Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Cycling Paris to Champagne
Five days after the triathlon I headed over to France with a friend for a four day cycle trip in the Champagne district. Over the years I've done a few cycling trips, and this one was particularly plesant for a couple of reasons:
1. I took my own bike - BRILLIANT
2. We prioritised Champagne testing equally as we did the cycling, which made for a lovely compromise
I've been a little hesitant about taking my own bike cycling as the plane/train hassle factor seems quite joy-less. Why they haven't mastered an easier transition is completely beyond me, and despite even recent improvements the process is still littered with flaws.
We took the Eurostar from London to Paris, and opted to spend an extra £20 each way to store our bikes on the train. These spaces are like little golden nuggets, and thus very rare and precious, and have only recently been introduced (previously, you had to either dismantle your bike into a bike box or book your bike on a different train and wait for it at the other end).
We also needed an onward train from Paris over to Champagne - however the precious golden bike tickets were long gone (the TGV has only 4 bike spots per train!!). We also couldn't book the bike spots from UK over the net, so had to book through a call centre thingo. Then they need to post the tickets, which requires a signatiure and without going into a very long complicated story - the bottom line is this:
Taking Your Bike On Trains Reveals A Very Archaic Flawed System
(even in France!)
We were lucky, and our bikes weren't damaged in transit - but when leaving Paris yesterday we found a very upset woman who had just collected her bike from the Eurostar and the handlebar was bent right out of shape. The Eurostar man just bended it back into position and said 'Voila.' The woman's french was as good as their English and she couldn't communicate to them she needed an insurance form and what followed was ten minutes of very rude, very patronising exchange between the 'staff' and the woman, who just wanted a form!
Unlike the previous cycle trip to Germany, our French experience wasn't quite as cycle friendly (no dedicated bike paths!) but the car folk kept a good distance and the people in the countryside were thrilled (Australians?! On Bikes?????!)
Wineries recieved us without the same level of enthusiasm reserved for those in cars - but that's to be expected, and we did manage a couple of tastings, and purchases!
This was the first test of my bike as a touring bike, and unfortunately - it didn't pass the test! Before leaving I looked into attaching a rack on the back for my paniers, and the bad news was that my bike doesn't have the necessary bits and bobs to support a rack. Erg.
Instead I had to invest in a rack which comes straight out from under your saddle, with no lower support. The downside to these racks is that it can only hold 10 kilos, you've got no protection from your paniers hitting into your wheel, and they do have a tendancy to twist as you're going uphill (resulting in a panier in the wheel).
I pushed my 10 kilo limit a little (as you can see below!) and didn't have too many problems with my paniers getting in the way. A couple of little scrapes but nothing major - fortunately my cycling buddy didn't have the same weight restriction so she was able to take the heavier items like the tent. A convenient excuse!
Overall it was a brilliant trip, and a lovely change from cycling in the UK. Our longest day saw us in the saddle for eight hours - just enough to get those muscles complaining a little :)
In other news, it's now about 10 weeks until the London Triathlon - so time to get moving and shaking! I'm back with Paul the Personal Trainer dude tomorrow, and looking forward to some plans to improve my run time (again).