Written By Freddie Julien & Jon Mortimer
10000ish metres ascent
1 Trip to the hospital
And a big supply of Tailwind
This is the account of Jon & Fred’s SwItaly adventure, powered by Tailwind.
*Fred has never competed in a cycling event (and likely will never)
Backstory & Route
It would be a reasonable question to ask why would we take on this challenge. The simple answer is: we don’t know.
What started as an idea for a London-to-Paris cycle over Easter somehow morphed/evolved/ballooned into a 12 day trek across Switzerland and Italy.
A ferry ride and gentle rolling hills were replaced by alpine climbs, wine country, and F1 circuits.
Our route started in Basel, heading south into Lucerne before crossing the Alps to Milan where we veered westwards towards Turin before veering South to the Mediterranean, which we followed into the sunset via Monaco and Nice.
Fully self supported, with our less-than-ideal bikes for the task.
Hefty saddle bags defying gravity packed full of clothes for all climates, tarps, bivvies, and copious amounts of chamois cream.
- A dozen Endurance Fuel Stickpacks
- 50 Serving bag of Naked
- 30 Serving bag of Raspberry Buzz (Caffeinated)
- 15 Serving bag of Salted Caramel Recovery Mix
The Swiss Highlights - from the perspective of Jon
Day 1 - Bleary-eyed and achy from hauling our bikes across London, Paris, and various train stations, we finally found ourselves saddling up for the first ride of the trip: a flat 86km to Willisau where we enjoyed a wildcamp, some Recovery Mix and the rain.
Day 2 - After slamming a Tailwind Recovery Mix drink in the morning and an application of precautionary chamois cream we began our first foray into the Swiss climbing. However, disaster soon struck as my handle bar bottle holder decided it was not long for this trip and shook loose as we were leaving town, never to be seen again. Whilst this may have been a minor issue on any given day (I had a 1.5l bladder in my waist bag for water anyway) the bottle holder also had about 6 Tailwind stick-packs of Recovery Mix and Endurance Fuel which meant that we seriously had to ration our remaining supply.
Day 3 - Only after ascending 1159m above sea-level did we discover the mountain pass we intended to take was closed due to adverse weather conditions. Thus began a 111km backtracking detour leaving the mountains behind for a moment, we found ourselves coursing a line West along the gorgeous waters of Lake Lucerne.
Day 4 - Supercharged by a recovery hot tub and an extra strong mix of Raspberry Endurance Fuel, day 4 saw us leaving the valley floor, and climbing into the high alps to Andermatt. Part way up the mountain, the cycle path leaves the road and is replaced by a skinny tarmac path that weaves above and around the busy mountain road. What you make up for in peaceful roads and no traffic, you lose in having to cross a couple of avalanche flows – a small price to pay.
Day 5 - A well-earned nap/snowboard.
Day 6 & 7 - Our descent from Airolo to Lugano was fast and smooth (despite a fair share of the route being gravel paths). As much as we loved the mountains and smooth roads of Switzerland, we were glad to be in warmer climates, swiftly ditching our long cycling bibs for summer attire not-long after crossing the border. Upon crossing from Switzerland to Italy, the disparity in road conditions and traffic became abundantly clear. Rather spectacularly, neither of us got a flat tyre! That is until we were cooking our dinner in the Airbnb, and we heard the fateful “pssshhh” sound of air escaping one of our tyres, my tyre to be precise. And so began a painful exercising of inflating new inner tubes and proceeding to burst just about every single one, on a bank holiday when bike shops were mostly closed for the weekend.
Other trip highlights include:
- The terror of muskrats rustling about outside camp
- Jon falling ill from being too trusting of random taps in the Italian countryside
- The delamination of Jon's right knee after coming off his bike on a stormy & steep descent - culminating in a trip to A&E
- 50km of baby cheek smooth bike lane across the Ligurian coast
- Whooshing round the Monte Carlo circuit, weaving through traffic and tunnels to reach the chequered flag and a victory aperol spritz
Tailwind Delivery Techniques
Figuring out the best way of taking on board Tailwind while in the saddle was a key goal of the first few days of the trip.
Luckily with plenty of Tailwind Kms to ride at my disposal I was able to use the scientific method to figure out the best ways of taking on Tailwind.
Big Bladder ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pros - With 2L of concentrated tailwind on my back I was able to
sip lil & often all day without the need of refilling. With around 16 scoops of Tailwind.
- Cons – You’re stuck with one flavour for the entire day. Requires a bladder to be worn, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Soft Flasks ⭐⭐⭐
- Pros - Easy to ration and convenient to access.
- Cons – Can be difficult to fill with Tailwind, would recommend mixing in a separate bottle and decanting accordingly. Requires a bottle vest/backpack to conveniently store - best left to the runners!
500-750ml Bottles ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Pros – Incredibly easy to adjust concentrations on the fly. Multiple bottle cages allow for multiple flavours & concentrations to hand at the same time.
- Cons – Frequent refilling required at lower concentrations, which can prove an issue when water sources are hard to come by.
The results were conclusive – for our preference anyway – a selection of 500-750ml bottles with a variety of Tailwind flavours and concentrations proved to be the most convenient and efficient way of taking on board Tailwind throughout the day on our bikes.
Bikepacking Tailwind Recommendations
It’s no secret that weight and space are valuable resources when bikepacking (or competing in endurance events).
Short on space? Prioritise Recovery Mix. Calories and energy can always be topped up with jelly beans, carrot cake, and espressos. However it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to replace the magic effects of Tailwind Recovery Mix.
Find a fuelling method that works for you. Although I do love trial & erroring my way through life, I would recommend figuring out what method of delivery works best for you PRIOR to embarking on an adventure. Figure out that method, find your concentration sweet spot, and your planning will become so much easier.