Tag Archives: tour

Mont Ventoux by Brompton – Kit and Planning

The Bikes

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We rode standard S6L Brompton’s, with -12% lowered gearing (the standard swap to the 44 tooth front chainring).

Both bikes had SPD’s and front carrier blocks fitted.

Kit

I split my kit between an S-bag (for the heavy stuff) and a Carradice Longflap Camper bag, which held my sleeping bag and bed roll. This was attached to the seat post via a Carradice SQR block. As a luggage system it worked extremely well, being stable and also easy to attach and detach.

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Alastair used two C bag’s, with one fitted to the saddle loops via the method described in the seven league boots blog. This worked ok although to be perfect it could have done with more spacing between the bag and the seatpost, in order to stop the bag hitting one’s legs.

For traveling on the trains, I used an Ikea Dimpa bag and Alastair used a specific Carradice folding bike bag. Both folded up small, enabling them to be transported with us on the bikes.

We took an old Eurohike tent, which was ok, but a specific backpacking tent would have been better since the poles were too long for any of our bags. Sleeping bags, sleeping mats, etc were standard hiking items.

We didn’t take cooking gear, and only a minimum of food, since we weren’t going too far from civilisation. Clothes were mostly merino wool to avoid the need for regular washing 🙂

Camera’s

As mentioned in my previous post, as well as a Nexus 5 smartphone, I also took an Autographer wearable camera. I was very impressed with it – the quality of the shots was good and it meant that there was no need to think about what to shoot when climbing up Mont Ventoux.

The Autographer mounted to the bike
The Autographer mounted to the bike

I got some great, adhoc, shots at the top which I wouldn’t have even thought about taking with a conventional camera. These were great after the event; reminding us of people we met and conversations that we had. The battery lasted for most of the day as well.

Planning

Most of the routes were planned using Google maps and then copied into Strava routes. These could then be used either on our smartphones, or downloaded to my Garmin Edge 200. This was used for most navigation.

We traveled by Eurostar to/ from Paris and from Paris to/from Avignon via TGV. The trains were very comfortable and on time. It’s worth noting that in the summer it is possible to get a Eurostar direct from London to Avignon but it only runs on Saturdays.

Mont Ventoux by Brompton – Stage 4

Bromptoux Day 4
Stage Distance: 40 miles (approx)
Stage Start: 8:00am

After the previous day’s exertions, we weren’t in too much of a hurry to leave. But we remembered the near perfect cycling weather from the morning before, coupled with the very hot conditions when we rode from Avignon. So it was another early start.

We quickly packed down the tent, loaded up the bikes and rode out of Villes Sur Auzon. Our stay had been brief but successful. With Mont Ventoux behind us, both figuratively and literally, we cycled towards Avignon.

The ride to Avignon passed without incident. It was gently downhill and we made excellent time, getting into Avignon before 10am. We even managed to avoid riding on the ring road, which made for a far more pleasant experience. Soon we were in the historic centre, taking in the sights of the famous bridge and town walls.

The bridge at Avignon
The bridge at Avignon

Avignon

Purely by change the Avignon performing arts festival was also happening. It is like a French equivalent of the Edinburgh Fringe festival, and the streets were full of people, enjoying street performances and queuing for tickets for shows. Co-incidentally, when we rode the Coast and Castles route last year, we finished in Edinburgh when the festival was on. Again , purely by chance.

Essential cycling equipment
Essential cycling equipment

While sitting in a cafe we met another English cycle tourist, Louise, who was cycling from the UK to Morocco. She’d had a hard time through Northern France, with bad weather, and was enjoying both the summer sun and the festival. It was great to catch-up with someone also on a tour, albeit somewhat longer than ours.

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In Avignon

After wandering around for a while we chanced upon a great park up above the castle. The views were fantastic, including views of Mont Ventoux. It seemed strange to think that, only yesterday, we cycled to the top of the mountain we could see.

We've been there!
We’ve been there!

Unfortunately, due to the festival, we had a hotel a fair way out of the centre. The, proudly 1 star, hotelf1 was functional. It had beds. That was about it, the toilets and showers being shared on each floor made for a different, part camping, part hotel, experience. We dumped our stuff quickly and went back into town.

In the evening we had an excellent time, watching street performances and enjoying some great food and drink. The town was heaving with people and the atmosphere was excellent.

