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.

Standard
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 πŸ™‚Β  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 πŸ™‚ 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.

Standard
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 πŸ™‚ and I shared it with the few french humans I passes today πŸ™‚

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

Standard
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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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

Standard
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 LΓ©man.

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

Standard
Bikepacking, Europe adventure

It’s all about the journey, not the destination

This will be a short one, I am done! Tired! In 2 days I climbed over 4700m on a total of 225km. I didn’t count my kilometres, didn’t care what distance was left I just enjoyed every moment.

I’ve always dreamed of skiing here, never got to, but Riding through this ski country is for me as much fun. It’s impressive, breathtaking! These peaks, lakes, charming tyrolean houses, castles,…

I ride a cyclocross bike (34lbs fully loaded) and I can’t imagine climbing these hills with a standard touring bike. I may not be geared properly, 36t (single ring) in the front and 11-36 in the back. But I made it! I climbed everything πŸ™‚

I will tell you more about my ride tomorrow, right now I just need to sleep.

Standard
Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Au grΓ© des vents

Too cold and too late, Italy will have to wait another year! I could take a train, but I had my share of trail and ferry rides for a while. The only way my bike is going somewhere it’s with me riding it.

Every night I map the next day’s ride and tonight I had to take the tough decision of riding towards France rather then Italy. I want to do big climbs, but I have to find warmer weather before I attempt a good one.

Switzerland has been really good with signage and has great cycling routes, I will follow route 9 which will take me to Geneva. I am always nervous the night before a good ride, tomorrow’s will have over 2000m of elevation and just over 100km. But as I like to say “I eat hills for breakfast ” πŸ™‚

Hotel booked, food packed, bike checked, It should be a beautiful day!

Standard
Bikepacking, Europe adventure

La routine

My daily routine involves a continental breakfast at the hotel. Every morning I have my croissant, yogourt and granola. I may take an apple and pastry for the road πŸ™‚

I should also include stretching the muscles and verifying the bike, but I keep forgetting .

I read that it was surprisingly hard to find food in France when in rural areas and it’s true, there’s nothing and it’s the same in Belgium. I now load my front panier with extra food (that I buy at a grocery store) to get me through the day. I then like finding the perfect park bench and enjoy my piece of cheese, salami and crackers.

A town I slept in only had one food option, a regional and exotic restaurant. Once you passed the creepy exterior it actually was not too bad. If the lovely B&B host didn’t recommend it, I would have lived on my leftover peanuts.

There are plenty of lodging options, from camping, B&B to High end hotels everywhere. No camping for me this time. I shipped all my camping gear home last week, it’s been below freezing every night. It’s off season now, so it’s cold, but hotels are also cheaper πŸ™‚

Where does my bike live? The higher end hotels are usually very nice and don’t mind me bringing my bike in my room, but I look for more budget friendly places. My bike had to live in garages and bike rooms, but one hotel in Strasbourg wanted me to lock it outside. I have a lock, but we all know how long a good bike lasts overnight in a city.

I just got to Switzerland and it will be my home for a few days and I already fell in love with it. It has everything for the perfect adventure; great coffee, chocolate, bakeries and mountains to climb.

The bike routes are super easy to follow here and very well marked. I barely looked at my phone for navigation. A steep climb started my day and a long gravel ride ended it, perfect!

My german is inexistant, so I keep trying to figure out what the signs say. Was it a street name or an instruction I should follow? Is that road blocked or is it the name of the next town? Keeps things interesting πŸ™‚

Standard
Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Je suis en vacance

I am taking a day off! If I keep telling my self that it’s a vacation and not a race, maybe I will take it easy πŸ™‚

It’s great to aim for lots of kilometres, but what about enjoying a coffee along the canal? How about having time to explore the gravel road instead of the paved bike path?

The path along the canal was a good change. Peaceful and flat with less then 12 humans sightings when I was riding along the Saar but a bit livelier while riding on the Marne to Rhin canal.

I now reduced my daily distance to 100km, allowing me to take breaks, smell the roses and get lost. I do get lost a lot! but as a friend told me “Europe is tiny” so getting lost is just bonus miles πŸ™‚ Google, Galileo, Garmin, Eurovelo5 apps, I still manage to take wrong turns.

My little bike is fixed, I got rid of the brake rub and all my gears seem to work. All nuts and bolts have been tightened . The cobble stones, gravel and dirt roads may be shaking my loaded bike a bit too much!

Time to enjoy a coffee and a book before exploring Strasbourg. There may be a lot more coffees happening today.

Standard
Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Summer is definitely over

Not sure there will be any camping happening on this trip. I have been starting my days with a chilly 5C, crisp temperatures that stay low until late afternoon. It’s all fine, my planned routes seem to always start with a climb πŸ™‚

Isn’t Belgium supposed to be flat? When it’s not hilly, it’s still not flat and SO windy. Luxembourg wasn’t that much different, with more fun climbs.

Glorious mornings, either starting in the fog along a canal or clear blue skies into vineyards.

I expected the Alps to be really cold at the top so I have all the warm clothing, I wasn’t expecting to wear so many layers at once everyday. I have yet to ride without sleeves, vest or leg warmers. But I am getting better at peeling layers off while riding.

Yesterday was a really tough day, I ran out of water and never found an open bakery or grocery store. My hilly 170km ride made me suffer. The cheese and apple I stole from the morning’s buffet may not have been sufficient fuel for the ride.

Today my 75km ride starting in Luxembourg ended up being 99.5km long, but was fun. I decided to let go of the technology and trust a map and signage. Eurovelo 5 is almost finalized here. I scrambled at first trying to find my way following the bike route, but when I entered Germany the route was marked at every corner and intersection.

The route took me through farm fields, forests, across little towns and along rivers. I ended my day in a more industrial city in Germany. I finally got to enjoy a very good pretzel and a wonderful coffee πŸ™‚

Standard