Top tips for cycling the cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix – Freewheeling France
I have a small list of ‘FIRSTS’ that have impressed me since 1951 –
1st to run 4 minute mile 1954 Roger Bannister
1st in space in 1961 Yuri Gagarin
1st on the moon 1969 Neil Armstrong
1st to sail solo around the world Robin Knox-Johnston 1969
1st to cycle around the world in (under) 80 days 2017 – Mark Beaumont
I am very pleased to add Mark to my list!
I admit that I may have just lost my way with my ‘Wellswheels’ site. However I AM still feeling passionate about cycling and have recently added a new steed to the stable: The SPA Cycles ‘Audax’.
My main reason for this choice was probably to be able to stay with Janet, after ‘upgrading’ her Surly to BionX power. I found that although I am able to keep up with her on flat or downhill, I was struggling going up the steeper inclines when I had to search for the lowest gears, when she only needed to ‘turbo-boost’!
The bike is a joy to ride, I have never had anything quite as ‘sporty’ – it is NOT a racer, but a comfortable distance cruiser, not hampered by too larger carrying capacity!
We have wanted for sometime to test our resolve by cycling from our home near Mortain to the sea at Ouistreham, and back – many reasons, including, can we make the trip in a day? – in time to catch the ferry to England – within daylight hours?
Day 1 16th June 2017 (JW)
Left PN39 at 8:30, felt good until at Romagny picnic site, then had the morning lag – stopped at Le Neufbourg, chat with English lady with yorkie (large one!). plodded-on on track, took to the road and felt better!!
Route going well through Rancoudray St. Clement, Fresne Poret to Tinchbray where Music Festival was setting up for tomorrow.
Bought cake and left town through tricky One-way system on to a not very pleasant mainish road on which lorries were being diverted. My new fluorescent yellow top was attracting tiny black critters, meaning I had to cover up when stationary.
We had a welcome coffee stop in Montsecret, after which the road was less busy. An undulating route followed and my motor was helping a lot. Found the picnic site at very tall Calvaire just out of St. Lambert for a snack lunch – another site in town was under–going a revamp. Great scoot along a ridge, then the Garmin decided to go off-road.
We did some of it and then decided to take the shortest way to the road. This led to the first signposts for Thury-Harcourt (our day’s destination). A very bumpy, long downhill finally arrived at the River Orne and we picked up the Velo Francette.
We arrived in Thury-Harcourt at 14:15 and as expected our hotel “Relais de la Poste” didn’t open until 16:00 so we killed time roasting under a chestnut tree, watching the local school having cyclo-cross lessons. Then we found some yummy icecreams at Glace Gilvos in the square – prepared to order, lemon and mint and fresh strawberry!.
The Hotel room was fine except for the unfinished electrics hanging out the ceiling. Bike storage was good in a locked basement garage – tricky steps down to the entrance. A couple of beers in town, a nice meal in the hotel and after a quick recce of the entrance to the Voie Vert to follow to Caen in the morning, we were ready for bed.
Trip Distance: 67,4km Time cycling:3:55 hrs – JW
The town of Thury-Harcourt, like almost all of the towns in this area were badly damaged in WW2. It is obvious if one looks closely that the buildings were repaired/rebuilt in a hurry but looks as though a great attention was paid to try and recover the original elegance of the interesting town. We couldn’t help reflecting on the probable lack of skilled builders, just post war.
Day 2 17th June 2017 (JW)
An amazing “tarmac” Voie-Verte to Caen (28k). Checked into Hotel du Chateau, which seemed fine, (one street in from the Port du Plaisance). Trams go past our window! Confirmed our booking and the locked garage for the bikes.
We followed the still tarmac track to Ouistreham, passing Pegasus Bridge around 1300-ish – very busy. Cycled on to Ouistreham gun emplacement opposite Brittany Ferries, quick photo shoot and back before the wind went round to the South! We were back to Pegasus Bridge in time for a welcome Croque Monsieur and drink at the 3 Planeurs (bit pricey, but what isn’t?) It was then back to the Hotel for a BATH!
