This post is in English, WHY? Because I need to be concise and rational. There’ll be an Italian version, worry not. And I will not be concise. Nor rational.

Ok, first of all: last week I finished my first Tuscany Trail (and actually: my first multi-day bike journey), cumulating an astounding 474 km and 7212 m of positive elevation gain, in 5 days. The mantra of the travel was “Every km counts!” so I counted them, multiplied for 0.5 € and donated to Amici di Marco, you should do the same! DONATE NOW, DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!


Since you are here, try to catch up by reading the daily highlights I posted every evening during the trail, ok those are in Italian but there is very little text and easy to translate 🙂

In this post, I’d like to just list all the lessons learned during this epic journey. Tuscany Trail is something that puts you and your bike on a rope but in a controlled environment. Is an “easy” and safe way to test your limits, the limits of your planning and the equipment.

So, here is what I learned on…


  • I can do it. Seems a bit pedestrian, but it’s the most important outcome of this journey. I CAN DO IT! It was not easy, also managing all the responsibilities, family, and work, and finding time to train and plan. But, in the end, I did it!
  • I can endure. I can sustain fatigue, pedal uphill while cooking on a hot afternoon, and ignore my sore buttocks. Provided I’m smiling while doing it. And indeed I was!
  • I love writing. And thinking about writing. Taking notes in my head while progressing in a difficult stretch. To me, this is part of the journey, and I love this part as much as I love fast riding downhill.
  • I’m a daredevil. Always preferred Spider-Man, but I reckon I’m reckless enough to have the DD on my chest. Downhill super fast and steep gravel stretches were dealt in a blaze of dust, jumps and speed. Bold braking strategy, working with the bags extra weight, just feeling the path instead of working it. Loved to feel that breeze without a thought in my brain.

Training and riding

  • You can train for climbs even living in the flatlands. Living in Milan and not having time to reach for the Alps means you are stuck on infinite flats. How to train for Tuscany’s hills and steep ascents, with a nominal average of 1200 (actually 1440) m d+ on a day? Well, someone suggested indoor training but can’t do that. It’s only suffering and no joy, I need to feel my body move. So how to do it? Running. You need a healthy elastic heart, you need to be able to keep a long aerobic stretch with occasional boosts, and you need to be able to work above your threshold area and be able to recover quickly. So running, even in flatlands, is ok because you can do long aerobic workouts and then repetition with fast-paced / recovery alternations. It increases your stamina, helps you to lose weight, and keeps your cardiovascular system healthy.
  • Buttocks matter. Yep. Fatigue was the last of my concerns, I was amazed at myself how good I was at managing my resources, except for one: my buttocks 🙂 Best saddle in class and magic super material bibs can’t nothing against soreness if you have soft buttocks. Your ischiatic bones will try to pierce through the fat and you’ll feel it. Best way to prepare: squats squats squats and again squats until you reach the Bronzi di Riace level.
  • Pacing, not racing. We are not pros. 100 km with 1200 m of elevation gain on mixed terrains? This is something that requires time, and in the end, there is no winner, only finishers. So, you need to learn how to keep a comfortable pace, to complete the day within a reasonable time. Reasonable means that you can rest, have a nice evening, do repairs if needed, sleep well and enough. Then you need to prepare to stay as much as possible on your bike, training your “saddle muscle“, the complex system of bones and muscles keeping you not in agony while pedalling. I.e.: buttocks 😀
  • Always always always say “ciao” to other cyclists and ask if they need help when you see them stopping. 99% of the time they are just resting/refuelling, 1% they actually need help with their bike.
  • Always balance the ride with some pauses, better if short, and eat some “real” food. Especially if you are in Italy 😀 at lunch something easy (panino, focaccia, schiacciata etc) and then you can do the load at dinner.

