Saturday, 25 June 2011

Why You Should Keep a Tour Log

One of the biggest benefits we had from JR's iPad on our Paris to Venice trip - second only to its help in navigating our way across 1440 km of Europe - was in JR's daily log.

Although many of L'Express' diary entries were phoned through to Tracey, at home in England, some of them were also emailed, and the iPad was a very useful way of collating and storing the daily records.

On a trip as memorable as Paris to Venice, it's hard to imagine you will ever forget the details of each day's pain and pleasure, but as I proved the last time we met, those memories can soon become confused and conflated.

I had a vivid memory of two massive climbs in Austria, following a long day that ended in a bicycle-friendly guest house. I remembered this day particularly because I struggled so much on the first climb that I found myself risking life and limb trying to get a drink from a trickle of water that ran down a slippery, moss-covered rockface.

I remember coming to my senses, dragging muyself onwards and upwards, and then buying two bottles of extortionately priced water just a few hundred metres from the summit. Then I remember the second climb seeming just as hard and us ending the day with a descent to another guest house in a high alpine village.

But apparently my memory is playing tricks. According to JR's memory (and he kept the log, after all), those were on two different days. The day we did two big climbs started with the one into a hanging valley - or was that the second climb of the day?

I do remember my first 'col', because it didn't seem that big, and it was in the Vosges on a quite beautiful and moving morning, near a perfectly-kept first war cemetary. I remember an horrendous thunderstorm that hit us as soon as we crossed the Rhine into Germany, and I remember a thousand other things on the trip, but the exact order in which they happended is becoming less clear - and there are a thousand other things I will have forgotten.

But I'm pleased to say I did keep a journal as well, and I will write it up into a proper account of the trip. Inevitably, I'll dip into JR's as it appears on L'Express blog for details of distances, altitudes and some town names, but my journal will be my memories, my thoughts and my experiences (mainly at the back of the group) from those memorable, but apparently also quite forgettable, two weeks.

And I'll try to do it soon - before I forget what I meant when I wrote it the first time!


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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

First published in the Crack on! newsletter on 21 June:

This is a story of a middle-aged man, an old bicycle and some
very, very big mountains.

When a group of friends decided their next big adventure would be
a bike ride from London to Paris, taking in the Vosges mountains
in France, the Black Forest (more mountains) in Germany and the
Austrian and Italian Alps, I said "Me too!"

The plan was to get a suitable bike and high-tech equipment, do
lots of training and to be a super-fit, finely-tuned machine by
'the off'.

Things didn't quite work out that way. The new bike didn't
materialise, the high-tech equipment wasn't forthcoming and
training was rather limited.

In short, I wasn't really ready last September, when we set off
to catch the train for London and on to Paris.

I had put new tyres on my old, heavy mountain bike, I'd bought a
£25 tent from Amazon and some £14 panniers via eBay. My sleeping
bag was in an old £10 rucksack tied on top of the panniers.

As I say, I wasn't really ready, but the train from home, the Eurostar
and especially the rest of the team weren't going to wait - I had a
deadline and it was now or never.

So, ready or not, I had to get on with it. And get on with it I
did. Nine hundred miles and 14 days later, we were in Venice.

How? Well, we started pedalling at Notre Dame by the Seine and
stopped when we reached the Grand Canal in Venice.

For the duration of the trip I spent most of the time going in
the right direction, if not always as fast as I would have liked.

It was a fantastic trip, by the way!

I suppose I could have waited until I was really ready...

But if you spend your life waiting to be totally ready, not moving
until everything is just right and stuck where you are because you
don't have everything you 'need', you'll probably never get anywhere.


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Sunday, 5 June 2011

News from the Norwich 50

Norfolk is not flat, except where that helps increase your exposure to a headwind.

Heading generally north out of the city this morning we had some degree of headwind for most of the first 24 miles, until the two routes (100 mile and 50 mile) divided. For most of that first stretch the countryside undulates rather more than you might expect. There are no big hills, of course, but there are some that drag on a bit when the wind's against you as well - not least the last mile or two of that northward section.

Thereafter, we were headed more or less southeastwards for about 15 miles. JR and John agreed we had a tail wind component for that part - as we must have done - but again those little hills were wearing me down. At one point I wondered if my tyres were soft because riding felt harder than it looked. About ten miles out we turned almost due west and it was faster on the flat, with just a few minor undulations before the downhill sprint into the city - interrupted by traffic lights, traffic and, in my case, a detached rear carrier one mile from home.

The rack and my one pannier bounced as I hit a bump in the road at quite high speed and the right-hand stay dropped inside the hanger and briefly onto the block. I've no idea where the bolt went, and it might have fallen out some time earlier. Anyway, no harm was done, as far as I could see, and as I had nearly finished and the bolt hole was too small to thread a cable tie through I took a chance on the remaining bolt hanging in there for a few more minutes.

It did, JR found a bolt of the right size in his bag of bits and it was mended in minutes of me finishing.

I actually measured today at just over 52 miles and, added to the nearly 18 I did yesterday afternoon, that makes this a 70-mile weekend. The biggest mileage since last September's trip.

Today's ride was easily my longest of the year - until next Sunday's St Edmunds Wheel 100!


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