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1 Country, 2 Weeks, 803 miles and forgot the engine.

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maurice
Gay Hairdresser



Joined: 20 Jun 2002
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PostPosted: 14:06 - 10 Aug 2008    Post subject: 1 Country, 2 Weeks, 803 miles and forgot the engine. Reply with quote

Firstly apologies for not being bike-related, but I thought a few of you might be interested in my tour this summer, especially Itchy who implied I've been getting lazy Razz. If in doubt click back!


I'd done the Western Europe motorcycle thing a few times now so it was getting a bit comfort zone, I've got plans for further afield but not the means to finance it yet, so decided to have a go at France using my own steam. With some persuasion I got my manager to agree to three weeks off work and recruited a mate from uni, Chris, so we were good to go.

Plan: Cycle from the English Channel - Dieppe, to Nice, then fly back.

We got off to a fairly iffy start when after 15 miles and having stopped for lunch, my rear tyre exploded sending a couple of locals ducking for cover. This was Dieppe not Dunkerque! The cheap Chinese inner tube seemed to have got too hot in the sun and blew off the rim fairly spectacularly. Not going to get a patch on this one...

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20003sm.jpg

Stopping off at a fruit stall for a couple apples, the owner asked where we were going. I told him and he gave us the apples for free “my present”!

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20009sm.jpg

The next day we were off to Paris. It was an absolute nightmare riding in on a bicycle, it's really hard to avoid dual carriageways and motorways. Did 72 miles before we found the F1 I pre-booked. This was the only hotel we booked in advance the whole tour. I was expecting a problem with bicycle parking and was intending to put the bikes in our room. Walking in to see a huge security guard I thought put paid to that! The receptionist was cool though and even suggested putting the bikes in our room, allocating us a disabled room so it had more floor space. We never once had to lock bikes outside the whole tour, always a place to put them.

Using the metro we got down to the Eiffel Tower late to see a huge queue for the lift, our legs could really have done without using the stairs, doh.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20011sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20028sm.jpg

Paris was even harder to get out of, we had to keep at least 20mph up to survive, these speeds over cobblestones were producing Harley-level vibes and my pannier rack promptly half fell off. Luckily one of my bottle cage bolts was the correct pitch to replace the rack bolt that had departed company. Later went through a forest that was holding a mass rollerblading time trial, weird.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20033sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20037sm.jpg

Entering Burgundy it got started warming up and the terrain became more rolling. You rode slowly up a hill, blasted down the other side at 35mph and repeated, hardly any flat at all.

Over a glass of red in a cafe I “accidentally” got into a political conversation with a friendly old French guy, couldn't understand much put there was plenty of Bush, Blair and Iraq references. Nothing nasty, they just love passing the time chatting politics here.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20040sm.jpg

They like their red wine in middle France, often we were asked not whether we wanted a drink with our meal, but do we want red wine. It was good too, I got quite attached to the fuller-bodied stuff. We had to eat a lot of food too, doing this sort of distance a day you consume something like 5000 calories just cycling, so big breakfasts and two three-course meals became the norm. The wine helped supplement calories intake too. (Even though we ate so much I still lost 11 pounds of weight over two weeks).

Throughout one day we kept overtaking and getting re-overtaken by French cyclist, eventually we chatted and found out he was riding Paris-Nice! Quickly a three-man peleton was formed and raced into town to complete our longest day of the trip at 73 miles.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20045sm.jpg

After Roanne we started hitting parts of the Massif Central. Previously I've said on the forum this was choked with traffic but I was wrong, the South maybe but the Northern parts are fairly quiet. Sort of like a mini-Alps, I would take a motorcycle there without hesitation.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20064sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20061sm.jpg

Heading toward Saint Etienne, Chris had a major mechanical, one rear spoke snapped and others hanging loose. With the luggage weight all centred over the back this was quite alarming. We were up in the mountains and far away from easy help, if the wheel did go terminal it would be a long walk to a bike shop – you don't get Euro breakdown for bicycles. I called my Mum asking her to get on the net and check if there was a nearby Decathlon (chain of French sports shops that stock bike bits). There was one in Saint Etienne so we pressed on carefully after re-trueing Chris's wheel as best as possible.

Arriving at the shop, despite being extremely busy, they fixed the wheel immediately and for just 8 euros. Then we had a day off to rest our aching backsides. It had taken us 7 days to get here, around 2/3 of the way down France, so looking good we decided to cross the Alps.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20071sm.jpg

The first day climbing into the Alps was absolutely brutal, physically hardest thing I've ever done. Climbing the Col de Grenoille, probably French for 'hill that kills people', you can see the view from the picture above. We had come from that flat bit in the distance, and we were only halfway up at this point. Climbed from almost sea level to 1145m with no let up, I pretty much cracked as I went over the top, limit breached. Once we were in the scenary was so stunning I didn't really care, just kept stopping every few hundred metres of climbing.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20072sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20081sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20077sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20082sm.jpg

The type of riding really changes here, you spend hours crawling along uphill, then get a descent that lasts a couple minutes but sees you regularly hitting 40mph. Without panniers it would have been a lot faster, they were acting as an airbrake. Descending like this is just like riding a motorbike, having to really apex the corners, crank it over for hairpins, just without any protective gear. Wearing helmets wasn't really an option on climbs, often we were too lazy to refit them just for a couple minutes of downhill. They added drag too, I got my maximum of 41.1mph without a lid.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20088sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20089sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20102sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20103sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20093sm.jpg

The road in the above picture took about half an hour to ride down going flat out.

