My first touring experience

By August 24, 2016Lifestyle

We decided to cycle from Girona (Catalunya) to Kent (England) for our honeymoon. With 1,500 km to cover over 12 days it wasn’t going to be your everyday relaxed cycling tour, especially given our bicycle – a fully loaded tandem with more similarities to a motor home than a bicycle!

Added to that it was my first cycling tour experience and what a journey I was in for; highs, lows and everything in between. We left Girona on our wedding day at 7pm in the evening. As we ascended our first 10% gradient climb to the spa hotel at 9pm we laughed at the craziness of the challenge ahead. But we were lost in romance and happiness from the wonderful day we had spent with our families.

Our first full day on the bike was planned at 200 km. By 5pm we still had 80 km to cover. This was a crucial point in our trip. Would we dive into the first hotel we saw, or would we cycle through the night to achieve what we had set out to do? Tired and with only a banana sandwich to fuel us we pedaled on into the night.

We had decided not to camp (mainly to keep our weight low given the mileage we had to cover). So we opted for a mix of warm showers, Airbnb and hotels. We stayed in everything from a wooden shed to a 3 star hotel with spa bath! This meant we could keep costs realistic but also treat ourselves a little at the start, middle and end of the trip.

One day sticks out a lot which was a particularly epic one. We woke at 6:30am in our wooden shed and after jam biscuits for breakfast, hit the road just in time for a beautiful sunrise over the hills. We descended for what seemed like forever (apparently we also hit 89km/hr) into a valley which only meant one thing. We were in for a lot of climbing that day! The climbs were long, steep and included switch backs. We rose up out of the valley, winding past castle ruins, through arches and into forests. The sun beat down and we were both breathing heavy, pushing hard on the pedals and slowly grinding up the mountain. Me (the steerer) and Louise (the rear motor) had to work completely in sync to get up the steep gradients. One wrong gear change, one person stopping to break and we would stop still. Any car that drove by cheered us on.

At 6pm we still had 80 km to go and several climbs. Passers by now chuckled at me slumped on the floor outside a supermarket as Louise stocked up for our second lunch of the day! We looked into the distance and saw wind turbines above steep hills, “surely we can’t be going up there” we said in harmony. Sure enough and in front of a beautiful sunset we were rising above the clouds and past the wind turbines – it was amazing and such hard work! Night fell as we descended to our accommodation in pitch black, arriving at 10pm. What a day. We had climbed 3,400 m over 214 km.

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Arrival selfie after an epic day out

The fatigue really set in the next day and was followed by several difficult days which tested our spirit. But just like a good marriage, when one of us was down the other pulled them back up and vice versa. We did not argue, bicker or complain about the challenge ahead, but relished the adventure and constant changing environment we were experiencing.

We really needed a day off. Louise’s knees were bad and I was, well, feeling very numb in important areas! So we stopped at the Loire river and covered only 20 km on our rest day between accommodation. This really helped the next stage through northern France, which due to our direct trajectory north (but to the west of Paris) took us down some long boring roads. We missed south France!

When the wind blew in our faces we pushed harder, maintaining our average speed of around 20 km/hr. When the road was really boring, we sang, fantasied about scarecrow zombies, or just chatted about the most random things. It was a complete escape from our daily pressures. The biggest concern became finding a good coffee stop or smoked salmon for our lunch baguette.

I cycle a heck of a lot but training does not compare to the satisfaction of your legs taking you from one point to another. When we hit the north coast of France, what a sense of achievement we both felt, our four legs powering us across the length of France. After an easy ferry crossing we were met by sunshine and fish and chips at Folkestone with Louise’s dad John. This was quickly followed by a pint and sprint for Newchurch village sign at sunset.

We are already planning our next tandem adventure!

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