Today is the day. One last ride (it’s raining), then pack up the bike and start the fragmented journey home. The riding is kinda like Disneyland for road cyclists. Or, cyclists that love climbing. The iconic climbs I will never forget: Giau, Valporola, Compolongo, Pordoi, Sella, Falzarego, Gardena, Erbe, Furcia, Tre Croci, Tre Cime, Fedaia. Just the tip of the iceberg, really. The tiny roads that don’t go to huge mountain passes but disappear you into little mountain wonderlands; Miri, Gran Ju, Juel, Pederu, p. Vescovo, Rina, ‘The Balcony'(my friend Igor is going to crush me for butchering some of these names…) I can’t pick favorites. Impossible. They are nearly all my favorites, like the fine coffees of the Pacific Northwest, they are all amazing for their different attributes. (one thing I really miss from home is our ridiculous (read: awesome) obsession with making the best damn coffee possible.)

Cascading coffee aside, if you plan on enjoying your own trip to Italy to ride sometime, I’ve put together a small list of suggestions that may come in useful:

  • The descending here is tricksy. It can weasel into your head and plant seeds of bed-wetting, and putting your mother on speed-dial. If you find that one day your bicycle kung-fu is lacking, stop at the top of the next passo, have an espresso, and loudly chant these words: Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme! Get on up! It’s bobsled time!” And then with a war-cry of your choice (because, as we all know, everyone’s is different – kinda like fingerprints but with noise from your face) charge down the other side passing cars and cyclists alike. Works every time. (Not that I had to do that, ever. No. Nooope) :-/
  • Don’t trust men with pirate tattoos. This one is probably a given – or at least, it used to be. Specifically, bald men that smile big but have a certain twinkle in their eye, and tattoo of a skull & cross-bones on their leg, and wearing lederhosen. RUN. Danger. We may have such a man as the owner/proprietor of our local restaurant/bar here in the Dolomites. One night, he thought it’d be funny to give us about 0.5oz each from some bottle of liquor that was unmarked (aside from a crudely drawn skull & cross-bones duct-taped to the side of the bottle). We couldn’t feel our faces, but it did seem to clear up one guys cold in a jiffy.
  • You may acquire silent riding partners for unknown lengths of time. If while pedaling around the mountains, you look back to notice that the person you’ve just passed is sitting on your wheel, do not alarm. And if you get zero response after you smile and offer the common “Ciao!” greeting with enthusiasm – it’s OK. It’s probably best not to lose your cool and angrily yell at them in your best Ice Cube impersonation, “I said ‘Ciao’ *^%^#!**%!!” The best plan of action is to cheerfully say, “Ciao bene!”, literal translation, “Hi I’m fine.” and keep pedaling on your way.
  • Don’t let passing other cyclists on climbs go to your head. Roadies with hydration packs abound; it’s a good time to be reminded of this general rule of cycling: There is no glory in passing someone who’s wearing a backpack – unless their name starts with “Jon”, and ends with “Myers” – If it does, attack viciously, again and again, and if you’ve somehow managed to drop him on a 3,000 foot climb, burn all your matches to stay away and go home totally shredded, but full of glory; be sure to tell stories of the epic battles won and lost – although, no need to mention the backpack..) but I’m pretty sure no one by that name is in the Dolomites.

Thanks for reading, I’m excited to get back to Oregon to see friends and family again. Can’t wait to land at pdx, get off the plane, and head straight to the nearest Stumptown Coffee for some ridiculously well crafted brew.
// patricky

Patrick Means races for Team&M, and just likes to ride bikes, see rad stuff, and share it with other people. He can be found online at:
instagram: @patrick_means
twitter: @PatrickRMeans

Read Part 1 here!