4 days & counting

It only seems like a week or two ago that I’d decided to embark on a little bike ride somewhere and some point. At the time I never thought it would be anywhere near this. At most, it was to be a few hundred miles spanning 5 days at the most and more than likely within England. I had initially looked at a ride from York to Exeter. 330ish miles of relatively flat cycling following a few rivers. You see, the missus wanted a girly holiday away with our daughters and the lovely mother-in-law (yes, truly, she is!). She asked if I minded and of course I replied with ‘Of course not darling, you go and have a lovely time. I can do some decorating whilst you’re all away’ (‘bound to score a few brownie points there’ I thought!). Then came the reply which, was heaven-sent and went something like, “You can have a week or so away in France cycling if you want to!”. Now, dear reader, this is not to say that I need permission but as a bloke and I’m sure many would agree, to get something you like to do and she has no interest in, rubber stamped by her indoors is a Brucie-bonus as it can’t use it against you at a later date or several years down the line haha!!! Anyway, I casually said “Hmmm ok, that might be good” – not to dress it up at all. Meanwhile, inside, I was punching the air and going “whoop- whoop!” every 10 seconds!

So, a trip in France was then born. First though, I thought about a little circuit in the North-East corner of France visiting some of the 1st World War battle fields. Whilst researching routes on Google, I was amazed at how flat this area was and then began to look further afield at other locations. An hour or 2 later, a rough route was plotted and rough daily distances calculated. A week later, accommodation was booked in France and then the ride was extended to London. Originally it was going to be a South-North jaunt but for reasons outlined in an earlier post on this blog, I changed it all around.

The bike is all set – eventually. When I took delivery of it, I was amazed at how such a lovely, well-designed machine can be sold with such a bloody awful saddle. Why do they do this? Why invest hundreds of thousands of euros/marks/dollars etc in frame and wheel development only to top it off with a spike cunningly disguised as a saddle. After several rides and the development of some pretty impressive sores, I binned the factory fitted instrument of torture and opted for my trusty Brooks rock hard leather touring saddle. It got me to John O’Groats without any pains in the arse so I’m sure it’ll be fine for this trip. With any luck, the only pain in the arse will be the absence of a bakery on a Sunday in french France!

So, here we are 4 days away from Marble Arch to the Med. It’s all become a little bit real now and nerves have kicked in. Training opportunities have been a bit pants and very few and far between due to work commitments but I’m sure I’ll manage. As for the fundraising stuff, it’s rapidly approaching £2000 which is the target. Hopefully, I’ll end up with a couple of hundred more than that.

Many thanks to all who have donated so far.

Cheers.

 

Hello Folks (8/7/18)

Evening All

It’s Tuesday evening. It’s the 10th of July and without wanting to sound like a whingeing englishman, it has, at last, cooled down a bit after being so bleddy hot. I knew there was a reason why I wasn’t going to do this ride during the summer months!
Whilst the rest of the brood are sunning themselves somewhere on a Greek Island, yours truly has been holding the fort and doing a spot of decorating. In this heat, the paint dries as soon as it hits the wall (not that I’ve been throwing it)!
Anyway, I’m a little over 2 months away from this big pedal across France. Fundraising has commenced and is currently sitting at £275 (plus the GiftAid thing – £340). Many thanks to those who have supported me so far. This past weekend, I took delivery of the very vehicle that’s going to get myself and all I need down to the Med. I only wish I could have new legs too but hey ho! You can’t have everything.
Today I paid for the bus back home which I think, at £161 is pretty good value. The company are called European Bike Express – An English company based up in Hull, they run a fleet of posh coaches down into France several times a week during the summer months. There’s a wide choice of routes available and the beauty of it is, is that you don’t have to strip your bike down and box it up like you would if flying or travelling on some rail services. The coaches tow a large covered trailer which is basically a big bike rack on wheels. Anyone considering cycling in France should consider these people as it looks like a great solution and alternative with less hassle of packing up a bike.

I contacted DFDS, the ferry people way over a month ago with a begging letter asking for a complimentary crossing to Dunkerque from Dover (All of £25 worth) but, alas it has fallen on deaf ears. Nevermind, I’ve paid it now so that’s it. Everything is booked! Oh, anyone reading this who has any experience of taking a bike on a ferry from Dover, any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.

What else has been happening? Oh yes, yours truly has set up a facebook page. It’ll probably duplicate much of the stuff on here but it’ll be easier to post on facebook whilst on the move.
The shirts have arrived from The Brain Tumour Charity and by jove, they aren’t ‘arf fetching!! Who needs hi-vis with one of these on!! I think I’ll have to shed a few pounds before September as these are a snug-fit design and will easily emphasise a ‘baguette-belly after nearly a fortnight’s riding in French France!!