My Bike and bikes in general

  • Bulky but sturdy. My bike was not the lightest of the lot. Was not light in general, even if I tried to limit weight as much as possible. At some point, I lifted one of the bikes of another rider, and with all the packing it was lighter than mine fully stripped. But, really, who cares?? My real problem during the ride was not the incapability of expressing power, I was slow going up, but not that slow! While the peace of mind of having a metal frame was priceless, and all I needed while enjoying my fast descents! I’m thinking of using a metal fork on the next bike.
  • Simplify, then add lightness tyres. Yes, exactly why I’m into gravel bikes. No need for suspensions, no need for anything except the “diamond” frame and enough tyre to ride at 1.8 bar, while overloaded. And, of course, a lot of upper body movement to keep pace with front MTBs down the roughest patches. Basically: underbiking is a way of life. You just gonna send it!

  • Derailleurs are the worst, but best compromise. This trail stressed the transmission so much that right now the bike is not shifting well and sounds like a blender full of stones. The completely exposed transmission is just silly in such an environment: rocks, fast bumps, grinding dust and the occasional water splash. The recipe for failure. Except it didn’t fail (this time), and even if it did I could fix it or make it limp but still go on. Easy to damage, easy to fix, easy to overload and then get a new one if needed for a small price. Easy to tune, as I have completely different chainrings and cassette, with completely different (and out-of-spec) gear ratios and range. As much as I’m intrigued about Pinion Smart.Shift, my GRX 400 is still the “best” compromise for me.
  • I lube you. Don’t trust the indications on lube bottles “It lasts 400 km”… yeah, in a perfect environment, maybe. Not on the Tuscany Trail in summer, with no rain. The dust from the white roads acted like an abrasive and drying agent and mixed with water from fords created a cement-like compound slowing and gnawing at the transmission. Every evening we rinsed the chain line and applied lube the next morning. I think a waxed chain would have made no difference in this context.
  • You need to test and be prepared. For everything! Shakedowns over shakedowns. I 3D printed an action camera support last minute before leaving, I didn’t test it, it came off during a steep descent. I fixed it with a tie zip but the camera was slightly damaged. Do things with your hands before leaving, do not limit to watch some YouTube video.

Packing list

  • Less is more. Yes. But even less. Even if I went through 5 iterations of removing things, I still packed too much. Spare bib? No more. Spare socks and a spare casual T-shirt? Nope. Rainproof kit? Not for this kind of trip, for 5 days you can check the forecast and decide whether to pack it or not. Backup batteries for insta360? Useless. The towel? Well, I used it only once after the end of the journey, but the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy says you should not leave it at home. I also had a lot of spare parts, but I would not leave them at home. Same for the puncture repair kit: never used it, but I would never go without it.
  • Don’t spare on spares. Yes, is not a trip in the desert or Antarctica, but if you break something and you can’t fix it on the way, it can ruin your day or even the whole trip. Imagine breaking the derailleur hanger, or the chain… On a Sunday! In the middle of rural Tuscany. We had to fix the rear derailleur on Marco’s bike, changing the pulley with a new one. Luckily I’m a planner 🙂 I had 2 spare pulleys from an old derailleur, a spare hanger, and enough chain links and master links to fix both chains if needed. Maybe too much, but you never know 🙂
  • Stay foolish, not hungry. Yes, you can find a lot to eat in Tuscany, and you should definitely go for real Italian food as soon as you can, but when you ride 7-9 hours a day, you may need food where no restaurant bar or store is available. So, I packed energy bars and gels. Not many, I counted 3 energy bars/day, 2 gels/day, 1 caffeine shot/day. I also packed some “breakfast” energy bars, for those days (that happened) in which we were far away from a bar and needed to start early. I took with me the “pre/during/post” kit, but recalibrated for lightness and with no “post“, because the post is pici cacio e pepe and tagliata. I should have brought more caffeine shots. Of course, also bring some salt and mix carefully to get your hydration right.
  • Everyday underwear in merino wool mix is magic. I’m not talking about the technical cycling stuff. Casual t-shirts and boxers are super cool-wool, don’t smell, they dry quickly.

Why everyone should take one of these

Because is AMAZING! You can (and actually: have to) put everything else on pause and just enjoy an explorative journey in your head countryside! Yes, the trail was traced and displayed on GPS navigation Yes, it was not an extreme environment with no humans. There were a lot of fellow humans, riding too! It was just pure labour work, where you can enjoy your fatigue and be glad for every drop of sweat.. knowing it will end in a short time. Looking forward to the next adventure! 🙂

’nuff said