After months of preparation and planning, I’m finally taking the tourer abroad again, for the first time since last summer’s London to Paris trip. Before I’d even come home from Paris last June, I’d started dreaming up my next trip, and decided I’d have a go at a self-supported ‘Manche to Med’ trip this summer.
So I’m now writing this on the train from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour, where I’ll board an overnight ferry, arriving at Caen at around 7am tomorrow, my 29th birthday. Finally the trip that’s seemed like a distant pipedream for so many months is now a reality, and tomorrow I’ll pedal the first 140km of around 1300km I’ll be cycling in France on this trip.
Despite having been planning for so long, inevitably the last few days have been a bit of a wild rush to make sure everything was ready, and until last night I hadn’t even uploaded (or even planned) the final few days of my route onto the GPS, and left it until today to sort out my travel insurance and euros. But I’ve always been pretty good at procrastination, so none of this is much of a surprise.
So. A quick overview of the next few weeks in France. I’m planning on taking ten days to cycle from Caen to Perpignan, which is a distance of around 1000km, and will average around 100km each day. The first three days are a bit further, and I’ll cycle 140km, 130km and 120km each day, followed by some easier, shorter days of around 90km.
Once I’ve made it down to Perpignan, on the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border, I’ll head inland to Ceret, where I’ll meet Mum, Dad, and my two sisters for a week of rest and recuperation in a villa with a swimming pool. Then I’ll take a three day trip along the south coast, covering 300km from Ceret to Avignon, passing through the Camargue on the way. Then, at Avignon, I’ll hand the bike over to my parents so that they can take it back to England in their motorhome, due to the virtual impossibility of getting a bicycle onto a TGV in anything other than a bike box.
From Avignon, I’ll take a super-speedy TGV up to Paris (under three hours from city to city I think), where I’ll stay with Luke and Krystelle (frineds of my elder sister), before boarding a Eurostar home the following day, June 25th.
Already, day one of the trip has involved one or two hurdles, and more stress than should be necessary. I’ve lost one of my back lights (I knew the mount was rubbish, and thought it might fall off at some point), but it was the cheaper of the two, so it wasn’t a big deal, and had one idiotic driver pull out in front of me from a junction in Lincoln.
As ever, boarding the two-carriage train at Lincoln with a fully loaded bike was stressful and more effort than it should be, and highlighted the lack of provision for cyclists on smaller, local trains. There were already two bikes on the train when it pulled into the station, and two is officially the limit. Which was a problem considering I was waiting on the platform with a loaded touring bike and another cyclist. We just about managed to squeeze on with a lot of help and baggage-moving from the guard.
Boarding the East Coast Mainline train at Newark was a little easier, but involved the usual dash from putting the bike into the bike carriage at the very front of the train, and running to climb into one of the passenger carriages further along, in the 5 seconds or so they allow the train to stop at the station for.
The cycle from Kings Cross to Waterloo was brief and pretty straightforward with the aid of the GPS, and gave me a chance to get used to the handling of a fully loaded bike, which felt nice and smooth, and not too much effort once I got moving.
The bike has had a fairly major overhaul since London to Paris. I’ve built a new set of wheels from scratch, and included a dynamo hub in the front, which provides a perfect solution for the power-hungry GPS I’ll be using to navigate all the way down through France. One of the main problems with the GPS last summer was that I needed a lot of very high capacity rechargeable batteries, which didn’t quite last a full day of cycling. I was able to get round the problem last time due to the fact that I was only on the road for four days, and could carry enough batteries to last the trip.
The dynamo hub seemed like the ideal solution to powering the GPS for a ten day cycle, and has (so far) worked faultlessly. An added bonus is that I’ve also been able to attach a battery pack with a USB connection, which is kept constantly topped up by the dynamo even while the GPS is running, so can be used at the end of each day to provide power for other batteries (GoPro, phone, etc). I also invested in a front dynamo light, from Germany, which means I don’t ever have to worry about keeping batteries topped up for that either.
I’ve also invested in more Ortlieb luggage this time, as one of the most annoying things on the London to Paris trip was having to cram my four panniers with all my gear, which made getting to small bits and bobs like my wallet, snacks, and so on a bit of a nightmare. In addition to the two front and two rear panniers I took to Paris, I’ve now got a handlebar bag (which I’m now wondering how on earth I coped without), and a rack pack, which sits across the two rear panniers on top of the rear rack.
Well, I think that’s quite enough geeky bike drivel for the time being. I’ll be arriving at Portsmouth in an hour or so, feeling a crazy mix of extreme excitement and nervous anticipation, wondering what lies ahead over the next ten days. I can’t wait to get cycling, and I’m hoping the 140km I’ll cover tomorrow will be eased by all this excitement, and of course plenty of croissants.
The blog will be updated as and when I find wifi…