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All Change! (26/5/18)

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They do say, “It’s not what you know, but who you know!”
When it comes to many things French, that’s very true in my case. I can order coffee. I can buy bread. Even purchase a train ticket! And once I actually managed to buy a bleed valve for 1995 Renault 19 using nothing but french (and a little miming!). In fact on that occasion, the chap at the  spares counter was so impressed with my french that he gave me it for nothing. Although this was probably due to him collapsing with uncontrollable laughter at my ‘tentatives de français’.
Anyway, following a recent post on Facebook on a cycle touring group, I was telling its worldwide members about this trip and any advice on the route etc would be much appreciated. The response was very positive and my phone very quickly filled with many enthusiastic messages with advice and guidance on where and where not to go, what and what not to eat, plus ideas on little detours to make to see various landmarks/ mountain ranges/ national parks etc etc etc. Then, after a day or two, a message came through questioning my sanity. The chap in question, whose name eludes me now was of German origin and went on to say (read it with a german accent, it comes across better!).

Why, oh Why, are you cycling to London from the south? Have you not heard of the Mistral? You must be one crazy man to even think on doing this! You will have headwinds for week! And vertical hairs! Last year, I cycled through the Rhone Valley  to Avignon from Munchen and I saw 2 men crawling northways on bikes! They had their legs like fur-trunks! Everyday, 50km winds to the head!  You must not do this! It will break your soul and your legs! Your bike will be in the Rhone and you will be on the train!  Travel south! Buy sails and a mast!

Well, I wasn’t expecting this! It certainly made me think and cast a bit of a shadow of doubt over all the research and planning I’d so far done! What if he was right? I immediately googled it. He was right. Although it’s only bad at certain times of the year. Well, the climate these days isn’t exactly reliable (it was in the 20s here in Devon earlier this week – 7 days before that, we had a frost!) so do I chance it and keep my english fingers crossed that La Mistral isn’t at home for those days I’m pedalling through. Wikipedia does say it’s at its worse betwixt winter and spring. Sod that! I’m not going to chance it. I’ll go t’other way and listen to my fellow german cyclist.

So, all accommodation dates have been changed and the routes finalised this very afternoon. Kick off starts at 6am on 18th September at Marble Arch in London. All being well, on the afternoon of 28th September, I’ll be dipping my sweaty toes in France’s Mediterranean Sea!

I had a nice little training ride this week. It was cut short due to the traditional Devon rain but I managed 33 quickish miles on a touring bike fully loaded with what I’ll be taking. The ride was up in North Devon on the Tarka Trail. It’s made up mainly of a reclaimed railway line that came under Dr Beeching’s axe in the 1960s. A crying shame for rail travel and a real lack of foresight I guess but, it has been transformed into the most beautiful cycle route. It forms part of the NCN Routes 3 and 27 coast to coast from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. The C2C in Devon is very possible and can easily be tackled in a leisurely 3 days. However, some have crossed the county in much less time.  Those that feel a little more adventurous can continue south on the ferry to Roscoff and pick up La Vélodyssée – The Atlantic Cycling route that will take you down as far as France’s border with Spain. It’s on the list for me that one is!

Spring has sprung…..(19/4/18)

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Who would’ve thought that exactly 1 month ago, the uk was crippled by snowfall?!?
Today, for the first time this year, the thermometer raced into the twenties down here in sunny Devon thanks to a bout of high pressure and no noticeable wind. A stark contrast to 48hrs ago where the central heating was still in use all evening. So could this be the long-awaited spring/summer we’ve all so eagerly been waiting for? Let’s hope so.
Today, I dusted of the old touring bike and had my first ride of the year. That bike’s heavier than I remember! I don’t think that’ll be crossing France with me this autumn but by ‘eck didn’t the sun shine today? There’s tanlines on these lily-white arms as I type.

Back in 2014, I tackled LeJog (Lands End to John O’Groats). Never before had I attempted anything like it. The ride was completed alone and unsupported in 13 days. The following year, I tackled a shorter ride through France alone. Cycling alone is something I’ve always done. Why? I don’t know. My wife despises cycling so it’s never been something we’ve done together. Anyway, you only have to worry about  yourself when riding alone so I’m not complaining.

Since 2015 I’ve not done very much apart from a few charity events and a couple of half marathons. However, just recently I lost a couple of work colleagues and it got me thinking that maybe we should stop putting stuff off for retirement and get it done now because….well, you never know do you? My dream is to cycle across Europe from the Atlantic coast of France to the Black Sea but time constraints, a job and a wife have other ideas. So, as the next best thing, I’ll just cycle across one or two countries at a time. So this year, as a starter (or should I say “Hors D’oeuvre”?), I’ll be crossing France from bottom to top and onwards to London.

The 800+ mile jaunt North from the French Mediterranean coast  back to Blighty is just over 7 months away now. Plenty of time you may think? Hmmm, well It seems to me that once the age of 45 is exceeded, time speeds up and a month feels like about 3 days! So, no! Its not long really. Still lots to do – a new bike to be got, gonna get a posh cycling jersey printed too! Oh and the small thing of getting these ageing legs into a condition to take on France (and Kent too!)