Over the next couple days we had some flatter roads in the valleys, but instead of being easy we were going into a strong head wind all the way. Got rained on for the first time too, there was a brief but spectacular thunderstorm with lightening hitting all around, sending puffs of smoke off the hills where it had touched down. It was localised so was able to out-run the rain fairly quickly, the bikes were really fast, the lesser rolling resistance on slick wet roads increases your speed by an easy 3-4mph; we were knocking on 20mph no trouble.

Could really feel our legs getting better now too. One morning a local French cyclist pulled out in front of us on a posh full carbon road bike, putting the hammer down up into the mid-twenties for a bit we easily passed and dropped him, loaded panniers n' all!

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20133sm.jpg

The last big challenge was the N85, Route Napoleon. Starting the day from Digne the weather was beautiful but hot. Fairly flattish to begin with we soon started getting hit by a succession of Cols. Chris started by having a bit of an off-day, but managed to get it back together towards the end.

Had a bit of hassle from a cafe owner at lunch, who was making a scene objecting to me leaning my bike against a tree so I could see it while eating. Easy solution, leave and go to the next cafe ten minutes down the hill. The sets of downhill hairpins on the N85 were quite fun as we could easily keep up with the cars. More often they slowed us up, contemplated overtaking a few before sense got the better of me.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20141sm.jpg

After 50 miles we started looking for a hotel, but they were all either full or closed. It was getting quite frustrating as whenever one was full etc we had to ride over another mountain. Getting late but still very warm, eventually 68 miles after starting we pulled up late into St. Vallier, just North of Grasse and finally got a room.

With the Alps all but over, next day we rode 25 miles downhill to the Mediterranean and got ourselves a hotel for some lazy time on the beach; we were a week early for our flight. Total of 803 miles, average 51 miles per day.

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20153smb.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/France%20146sm.jpg

http://www.motocapers.com/bcf/france08/FranceMap.png
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Bru
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Joined: 01 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: 18:36 - 10 Aug 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's really excellent. I did something similar (but less strenuous) two years ago with my housemate: 700 miles from Caen to Hendaye (France-Spain border on the coast). We cheated and took the train from Nantes to Rennes, as we were sick of the rain. It rained for about two of the three weeks we were there (September), which took the happy edge off camping! I want to do it again, but am nowhere near as fit now. You guys really hit the hills!
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instigator
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: 19:29 - 10 Aug 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh man, I'm so friggin' jealous.

I'll be doing osmething similar on my sv in a few weeks time albeit a fair few more miles but truth be told, I reckon I'd enjoy that more!
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Ste
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Joined: 01 Sep 2002
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PostPosted: 19:57 - 10 Aug 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very cool, arriving a week early must have been a good finish to the trip. Cool
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maurice
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Joined: 20 Jun 2002
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PostPosted: 20:43 - 10 Aug 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Smile

Bru wrote:
It rained for about two of the three weeks we were there (September), which took the happy edge off camping!


Camping gear must mean a lot more weight!

We were really lucky with the weather, I think Europe was having a mini-heatwave at the time (end of June/start of July). I've never got through the middle of France before without being on the receiving end of a big downpour.
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WildGoose
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PostPosted: 20:52 - 03 Sep 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome stuff, just saw this from a link in another thread, don't look in here enough it seems. Mr. Green

You definately have a few wires loose upstairs to want to do that Razz , but thats some serious achievement. Top stuff.

Great read mate. Thumbs Up
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maurice
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Joined: 20 Jun 2002
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PostPosted: 19:08 - 04 Sep 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

WildGoose wrote:
Awesome stuff, just saw this from a link in another thread, don't look in here enough it seems. Mr. Green

You definately have a few wires loose upstairs to want to do that Razz , but thats some serious achievement. Top stuff.

Great read mate. Thumbs Up


Thanks Smile
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TheDonUK
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Joined: 20 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: 11:09 - 05 Sep 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats impressive, Definately something to look back on and say "i dunnit"
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Der Bandit
Derestricted Danger



Joined: 05 May 2008
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PostPosted: 14:09 - 05 Sep 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done to you two.

I done my first big tour this year on the Motobike to the North Cape and thought that this was an achievement, only to see cyclists arriving there as well.

Admire those guys so much.
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reu
Trackday Trickster



Joined: 04 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: 20:05 - 05 Sep 2008    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awsome looks really hard work though id be on life support by the end of it Thumbs Up
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