I know some of you were interested in a review of Riviera Bike, so having just got back from a week there, here goes….
The short version – amazing singletrack descents for the hardcore rider, amazing pizza & pasta, Italianate organisation.
The long version:-
We were booked on the “All Mountain” package, as opposed to the “Shuttle & Descend” week. As such we expected to do a fair amount of pedalling, and had set our bikes up accordingly. Practically however, it was all uplifted – the longest climb we did was maybe 30 minutes of easy fire road, and there was maybe a 2 or 3 minute easy spin to the top of some trails. From my point of view, this was great, and bar needing to swap my LUST rear tyre for a dual ply, my Rocket was faultless. Elaine’s Hemlock, 4” travel, single ply 2.1 tyres, 180/160 brakes was very much undergunned.
The trails themselves were amazing – the easiest descent we did reminded me of a sandier version of the 423 or Black run at Aston Hill (but many times longer), and there were an awful lot of never-ending runs down steep, twisty, naturally bermed gullys. Some bonkers rock gardens, plenty of natural steps and drops (nothing bigger than a couple of feet) a few built features, all there to keep you on your toes. The terrain is VERY steep, so loads of hairpins, and near-constant exposure (the trails were often not “dangerous” per se, but the consequences of leaving the trail would be very severe…. I absolutely loved it - Agrifolio, Bellender, Borello(sp?), all simply brilliant top to bottom, and having mixed in with a great group of riders (cheers, Harry, Rhys, Jaap, Herbie, plus guide Rich) we ended up having a really great time. For Elaine though, a lot of it was not her cup of tea – more on this later.
Uplifts were efficient and well organised. Driver Cri, being a local was great at smoothing the way, and for an Italian, a remarkably confidence inspiring driver. Top geezer, and always happy to go the extra step - got the makings of a top notch guide too!
Hotel & Food.
Accommodation at Santo Spirito was fine – the rooms were a bit poky, if I’m picking holes, but perfectly adequate. Breakfast was OK – slightly prefab, compared to the other food, although the coffee was obviously up to scratch. Evening meals though, oh my god – bloody marvellous - 5 courses each and every night. The pasta, pizza and gnocchi were just unbelievably good. Add in large lunches (pizzerias, and a couple of stunning restaurants), plus very little climbing, and for the first time ever I was getting truly sick of having yet MORE food put in front of me! But it was all so good, you just carried on troughing…
Mariachiara who fronts Santo Spirito was incredible in the face of loudly drunken Englishmen (and Dutchmen!) on holiday. Constantly on the go, great sense of humour and the patience of a saint. It helped that one of our group was half Italian, but even so – an absolute star.
This is where it starts to get a bit ropey. Communication between Riviera and its guests was pretty poor, and the guests from the other 2 groups who crossed over with us had the same opinion. Here’s a couple of examples:-
The day off, it took us the best part of an hour to get into the bike store, because the 4x4 was parked across the doorway (an understandable security precaution). Ady’s phone was off (battery had gone flat, good planning, eh?), and when I eventually found him, he didn’t have a key, but he sent me round to Rich’s house to get him out of bed and get the key off him. No interest in actually sorting the problem himself.
Later that day, we wanted to get back into the hotel. Door was locked, so we have to change our plans. Later I see Ady. “oh, don’t you know about the side door?”. No, because nobody has told us.
On the Friday night, by 18.30 we still don’t know when our transfer is the next day. Rich doesn’t know, so I go hunting Ady again. “Oh we’re only doing 1 transfer tomorrow, leaving at 07.30”. Our flight, which we’d told him about at time of booking wasn’t until 21.45 and we’d hoped to get some riding in beforehand. “I can drop you off at San Remo train station in the afternoon” (train to Nice, bus to Nice airport). I go back and talk to E, and we decide to take the AM transfer rather than have to fight with the luggage on public transport. So we pile into bike packing. An hour later, when we’re late for dinner and still in stinking bike kit, he walks into the bike store and announces that he’ll do an evening transfer as well… Great, but why not just say that in the first place? That’s another chunk of riding time wasted building the bikes back up again!
On the face of it, none of this is a big deal, but over the course of the week, it adds up to a lot of faffing and fannying, add in another big issue (see below), and it got really quite frustrating. All the organisational stuff could have been solved very easily by having a simple A4 fact sheet given to each guest at the beginning of their stay, detailing the basic plan for the week. Hotel info, what happens on the day off & the evening meal that day. When the bike store will be locked and unlocked. Safety and emergency info (of which there was zilch) etc.
Now, it has to be said that Jo, Ady’s other half was ill and back in the UK, and if she normally deals with the organisation and logistics, then it might usually work out better. But she wasn’t, and it was mostly just left floating, until we, the guests, forced the issue.
This is the biggie. From past experience Elaine and I know that being put in the same riding group, simply does not work. The kind of trail that gives me the horn, is not something that she’s happy even walking down, and the kind of riding that she likes is a bit mundane for my tastes. So when we booked we specifically asked if we could be guided in separate groups, and we were assured that this could happen – we booked the trip on this premise.
So it was far from ideal for the 2 of us to get added into a group of 4 very good riders. I was OK, but E was out of her depth for most of the time. The other guys were very good about not complaining about the waiting, but it was largely up to me to hang back and make sure she hadn’t missed a turning or gone over the edge. Tuesday, we had an extra guide, and that worked very well, but as we went through the week and the trails got gnarlier, she got to ride less and less, culminating in her being able to ride about 20% of Friday’s trails – 30% was a walk, the rest of the runs she either had to sit out in the van or ride down on tarmac. Absolutely no effort made to tailor the riding to her abilities at all - especially annoying, when by her standards, she was actually riding rather well.
Now obviously the plan *had* been that she would ride with Jo, but in Jo’s absence (quote from Ady “oh we’re a bit short handed this week”), zero effort was made to find a solution, and given Elaine had paid a lot of money to be treated like a second class citizen, she was (and still is) hugely unhappy with the whole thing.
So there we go. If you’re a good rider with a large appetite, do it. If you’re not, well, I’d be a little bit wary. I may well go back (some of those trails are just too damn good to miss). As it stands Elaine may well not… A shame, as it would be so easy to put right.