10. ATW : Going on a bike trip in 8 spicy short stories

Version française

Almost a month on the road… I tell you everything !!!

But before my little spicy anecdotes, let’s just be clear, going on a bike trip can seem uneasy (ans it is) but it’s also real freedom and freedom deserves some efforts. Touring Europe on a bike is the cheapest way to do so while caring for our planet earth and taking some time to live. It’s lonelier than a walking tour or a tour using public transport but it’s a good way to discover that everything is possible and that life is a matter of passion and self-determination. And most of all, a bike tour is the best way to find little hidden heavens (and sometimes not so far from home) where you can have a break and take some time to dream ! So no, I won’t make my wandering cooking workshop concept a life concept but Yes this project is absolutely worth it !

  1. Your equipment
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    Here you go, you spent weeks trying to choose your bike, the bags that looks perfect on it (or not), you spent hours trying to figure out if you needed a cart or not, you talked about your outfit with your friends for days and now it’s time to go and this is only now that you face reality. The departure is THE moment when you discover that a cart would have been much easier for your bike to be more stable (well, too bad), the trekking bag standing on your bike side bags was a smart idea but it’s going to require some training before you figure out how to stand up on the pedals (good news, your first mountain day is in 5 days) and the special bike panty was not needed as you’re not especially suffering from this part of your body (you’ll find a buyer on Ebay). Meanwhile, you’re also very happy you bought a helmet and a pair of gloves and you didn’t pay for the extra very expensive modifications on your bike like the ergonomic handles, the anti flat tyre wheel etc. it made you save almost 400 euros that you’ll be happy to find when you’ll need to eat something different.
  2. The itinerary… only if you knew
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    In french speaking Europe there are 2 very good cycling types of roads : “voies vertes” which are already very cool and “eurovélo” which are the best (You can also find local cycling roads but it’s hard to find before you’re actually there). But if you want to reach a special place which is not on one of those itineraries then you have to cross car roads, paths and “places” that haven’t been validated by the cycling comitee (if you see what I mean)… “What do you mean Google maps is taking me somewhere which is not even on the map ? How come the side of the river is finally not passable when my entire itinerary was there? Where is “Bob” the guy paid by the town who is supposed to clear the path behind the industries ? And how come the map doesn’t say that this path is for tractors and is therefore absolutely destroyed and full of horseflies jumping on you as soon as you slow down (you haven’t drink for the last 38 minutes but it’s ok you can wait another 10 minutes…) ? Well, you knew difficulties were going to pop up and you love them only because they make the smooth days much nicer than expected !
  3. Wild camping
    Okinawa_Onna_Camp ground_Camping_Top things to do_Top places where to go_Green_Landscape

    Here we can find 2 ways of dealing with the situation. But if you’re a woman alone like I am, despite your infinite trust on human beings and the experience which has never made you lie it’s possible that you finally end up not sleeping in case someone decides to touch your precious (AKA bike)… Do not trust your instinct when you think that spreading your knives (cooking knives, opinel, swiss army knife… I’m well armed) around you could be THE idea of the day because the next morning you might be very tired when you wake up and forget about it all and you might be trapped in your own incredibly smart plan… In short, municipal campsites are a little bit expensive but are still the best option where you’ll find a shower, a flat space for your tent and people willing to cheer you up after a long and exhausting day (you’ll see it’s nice to hear your voice after a long day of silence)
  4. What to eat
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    If you too have decided to pass on the portable stove and the camping fried pans, know that you won’t find somewhere to buy food every day (decent food being even more difficult). You might eat the same thing almost every meal. Vegetables and fruits (apples, carrots, tomatoes) will become your besties, bread and “vache qui rit” (the only cheese without any trace of dairy products that can be kept out of your fridge) will fill your stomach and little dry sausages should give you all the fat you need to survive the day. Don’t be afraid of biscuits, cereal bars and candies, they can sometimes save the day when your energy goes low.
  5. What to wear
    Backpacking & trekking clothes list - Liste de vêtements pour le trekking & voyage sac à dos

    Anything ! Well, you can imagine that a pair of jeans and a leather jacket won’t be the best outfit ever but proper cycling outfit can be very expensive therefore if you’re on a tight budget a pair of leggings and a long t-shirt can definitely do. Do not forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and a scarf and a light cotton jacket for when you go down and there are only clouds in the sky. And last but not least the very common combo “socks and sneakers”  to protect your toes… Cycling is like hikking, you don’t need to be glamourous, you need to be comfortable !
  6. Your worst enemies while cycling
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    Now that you’re on the road and not focusing on the technical details anymore, you discover that you have a few ennemies around there (no care bear world even when you’re good to the planet). Let’s talk about the wind, this very charming element that on top of trying to steal your helmet and sunglasses, challenges you on every slop by changing to head wind and intensifying its strength. What about the rain ? On top of making sure you’re showered for the day it will make your legging weight go from 150 g to 5 kg. And we haven’t talk about fake flat yet… This little traitor waiting for you just after this very difficult uphill slope that will make you stay on your 1st chain ring wondering if you’re bicycle is broken after such a hard effort… But your bike is ok, only your legs are suffering from the nasty slop and the next real flat you’ll be able to go back to your 3rd chain ring and it will reassure you. This said, on your bike it’s like in today life if you can avoid your ennemies, do it !
  7. … And your besties

    But good news is that you’ll also find allies on the road like the shadow from the trees to protect you from the sun. Downhill slops, especially if it goes for a few km, it will give you the opportunity to rest your legs and make you move forward on your map. Public bench and fountains that will offer you a calm and comfortable place to rest and have a break. And last but not least, people, who will cheer you up on the way and send you huge smiles saying “Go girl ! We’re proud of you ! You’re very brave!” and this is priceless and certainly the most helpful in the end.
  8. How do you know you’ve crossed the border and you’re now in France ?
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    Does it seem that the roads are not maintained anymore ? You’re in France !
    Does it seem that people are insulting you through their car windows ? You’re in France !
    Does it seem that people are not exactly trying to help you find your way when you’re lost and asking for help, even in their own language ? You’re in paris and Paris is… in France !
    In short, you always know that you crossed the Belgian or Swiss border. The french are the french no matter if you approach them on a bike. But the very few nice specimen that you’ll finally meet will be worth the trip and they might even be surprised by their reputation.

Conclusion : Cycling isn’t easy but is accessible to everyone and like any other activity cycling also have its own other sides (we do remember the article about hitchhiking in Laos, right?). The only thing you need to remember is that if I’m able to do it without training and with an entire kitchen in my side bags, there is no reason for you not to survive a bike trip and create crazy and fun memories about it. And for the rest… I’m waiting for your own anecdotes !