Julian Lemme

MTB and surfing in Portugal – Where would WE be then?

Words: Julian Lemme Photos: João Mourão

Hey there. I’m Julian, Art Director for
ENDURO, GRAN FONDO and E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine.

Although my work is anything but monotonous, I find myself frequently falling into a routine, one that ends with my creativity in a headlock. Habits, it turns out, are probably the most quicksand-like element in the world. For this issue of the magazine, I knew it was time to break free of the shackles and find a new horizon – namely that of the Portuguese coast.

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The words ‘time to shine’ flash luminously on my phone’s lock screen. That’s the alarm, I realise groggily. I’m inside my van, tucked into a sleeping bag and cosily lying between my bike and a surfboard. At home, round about this time is when I switch on the coffee machine and hunch over my laptop, eyes flickering for hours on end between design layouts and cat videos. But today is different; I’ve got a banana and a handful of nuts for breakfast. I’m on the Atlantic coast and from the sliding door of the van, I can see there are just a few metres separating me from the sea.

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If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
— Henry Ford

The good life is within easy reach if you hit the road

Routines can be a simultaneous blessing and curse. They’re like lined paper or road markings, organising and demarcating where to go, what to do and neatly putting our lives into order. But therein lies the danger too. We slump, worn down by demotivation, from weekend to weekend, plagued by a vague sensation of boredom. In my case, it saps my creativity, stirring up a cloudy broth of sameness. But there’s no chance of that happening when I’m on the road. No time for routines to emerge. I wake up in a new location every day and manoeuvre around my small living space. In the best-case scenario, I have to switch languages too. 

But is there a solution for self-discovery for those who don’t have the luxury of calling themselves a freelancer, for those who can’t simply schlep their laptop to a new beachside cafe each day to work? Sometimes the only solution might be to brush your teeth with your non-habitual hand and walk backwards. That’s my trick anyway. By shaking up the status quo of the way I do things, I try to avoid sinking into the boredom of daily life. New experiences are established in unknown territory, right?

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Where would we stand if everybody said where do we stand, and nobody went to look where we would stand if we went?
— Kurt Marti

Jump into cold water

Escape the infinite loop that’s built on old quirks and repetition. Straight into the cold water! If walking-backwards-brushing-your-teeth doesn’t help, why not take up a new sport? The sea is my substitute for the woods. There’s no Wi-Fi in the sea, no power sockets, no clock-watching. It’s all new and strange and unfamiliar. I find myself toying with thoughts and ideas while I wait for the next set. It’s the sort of time when I’m usually hit by a sense of clarity and a new way of looking at things. I can take it back to the desk, executing a new layout or switching imagery. Creative ideas, fuelled by the ebb and flow of the waves.

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Ships in harbours are safe but that is not what ships are built for.
— Unknown

From the trails to the surf

To the west of Lisbon the trails shoot you out right on the beach. There’s the sort of variety you’d normally associate with an all-you-can-eat buffet at a five-star hotel – that’s how appetizing the trails are here. Impeccably built downhill tracks with berms, drops and rock gardens, and flowing natural singletrack along the craggy cliffs that border the sea.

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Back home I spend a lot of time riding on my own. I ride at my own rhythm and find it easier to switch off. But inspiration, I’ve come to realise, often breeds better with company. When travelling, I’m not averse to latching onto fellow riders. Perhaps a local who’ll show me a hidden trail, or another tourist on a similar hunt for new routes. Each ride brings new stories, perspectives and ideas. Oftentimes, these are the encounters that influence how I live my life and how I approach work projects. Not to mention the new friendships that are forged. So why not say ‘hi’ to the next unknown individual you bump into on the trails, in the supermarket or in the water.

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Remember that the world is bigger than us as individuals. You don’t need to bear its whole weight on your shoulders, so embrace the freedom. That’s the freedom of going on an adventure and gaining a new perspective. Pack your bathing trunks or swimsuit, and go catch some waves if that’s your thing. Walk backwards while brushing your teeth, because you’ll end up where you might have gone had you gone there. Say hi to people with a smile and mean it. And me? I’m on my way home now. Real life is calling ;-)

Muito obrigado for the support and the photos to João Mourão of weride.pt


7 Hills for 7th Heaven – e‑biking around Lisbon

click the logo for the original URL link from E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine

click the logo for the original URL link from E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine

Leave your bike at home. There’s everything you need right here.

