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.
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.
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!
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.
I took my trusty Rab Alpine 200 Down Sleeping Bag which was easily warm enough and is very light.
You cant go wrong with a Thermarest Neo air, and the Thermarest Neoair XLite is great for summer camping.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.