It’s 11am on a Sunday morning just outside Montpellier. After a fully indulgent French wedding. Ollie feeling a little worse for ware. Myself, feeling pretty hyped up…probably still drunk.
“Why don’t we ride across France on our bicycles?”
Cue Ollie’s look of weary hungover indulgence/pity… at me and my silly ideas in general (I know this look, it’s not my first time). I decide to work on her later and go back to quietly googling what a pannier is and the idea in general.
Seed planted and hangover subsided we start to question if we can really do this…then we have our 5 o’clock beers and go to work on planning what we need.
• A destination
• Kit for the bikes
• A route
• General knowledge on bikes (we only knew how to ride them and take them to the shop when they stop working)
Come 9pm it’s a definite!
Disclaimer – after travelling together for sometime now, we have realised many things about each other. Mainly and most importantly, I can be a little over-enthusiastic in the grand ideas department . As in, not really thinking things through and then arguing the silly idea obstreperously by simply saying “Why not?”
Where as Ollie has a tendency to be a little more cautious and think things through in detail; whilst coming up with the ‘snags’ in my plan. She will clearly lay out the facts and say things like,
“This is why not you silly manchild!”
Luckily, this is the ultimate combination for a travelling team as it results in things actually happening and it has worked thus far.
First of all, we decided to become volunteers via workaway.info in the south of France, near a town called Lodève. Quick sign up, few emails, bit of Skype action and boom…destination sorted!
All the rest was going to be tricky. Bike stuff is expensive. So, reeling from Tom’s blog and his wonderful post on putting together a virtually free tour bike, we sent out a begging email…no one replied. There are other methods, but we only had a week to get ready so had to turn to the wallet.
Luckily we had one of these!
Ollie’s Dad is Mr Bike, with many bike tours under his belt, a literal shedload of parts and a mind full of knowledge to boot. He donated his time (and some spares) to getting us road-ready.
First of all, before we thought about fancy panniers and shiny jerseys, we needed to look at the bikes. I needed to replace my chain, cassette, brake pads, adjust brakes, adjust gears and very nearly replace the tyres. Ollie had a similar list. Together with fitting new parts such as racks and pedals, we learnt how to repair and fix the basics. Valuable road knowledge. As we would find out, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong on the road!
Next a route. What can I say, Les helped us out again after we had an idea. We decided to sail overnight from Portsmouth to St Malo, ride to Poitiers, train to Bordeaux and then ride the rest of the way. In two weeks. Les was happy to plan the first section for us. Very important as he knew what the roads (and, crucially, inclines) would be like by looking at the map. Something I would not have been able to do. We would sort the rest of the journey out ourselves. Must remember maps!
So what’s the point of this blog post? There’s nothing in it about how to prepare for a bike tour or the planned route?
Well firstly, I’m a firm believer in continuity, and even though I’m pretty sure only about 7 people actually read this blog, I feel it’s necessary to bridge the gap between backpacking and bike touring.
Secondly, look at this guy’s blog for all your budget bike tour planning needs; it’s fantastic really, not just about bikes, but for ideas on how to live better:
Thirdly, the Coast to Coast route will come, in later posts, with pretty pictures. But essentially we planned to ride from St Malo to Beziers.
So, why do it at all? The reason…why not?! (my favourite argument)
So many people see the world in different ways and after (an amazing) 8 months of bus travel through the Americas we felt it time to see a country differently and who knows, maybe carry on afterwards…