Monday, July 22, 2013

La vie est belle: Râper la route en France.

Greetings Sean and the SOULCRAFT community! It's been too long and I thought I would share some of my recent biking-related activities with the blog readers. I, for one, like bike stories, especially those that show how useful the bicycle remains for transportation, fun and adventure! So, I have a velo-story about a journey to the mother-ship, at least for some of us. In my case I decide to visit Provence, France with a small group of B.F.F. to ride bicycles for a few hundred miles among other distractions. While Polish myself (Pilarski), I chose France because of the bike culture and the stellar roads (see below for more on this and keep in mind I don't actually know anything about the roads in Poland, since I've never been there...yet). Anyway, it seems appropriate to have introduced this thread using my typical non-standard white-bread Ame-ree-con way of saying anything in the land of the franks, so I hope I didn't offend anyone. (Can anyone decipher what I was trying to say?). To get to the point--in English: Road bicycle touring in France rocks...!!!

Why? The reasons for this are not complicated but sometimes rare in other locales, especially in combination: First, the intrinsic beauty of the country side is hard to beat and camping spots both on and off the grid are relatively easy to find with a good map, although be aware these sites are somewhat different than forest service/BLM camping in the United States. Most municipal on-the-grid camp grounds are like KOA on steroids, but cheaper (bring your swim trunks...and a tennis racket if that's your style.). It is also important to note that organized camping is not open year around. I have heard rumors that these facilities close soon after the summer months expire.

Second reason, and importantly, in most "rideable" regions of the world it's rare to ride long distances in relatively remote areas, while camping wherever you like more or less, without a lot of "extra" weight due to the need for H2O, shelter, calories, and coffee (in my case). Yet, in rural France, there are bitchin' century old villages along the way stocked with patisseries on nearly every block, un boucher and REAL coffee. What more do you need? You say water...well, one of the most convenient aspects of this set-up is the potable water fountains in every little village, precluding the need to carry much of it...some pictures to illustrate...

On a personal note, I found that I could ride comfortably all day--in a metabolic context--by gorging on pain au chocolat with a cafe' chaser. My favorite.

Last but definitely not least, the pavement. Perhaps, one has to give socialism some props for this one. The pavement in France is blissful and mostly car-less if you follow the right paths. While I consider myself a mountain biker, and, intrinsically, a lover of wild trails, it's difficult to argue with this...

It's the speed and the views I suppose. I only wish I had my SOULCRAFT with me for this climb, and, maybe more importantly, this decent...

but alas, I could only fly the SOULCRAFT colors as I did not trust the airlines to fly my beloved circa 1999 Royale safely to and from Europe (note: they--the airlines--did manage this task pretty well but it took an extra day on both ends due to missed connections). Nevertheless, it goes without saying that Mount Ventoux is pretty special. Referred to as the Beast of Provence in Tour de France lore, it has been featured in the Tour about 15 times in total (i.e., the Tour is 100 years old now), including this year. From the looks of it, the July 14th (Bastille Day) stage was a helluva party. It would have been a nice diversion to our trip to stay on Ventoux and experience this Tour scene, but we had to keeping rollin'. The route ahead called and it was worth it...

All in all a great time that I highly recommend to anyone who thinks it's super bitchin' to refuel and relax with a pastry and a double espresso after climbing for 2 hours. I do. While you could fit France inside the state of Texas, it's a diverse regions with many guilty pleasures rare for long distance touring. More than anything, the people love the bike and it shows. Thanks for reading. More soon.

Bon jour.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

June was a busy month for my extra curricular cycling affairs. Started off with my sixth finish at the Dirty Kanza 200, which was a long fun windy day. Two weeks after that was the ninth annual Ponca ride which usually runs somewhere between 155 and 160 miles. Two weeks after that was the second annual Odin's Revenge
which is in some awesome country in western Nebraska. All those miles were completed on my trusty Soulcraft 29er drop bar single speed bike. No flats, no nothing, just riding. Thanks to Guitar Ted for the pic. It was taken along the amazing route for this year's Odin's.