Nomads used to refer to this place as Finisterre, a name that signifies the end of the world. But these days the once-presumed End of the World now looks a lot like a mecca for riders. So how are Lisbon’s seven hills, unpretentious neighbourhoods, green trails, and heavenly beaches best explored on an e-bike? We sought the help of professionals to find out.

When I think of Portugal, I just see green. A subtropical climate, where the sea and the mountains flood into a cocktail of greatness, of which you just can’t get enough. After my last trip to this Iberian peninsula, I left feeling like I had unfinished business – but that next time I’d be needing added help (in more ways than one). With my mind set on riding the Sintra mountains the local hills of Lisbon, I hauled in the guides from WERIDE Portugal, confident I’d get more than just fish and fado music.

Uncomplicated and cool

We meet João and José from the WERIDE Crew under a bridge. But not just any old bridge; this red steel construction is simply called ‘Ponte’. 3.2 km in length, it joins Lisbon’s creative district Alcântara with the town of Almada and represents the military coup that liberated Portugal on 25 April 1974 from the dictatorship.

As the cruise ships and fishing vessels chug out of the nearby harbour, we pedal off towards Belém.

From Belém to the world

Once the departure point for explorers like Vasco Da Gama to set sail and discover new continents, Belém is now a popular haunt for sightseers, swarming the must-visit tourist hotspots like a game of Tetris. Thanks to the all-inclusive eMTB package provided by the WERIDE crew, we slip into Eco mode and swerve the queues, confirming that an eMTB is the ultimate mode for avoiding mass tourism and seeing the city from a different perspective. We ride by buildings dating from the year 1501, a figure that’s matched by the number of people trying to nail the perfect selfie. Eventually concrete turns into trees and the noise subsides.

The city’s beating green lungs

Lisbon’s Parque Florestal de Monsanto, also known as the city’s green lungs, isn’t short of anything within its 800 hectares. From basketball courts to a RC Formula 1 racetrack, the landscaping has been dialled, with picnic-touting families, horse riders and joggers all seeking their own little piece of tranquillity outside of the city. Our first trail is hidden behind a park bench. We drop into it. Short, flowing and void of people. The trail network is complex and somewhat mysterious, so it’s best explored with guides. I’d probably still be lost otherwise.

It’s an interchangeable game of flow and what a buddy of mine has dubbed ‘ratatatat’, that sort of trail that jars your jaws with consecutive bumps. At times it reminds me of riding in Rio de Janeiro. The script is similar; you don’t have to ride for long before you’re out of the city and into the dense jungle. I lose myself in the lush greenery, stare into the crystal-clear water and ride into the open arms of Cristo Rei. 

New shores (and a new trail) reached by boat

Certain things can only happen in Lisbon, surely. Like boarding a boat at the end of one trail in order to reach the next. Naturally skipping over the part where we had to once more weave our way through the crowds–but the view over the historic city from the deck of the boat provides more than enough compensation.

Good views

The sun stays low in the sky, the wine is warm and the people are friendly. Wherever we go in the city, we’re met with smiles and waves. Passers-by inquire about our bikes, wanting to know more about the sport and us. It all feels very familiar, particularly at the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, where people of all ages are chilling out with the tones of Bob Marley singing ‘Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”

From here your best bet is to once more climb to the heart of Lisbon, then back down. Steps, wall drops, steep gradients, in hot pursuit by the trams. The battery is still full. For the last time our pedal strokes bring us face to face with the city’s most tucked-away corners. The view from all of the seven hills is magical. Down a final Ginginha liquor and back into the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s Friday and the city is ready for the weekend. Us too. 

ATÉ JÁ – See you next time

Travel tips

When’s best to go: All-year round! Autumn is probably the best time for riding though, with dry trails, sunshine and a refreshing Atlantic breeze.

How to get there: Lisbon’s airport is super accessible from the city and most budget airlines fly there from across Europe. 

Where to sleep: My friends will hate me for saying this, but nothing beats an airBnb experience in Lisbon. 

Guides, shuttles and sublime BMC e-bike rental (BMC): WERIDE.pt

What to eat: To eat like a local you need to stock up and eat at the Mercado da Ribeira and Mercado de Campo de Ourique. Vegans will love Ao 26 Vegan Food Project and there are all sorts of alternatives. No one has to go hungry. 

Words: Julian Lemme Photos: João Mourão