckily from the top of this it’s trending downhill as we ride towards home along the same track we headed out on.