During the summer of 1972 Mike and Linda Winter led a group of 18 students from Ottawa, Canada to England and Wales for a month of cycling. The very enthusiastic group had the trip of a lifetime. Little did Mike and Linda know at the time, but they were pioneers in hosting North American cyclists in Europe. Thirty-four years later, they handed direction of their company Cycleventures to their son, Chris, who also owns and operates a mountain bike tour company called Big Mountain (Ridebig.com). Today, Cycleventures continues to offer world-class cycling trips.
Mike Winter chomping at the bars on the first climb of the day.
When Pez asked Chris about his current roster of trips and what excites him, he’s quick to answer: “We’ve got an amazing new coast to coast trip in Costa Rica that’s one of the most challenging I’ve ever ridden,” he says, “when I thought of a road trip in Central America I envisioned rough, narrow roads, heavy traffic and intense heat, but that’s not the case…
A coffee plantation owner inspecting his crops with his dogs in tow.
The roads are fantastic and surprisingly quiet, the hotels are world class, the people are very friendly and the country is gorgeous. I brought my carbon road bike and was fine,” he says. “One thing for sure in Costa Rica are the climbs,” he continues, “this trip is a challenge, it’s up and down nearly the whole way.
Paulo and Doug cycling along the flanks of Volcan Turrialba, one of the many active volcanoes in central Costa Rica.
A highlight ride on this trip, which they’ve called Two Oceans, is the 7000-foot grind up the country’s highest volcano, Irazu. At 4,332 meters (11,260 feet) above sea level, Irazu is one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanos. The 32 km (20 mile) climb winds its way up the fertile slopes through a series of distinct vegetation zones and the weather goes from tropical and lush at the lower reaches to cool and sparse at the top.
Above the clouds.
Winter raises his eyebrows when asked about the Irazu climb. “It reminds me of Mont Ventoux where from a distance you wonder what all the hype is about in terms of notoriously difficult climbs. But like Mont Ventoux, Irazu is deceiving,” he explains. “It’s a huge cone volcano and as soon as you start up the flanks you realize that it’s massive and that it’s going to be a long haul.
Screaming down 4,332 meter Volcan Irazu, a worldclass climb and a descent that’ll make you howl.
Then the altitude kicks in, and the wind kicks up and colder air and you really have to dig deep. It was one of the harder climbs I’ve done,” he says. “I’m not really a sit-on-the-beach kind of guy, but I sure looked forward to a few days on a Costa Rican playa after that climb.”
To go to Costa Rica and not explore it’s diversity would be a shame so Cycleventures’ Two Oceans trip has slotted in some other things to do. The trip starts on the Pacific Ocean which is home to some of the nicest beaches in the world.
Departing a nice hotel on the last day of riding towards the Caribbean.
Then the trip heads east into the mountains, on route you’ll visit a coffee plantation, go river rafting and then hop in a boat at the end that takes you out to a remote national park on the Caribbean coast called Tortuga which is only reachable by boat or small plane.
There’s always lots of fresh fruit available and great conversations too if you can speak some Spanish.
At Tortuga you head out daily on boats with a conservationist to view parrots, a myriad of monkeys and a host of unique and diverse flora and fauna. Then it’s a short flight back to San Jose in a small plane.
No more bikes, it’s time to chill on the Caribbean. Heading out to Tortuga, a town only accessible by plane or small boat.
“One of the highlights of Two Oceans is that you’re hosted by our local guides Paulo and Nene,” continues Winter, “they typify the warmth of Costa Ricans, and Paulo can ride like the wind.”
Viewing a parrot in the wild is unforgettable.
What’s next for Winter and his 36-year-old company? “We are going to stay close to our roots and continue to offer great trips in Europe. My parents developed over 50 different European routes over the years, which is amazing. I’m also excited about exploring new regions and taking cyclists to far away places though. So, we’ll see.” It sounds like he’s got some interesting things up his sleeve.
• Get more info on this and their cycling trips to Italy, France, Africa, and Thailand •
Cycleventures Bicycle Tours
Toll Free: 1.866.894.0220
Two Oceans: Costa Rica
$3175 Canadian, 12 days
Nov 22-Dec 3, 2008 and Feb 21-Mar 4, 2009
The setting sun on the shores of the dreamy Pacific.