I had a quick look at the calendar this weekend and realised that in 25 weeks time we will be pushing our bikes off the Ferry at Roscoff and starting, what we hope will be, a fantastic cycle ride through France to eventually dip our toes in the Mediterranean at Sete.
As I mentioned in the last blog we have spent the last few months starting to plan our ride and everything is now starting to come together a bit.
We have spent evenings in front of the fire plotting our route onto the Michelin maps, trying (often in vain) to stop the cat curling up and dozing off just where we wanted to check our route.
The route follows some of the well-marked and mapped Velodyssey route, but we have chosen our own way in some places avoiding large towns, which just don’t appeal to us or choosing to visit old family holiday haunts like the beautiful old village of Brouage near La Rochelle. Leaving Bordeaux we will head towards Toulouse and then pick up the Canal Du Midi and follow it to Sete.
The route is now partially loaded onto the Garmin, although this has not been without its difficulties (and occasional expletive). What we’ve found is that on some parts of the trail we have had to zoom right in and click on the route almost every 20 metres to make sure that the computer (which seems to have a mind of its own) doesn’t take us off on a route that it seems to feel more comfortable with! Also in some places the cycle track doesn’t appear on the planner so we have only been able to plot the route along roads that run parallel with the trail – I’m sure that when we reach those parts that the off-road trails will be obvious and we’ll just divert ourselves gently across onto them ……. or at least that’s our plan!
We’ve also been taking a closer look at bikes for the trip and have had great advice from the incredibly helpful staff at The Bike Shed in both Crediton and Exeter. The main thing is that the bikes we choose need to be robust enough to carry front and rear panniers, but (in the case of our boys) cool enough for bike-loving teenage boys who will use them as every day bikes after
We have a few options available to us, but top of the list at the moment are Raleigh Mustang , Trek Crossrip or Specialized Sirrus and Specialized Diverge. All of these look cool for teenagers with their bright colours etc and are certainly robust enough for the trip, coming from the new range of ‘gravel-bikes’ from the cyclocross ‘stable’ . For myself I have ridden numerous bikes from Dawes to Specialized and beyond, but the most comfortable I have ridden is my old beast of burden as I call it. This is my old black Kona which I’ve used for years as a panniered support bike whilst the family grow up, I will give him a make over new running gear wheels ,brakes etc., whilst he may not be a sexy young thing -in fact he’s rather battered, but he’s certainly dependable and seems to be pretty much indestructible, which is important with what we’re looking to do.
Of course we are looking to keep costs down as much as possible and new bikes will be one of the biggest purchases we have to make, so we have been looking around to see where we can get the best value. So you can probably imagine that we were rather surprised when we popped into a cycle shop in Uzes in the South of France and found that Specialized bikes are approximately 30% cheaper in France than they are here. I know the exchange rate is particularly good at the moment, but this is a huge saving on the cost of new bikes at home and effectively means we could get 3 for the price of 2 – so we may plan an early trip to France on a cycle-buying trip – any excuse!!
We’ve also been looking at fundraising and whether to make our family challenge a chance to raise money for a chosen charity. We’ve looked at a few options and have decided to use it as a chance to raise money for the Wooden Spoon, the Rugby Charity, which supports disadvantaged and disabled children across the UK. We are all rugby fans (supporting Exeter Chiefs at home and Toulon when we’re in France) and have been involved in rugby in one way or another for a number of years, so sport is something that is close to our hearts. Also Wooden Spoon is one of the main funders of the Hitz programme which is based in Premiership Rugby Clubs and uses rugby to increase young people’s resilience & confidence to help them develop skills to get them back into education or employment http://www.hitzrugby.com This is a great programme and works really well in Exeter and across the Country, so we are keen to do what we can to support it further. We have set up a dedicated Just Giving Page at www.justgiving.com/moortomedbybike should you want to support our efforts. we also have a Facebook page Moor To Med by Bike, where we’ll post updates as our planning continues & our trip gets underway.
Of course 25 weeks sounds like a lot of time and there is plenty of time to train for the challenge ahead, but we are already grabbing any chance we can to get out on the bikes to to get our legs (and bums) ‘bike-fit’. We are very lucky where we live in that we have the Round Dartmoor way running right past our front-door, which means that in a few minutes we can be on the Granite-Trail, which runs along the old railway line from Okehampton to Lydford, a great local training ride. We also have the option to drive the 25 minutes into Exeter and cycle out on the Exe-Trail, following it either to Exmouth and on to Budleigh Salterton or along the other side of the Exe to Dawlish, which is the route we chose to take on Saturday.
This is a great cycle route, which follows the edge of the estuary to the huge sand spit at Dawlish Warren, then following the coast to the seaside town of Dawlish. We only cycled it once (about 26 miles return), but it’s a beautiful ride and doing it twice will be a good training for us as we get nearer the start date – it also provides us with a good chance to improve our trail-side maintenance skills, which I’m sure will be much needed on our adventure.
So that’s it – less than 25 weeks to go – so much to do – so little time!!
Sharing this link via the monthly All About France Linkup