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Rapha Retreat Tuscany - Review

poppitpoppit Posts: 926
edited September 2015 in Tour & expedition
We've just come back from this so these are my thoughts which might help anyone looking to book a Rapha retreat or ride in Tuscany.

The booking process was simple, just do it on their website. Once you've paid the full amount you get a 20% off code to use on the website prior to the trip. There wasn't loads of contact after booking, this is an area that they could improve on. We had issues with the transfer as we were arriving a day early, they assured us twice that they could still pick us from Florence airport but changed their mind a few days before arrival after I triple checked, leaving me to arrange it direct with the hotel at extra cost but it all worked perfectly in the end.

The accommodation is approx' 45mins from the airport, it was a small hamlet that has been converted into accommodation approx' 5km from Radda. Our room was spacious with a great view, everything you'd expect from a good 4* hotel. The pool area is nice, just beware of bugs. There is a small fridge in the room but it doesn't really work that well, there is no tea/coffee making facilities in the room. A range of the normal toiletries are supplied plus a small hairdryer.

We met a few fellow riders who had also arrived early and had lunch with them, a selection of cheeses and meat, all really tasty. Dinner was also good with great food and local wines as the hotel is owned by a local winery.

We met all of the Rapha staff the following day, the mechanics were prepping the bikes, Pinarello Dogma K's, they fitted our pedals and saddles to our bikes ready for a shakedown ride in the afternoon. The bikes had been set up according to our measurements which we had sent to them a few weeks before. We didn't have any 'fit' issues all week so they must have pretty much spot on. Each bike was supplied with a pump and small saddle bag containing a tube, levers and CO2 cylinder, we didn't use any of these on the rides. They had some pre-loaded GPS units for those that wanted them, we had our own Garmins and they loaded the rides onto them.

Each person was also given a musette with various bits and pieces in it including a Rapha travel kit plus a bottle of wine.

There were 22 riders in total, a larger group than usual, a mix of people from the UK, Australia, US, Czech Republic and Belgium. A really good bunch of interesting, intelligent people. We all went out for a 2 hour ride to check out the bikes.

We did 4 rides over the next 4 days, a 90k, 60k, 30k and 85k. The last ride took in 18k of the Strade Bianche. The bikes were bought out for us at the start of the day and various bars, gels and freshly prepared carryable food were arranged on a table for us to take as required, each bike was loaded with two full bottles, one water and one an energy drink. Torq products were used. All the rides are fully supported with a Rapha branded Discovery and a Jaguar support car, these also carried spare bikes and wheels plus food and drink. There were also at least 3 guides also riding with us, these positioned themselves to cover each of the groups that formed. At various points on the rides we stopped to enable everyone to catch up and for coffee/food breaks. Any issue was sorted out by the Rapha staff. All food and drink at breakfast, lunch and dinner was included in the price including beer and wine. All coffee stops were also included in the price including snacks. The staff were really good at motivating everyone to do their best. There were two soigneurs and after each ride you got a 15 minute massage. If you needed any kit washing you were supplied with a wash bag to put it in, it was taken away each day at 4pm and it came back at 8 the next morning.

The riding in Tuscany is hard, you tend to be either going up or down, they call it rolling! There are some fantastic climbs and descents and the scenery is superb, riding the Strade Bianche is an experience not to be missed though, although I wouldn't like to do it on my bike! The most ascent we did in any one ride was 1750m.

What makes it all work are the great staff led by James, this includes the guides, mechanics and soigneurs. They can't do enough for you and make everything as painless as possible. It's not cheap but there's a lot included and a great experience, the support is faultless, I've not had my chain oiled mid ride before!
Eddy Merckx EMX-3
Dolan L'Etape
Cougar Zero Uno
Genesis Core 50
Planet X TOR

Posts

  • whoofwhoof Posts: 756
    Looking at website it appears to be about £3000 for a week.
  • Well a big part of cycling has always been about being able to suffer and if my wife saw I'd spent 3 grand on a 4 day cycling holiday I would certainly be made to suffer.
    AFC Mercia women - sign for us
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Well a big part of cycling has always been about being able to suffer and if my wife saw I'd spent 3 grand on a 4 day cycling holiday I would certainly be made to suffer.

    :D
  • cc78cc78 Posts: 599
    I bumped into a Rapha group at the bottom of the Madeleine a couple of weeks ago... the chap driving the support car was extremely friendly: he insisted on topping up my bottles and offered me my pick of the gels and other treats in the boot. Good on him, although no wonder these trips cost 3 grand a head if they're giving out freebies to every random they meet along the way...
  • poppitpoppit Posts: 926
    It's a shame that after all I wrote, people can only focus on the cost, which is something I didn't even mention, was hardly worth posting the review. It was a lot less than £3k as well.
    Eddy Merckx EMX-3
    Dolan L'Etape
    Cougar Zero Uno
    Genesis Core 50
    Planet X TOR
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    It's a shame that after all I wrote, people can only focus on the cost, which is something I didn't even mention, was hardly worth posting the review. It was a lot less than £3k as well.

    Yes it is a shame after the effort you put into it, but cost is bound to be an issue for most of us.

    This page:

    http://pages.rapha.cc/travel/retreats/rapha-retreat-tuscany

    says £2100 for a single room and £1800 for a double - but that is still and awful lot of money for a week's holiday.

