by Casey Thompson © 2022 Bike It! Bellagio
This year, Luca and I took our annual trip to the U.S. — October to late November—before we even closed our shop for the season. Grazie mille to Luca T. for working solo to keep the shop open and running for 2 weeks! Our first destination was St. George, UT, where I competed in the IM 70.3 Championships. From there we took a circuitous route back to Virginia (my home state) where my family lives, stopping in several places along the way. Luca has always wanted a cross-country experience, and it definitely lived up to his expectations. Our experience cemented the opinion that the U.S. is not only beautiful but truly huge, and we need to take additional routes to see even more in future trips. Here’s a summary of our trip and the cool places we rode and that we recommend!
We flew into Salt Lake City and made our way down to St. George over 2 days. We stopped in Cedar City for a warm-up ride and bike check, all was good! I definitely suffered from the altitude change for the first week or so of the trip, I wish we would have arrived a bit earlier to get adjusted. I also did a practice swim at the Sand Hollow Reservoir pre-race (my second favorite body of water for swimming, after Lake Como, of course.) and we did another small ride around Hurricane, UT. We loved the riding out here! Luca tried out the race course while I rested the day before the race.
The 70.3 championship was the coolest race I’ve ever been a part of—impeccable organization and volunteers and a beautiful course. I also loved that the women’s and men’s races were separate days, so it was just women on the course on race day, what a feeling to be racing all together! The run is my weak point, and as usual I suffered through it, but I couldn’t have expected better, and I’m happy with how my day went. I was proud to be the only racer using a road bike without aerobars … thank you, Brivido, my amazing Bianchi Oltre XR4 for giving me a competitive edge, despite not having the aerobar advantage!
After the race we moved on to the Grand Canyon. Luca biked all the way from Jacob Lake Inn (a great place to stay with cabins and delicious cookies!) to the North Rim. The next day we drove to the South Rim and rode through the park. Although we enjoyed the wildness and serenity of the North Rim, the views along the South Rim were incredible, we had to keep stopping to take it all in!
The next stop was Sedona, AZ. We were hosted by an awesome couple that we met this past summer. They kindly invited us to visit and experience some of the best mountainbiking there is—and indeed it was fantastic! We biked a few extremely fun, fast, and flowy rides in this desert heaven! We loved the Slim Shady Trail (also for the name) and Mescal Trail. We definitely want to return to Arizona and explore more. The opportunities seem endless, and this is the kind of riding that you cannot experience in Lake Como, where most of the trails are steep, arduous, and unmarked.
While in Sedona, we were told that we must bike Mt. Lemmon in Tucson. It was not part of our plan, but we weren’t too far, so we adjusted our plan. First, we drove to Tempe to visit one of my best friends. We changed it up for a day and hiked Flat Iron—now this was tough, but I’m sure it’s the best view you can get in the whole area. the next day we cycled Adero Canyon, enjoying more great AZ scenery and cacti.
In Tucson we stayed with friends who were also up to doing Lemmon with us! We started this route early in the morning. I’m not a “long climber,” preferring rolling routes or short climbs, but thanks to the CLIMBR feature on the Hammerhead Karoo GPS (which both Luca and I use now), I was able to make it through and be encouraged to keep going. Of course we could not pass up a stop at the cookie shack at the top for a quick refuel! I’ll remember the descent as one of the most fun I’ve ever done—it seemed endless (even more than the Stelvio), and the views going down were so cool, I can’t rave enough about this descent!
After Mt. Lemmon, we started driving East. We wanted to see White Sands National Park in New Mexico. We found a hostel in the small mountain town near Cloudcroft about 20 minutes from the park. Luca fell in love with this town. We were both exhausted, but the next morning we couldn’t resist a small ride to see what the area had to offer in terms of biking. We rode up to Cloudcroft (partly on a gravel road, which was killer after Lemmon) and looped back down for a 25km loop. We talked to some locals who confirmed the area is perfect for cyclists of all types of bikes: road, gravel, mtb. This area also offered the added bonus of altitude training—we were above 2000m the entire time! Luca absolutely wants to return to that area. We visited White Sands that afternoon, and it was one of the most unique parks we had been to, definitely worth a visit if you’re ever traveling nearby!
