What Makes a Bike Hotel Great?
Loyal PEZ-Fans know Italy is my favourite country to ride in, and a lot of you’ve seen my articles on the top rides and places to stay when there. You’ve also read about my experiences at many of the bike hotels that Italy does so well – including the Garda Bike Hotel on the shores of Lake Garda. But enough outta me… maybe you’d be interested in a second opinion? Well I am at least – so I talked with Calla Barras – serious cyclist and serious traveller – about what makes the Garda Bike Hotel one of Italy’s best bike hotels.
Please tell us a little about your background as a rider and cycling traveller.
I would call myself a cycling enthusiast. I have done a fair amount of endurance competitions (e.g, Ironman, Gran Fondos, adventure races, etc.), but I am not primarily a racer. I push myself harder than most people do, but that just makes it possible for me to keep up and have more fun.
Calla shows off the satisfied look of just climbing the Passo Gavia – with Nicola from Garda Bike Hotel (l) and Daniele of Stelvio Experience.
I like spending time behind bars on my bike and If I can do that while seeing new places and riding with interesting people, that’s a big bonus. In recent years, I have done quite a bit of active travel and discovered why Europe is such a wonderful place to ride a bike. My favorite style of riding is to explore new areas unburdened by gear. Touring and camping is fun in its own way, but my perfect day includes a great ride, shower, delicious meal and comfortable bed.
The riding varies from flat days for spinning and recovery, to hills, to big mountain climbs – there really is something for everyone.
How did you first hear about the Garda Bike Hotel?
Before we met, my boyfriend spent a summer exploring Italy by bike. On that trip, he discovered bike hotels and liked the concept. The pictures on the Garda Bike Hotel web site got him interested in the Lake Garda region, so he filed it away for future reference. After spending some days following the Giro d’Italia, he found himself in the area and decided to give Garda Bike Hotel a try. He loved everything about it, so when we went back together some years later, it was an obvious stop on our itinerary.
The region is dotted with towns, which are dotted with cafes.
Bike hotels can vary greatly from one to the next. Have you stayed at other bike hotels?
Absolutely. We have stayed at a number in Italy and France. Garda Bike Hotel has been our most regular stop (7 times!), but we have also stayed at Hotel Funivia in Bormio (the Alps), Hotel Melodia del Bosco and Hotel Rezia in Alta Badia (the
Dolomites), Hotel Lo Scoiattolo (Piedmont), Hotel Adlon and Hotel Dory (Ricccione), Hotel Florenz (Italian Riviera) and Chalet Solneige (near Alpe d’Huez in France). Each of the hotels has a somewhat different approach to the bike hotel concept, but many of the core services that make them so appealing for cyclists are standard.
The hotel was renovated from the ground up about 4 years ago, and boasts modern, comfortable rooms and amenities like excellent wifi.
Wow- you’ve had enough bike hotel experience to be considered an expert. Why choose a bike hotel, and what do you look for in a good one?
As a cyclist, a better question might be, “why would you NOT choose a bike hotel”? Once you experience it, you get it. Bike Hotels are setup to give you everything you need when you need it. Meals, routes, guides, camaraderie and even laundry are all thought out. All you need to do is show up, eat, ride and sleep.
The fully secured bike room has space for your ride, or you can rent one for your stay. Would you prefer a Pinarello, Merckx, or De Rosa?
What makes a good bike hotel?
There are a lot of things that go into making a good Bike Hotel. It can be described as a pyramid.
A Bike Hotel is first a Hotel. The base of the pyramid includes all of the “Hotel Basics” people usually consider when selecting a place to stay. The middle of the pyramid contains the “Bike Hotel Basics” – these services are provided by most hotels that focus on cycling customers. Finally, the top of the pyramid is the “Difference Makers”. These are the things that really separate the best from the rest.
Guests can enjoy a mid-ride lunch at a local winery, and like all true Italians, hotel manager and ride guide Nicola Verdolin isn’t happy until you’ve eaten all your pasta.
Calla’s Bike Hotel Pyramid
• Top quality food
• Guided rides
• Accommodation for different riding abilities
• Special events (Gran Fondos, night rides, race viewing, winery tours, etc.)
• Hotel owner participation
• High quality rental bikes
• Support vehicle
• On-site mechanic
• Photos during rides
• Bike cleaning station
• Spa services
• Non-riding activity options
• Daily laundry service
• Secure bike storage
• Planned bike routes
• Meal plans
• Personal service (e.g., help with logistics, language help)
• Quality roads and scenery for great rides
• Reasonable price
• Friendly staff
• Good facilities (e.g., pool, bar, etc.))
What makes Garda Bike Hotel so good?
They address everything you want on all 3 levels of the Bike Hotel pyramid. They have it figured out. Nicola, Alberto and Lorenzo really make you know that you are staying in a family-run hotel. It feels much more personal than a chain. The hospitality, food & beverage and cycling operations of the hotel all work because of their daily participation. I feel well cared for.
The hills of the region are covered with Valpollicella grapes (and many other varieties too).
What appeals to you about the riding around Lake Garda?
Lake Garda has a uniquely diverse set of riding options. South of the lake are beautiful vineyards with gentle rolling terrain. All around the lake are interesting Medieval towns to be explored with great lake views. The West side has short but challenging climbs and to the North you have the start of the big mountains with real challenges like Monte Baldo. Nearby Verona is a destination by itself and there are lots of day-ride options that include a stop there. The whole area is particularly rich with stories of Italian history. Lake Garda is really a prime cycling region, but the guides from the hotel are the key to unlocking it all. They know the best roads, coffee shops, towns and stories to make every ride memorable.
If it’s good enough for World Champ Peter Sagan and his team mates ( – it is) … it’s probably good enough for you too.
What would you tell your friends about Garda Bike Hotel?
Many people make Garda Bike Hotel a recurring destination. When chatting over dinner (as is natural at a Bike Hotel), it almost seems as if the first-time visitor is an exception. Everyone says, “this is my second visit”, “this is my forth”. Once a cyclist understands what Bike Hotels have to offer, they naturally become evangelists and Garda Bike Hotel has particularly loyal followers.
I would tell friends to make their first trip to Garda Bike Hotel as soon as possible so that they can make plans for their second, third and fourth visits that much sooner.
• Get more info and book your stay at GardaBikeHotel.com