So that’s it – the clock has ticked into 2016, bringing with it the realisation that in 7 months time we will be setting off on our bikes to cycle over 1000 miles from our home on the northern flank of Dartmoor to a beach at Sete in the South of France ………………… or at least that’s the plan!
It’s been some time since I first posted about our idea and in the meantime we’ve been chatting about what we need to think about to make sure we get everything in place for, what will be, quite a challenge.
Initially our thought was that we would just cycle the Velodyssey route along the West Coast of France to Northern Spain, but our love of the South of France took over and our plans changed to cycle down the West Coast to Bordeaux and then pick up the cycle route ‘Des Deux Mers’ that follows the Canal Du Midi to allow us to end up being able to paddle our feet in the Mediterranean, before a much needed rest somewhere in Provence.
It sounds easy enough if you say it quickly, but reality is going to be slightly different as we realised when, earlier this week, we flew from Bristol to Toulouse and then drove down past Sete. Just looking down at our intended route from the plane and then following the route of the Canal Du Midi made us take a rather deep breath and really appreciate what we have taken on!
Needless to say we’ve been doing a lot of research into what we’ll be doing and what we will need (which included an enjoyable day for hubby & youngest at the Bike Show in Birmingham) and as a result have spent hours looking at:
- routes (recognised cycle routes or doing it our own way?)
- navigation systems (highlighted maps or a GPS?)
- accommodation (hotels or camping??)
- pre-planned stops or a more flexible approach
- bikes (classic tourers or new ‘gravel bikes’?
- equipment (panniers or trailer?)
- charity fundraising?
………And most importantly how to get ‘mum’ cycling at a faster pace than ‘Driving Miss Daisy!!
Our youngest has also managed to arrange to do his week’s work-experience at The Bike Shed in nearby Crediton http://www.bikesheduk.com/crediton-store during the week before we’re due to leave (hoping he’ll learn some basic maintenance skills) and we’ve started to look at the training we will need to do (hoping the rain and wind will stop at some time over the next few months)
For the last couple of months we have had a table filled with Michelin Maps covering the route we’ll be taking and one of our first decisions is that have decided that we won’t stick exactly to the recognised cycle routes. An example of where we will go ‘off-piste’ is around Nantes – we try to avoid cities whenever possible and the Velodyssey runs straight through its centre. Looking at the map there is a way we can avoid having to go into the City by following quiet roads to cross the estuary by Ferry just west of the town.
We also want to try to visit the Ile D’Oleron on our way down (the home to many happy family hoildays when the boys were younger) which means we will not cycle the route that passes along the coast via Rochefort, so in a lot of places we’ll be doing our own thing! – All being well we won’t go too wrong
Christmas did bring our first main purchase though. Having looked at the maps and from our experience of sometimes missing junctions & elongating routes unnecessarily as a result – we felt it was best to use a mix of maps & GPS for navigation en route. After looking at a range of options we plumped for a Garmin Edge 1000, which means we’ll be able to plan our route and load it in ahead of the journey.
At first looking there seem to be a range of online route-planners that we can use including Garmin Connect http://www.connect.garmin.com , Bike Route Toaster http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com , Strava http://www.strava.com or Map my Ride http://www.mapmyride.com and we’re starting to look at which one will be best – I’m sure they will be able to do lots of things for us but to be honest our thought at the moment is that we’ll just find the simplest one to use, which will allow us to easily load a long-distance route.
So that’s it – 7 months and counting – we’ve got lots to plan and lots of things to sort out before we go – one of the biggest things being the bikes we’ll use – although having discovered that Specialized bikes are much cheaper in France – we may try to get a recon-trip in before we go!
Follow our trip through the blog & regular sharing via #AllaboutFrance regular monthly link-up on Lou Messugo Blog