Now it was time to get some driving done. We really wanted to ride in Texas or Oklahoma, but there just wasn’t time (next trip!). After stopping at the Heart of the Desert Pistachio Farm on the way out (great farm and store!), we essentially drove the entire evening and next day until we reached Little Rock, AR. We went for a ride, of course. We found a nice loop on the wine roads outside of the city to shake out our legs before heading to Memphis to visit a college friend and her husband!
Our favorite non-biking part of the trip: visiting Graceland, home of the King! We were already huge Elvis fans, but after visiting the Mansion and the several exhibits on Elvis and his life, we are even more appreciative and inspired by his talent. We were quite impressed by how much everyone (locals, family, other celebrities) really loved Elvis and how much he was able to accomplish in his career before his unfortunate death (or is he still out there?)
Memphis as a city also exceeded our expectations. My friend’s husband is a cyclist so he took us on one of the classic rides outside the city.
The next stop was Alabama. We hadn’t had enough of the Elvis experience, so while en route, we stopped at his birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi, another great, small museum that exhibited the impact Elvis had and his legendary status.
In Alabama we stayed with another great friend and her family. We enjoyed the “Friendsgiving” she was hosting and also a small ride in the area. Many people are surprised when I tell them that riding around Birmingham is tough! Lots of punchy, steep, small hills, nothing flat whatsoever! On our way out of AL to NC, we stopped in the Talladega Forest to climb to the highest point in the state. This was another really cool (and tough ride), it would be neat to bike through the entire park one day.
We wanted to finish our trip with Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak and paved road east of the Mississippi. It seemed we were a day late, as the cold front came in, and it poured rain the entire day, with dropping temperatures from what we were used to and prepared for. Luckily we had planned a two-night stay in Marion, N,C anticipating our exhaustion after the ride. We decided to give the following day a chance and our Airbnb hosts kindly let us check out late so we could do what we came to do—conquer the climb! Climbing Mt. Mitchell was also a must for us as we had some “unfinished business” on the mountain. (About 8.5 years ago, on Luca’s first trip to the U.S., I wanted to take him on this epic mountain hike. It rained almost the entire time, we didn’t have the right attire, and there was no view at the top.. When we returned to our car, we found a note stating that we couldn’t be there because the park was closed--oops. While trying to leave the park, we found the gate closed. Luckily, a nice sheriff found us and opened the gate for us to leave the parkway, without giving us any fine (thank you, sheriff!). This fall gave us an opportunity to bike the mountain in better weather conditions, though it was still very cold, given the previous day’s rain, in the 20s the entire ride, but we made it! Mission accomplished. Mt. Lemmon proved to be a great training ride for Mt. Mitchell, we definitely think that Mitchell is more challenging!
We enjoyed our last BBQ sandwiches of the trip and made our way to Richmond for the night, staying with, yes, another college friend and training buddy at the time. We finally arrived in Williamsburg, VA, where we spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. We got in a few rides in Williamsburg too.
Although tiring, we enjoyed the cross-country driving experience and biking in many new places. There’s always more time in the day needed and so much to see, we will probably do it again someday! Thank you so much to our friends and family who hosted us and to those who gave us suggestions on where to ride and stay along the way. This trip wouldn’t have possible without you all, and we really appreciate it!
New routes from Varenna!
You may already be familiar with some our road biking routes from Varenna, like the famous Into the Wild and Valsassina: Valley of Cheese routes. However, nearly all of our new routes are partially or for the most part off-road! The famous climb to Passo Agueglio at 1,173m a.s.l. begins just across the street from the Varenna ferry, and the entire climb can be done on the road or mostly trail. The view from the top (and on the way) is one of the best on Lake Como, definitely worth the climb!
Our new biking routes range from easy to epic in terms of technical difficulty. All of the routes are difficult in terms of elevation gain given the mountainous terrain, so for this reason we recommend renting an Electric MTB unless you are used to riding frequently in the mountains! Check out our new routes from our E-MTB/MTB routes page.