    You could put together your own tour of the area for a lot less money: a quick look on Booking.com for places around Radda in Chianti this week shows a choice of decent-looking places for well under 100€ a night for a single, and you can eat very well for less than 40€ for a dinner.
  • This type of holiday, which I would love to do, is great fun but is it a tour? To me a tour goes from somewhere and ends somewhere else after one, ten or many days. A holiday where you stay in one place and cycle can be great fun but is it touring?
  • FlâneurFlâneur Posts: 3,080
    Sounds like it all panned out and they provided a good level of service except for the transfer.

    How did they manage the groups with the various speeds or dictating the distance each day?

    It seems that they did a good job of ensuring that it was a stress free affair, whilst being relaxing and enjoyable (ignoring the regular pain of cycling) which is why you pay for a service from someone.

    A 100 free gels to some random cyclists will never impact a budget for this but does make people think after, oh maybe they aren't such ***** and they are just nice people who cycle.

    Question for the OP - do you use any other providers such as Exodus / Jagged Globe and if so how do they compare. Have a look at InGambia too, heard wonderful things about them.
    Stevo 666 wrote: Come on you Scousers! 20/12/2014
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  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    This type of holiday, which I would love to do, is great fun but is it a tour? To me a tour goes from somewhere and ends somewhere else after one, ten or many days. A holiday where you stay in one place and cycle can be great fun but is it touring?

    No, it isnt a tour (which as you say stops somewhere different each night and moves on), thats why it is called a retreat.

    I can understand paying the money for a tour as there are alot more logistics and the local support and organisation is important. I did a Skedaddle Tuscan Tourer which sounds very similar except was a tour and stopped somewhere different each night (in agriturismo which are much like where this retreat was based) and it cost around £1200 (for double occupancy but because there were an odd number I got single occupancy for free) but if I hired a bike, I think that would have been another £250-300, so not far off the price of this event.

    Skedaddle charge a fair bit less for their single centre/base camp breaks though.

    If I wanted single centre I might be more inclined to DIY too.

    I can see where this break was very good though and not necessarily as bad in terms of value as people seem to be saying. It alldepends on whether you value the service and the peace of mind. The costs will never compare favourably to DIY and this is even a little expensive compared to other companies, but it sounds like the service was a little more premium than even the best out there (Exodus/Skedaddle) and alot better than some of the companies offerings that I have tried but wont name. Very much in keeping with the Rapha brand principles, I guess...

    Horses for courses, and all that!
  • It's a shame that after all I wrote, people can only focus on the cost, which is something I didn't even mention, was hardly worth posting the review. It was a lot less than £3k as well.



    No you've given people an idea of what it is like which was interesting - personally that kind of holiday isn't for me - if I'm away with a group of cyclists I'd want to do a lot more cycling and some of the little luxuries they lay on are neither here nor there - but each to their own.

    I can second what someone said about the Rapha people being very friendly though - I happened across one of their rides in the Peak and they offered me free coffee and brownies from their little van - most hospitable.
    AFC Mercia women - sign for us
  • poppitpoppit Posts: 926
    Just to answer a few questions and clarify a few points

    We did 5 rides and it was 6 nights accommodation.

    We started as one group, this split naturally according to each riders abilities but we joined up again at café/lunch stops.

    The route was set for each ride, if anyone wanted to stop then they could get off at anytime and get in any of the support cars.

    We usually DIY but wanted to try something different, we haven't used any other company for a cycling holiday of this type.

    If you wanted to do a tour then Rapha do this type of holiday as well.

    One thing I missed, on the day in the middle when we did a short ride, we came back to base for lunch then they took us to Siena where we met a local guide. She took us on a short tour of the city, we then had some time on our own before meeting at a local trattoria for dinner. This was all included in the price, including wine and grappa!

    Just a few extra points. If we wanted to just do loads of kms then we'd just book a week off work, stay at home and just roll out the front door every day, this wasn't what we wanted to do, we wanted something different. It's also not just about the kms when it comes to hardness of ride and exertion. The toughest one we did was the 60k one, it came after a tough ride the day before and it was 1500m of ascent which is a lot to pack into that length of ride. The riding in Tuscany is hard and you're also normally trying to keep up with some pretty good riders, spending an hour at around 80%+ mhr is pretty painful!

    What really made it good as well was spending time with interesting cyclists from around the world, you can get pretty insular with your normal group of cycling friends so it was good to hear different perspectives on many topics, and not just cycling.

    The other thing was experiencing excellent customer service, it really was the best it could be, unlike Cityjet and Florence airport with our lost suitcase coming back, that was shockingly bad.
    Eddy Merckx EMX-3
    Dolan L'Etape
    Cougar Zero Uno
    Genesis Core 50
    Planet X TOR
  • Sounds like a great holiday, can you compare it to other cycling tour operators? I agree Tuscany is a great place for riding from mountains to hills to flat and there are plenty of quiet roads.
  • Rapha is no doubt well organised, but without doubt very expensive and I'm not quite sure where all that money goes....I would agree though that it's important to add an extra layer of interest (like your Siena tour), which is why we're based in Palma.

    We aim to provide a very similar level of service (indeed it could be argued that our accommodation is nicer) at a fraction of the price. We also feel it's important for the guides to speak the local lingo...!
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