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Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure

Pips Tour De France

By Alpkit
10, Sep, 2016

A summer holiday cycling down through France and having to cycle all the way back

We’re just back from riding 3200 kilometres through France... Just the two of us, father and son, on a tandem, for a month. So what were the highlights, lows, the random, and the downright odd things that happened?

It was a composite adventure made up of a core, a new bikepacking route in France called the French Divide, a ride to get there from Bromsgrove in the UK, and a ride back along the Atlantic coast of France to get a ferry home. In total it took 27 days to complete. We rode every day and covered distances from as little as 61kms to as much as 221kms.

Our total distance covered was over 3200kms or 2000 miles. We averaged 119 kms or 74 miles a day.

Like all of the best adventures, things didn't always go to plan, and the going could sometimes be described as tough. There were no tears though, and there was lots and lots of laughter. 

Spending all day together for so long was great. Some of the conversations we had were unusual though.

“Dad, let’s say there is a zombie apocalypse on its way”

“Err yes” I say. To which Tom replies. “Well you have to choose something you have seen today to protect yourself from the Zombies”

Tom picked a tractor with a bale spike, I picked a crane with something heavy on its end. Unsurprisingly we encountered no zombies so currently we don’t know who chose the best tool for the job.

The French Divide to Reims had been reasonably flat. Onwards it became a bit hillier, then it entered the Morvan national park which is definitely lumpy. The next checkpoint was the other side of the Morvan at Toulon sur Arroux. First we visit the Champagne region.

We made up another amusement called “Squirrel”. When you see a dog in a garden say “Squirrel” then watch the dog chase along its fence whilst barking at you. The occasional variant on this game, is finding that the dog isn’t actually secured behind the fence which necessitates pedalling like hell to escape the chasing dog.

Speaking of Squirrels Tom made up a mini soap opera that translated the shrieks of the squirrels. Characters included Gerald, Marjorie and Rhonda. I can’t remember the plot, though sadly Rhonda died during the trip after being involved in a hit and run incident.

We stopped under the shade of a tree for a drink of water. Living in the Peak District, an early highlight of the trip was definitely the weather. Virtually no rain for a whole month. What’s not to like? Well we are certainly not going to complain about it not raining, but let’s say that the mid to high 30s temperatures could be tough to ride in especially for Tom. We seemed eternally on the lookout for, or drinking large quantities of water.

I explained to Tom that whilst we certainly could complete the French Divide route, that our speed would mean that it would take a lot longer than we had envisaged. This would mean we'd not have time to ride back up the Atlantic coast.  It did not take us long to decide that we'd leave the French Divide route, and take the easier roads instead towards the Atlantic coast. We had completed 1000km of the French Divide route. 

27 days on the tandem and it would have been a shame not to have a few random things happen., such as one night we came back to the tent to find a bottle of beer that was left by one of our instagram followers. Then after having left the French Divide route we were approached by a chap in a campsite asking why we were there, rather than on the French Divide route! Lastly on the ferry home a guy chatted with us who said he’d seen, and loved Tom’s Alpkit video. It's a small world. 

So we'd ridden to France, diagonally across France, all that was left, was to ride North up the Atlantic coast to get a ferry home. A mere 1000 kilometres.

A mate had told me that there was a traffic free route called La Vélodyssée that went North along the Atlantic, so we set off following that.  Then 3,226 kilometres after leaving Bromsgrove, we arrived in St Malo.

Tom has just entered into 'big school' where he’s just started properly learning French. He earned a merit at his first lesson as he already knew how to say lots of words. In France Tom was always asking what words meant that he saw on signs. By the end of the trip he’d happily order drinks, coffees, or pay the bill. The wonders of learning from life and adventure. 

My personal highlight was meeting the French Divide organisers and riders. Lovely people from all over the world. The riding was pretty special too. I’d definitely recommend cycling through rural France.

Enjoy the full journey in pictures over on Minipips Blog

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In pictures

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Share your thoughts about this article.

Simon Day

Can we see a kit list and more about the bike?

Well done boys.

Fabulous story Rich.
I wish this stuff was compulsory. It shows how life experiences are just as valuable (probably more so) than SATs tests.
Tom's got some creative juices flowing there as well as his physical capacity.
I saw you guys at Wilf's cafe for the Tour Divide talk early in the year and I've no doubt you chaps will knock it off soon.
Hope you shared the beer with the little guy?

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