Keith Cycles The Velodyssey: French Atlantic Coastal Route

Our MD and long-running cycle touring enthusiast Keith spent his time off last summer cycling the a 800-mile cycle route along the Atlantic Coast. He encountered many revelations about kit, France and cycle touring in general along the way. Here he shares these revelations with us here on the Tog Blog…

 

I spent most of the winter thinking about what I was going to do for my summer cycle tour. I knew that I wanted to do a tour in France and that I wanted to feel like I had been on holiday, so after hours of research I settled on the Velodyssey.
The Velodyessy is a 1,200 kilometre bike ride from Brittany to the boarder of Spain. For ease of logistics I started from the airport at Biarritz and Cycled North.

Packing and unpacking the Bike
I got a bike box from the local bike shop, some pipe lagging and some tape and set about packing the bike into the box. Now this is not as easy as I first thought and I ended up having to take the forks off to get it in, however I do know people with smaller frames for whom this was not necessary. I put a roll of tape in the box just in case I was required to open it up at customs and was left with nothing to tape it back up with; this was not required in the end but if I did it again I would do the same.

An ingenious feat of packing
An ingenious feat of packing.

Unpacking the bike at the other end took much longer than I had planned for, mostly faffing around putting the forks and mud guards back on, and after 45 mins of rebuilding the bike I was ready to go.

Bike assembled and ready to go!
Bike assembled and ready to go!

Kit
I had decided to camp all the way but took the decision not to take a stove, which was a mistake as for the most part the camp sites I used were a few miles from a town, and after riding for hours you don’t really feel like riding some more to get  food. As a result I ended up eating ham and cheese baguettes most nights!

Tent
I took a Nemo Obi One elite one man tent. The tent inner is predominantly mesh which was perfect for hot weather. Something like the Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 1-Person Lightweight Tent would be perfect for the solo traveller on this tour.

Sleeping Bag
I took my trusty Rab Alpine 200 Down Sleeping Bag which was easily warm enough and is very light.

Sleeping Matt
You cant go wrong with a Thermarest Neo air, and the Thermarest Neoair XLite is great for summer camping.

Panniers
Ortlieb bar bag, Trunk bag , and rear panniers. The trunk bag is a little heavy but I find it really useful to keep all my precious items in. It can be easily removed from the bike and carried on its shoulder strap when going into a shop etc.

Waterproofs  
I decided to take the Rab Mens Pulse Pull-On instead of a pure cycling waterproof as it has a hood and I might need to use it around the campsite. The Rab Mens Kinetic Pants took care of the legs.

Cycling clothing
2 Pairs of Cycling shorts, I always double short on long days, which works for me and I have never got sores from the saddle.
2 Standard cycling shirts
1 pair of Cycling gloves
1 reflective vest

Other Stuff
Goal Zero Solar charger, I got this to recharge the batteries for the GPS, my phone, iPad, and GoPro camera. It could not cope and I would not do this again.
Torch – Petzl Zipka Head Torch
Mug – MSR Titan Titanium Cup
Spoon – Lifeventure Titanium Fork Spoon

Keith gets ready to bed down for the night
Keith gets ready to bed down for the night.

 

The Route
I knew before leaving that the route would be mostly on purpose built cycle paths, and nobody does cycle paths like the French. I had expected the paths to be running along the road side with nothing but a white line between you and the cars; but no, they were very few sections where you shared with cars, and when there were shared routes the roads were very quiet. Most of the paths took you from one fantastic vista to another through amazing forests with nothing but the sound of birdsong to keep you company.

An example of just how well constructed and stunningly quiet the route is
An example of just how well constructed and stunningly quiet the route is.

What is fantastic about this tour is it manages to combine great riding with a sense of being on holiday. Its not a gnarly epic tour but don’t let that you put you off as cycling 70 -80 miles every day is hard work no matter how nice the scenery is, and there will be more than enough saddle time to satisfy the keenest cyclist.

Quality spot for a hard-earned pint
Quality spot for a hard-earned pint.

The major theme of the tour is beaches, and you will see a lot of them, complete with pristine white sand, blue seas and not a soul in sight. The only downside is it can be fairly windy and on the days when the wind is against you the riding can be hard work.

Deserted, golden sandy beaches for miles on end - not what first comes to mind when you think of cycle touring
Deserted, golden sandy beaches for miles on end – not what first comes to mind when you think of cycle touring.

I would recommend this tour to cyclists at any level, from elite to novice. It would make a fantastic first tour with children as you don’t need to worry about cars. I enjoyed the tour so much I am going to return next year with Sue to do it again, possibly on a tandem.

The end in sight!
The end in sight!

 

Hopefully that’s given you some inspiration to get over to France and do the Velodyssey for yourselves, not to mention valuable insight into what kit to take if you do. Let us know if you’ve decided to give the Velodyssey a crack, or a similar long-distance cycle tour in France. All responses to this post will be welcomed with open arms, including your cycle touring snaps which you can share with us on the Webtogs Facebook Page.

14 thoughts on “Keith Cycles The Velodyssey: French Atlantic Coastal Route

  1. Sounds like an excellent tour! I’m thinking of doing it next year with my 14 year old son. Only one question Keith: what size of tyres did you use because I’m thinking that 700×25 might be a bit narrow? Cheers.

    1. Hi Keith , have you done this? And what tyres did you use.!?! Am doing it next week and have the tyres you mentioned! Thanks

      1. Hi Dominic,

        Tog-Blog is actually under new ownership so unfortunately we don’t have access to this information. We’re really sorry we couldn’t be of more help and we hope you have a great time cycling the Velodyssey!

        All the best,

        Tog-Blog

    2. Hi Keith,

      Tog-Blog is actually under new ownership so unfortunately we don’t have access to this information. We hope that you and your son were able to take this trip together and we’re sorry we couldn’t be of more help!

      Best wishes,

      Tog-Blog

  2. So glad I came across this site as I’m planning on riding part of the Velo route next year. However I will be stating at the Mediterranean town of Adge, which will allow me to cycle Noth west along the Canal du Midi and join the velo route at or near Bordeaux.
    But this I put has certainly inspired me, so many thanks and safe cycling .Lm

  3. Great write up . Kath my partner and I have planned this ride in July 2016 . We are camping
    Are way down as well . So excited .

  4. Hi Keith,
    I’ve signed my wife up for this in August/September 2016
    Do you know the prevailing wind direction. We are going N to S.
    It’s our first big adventure on bikes.

    1. Hi Pete,

      Apologies for the late reply!

      Tog-Blog is actually under new ownership so unfortunately we don’t have access to this information. We’re really sorry we couldn’t be of more help and we hop that you and your wife have an amazing time taking this adventure together!

      Best wishes,

      Tog-Blog

  5. Hi, I’m cycling the velodyssee in mid-June. I want to go north-south, but is the prevailing wind going to be against me? If so, I could go south-north? Many thanks for any advice.

    1. Hi George,

      Apologies for the late reply!

      Tog-Blog is actually under new ownership so unfortunately we don’t have access to this information. We’re sorry that we couldn’t be of more help and hope that you have an amazing time on your trip!

      Best wishes,

      Tog-Blog

  6. Hi :) did you pre book the campsites or were able to just turn up and camp? I want to do this trail but I was hoping to be a bit spontaneous with where I camp so I can ride as little or as much as I want in a day :)

    1. Hi Nicky,

      Tog-Blog is actually under new ownership so unfortunately we don’t have access to this information. We hope that you’re able to find some useful information and to cycle the Velodyssey as we’re sure its quite a trip!

      Best wishes,

      Tog-Blog

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