Going Home

The following morning it was time to go home. We caught the 8:57am train from Avignon to Paris, cycled across Paris again, then caught the Eurostar home to London, arriving at 15:30. Getting from the south of France to home in six and a half hours isn’t bad 🙂

Time to go home :)
Time to go home 🙂
Packed up
Packed up

Reflecting on the trip, it was a pretty manic few days. We cycled a total of about 100 miles, cycled up a 1912m mountain, went 45mph on a Brompton, and all in 4 days. Excellent fun.

 

Mont Ventoux by Brompton – Stage 1

Bromptoux Day 2
Stage Distance: 40 miles (approx)
Stage Start: 6:40am

I awoke early. It wasn’t the bed that was the problem, it was pretty comfortable and quiet. I’d not slept brilliantly; there were too many things swimming around in my head. What if we missed a train? What if the bike broke? What if Mont Ventoux was closed for some reason? The last dream I remember having centred around getting a puncture then looking at the wheel, only to discover that the rim seemed to be made of tin foil.

Clearly it was time for a coffee and then time to get on the road. We loaded up the Brompton’s and set off.

We made good time to St Pancras, a pretty easy ride. Even the traffic lights seemed in our favour, being mostly green all the way. Checking in for the Eurostar was simple. I’d opted to bag my bike in an Ikea Dimpa bag which worked well, even when the security staff insisted that the Brompton’s needed to be placed in the small plastic tray’s to go through the scanners. Somehow we balanced them.

The Eurostar left on time and we made good time to Paris.

Across Paris

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Gare de Lyon – Paris crossed 🙂

Disembarking at Paris Gare du Nord, we faced the first bit of navigation of the trip, getting across Paris to Gare de Lyon, in order to catch the TGV to Avignon. The route was planned in my Garmin, and fortunately was easy to follow, once we;d found our way out of the station. Paris has more cycle paths than London, and the drivers was pretty good too.

Paris Route

It was hot. Very hot. The ride to Gare de Lyon was short, about 15 minutes, but we arrived sweating even so. Time to pack the bikes back up, load them into the TGV, remember to ‘composter’ our billets, and then we were off. It was a double decker train, and the view from the top deck was pretty good as we sped through France.

Avignon to Villes Sur Auzon

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Loading up at Avignon TGV. The ride was about to get hot…

We got to Avignon on time and unfolded our bikes on the platform. If we thought it was hot in Paris then it was hotter here. We’d arrived at 3:30, pretty much the hottest part of the day, and not we had 30 miles to ride to the campsite.

campsite route

Getting out of Avignon on a bike, particularly from the TGV station, is not easy or fun. We ended up riding the first 300 metres on the hard shoulder of the dual carriageway ring-road, simply because there did not appear to be another way to go. The next 3 miles were on random shared paths, bits of cycle path, and occasionally pavements. There didn’t seem another option. Finally we escaped from Avignon’s grip, and settled into the route; a nice mix of D roads and small farm tracks through the countryside of Provence.

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And there it is, Mont Ventoux!

Suddenly, as we rounded a corner, there it was. In the distance the Beast of Provence reared up, complete with what looked like it’s own weather system on the top. It would not leave our sight for the rest of the ride. Closer and closer we got, and yet it was still in the distance.

We’d under estimated the heat and the ride distance. Although it was nothing when compared with the mountain itself, we were also climbing. We were getting tired, running out of water, and in need of a shower. Fortunately, just as things were beginning to get a little desperate (well ok, things were getting irritating, and hot), we reached the village of Villes Sur Auzon and our campsite. Success.

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At last, the campsite. Lesson learnt, don’t under-estimate the heat of a summer in Provence.

Next steps were booking in, eating ice cream, pitching the tent and then straight into the pool for a very well needed dip and a cool down. We ate at the campsite (despite the waitress asking us repeatedly whether we had a booking, despite the restaurant area being practically empty), then had an early night.

Ok, so maybe just a little wine :)
Ok, so maybe just a little wine 🙂

Tomorrow Ventoux. It would be hot. We needed to leave early.

Brompton Touring – Test Run

Loaded Brompton

I packed everything I’d need for Bromptoux into my bags at the weekend and had a quick test ride to make sure it’s all ok. Seems to be – I have all the heavy stuff in an S-bag on the front, with my sleeping bag and roll mat, plus some lighter stuff, in a Carradice Longflap Camper which is attached to the seatpost using an SQR block. Given that I only weigh 65kg and the maximum rider weight of a Brompton is 100kg then I figure a couple of extra kg hanging from the saddle won’t cause any problems. I’ll probably try and put the tent poles into the S-bag as well for the real trip.

The Brompton is a standard S6L with lowered gearing. Hopefully lowered enough 🙂