Sunday, 5 November 2017

Next year's cycling adventure

First, by way of an update re the North Sea Cycle Route (see this recent post)...I've come to the conclusion, after lots of consideration, that I ain't really up for it. It's not the physicality, it's the issue of being away from home, Chrissie and the dogs for over three months. I just don't think I can do that.

So that's the negativity out of the way. Now for the positive. I'd got quite excited about the idea of a longer cycle tour, so over the past 10 days or so my research has led to me, just this morning, booking:

1. A rental car to take me and my beautiful Thorn touring bike to Portsmouth on 15th June next year in time for...

2. overnight ferry to St Malo in Brittany and...

3. ...a flight from Nice to Manchester on 20th July to bring me and the bike back home...

...after cycling the 1000 odd miles twixt St Malo and Nice at my typical, relaxed, bimbly pace through the beautiful French countryside in, hopefully, Spring/Summer sunshine.

This book arrived yesterday and their suggested route will form the basis of my journey.

Here's an overview of the route, from the book.

As you can see, it describes a gently curving arc right across France from the English Channel all the way down to the Mediterranean. No prizes for noting it crosses the Massif Central and the Alpes Maritime (otherwise known as hilly bits) before descending to the sea at Nice. Interestingly, a route of this kind was suggested to me as a follow up to my LEJOG back in 2015. It's a similar length, my own LEJOG route being 1100 miles.

As with LEJOG I'll travel unsupported, with all my camping kit on the bike. So, what with the low gearing of my Thorn Sherpa, along with 25kg or so of luggage, I won't be moving fast. However, I will enjoy a lazy journey, allowing a little over a month. Included in that are a projected three night stay in Nice where I can somehow arrange to package my bike and luggage for the flight home. At the moment I'm considering buying a soft bike bag from a bike shop in Nice, but the fall back will simply be to scrounge a cardboard box, of the kind new bikes are delivered in, from a bike shop and pack the bike in that...with copious padding and tape.

In common with my LEJOG I'm aiming to cover an average of about 35 miles each day in the hope of arriving at a campsite mid afternoon for rest and recuperation. To hardened road cyclists that daily distance won't sound much but the strategy worked well on my LEJOG and meant I suffered no aches and pains at all (save chilblains on my toes caused by the cold, Scottish Spring weather that year). I may well do higher mileages some days and that could earn me the occasional day off since the return journey from Nice is now fixed.

I'm gonna try for some accommodation in Nice through Airbnb, which I've never used before, but friends and family seem to have had success with the service.

I've booked a cabin on the Brittany Ferries ship. It leaves Portsmouth at 8:15pm and gets into St Malo at 8am so I can set off, refreshed, on my journey as soon as I touch French soil.

I always have a little trepidation about a long, solo trip but the antidote is the thought of warm Spring/Summer days in tee shirt and shorts (fingers crossed).

I might well try to raise a few coppers for a favourite charity along the way, but for now, I'm amusing myself with thoughts of what to carry and wear as I meander my way through La Belle France. My mouth's already watering at the thought of wines, pastries and cheeses...not to mention freshly baked baguettes.

So, that's that. Booked. No turning back. Let the planning commence!

As ever, any constructive thoughts or comments will be graciously received.