France is a top destination for cycle tourists and, with its great diversity of landscapes – from windswept cliffs in the north to vast swathes of forest in the west to sun-drenched villages in the south to vertiginous climbs in the east – it has (almost) everything that a traveller on a bicycle might want to discover. Lyn Eyb from FreeWheelingFrance.com has been exploring and writing about France ever since she arrived in the country over a decade ago. She shares her thoughts with The Cycling Europe Podcast and takes time to answer listeners’ questions about the practical aspects of being a cyclist in France.
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Earlier today some of you must have been scratching your heads just a little upon seeing the Twitter post or the Facebook post or the Instagram post relating to my decision to ‘tweak’ the route of my upcoming cycle around the Baltic Sea. It is, admittedly, one hell of a tweak. So much of a tweak in fact that the only remaining part of that planned Baltic Sea Cycle that remains in the new planned cycle is the rather short journey from the ferry port in Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland. And yes, even that section is nowhere near the Baltic Sea. The new route will see me not turn left upon arrival in The Netherlands but turn right in the direction of Belgium, then France, then (after quite a while) through Switzerland, then Germany before finally returning to the Hook of Holland and my return journey across the North Sea to Hull. Mmm… Perhaps ‘tweak’ might not have been the most appropriate of words. So why the change?
The Cycling Europe Podcast mainly features, well, cyclists. The interviewee in this episode, however, is first and foremost a mountaineer. But he’s not just any mountaineer. His name is Tim Ralph and he’s a seven summiteer; a man who has climbed the seven highest mountains on each of the continents. In the last few years, he’s also taken up cycle touring and has just published a book called ‘A Life Accomplished: From Spain to Norway on a Bike’. So what can mountaineering teach us about cycle touring? What can cycle touring teach mountaineers about climbing mountains? And what happens when an experienced mountaineer sets off to cycle from Europe’s geographical southernmost point at Tarifa in Spain to its northernmost point at Nordkapp in Norway?
Tim Moore has been referred to as ‘Bill Bryson on two wheels’. Any reader of his adventures – both on and off a bike – will appreciate why the comparison is justified. In his first cycling travelogue, he set off on the route of that year’s Tour de France just weeks before the professionals. He went on to recreate ‘the most appalling bike race of all time’ – the 1914 Giro d’Italia – on a vintage bike. More recently he embarked upon a brutal cycle following the stages of the 1941 Vuelta a España. Ever the glutton for punishment, he’s also ‘The Cyclist Who Went Out In The Cold’ who set off on an East German shopping bike along the route of EuroVelo 13, the Iron Curtain Trail… The Cycling Europe Podcast chatted to him in a Tube carriage at the London Transport Museum.
Declan Lyons trained as a zoologist but after several years working as a journalist and management consultant he started to research and then write two Cicerone guides for people interested in cycling the Canal de la Garonne from Bordeaux to Toulouse and the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to the Mediterranean coast at Sète. Together the canals are known as the Véloroute des Deux Mers – the ‘two seas cycle route’ – and in this episode of the podcast he talks about the history of the canals and how they have been transformed in recent decades into one of France’s most popular cycling routes. Also: we hear from Ian Yarroll, an experienced cycle tourist, who, after developing balance problems, took up a recumbent trike…