Did you know that some of the best hiking itineraries can also be found on the Lake Como's Eastern branch? There is even the famous Sentiero del Viandante or "Wayfarer's trail" that runs from Lecco all the way to Colico at the top of Lake Como, with consistent views of the lake from above. We recommend taking a day to hike part of this trail, we have divided it into 5 sections, each part is equally as beautiful and easy to reach to start/finish where you like given the Train line that also runs from Lecco to Colico. Gabriele is also a certified hiking guide. Contact us to reserve a guided hiking tour on this famous trail!
by Casey Thompson © 2021 Bike It! Bellagio, photos by Federica Roselli Photography
With the frame updates and disc brake addition from the classic Specialissima, we're happy to say that the new Specialissima's soul remains unchanged: it's just as quick, reactive, and comfortable, thanks to Bianchi's CV (Countervail) vibration-eliminating technology and the minor frame changes to become more aero (overall the bike still maintains its "classic" look). When descending, the disc brakes of course offer more confidence and security, but the bike itself has proved to be even more fluid and easier to control downhill that it comes naturally when riding. The classic Specialissima could sometimes feel even too light beneath your body (especially with a pair of ultralight wheels), but now the new disc version gives you a safer, more grounded feeling on the descents.
If you're a climber by nature, the Specialissima Disc is the bike that will allow you to enjoy the climb and feel quick (just like the classic Specialissima, it's predecessor). It accelerates with you and your climbing rhythm, helping you reach the top and perform as you desire and with less effort. The perfect ride to try out the Specialissima Disc this summer is the Ghisallo & Muro di Sormano route from Bellagio or our Into the Wild route from Varenna. Get ready to ride Bianchi's top steed at top speed! Reserve your Specialissima!
Lake Como to Livigno!
by Casey Thompson © 2020 Bike It! Bellagio
Luca told me that many years ago he and his brother, Fabio, rode from their home to Livigno, and ever since this has been one of my dream rides, to go from Lake Como to the heart of the Alps over three major passes. It was a last-minute decision the other day, and it was a great last-minute decision! Luca's mother, aunt, and life-long family friend were going to Livigno to do some duty-free shopping, so we took advantage of their trip to Livigno for a ride back home, grazie mille to them! Bormio, which we talked about in a previous blog as another popular cycling destination, especially known for being a starting point for the Stelvio and Gavia passes. Livigno is just about an hour drive from Bormio, and we've taken our cyclists there on a few of our trips, either as part of a ride or as a rest day excursion to explore this interesting, picturesque, rather big town, nestled in the middle of the alps at nearly 2000m a.s.l. Many pro teams and pro athletes go to Livigno and its vicinity for altitude training and for the many long and arduous passes. We actually dropped off some material to the Bahrein McLaren team for Fabio on the way out, we didn't see the team though because they were still out on their long ride for the week. It was already 16:30, so I imagine it must have been a long ride!
Our ride was 140km. We started in Varenna and had nearly a 50km, rather flat warm-up, before starting the Maloja pass which is 30km long! The first half wasn't especially challenging in terms of elevation, easy gradients and such, with beautiful vistas and a border crossing into Switzerland. I've never seen so many water fountains along a climb so we stopped at a few for some ice could mountain water--very refreshing. The second half was pretty cool, consisting of some tight switchbacks, and with each turn we got a higher view of the valley and the many cows grazing on the steep slopes. Those cows have some impressive balance!
After the Maloja pass, we had another flat 20km or so in the valley to St. Moritz (a very famous and elite outdoor destination!), and then the climb to the Bernina Pass began. I had done this climb before on one of our trips, but this time it was much harder due to an intense headwind the whole way ... but we made it! Then we had just a nearly 3km climb left to the Forcola Pass and a long, rewarding descent to Livigno. After climbing nearly all day, it was well deserved to finally descend.
Time for immediate celebration! We quickly got to one of our favorite restaurants, La Piöda, before it closed for lunch. We enjoyed a big plate of pizzocheri and sciatt--2 local specialties. Then of course, knowing me, a trip to the Latteria di Livigno is a MUST for a huge bowl (or two) of gelato.
Next time, we will attempt the ride back home, but from Bormio to make a nice loop, although that would include two more passes from Livigno to Bormio, after Bormio it's nearly all downhill along the Valtellina cycle path to Lake Como!
