#vanlife is a lifestyle: Load her up and let’s get going! Adventurous days rounded off by evenings spent on deckchairs, kicking back with friends around the vans. For the ride antics, who better than Claudi and Roman from BUCKETRIDE to take care of the logistics?
Dolce Vino – oops, Vita! When it comes to Italy, your first thoughts are wine, pizza, pasta, beaches and culture. For mountain bikers, add Punta Ala and Finale Ligure onto the list. But as mainstream isn’t really our vibe, we knew we had to look elsewhere for our recent Italy trip. BUCKETRIDE looked like they knew the score, promising lesser-known riding spots and full immersion into Tuscan cuisine and history. Our group – a motley bunch of four riders with different styles – wouldn’t make their task easy: Manuel Mayer, the resident airtime addict, always brapping from inside to inside; bike handler extraordinaire Mäx Löffler, more used to super steep Austria’s Nordkette runs; flow meisterin Karin Pasteren; and Mia Knoll, who crushes every trail even with a 20 kg camera bag on an eMTB.
So, who are Claudi and Roman? And what is BUCKETRIDE?
It’s a familiar scene. You’ve put aside a week’s holiday, mapped out a rough itinerary, but instead of spending each evening chilling with your friends, you end up whittling away the time fruitlessly discussing what to do the following day. It won’t be the great company outside your van that has your full attention, but Trailforks – and the burning question of where is going to be good enough to ride, and FOMO? Would you love a way out of this spiral of research and indecision? Exactly. Us too. That’s where BUCKETRIDE come into it: Claudi Wolf and Roman Beckord spent a year researching and riding every single trail they found to curate the ultimate roadtrip. The result: all of their favourites, the crème de la crème of Tuscan trails, led by certified MTB guides and coaches, packed into a week of camping on the coast with great company. And those worries you’ll regret the decision that you eventually reach on where to ride the following day? Forget it, the guides take care of that and will make sure absolutely sure you don’t miss out on any of the highlights.
And so the adventure begins
We meet Claudi and Roman at the Agricampeggio Podere Etrusco just outside of Piombino. Plucked from inside the pages of a quaint picture book, the campsite is tucked between hills, vineyards and olive groves, south of Pisa, 30 minutes from Punta Ala and close by the sandy strip of the Golfo di Baratti beach. There’s on-site production of olive oil, whose detectability we can confirm. We’re met by Leon the campsite lion-like dog, cantankerous but well-humoured turkeys, who we learned – after a glass or two of the campsite owner’s wine – how to win over.
Piombino and his fairies
The first two days of the trip belong to Piombino and the ancient Populonio. Bikes are checked, ability levels gauged, and we’re off. Within 5 kilometers of leaving the campsite, where we’re staying for 4 nights, we reach the trails, spending the first half of the day lapping the 300 vertical metres of flow on the hill to learn the lay of the land. The day’s final descent, full of off-camber sections, berms and steep, rooty parts, shoots us out onto the sea front. There’s still time to enjoy the sunshine before Claudi and Roman serve up a tasty vegetable curry.
The next day begins with the mysterious sounding ‘La buca delle fate’ (the fairies’ cove), a name that makes total sense once you’ve seen the backdrop of crystal clear water and rock formations. Resistance is futile: we’re drawn to the water, knee protector-deep before we know it. Reality drags us out, feet are dried, sand dug out of toes and biking shoes back on. 300 metres of a fairly technical climb take us to another trail which leads us straight into the next. It then becomes hard to ignore the call of gelato from Populonia, where we explore the alleyways around the fortress and end up in a bay of wooden sculptures. As Claudi points out a beach hut, she explains how an artist known as Enrico has lived there for 50 years. We get back on our bikes after that; there’s one more flowy trail to take us back to the campsite.
Tuscany offers a big variety of trails with very different characters. From nasty rocks to absolute hero dirt – there’s everything here!
We know there’s more to ride after our day and a half in Piombino, but we’re happy to leave knowing we’ve discovered the top picks around the campsite. Fun takes centerstage on these well-made trails – they’re rapid despite being fairly natural. With only around 300 metres to climb between each descent, you can do multiple without being beaten up by the end of the day. And the exertion? All forgotten (and largely forgiven) with a glance around your Tuscan surroundings.
