The most important question from the experience: Would I do it again? Answer: Yes.
Eating, sleeping and riding: a simplified life, and very liberating. I loved it.
- Time – 84 hours elapsed
- Distance – about 880km (c.550miles) and over 5600m of climbing (18400 feet)
- Punctures – 3 (all on the last day, two within minutes of each other)
- Gashed tyres – 1
- Falls – 1
- Mechanicals – 0 (other than the bent rear mech hanger as a result of the fall)
- Sworn at by drivers – 0 (as far as I know)
- Drivers sworn at – 4
- Hooted at by drivers – 1 (a friendly warning as I was heading for a ‘no-cycles’ road)
- Pills/medicines taken – 0
- Shops visited – 1
- McDonald’s visited – 1
- Directions requested – 3
- Raindrops felt – 0 (lucky – very hot but dry)
- Cramps – 0
- Water refills by knocking at random house – 1
- Garmin ‘Off course’ messages – innumerable
- Almost impassable cycle tracks – many
- Phantom cycle tracks – loads
- Time spent lost – a few hours
- Fun had – immeasurable
- Lessons learned – countless
- Satisfaction gained – huge
- Lunacy factor – off the scale
There were times when it was very hard – but they were vastly outweighed by the times when it was exhilarating, and by the feeling of satisfaction at having done it.
Would I do it differently? A bit.
- My routing left much to be desired. I didn’t understand that going for cycle routing meant going for unsuitable paths and tracks in preference to perfectly good roads. Equally, I guess that going for road routing would not work perfectly as it would miss out on some great paths and would put me on some unsuitable roads.
- On balance, if I were to do something similar, I’d go for routing using the driving option, avoiding highways, and then work out detours around any major roads that got included, and ways to include particularly good paths.
- Not booking hotels in advance was a little bit of a pain – but added to the excitement. To be able to book ahead safely, my daily milage targets would have to be relatively modest to make sure I got to the hotel at the right time. That would take away a bit of the challenge but would give more time to stop en route to take in the scenery and any local attractions.
- I guess you need to know why you are riding in the first place: is it to get somewhere as quickly as possible, or within a certain timescale, or is it to be a tourist or just to enjoy the ride?
- I wanted to take my road bike because I was climbing mountains when I got out to the alps. Had that not been the case I would have gone for something better suited to long distances. I guess that would have slowed me down which might have made me feel more of a cycle tourist. Perhaps I’d have been more prepared to view the ride as an end in itself, rather than a means of getting to the alps as quickly as practicable.
- I love my carbon saddle but it is probably best kept for rides up to about 6 hours. If I did a similar ride again I’d have to sacrifice some lightness for something more comfortable.
- I can see the advantages of riding with one or more others – safety, companionship, the pleasure of a shared experience etc. On the other hand, I liked the independence and selfishness of just thinking about me – and you’d have to be well matched as cyclists not to get frustrated by the other’s speed, whether faster or slower.
- I took, all packed in three bike bags:
- cycling clothes – one jersey, one pair of gloves, glasses, helmet, one pair of socks, two pairs of shorts, rain jacket, shoes, arm and leg warmers:
- evening clothes – one pair of shorts, one t-shirt, socks and underwear, one pair of trainers:
- other, bike – Garmin, pump, bell, one spare tube, puncture repair kit, multi tool, tyre levers, lights (2 battery and 2 rechargeable), one bottle, lock and long cable,
- other, non-bike – 9 oat bars, electrical tape, toothbrush, toothpaste, anti-perspirant, medicines and plasters, portable charger and adapter, passport, money, ferry ticket, credit cards, biro, reading and sun glasses, phone, plastic bags and dry sacks, two bungees, sheet of places passed through or nearby, wipes.
- I used almost everything I took. The unused items were: the multitool, cable ties, lights (save for one small rear light that I used on the final run in to Les Carroz when it got a little bit darker as the storm clouds gathered – but delivered nothing), electrical tape, medicines (paracetamol and ibuprofen), tyre levers and spare plastic bags. All of them were pretty trivial extras – the only remotely significant items as far as weight went were the multitool and the lights and I think those were essential, even if I was lucky enough not to have needed them.
- A slightly bigger frame bag would have been useful but for cheap and cheerful versions, the bags did really well.
- Could I have done it in the hoped-for 3 days? Possibly, possibly not. Everything would have had to go in my favour to do that: no mechanicals, good weather, friendly winds, a route on roads and good paths, no getting lost, no falling off, perhaps an earlier start each day.
- I’ve promised Mrs O, no big solo challenges next year, but our younger son is looking at April’s Rotterdam Marathon and it might be fun to run that with him …