We were recently very lucky to have the time to go back to a special place for 3 days since tourism hasn't quite begun yet on Lake Como for this year.
Tavarone is a tiny town in the Ligurian mountains, nestled in the Val di Vara--an outdoor paradise just like our Lake Como! It is very close to the Cinque Terre (the second most beautiful place in the world, after Lake Como of course :) )
Now let us tell you something cool--at Albergo Ristorante La Veranda in Tavarone is where I met Luca's family for the first time, and thus the meeting that has made Bike It! Bellagio a reality today! That's right, I met Luca's family (Luca actually wasn't there!) at this wonderful family-run hotel the weekend of the Granfondo Cinque Terre in 2013. We had a great time chatting after the race the next day, so we exchanged contact info and nearly 2 months later I travelled to Lake Como from Milan where I was studying to ride with them...and then met Luca! So La Veranda and Tavarone hold a very special place in our hearts.
Now let us tell you about the cycling: AMAZING! There is so much to explore and no flat roads...get your climbing legs ready! Tavarone itself is surrounded entirely by secondary, traffic-free roads, we saw less than ten cars per ride during our 3 days there! There is beautiful scenery over the valley and of course on the ligurian seaside!
Check out our three rides below from Strava, and a short video we made!
We would recommend at least a 3-night stay at La Veranda, but there's so much to explore you could even stay a week or more! It is better to have a rental car to transport your bikes to different starting areas (we did this for 2 days to not make our rides extremely long since there is so much climbing, we drove about 15 min. each day to different starting points). La Veranda is family-run by the nicest couple and their daughters and their restaurant is fantastic. We definitely recommend the half-board option to enjoy their delicious dinners each evening. On weekends they do pizza! The breakfast is also perfect for cyclists: fruit, cereal/oats, local fresh yoghurt, homemade crostata or cake, delicious local focaccia (Liguria is famous for foccaccia) and more!
Tavarone Local Roads (had to be short since the weather was iffy--but we loved every bit! It was so quiet with nearly zero traffic and it was very challenging with lots of great valley views over other small towns like Tavarone!)
Add Liguria, and more specifically the Val di Vara/Tavarone to your cycling destination list! It's about a 3.5 hour drive from us.
by Casey Thompson © 2020 Bike It! Bellagio
May 4, 2020, was a great day for all of Italy. After 2 months of staying at home due to the Covid-19 situation, Italy is beginning to reopen and outdoor cycling is permitted. Today the Bike It! crew enjoyed a beautiful cycling around Lake Como! For our first ride in many weeks, we did a short loop with two climbs: Onno and Colma di Sormano, a route that many of our guests have ridden. It was great to get the legs spinning again and to be able to soak up the beautiful spring sun and get some fresh air.
Another reason to note today’s ride was my first ride on my new Bianchi. After nearly 7 years with my trusty Bianchi Sempre Pro “Fausto,” I am now riding the new Oltre XR4 Disc 2020 with Sram AXS—what a ride! Check out the awesome color scheme too—an iridescent celeste and ice white mix. I have named my new bike “Brivido,” which means “chills” or “shiver” in English.
We hope to open the shop later this month, once allowed by the government. We have a new fleet of 2020 bikes for rent as well as a lot of fine cycling apparel choices for this summer! Our e-store is also now live on our website with all of our bikes for sale, new and used, as well as our Bianchi Milano and Nalini apparel collections, for both on and off the bike.
Most Popular Rides on Lake Como
by Casey Thompson © 2020 Bike It! Bellagio
There are so many beautiful biking routes on Lake Como, so many possibilities that you could stay in Bellagio for more than a month and not do the same route twice! Below are the routes that are the most popular rides for road cyclists and e-bikers! If you have one to three days to ride on Lake Como, definitely pick from this list when making your ride plan!
Nalini Headquarters Visit
by Luca Negri © 2019 Bike It! Bellagio
When we think of the “Made in Italy” concept, a long history of tradition, design, manual work, and attention to details come to mind. However, in many cases, Made in Italy does not always mean 100% Italian made because of extreme specialization and the outsourcing of production (and sometimes even design) in other countries becoming the norm.