Campiglia: the backcountry of Tuscany
Matteo, founder of Tuscany Bike and trail architect, picks us up from the campsite, shuttling us 20 km inland for a backcountry loop centred around the medieval village of Campiglia Marittima with its labyrinth of lanes, first-rate restaurants and cosy cafes. There’s a trove of great trails on Monte Calvi to explore, which Roman and Claudi put great thought into selecting for every guest’s riding pleasure and ability. Matteo adds a contagious enthusiasm to our group that leaves us wondering how we’d ever thought we were too tired to ride.
Off to Monte Argentario
Half-time on the trip: our second basecamp is at the foot of Monte Argentario. The mountain used to be an island but over time three finger-like promontories have formed to join it to the mainland. We make a quick stop in Talamone for refreshments on our way before reaching the next camp. Today’s about regenerating energy for some of us. Our new camp is quite bizarre, emitting a definitive sense of adventure. The red loamy ground, romantic lights and firepit are cosy. A friendly white dog called Luce appears to be on patrol, guarding us and the nearby donkeys. We’ve parked up on some land that belongs to a professor from Rome, who Roman had got to know during his research. There are plans to build a small family-friendly park with a petting zoo, kids play area, bike rental and steak house, but for now it’s just us, making the most of BUCKETRIDE’s special agreement to use the plot of land as a basecamp for their roadtrips.
About guards, vipers, and parasites
We wake up ready to hit the island’s highest point. It’s a moderate, mellow climb of 550 metres, granting amazing views of the sea in every direction. A roadie pedals past every so often, a cheery ‘ciao’ thrown over their shoulder. The breeze is welcoming. The sound of our tyres on the asphalt joins the chirping of the birds. With strawberry bushes flanking the roads, it’s almost too idyllic. Have we landed in utopia? It sounds like Roman agrees; our first trail is his favourite – the Sentinel (the Guard) floats down through the jungle-like scenery from the Madonnina. Claudi digs in her backpack, proffering biscuits, nuts and other tasty snacks for the whole group. The tight, steep corners, loose forest floor and fast, flowing sections lead us straight into the Vipera, which throws us a ton of playful jumps and a yell-inducing rockface with irrefutably photogenic looks. The trail sweeps into the Parassiti – unlike anything we’ve ridden so far. The conclusion is unanimous: this triptych of trails is well deserving of the top spot in Roman’s list. We’re spent. Giddy and exhausted. It’s been a great day and we’ve barely seen half of what Monte Argentario has to ride.
Island paradise by ferry
People talk about saving the best until last, but our guides must be onto something with their superb choice for the penultimate day. After another delectable breakfast prepared by the pair, we pedalled towards the port of Porto Santo Stefano for the 9 am ferry to Giglio. As the boat docked in the harbour, surrounded by colourful houses, we could already see our destination: the island’s highest point – Giglio Castello. Considered a proper jewel within Italy’s packed catalogue of tourist sights (ranked as one of the ‘borghi più belli d’Italia’), the ride up to the castle is mellow, and we take an early break for brioche and coffee, cruising through the maze-like lanes of the ancient village. Ready to descend, the first trail is flanked by two-metre-high cacti, tracing a route to Campese on the other side of the island. It shoots us out onto a beach with smooth rock formations. There’s time to relax before we have to ride back to the ferry, taking another uphill almost as high as the castle before we drop into a trail straight back to harbour. As we look out over the ferry’s wake, there’s a melancholic vibe, like we’re leaving the island before we’re really had time to get to know it.
Always a special experience: Take the ferry to the trails. We went from Porto Santo Stefano over to the island of Giglio!
Monte Argentario #2
The final day is all about Monte Argentario again, where we wax lyrical about the broccoli forests, which are actually pine trees but look so much like inflated broccoli. Claudi’s promised us that we’ll ride the trail with the best views of this semi-island. Known as Crepaccio, this techy trail snakes down the ridge, direction beach. We keep stopping, breathless not only at the view but probably more at the physicalness of the trail. It’s worth the exertion though; a fitting end to our roadtrip with BUCKETRIDE.
One more off the bucket list! For anyone who wants the ultimate camping trip – a carefree, semi-guided adventure – with the luxury of a lavish breakfast made for you to enjoy in the morning sun, look no further. Each ride outdoes the one that came before, and each evening ends at the campfire, stoke levels to the max. We don’t think Claudi and Roman could have picked a more apt brand name.
For more info on roadtrips, trail rides and other BUCKETRIDE destinations, check out: bucketride.de
Words: Karin Pasterer Photos: Maria Knoll, Claudia Wolf