Lauren Hefferon holds her bike aloft during a ride through Italy’s Sibillini Mountains

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For more than three decades, Lauren Hefferon ’83 has run a company that offers upscale trips on two wheels

By Joe Wilensky

Already an avid cyclist as a high schooler in her native New Hampshire, Lauren Hefferon ’83 vividly recalls what she said to her father on her first visit to the Hill as a prospective student. “Oh, my God, Dad,” she told him. “The biking here is gonna be amazing.”

And when she arrived as a freshman, her beloved 12-speed Fuji Gran Tourer came with her. “I started cycling like crazy,” she recalls.

“The hills didn’t faze me. I used to bike up and down Buffalo Street.”

To this day, Hefferon’s passion for cycling endures: since 1989, she has owned and operated a company that offers upscale biking tours for small groups of travelers.

Dubbed Ciclismo Classico (“Classic Cycling” in Italian), the firm offers 50 tours in and around Europe every year, in addition to trips in the U.S.—including the Finger Lakes.

Lauren Hefferon astride her beloved Fuji Gran Tourer 12-speed in front of Risley Hall in 1979.
Astride her beloved Fuji in front of Risley in 1979.

Depending on skill level and locale, participants generally cycle between 20 and 60 miles per day. The outings feature experienced local guides, as well as multiple stops to enjoy culture and cuisine.

“Italy-obsessed biking enthusiasts know they’ll get a great workout, feast on regional specialties, and immerse themselves in the culture,” observed Forbes in a story on Ciclismo Classico’s 30th anniversary, “which is why the company has an astonishing 75% repeat traveler factor and gets raves for their local guides.”

Lauren Hefferon, left, with two other cyclists on a first tour to the Dolomite Mountains in northeast Italy in 1995
At far left, during her company’s first-ever tour of Italy's Dolomite Mountains three decades ago.

Hefferon traces her love for bike touring to the Hill, where she served as an instructor for the Wilderness Reflections program (now called Outdoor Odyssey and part of Cornell Outdoor Education), leading rides and designing and guiding freshman orientation tours.

As she recalls: “That was really the spark that got me thinking, ‘Oh, this could actually be a job.’”

While at Cornell, Hefferon even wrote and illustrated a bicycle camping cookbook, Cycle Food: A Guide to Satisfying Your Inner Tube.

Cover of Cycle Food: A Guide to Satisfying Your Inner Tube

(Published by Ten Speed Press, which also released the Moosewood Cookbook, it boasts such recipes as banana fritters and a trail mix called “Squirrel's Delight.”)

After graduating from Arts & Sciences with a degree in anthropology, Hefferon traveled to Italy on a Rotary scholarship.

Of course, cycling was at the top of her to-do list, and she headed overseas several weeks early to do some solo touring around Europe.

“I packed up my little panniers and landed in Pisa with my bicycle and started going up these hills, and I was just awestruck,” she recalls, “completely awestruck.”

Hefferon studied art in Florence in the mornings and explored the roads of Tuscany in the afternoons. She met local cyclists and joined a club called Il Chi C’e C’e (“Whoever is Here, is Here”).

And, for several summers, she led cycling trips for teens, biking and camping from Rome to London.

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I landed in Pisa with my bicycle and started going up these hills, and I was just awestruck—completely awestruck.

After taking graduate courses in graphic design in the U.S., Hefferon headed back to Italy and led biking tours before launching Ciclismo Classico, initially offering a handful of trips in Tuscany.

Her company’s tours—which have been featured in such outlets as CNN, USA Today, and Bicycling magazine—have always offered educational and cultural elements, from cycling clinics to cooking lessons and immersion in local music and art.

Participants during the cycling tour that goes from Florence to the island of Elba
A group on a tour originating in Florence and ending (via ferry) on the island of Elba.

Since restarting operations following a pandemic-driven pause, Hefferon says, she has been focusing on the company’s original identity as a small, female-owned business; as she has often observed, cycling can be particularly liberating and transformative for women.

“They discover their own pace, their own speed,” she says. “Loving it, wanting to explore, seeing that it’s a 360-degree experience, all the senses.”

Lauren Hefferon with her bicycle in Tuscany in 1998
In Tuscany in 1998.

That feeling of freedom and self-discovery harkens back to a fundamental truth about herself that she learned as an undergrad, when a brief stint on a Big Red racing team taught her that competition wasn’t what she was after as a cyclist.

“It was about lifting up my head, looking around, and stopping,” she says. “The bike was my way to discover where I lived and the people around me.”

(Top: During a ride through Italy’s Sibillini Mountains. All photos provided.)

Published May 7, 2024


  1. David Moriah, Class of 1972

    Wow! Well-deserved feature on one of the Cornell’s finest alums. We at Cornell Outdoor Education are proud of all she’s done with her visionary passion sparked by her involvement in COE’s early years. Bravissimo Lauren!

  2. Kristina Engel-Ross

    Such an amazing life story! May she be able to follow her passion many more years to come.

  3. Joy Waldman

    What a tribute to you Lauren and I share your philosophy it’s not a race but about the ride and people. Can’t wait to do Cycle across Italy next week in Pesarro Italy.

  4. Mindy Silberg, Class of 1986

    I love cycling and have been riding around Manhattan ( now on a Citibike!) and Long Island since I graduated from Cornell. I long ago dropped my mostly male cycle group to explore on my own. Like Lauren I agree the best way to see a place and experience it is on a bike, although I never biked up Buffalo Street! I am not out to win any races rather just enjoy the journey!

  5. Kate McPherron, Class of 1983

    I fondly remember Lauren as one of the most inspiring students I knew at Cornell. While most of us pondered how to blossom, Lauren seemed to be fully oriented and know where she was going.

  6. Karl Johnson, Class of 1989

    A lovely feature. Congrats on all you have accomplished Lauren. “It was about lifting up my head, looking around, and stopping…The bike was my way to discover where I lived and the people around me.” I love that. Couldn’t agree more.

  7. Joan Lindquist, Class of 1968

    My husband and I took a trip with Ciclismo Classico to explore the islands of Sicily, Lipari and Salina. It was the bike adventure of a life time. From the beginning to the end of the 9 days we cycled on incredible paths, stayed in gorgeous hotels, ate delicious freshly prepared Italian food, enjoyed the wisdom of the local guides and the company of new friends.
    Joan Buchsbaum Lindquist. Class of 68
    Lee Lindquist. Class of 66

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