The Torino Nice Rally sounds like a great event! The idea of a 700 km bikepacking adventure a third of which follows the unpaved military roads in the mountains straddling the Italian/French border must increase the pulse of anyone keen on adventure cycling. The event which is in its 5th edition this year takes place in early September. The few hundred participants get together for dinner on the eve of the ride to gather the following morning in the beautiful main square in Turin for a mass depart but from then on it's up to the individual riders how long they take to complete the course. It may be anything between three and a half and ten days depending on whether they take it as a sporting challenge or a scenic ride.

The event was started in 2016 by James Olsen, the British bike designer and bikepacking enthusiast. Intended as a low key, no-entry-fee adventure ride, it gradually grew from 65 participants to nearly 300 which, as James says, is the maximum you can handle without going "official" with all the red tape it would involve.

With 20,000 meters of elevation gain, TNR is no leisurely cruise. Some of the unpaved roads on its itinerary are crude dirt tracks covered in rough gravel and stones. Some of the cols and passi it goes through are very popular (or notorious depending on your point of view). Most cycling fans have heard of Colle delle Finestre, Col d'Izoard or Col Agnel. On sunny days the views are breathtaking but on cold and drizzly ones the landscape may look very bleak, if not outright sinister.

Although the participants bivouac en plein air because that's part of the fun, the ride doesn't go through total wilderness. There are plenty of refuges and other tourist establishments up high where riders can get supplies and even great hearty food made from local produce. Plus there are many segments of the route that go through populated areas on asphalted roads so the participants don't need to carry any food on them.

We got to know about the TNR from our friends at Isadore, the Slovakia based cycling clothing brand. Their marketing guy Boris, the brand's lensman Tomáš and two friends of theirs, Michal and Jano, wanted to take part in the 2021 edition and they asked us if we could provide them with bikes that could take the punishment. Since we were on the brink of launching the Scout, our ultimate gravel model, we were keen on them putting it through the test. When Boris & Co learned that the 2021 edition was only open for those who had already entered for the 2020 one, which was cancelled due to covid, they decided to grab the GPX files and go it alone, a month before the official date. Apparently, the organisers encouraged those who couldn't be admitted to do just that, especially as it wasn't 100% sure the event would go ahead until quite late.

Talking to the guys soon after their return from France, we learned that their participation was an adventure for more reasons than one. With their van breaking down about 80 km before Turin, the start of the journey entailed a bumpy communication with a local garage, followed by a wet ride to the nearest train station. Nevertheless, start the TNR the following morning they did as they intended. It took them seven riding days and one rest day due to bad weather. It was hard and beautiful, cold and wet as well as hot and sweaty. Climbing on bikes weighed down with heavy bags is slow and doubly energy-sapping. And when you have to do it on a very rough road, sometimes you have no other choice than to get off and get pushing.

We were all ears to hear how they found the bikes. Although we think a lot of the Scout, it warmed our hearts when Boris and the guys started to praise it. It was especially pleasing when they said things we say about the Scout in our as yet unreleased marketing and product materials: strong, solid, dependable, yet easy to handle, nimble and fun to ride. They had some recommendations for additional rivet nuts for bags and bottle cages, something we offer as one of the custom options with the model.

If bikepacking is your thing, the Torino Nice Rally should be right up your strada. You can find more details about the event here: And if you're looking for a bike that won't let you down on its course, watch out for the imminent launch of Festka Scout. You may already have one for the TNR 2022 if you're quick…


written by: Janek Jaros
photos: Tom Franta, Boris Stefanik

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