Fortunately, there are still today some true Italian made products. We can assure you that Nalini cycling apparel and gear are 100% Italian designed and produced. The Nalini headquarters in Mantova represents one of the only production sites in Italy where the production chain is completely on site. They start with a single thread, which eventually becomes a complete article of clothing. Behind this process there is a lot of history, research and development, and design that has boasted 100% customer satisfaction for decades.
We had the opportunity to visit the factory, thanks to our Bianchi sales rep and Nalini’s Commerical Director for Italy. First we saw a small “museum” at the entrance, with several images of cycling photo finishes and jerseys from successful cyclists wearing Nalini products. Afterward, we took a tour of the entire factory, visiting each production room to witness the production phases firsthand.
The factory is huge, larger than expected, and provides jobs to many of those who live in the town. At each section, the various production heads welcomed us; they are proud to be a part of Nalini and represent its value. The staff explained and showed us what each production team does for the different kinds of apparel. For example, we saw how socks are made using their specially-made machines. We also saw the entire process of idea and jersey design to the finished product. There is a lot of work put into making a custom jersey and it passes through the hands of several people—remember this when buying your next cycling jersey! Each part of their production line is extremely important, even the smallest of roles, to complete the final product. Nalini products still require manual labor, such as sewing various clothing parts/panels together, quality control, even the folding single packaging of each product by hand. The Nalini brand is part of MOA Sport, which also produces other big name brands and distributes them internationally.
We are excited to announce that Bike It's 2020 cycling kits will be made by Nalini and will be available in our shop, as well as other Nalini apprel made for Bianchi. We were impressed with the factory tour and to talk in person with Nalini staff and see firsthand what the company is about.
Choosing a brand isn’t always just about the name or fashion. With Nalini comes an Italian story and philosophy, so it makes sense that Nalini and Bianchi have partnered. It is also fitting for Bike It! to choose Nalini for our cycling apparel to align with our decision to have an all-Italian brand store and rental.
Bike It! Bellagio is selling its fleet of Bianchi bikes from the summer 2019 rental season. (As we are purchasing new bikes for our 2020 season!) All bikes are 2019 models and were used for 6.5 months. All bikes will be checked out, tuned up, and washed prior to the sale, of course.
Bike models for sale include the following:
Bianchi Intenso Disc
Bianchi Oltre XR3 CV
Bianchi Infinito CV
Bianchi Infinito CV Disc *2018 frame, full 2019 components, bikes new since April 2019)
Bianchi Infinito CV Disc Ultegra di2 w/ carbon wheels
Bianchi Grizzly 29.3
Bianchi Manhattan E-sport Hybrid
Bianchi E-allroad Impulso
Bianchi Oltre XR4 CV *2017 previous Bianchi test bike, used since April 2019*
Bianchi Specialissima CV *2017 previous Bianchi test bike, used since April 2019*
Bianchi Via Nirone 2019 / Bianchi Impulso 2018
All bikes will be available for purchase beginning October 14, 2019. Purchasers who plan to pick up their bike in person at Bike It! Bellagio must submit a nonrefundable 50% deposit to reserve the bike until October 14, with the remainder of payment due at time of pickup or shipping. Purchasers who would like their bikes to be shipped must remit full payment (bike price and shipping) prior to shipping. Each bike comes with its Bianchi manual. All sales are final.
Please call (+39 334 975 1604) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions or to purchase your 2019 Bianchi!
by Casey Thompson © 2019 Bike It! Bellagio
Bike It! Bellagio’s Onno & Ghisallino ride remains our most popular route for all kinds of cyclists. But did you know this route can also be done off road? With the trail version of this route, MTBers can gain new perspectives, sights, and, of course, spectacular views! Come into our shop for free GPX file of either O&G route. Need a GPS? Our Karoo GPS rentals have made MTB exploration easier for cyclists—cyclists can go off-road with navigation at hand. (O&G, 34KM, 700 M elevation)
Via Valassina 103 Bellagio, Italy 22021
Daily from Bellagio's town center, in front of the car ferry station at 9:00 a.m., and
9:20 a.m. *on reservation*.
Free parking at the shop
chat on WhatsApp or facetime audio!
+39 334 975 1604
Tax ID/P..Iva 03707810135