Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Vacation or training camp?

In 21 days I road 2000km and took 3 days off. I would wake up early enough to allow for extra time in case of navigational errors and limit my planned distance for the same reason. Riding long distance isn’t the same as racing or just trying to keep up with Brad. I get on the bike, turn the diesel engine on and ride. As long as I am not bored, I can ride forever.

I rolled in to Girona on a wet day, with my fully loaded bike greeted by so many pro looking roadies. First stop….the bike shop (Service Course). My little bike needed a lot of love if I wanted it to enjoy the riding to come. Stripped of all it’s bags and accessories it now looks and sounds like a worthy road bike.

Many coffees (Federal ans Espresso Mafia) later, I started the next part of my cycling adventure.

I reunited with my partner that I had abandoned in Vancouver over a month ago and the next day we were off to some amazing road riding. Using the Strava routes of the local bike shop we went on an easy road ride (not easy) to Els Angel with good climbing, amazing views and great descents.

My legs were not ready for Brad’s training camp pace, so I may have suffered a bit, but loved it anyways. Girona has so many quiet roads minutes outside of the city, I can’t wait to explore more of them.

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Bikepacking

Mission accomplie!

21 days

6 countries

2000.59km

17565m of elevation gain

93 hours 19 minutes

3 flat tires

21 croissants

Too much chocolate

Plenty of coffee and wine

The first plan was to follow Eurovelo route 5 and get To Florence, but plans change. The Eurovelo route is not easy to follow and I got to the mountains at the same time as the snow. I explored Switzerland and France instead and had a great time! I discovered so many cities, saw so many ruines, monuments and castles from different eras and met some very nice humans.

The las few days of my adventure were flat and short, so I was happy to see mountains yesterday. I noticed the Pyrenees as I was approaching my last French lodging, but soon after, the clouds rolled in and swallowed them. The worse rainfall they had seen fell that day, lucky for me, I got there just before all hell broke loose.

My last day was another short one. It was a great day! I had another great french breakfast (yogourt and croissant) and left for Girona.

As soon as I left France, a heavy rainfall started and stayed on me for a good 45min, enough to create pools in my shoes. I really didn’t mind, I wasn’t going to stop to put shoe covers on, rubber globes or leg warmers, I think I even smiled! I wasn’t going to get off my bike today.

I was a girl on a mission. I ate my croissant while I was riding through Figueres, only stopped for 2 pictures and had no choice but to stop and lube my chain (every pedal stroke sounded like pure torture).

My bike is getting a well deserved tune up before I get to take it out for the world renowned riding Girona has to offer.

Time to leave the nomadic lifestyle behind and enjoy some greatly anticipated company, as well as more good food and coffee.

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Follow the path

Euro velo routes are…..very different from one to another, from a region to another, sometimes marked, sometimes paved, sometimes inexistant,…

Today was a fun one, I am quite happy, because I actually thought it was going to be a boring day. The plan was take it easy, follow another canal, try to avoid the rain and get to my second to last hotel before the final destination.

Everything went according to plan, the canal was there, the rain was blown away by that insane wind and I made it to destination.

The canal du midi is a well known popular touristic destination, a huge project that was created over 300 years ago. I was actually excited to see it, until I saw it… I am pretty sure it is impressive somewhere, but not the section I rode. The bike path that follows it is also mediocre, but I liked it a lot 🙂  A pavement bike path along a canal is pretty uneventful, but a wet and muddy path is pretty awesome and challenging to navigate with a loaded bike.

Maybe they read my blog or it’s just to prove me wrong, but I met some nice cyclotourers today. Nice couple of teachers who quit their jobs and tour Europe. I was envious of their situation, but he was envious of my lightweight setup 🙂 They did not enjoy the mud/rock bike path at all!

A stop in Narbonne for a quick tourist tour and an awesome coffee/lunch break before heading to my hotel in a kinda abandoned off season beach town. The 20km of gravel and dirt to get to the hotel was just awesome, music on, no one in sight, it was awesome! Quite happy I didn’t take the road bike on this adventure.

I’ve enjoyed finishing my days early and visiting the cities, but Narbonne may have been my last city visit before Girona. The pedestrian areas and the patio dinning will have to wait until I reach my final destination.

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Bikepacking

Bikepacking vs cyclotourism

I am snobbed by the cyclo tourists people. No smile, hello, hallo or bonjour! The ebike and road bike people always wave back or smile, but not the cyclotourists.