Walking around a City is a bit of a novelty these days, which made in more enjoyable even though it was still 28 degrees at 1900. We opted for La Maison d’Italie , which was a little off the main street, but did an excellent pizza and tiramisu, which we walked off round the Port. A very hot night and I don’t know how long those trams are going to run…..
Trip Distance: 60km Time cycling: 3:25 hrs (JW)
Day 3 18th June 2017 (JW)
Hot and a bit noisy – cities never sleep! Ample continental breakfast and off to find it’s Market Day (impressive one) filling most of the Quay. So a slow start threading through stalls and strollers.. Stopped at the Trotting Circuit ( as we did 30 years ago) to check the Garmin and back on to that ribbon of tarmac, the Voie-Verte, making good time to Thury-Harcourt, quick coffee in the old Station Café which was just opening. Nattered with other cycling couples – impressed with our Clik-Stands! Now more or less following the Francette, which unfortunately had a detour due to bridge work just south of Thury-Harcourt. This involved a rough track for about 3 km before a very hilly road to Clecy. It’s not known as Suisse Normande for nothing!. The BionX was coping well, we had charged it each night, but it was still over half charged at this point .We passed through a very busy riverside leisure area on the Orne – it was Father’s Day which might have swelled the visitors.
I stopped to let the “real” cyclist complete his climb and to orientate ourselves on an old railway crossing to find “Chez Lulu” a café in a field next to the track, obviously about to be turned into another Voie-Verte. An excellent gammon and chips were had for lunch – perfect timing.
Still more undulations, we had left the Francette to head back to Tinchbray – the route managed to avoid Conde-sur-Noireau. The Garmin went a bit off-roady again as we approached Tinchbray but as a rather uninviting uphill presented, a gentleman arrived at his cottage, he advised a better way into Tinchbray and refilled our depleted water bottles.
The distance to home was coming down – bottles getting low again so the little café at Fresne-Poret came to the rescue with water and cold drinks (a contrast to JOGLE when it was hot coffee and a warm-up) Still following the Garmin, it decided to off-road again (12km from home) and annoyingly this resulted in a back-track on a rough surface. We got back on familiar roads and would work out the problem later. Only a couple more hazards before home – lose chippings on the start of the long descent from the Petite Chapelle and a large group of pilgrims straddling the road on their way to Mont-St.Michel!
Gerry threatened to give me a penalty if I still had power segments left, I had one at the start of the descent so used the regenerate to pretend this was the reason but in fact when we reached our door at the bottom of the descent, I had two!
Trip Distance:103,7km Cycling time: 5.41hrs (JW)
Yesterday felt like the first day of spring. It wasn’t typical of February but it was very welcome none-the-less. The complexities of riding regularly and managing my mental health can be frustrati…
Oh – look what Santa brought me this year: a new Bionx motor for my Surly LHT! Well at least I will not have to get used to a new bike.
For the technical amongst you, the kit is BionX’s latest D-Series System with a 48V down tube battery and the D-Series Rear Hub Motor this motor comes fitted to a special new wheel that will take 8, 9, and 10 speed cassettes – thereby allowing all the original gearing to be retained. The system is controlled via the latest G2 console which has an illuminated LCD display with battery state-of-charge, access to 4 ‘assist’ levels, 4 ‘Generate’ levels, possibility of controlling lights, and cycle computer functions of speed, odometer, clock, average speed and trip distance.
I have created a monster! – now equipped with her bionic, oops, Bionx motor, Janet has started to zoom past me as soon as we arrive at a hill. She leaves me struggling in her wake and when I eventually catch her at the top she sits there, as cool as a cucumber (which I hate anyway – cucumber that is) – I am puffing and sweating she just starts off again…. I HATE electric bikes, but would like to try one, at least for a while 🙂
After a busy festive period, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided on a tandem ride to blow away the cobwebs – and decided on a New Year trip to the wilderness beaut…