Why? I am that different. I carry all the necessary stuff on my bike to camp (before I shipped it all back) ride, fix and maintain the bike, survive.

Is it because I am flying by too fast? Going further? Smiling more? Eating while I ride? Listening to music? Because I suffer less?

So bikepacking means I can ride my favorite bike, the best bike for the job, climb steep hills and ride on rough terrain. My bike is also light weight even fully loaded.

My bike is a cyclocross (goes everywhere) carbon fibre (comfortable and stiffer, more efficient) with hydraulic disc brakes (it stops when needed).

I carry only what is needed. I do my laundry in the shower every night, layer clothing for the different temperatures and bring pieces that can be used on and off the bike.

Why do Cyclotouring people need so much stuff?

There are little luxuries that I carry and add unnecessary weight, but after a day on the saddle, they are essential. My wool sweater, real lady bra and a book. I could live without them, but seriously…it’s a vacation not a torture fest!

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

I lost it!

I lost a jacket

I lost the nail clipper

I lost a hair band

I lost my way (a few times)

I lost my mind!

Bike paths are easy, safe and enjoyable! After many 100km of following canals and rivers, they get boring! I did what I thought I would never do, turned the music on on my phone… You know these annoying people riding with their speaker on their bike, the ones sharing their music while you are having a peaceful ride, I became that person today! If you know me, you may know that my music selection is less than desirable 🙂 and I shared it with the few french humans I passes today 🙂

I am following the Euro Velo route 17 right now. It is mostly well marked, but for whatever sanity I have left, I take different roads every once in a while to change it up. This way I get to climbs some hills, ride through villages, drink more coffees and eat more pastries!

I am amazed at all the beauty and all the history. Wherever I look, there is a castle, a sculpture, rampart, … Some are abandoned, some are museums, some are part of a working farm, factory or a house.

I have been riding for 2 weeks now and road more than 1500km. I found that music keeps me focused and make me forget about the many solo hours to come.

The music and my little bell way also have scared a scary stray dog while on a remote section of the route

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Un temps de canard

Leaving Switzerland, I left the mountains behind. Still in the alp region, but to reach Spain, the best option is following the Rhone. Looking at the surrounding mountains and the occasional abandoned rampart or castle from far below. Easy bike paths, rolling hills on quiet roads and cheaper coffee.

The weather has been quite nice so far, it got very chilly at times, but mostly dry. Today was my first really really wet day. Overshoes, nitrile gloves under wool ones, rain jacket I was ready. My computer was also securely packed in it’s waterproof “ziplock” bag. I chose the faster route to Lyon and headed out.

Fastest means trails, dirt, unpaved roads 🙂 it was a lot of fun! Until I missed a turn, got lost and later flatted 3 times.

I wanted to get to Lyon early enough to do some touristy exploring and I did. A much needed hot shower, laundry and I was out hunting for a good coffee. Lyon is great! Nice city, amazing architecture, awesome vibe and great coffee 🙂

the sun should be out tomorrow for another mellow ride. Hopefully everything dries before I leave in the morning.

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

I eat hills for breakfast!

Not sure why, but the only bikes I crossed path with were electric!

I left the beautiful city of Lucerne on a glorious morning, to attack some hills and explores Switzerland’s countryside. I followed a Switzerland bike route the entire day, no need to look at my phone or GPS.

My day was spent with the company of cows, goats and sheeps and barely any humans. Almost no engine sounds, just the cow bells and my heavy breathing. The route uses mostly bike paths (gravel and paved) and small barely used roads. There were 2 good climbs that day and I was prepared for them. I really enjoyed these tough kilometres!

The following day I decided to keep following the same road. It was so well marked the previous day, that I decided to not even map it out. From their little elevation chart, it looked like mostly downhill, NOT! I kept passing signs letting me know if a pass was open, some others with “ACHTUNG” a high percentage and many km. It was tough! More then I was mentally prepared for.

I made it! Taking layers off for climbing, just to get dressed again later. Making sure I ate and hydrated as much as I could.

I passed some ski villages and made sure to stop and have a good meal. Not sure what I ate, the lady just showed me a plate and told that’s what was for lunch today(in a mix of French/English/German).

Ended my day in Montreux, with a stupidly insane 40km downhill. Nice city in a wonderful wine region, on lake Léman.

My hotel had a hot tub and I spent a good part of the evening in it 🙂

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