Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cycling in Paris

Bad photo of my chinny chin chin.
I somehow developed a double chin while in France. Probably due to the fact that ate nothing unless it was made in a boulangerie (French for bakery) . . . . mmmmm, bakery.

While in Paris, do as the Parisians. A beret suits me, don't you think?
The entire time in France I did not see one person wearing one, just stoopid tourists like me trying them on.

We spent the first day in Paris walking around and by the end of the day I was shattered. I compare it to Christmas shopping - walk, stop, walk, stop . . . . killed my back. Paris, being a bike friendly city, we decided to cycle around seeing the sights. We didn't have to search around for a bike shop because the city has bike stations everywhere. It takes a few minutes to set up an account using your credit card at a kiosk which is beside the bikes, then you're ready to go. It worked out to be one Euro (about $1.60 CDN$) a day to rent a bike - cheap as chips!

These bike stations were everywhere. Once you were done with them, park them in the locking stand, and you can put them in any station - no need to return it from where you took it. Simple. More cities should do this: cuts down on auto traffic, encourages some physical fitness, cuts down on pollution, etc. Just awesome. Bikes are comfortable to ride, internal braking (hub brakes), three speed grip shift, lights on front and back, kick stand, bell, chain guard and a basket.

One time we had trouble putting a bike back in it's lock ( a little green light comes on to let you know it accepted the bike - turned red instead). At each kiosk there is a intercom where you can call a central bike station dispatch and they were able to help us through a computerized system. Simple again.

Chrissie in front of the Eiffle Tower.

At intersections where you had to stop (there are roundabouts everywhere too - keeps the traffic flowing) there were the regular traffic lights for the cars, then there were traffic lights for cyclist at their eye level. Another example of how the French society embraces cycling - and it wasn't just in Paris, but every town and city we visited.

My basket was broken off. Note the lock - each bike also had a lock on it, just in case you didn't want to dock it at a station or had to run into a store or something.

Bike lanes everywhere. Where there were no marked bikes lanes, cars gave cyclist a ton of leeway to ride. I wouldn't call French drivers "aggressive", but rather 'confident and assertive', they still have a tremendous amount of respect for cyclist. North American drivers please take note! Cyclists too were assertive, they didn't flinch in traffic and stuck to their lanes and would often jump out in traffic whenever they needed to make a lane change with confidence.

View from the bars.

Friday, August 29, 2008

French headbadges and cool bikes

Just a few headbadge shots and a couple interesting bikes that I got photos of while in France.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alpe d'Huez report

Chris and I were supposed to go to France in July and it was this stage that we were going to watch. Unfortunately we had to change our travel plans at the last minute and rebook our trip for August, thus missing the Tour. However, things worked out cause I probably wouldn't have been able manage getting to ride it the day were watching this stage, you know, unless some team asked me to fill in or something.

After a few days in Paris, we made our way via train to Grenoble, picked up our rental car and drove in the rain (it only rained twice our entire trip) to Le Bourg-d'Oisans, at the base of Alpe d'Huez and checked into our hotel. It was late in the day with no time to ride (not that I wanted to ride in the rain), so we decided to take a drive up to the top. Let me say that it intimidated the hell out of me. I had a tough time sleeping that night anticipating the climb that I would do the next day.

This little village comes alive during the Tour. Flags and jerseys still hung above the street.

I found a bike shop in town (there were two) that rented bikes and was able to get myself a very nice Look carbon beauty with a nice build kit and wheels. The plan was to ride in the general area, get a good warm up in, see some sites and then tackle the legendary climb. The shop had printed up suggested bike routes in the area and with the shops mechanic help, he helped me choose a "warm up" route that was about 64km return that seemed to follow a nice valley. The mechanic said that there was only one tough climb. I thought to myself, "No worries. It'll be a good little warm up and I'll see some stunning alpine scenery then I'll grind my way up d'Huez.

The problem is . . . . well, there was something lost in translation . . . . or perhaps the European mindset, especially this guy's who probably grew up riding his tricycle as a young child up such routes that he was sending me on, was a little different from my idea of a "warm up ride".

Shortly onto the valley road to La Berarde, road narrows, side cut into rock wall so vehicles can get by. It appears flat - it's not.

The ride started off pretty well. Had to follow a busy main road for a few km's until a branched off onto the valley road on my way to a little village called La Berarde. Was on that road for about 2km and then it kicked up. I knew this wasn't the "tough climb" that the mechanic told me about, because he said it was about 10km in. Then WTF was this?!?!?

Tunnel - it appears flat - it's not.

This is where I figure the "tough climb" was. Turns out it was a 12% grade for over 2km.
I ended up climbing for about 30km.

La Berarde
Took me about an hour and a half to get to La Berarde, and only 35-40 minutes to get back to La Bourg-d'Osians. Filled up the bottles, grabbed some food quickly then back on the bike to tackle Alpe d'Huez, it's average grade of 7.5 % and the 21 switch backs to it's finish line.

Lots of paint on the road still leftover from the Tour.

- one of the 21 switchbacks in the background

They're nice enough to put up little reminders of how you've come or how far you've got left to go (for those "is the cup half full or is it half empty" types) - each sign has a Tour winner's name on it.

switchbacks - the only place on the entire climb where you could recover, but it lasted only seconds then you were climbing again. The average grade is listed at aprox 7.5% . . . . that takes into consideration the end (which is flat'ish) and the beginning starting near the village. Most all of the grades seemed to be around between 10 - 8%.

there's a little tiny place on the way up - La Garde - with a lovely little church . . . perfect place to receive your last rites if you cannot go on. I considered it.

that's La Bourg d'Osians down below with many of the switchbacks in the forefront

kissing my cross as I come over the finish line
funny, there were no crowds of screaming fans, cameras and photographers at the end like I always saw on TV while watching the Tour . . . . a little disappointing.


I don't know my time. For the first half, which by the way is the hardest & steepest, I had the camera and stopped to take a few pictures (it was an excellent excuse to stop!) - then about half way up Chris met me and grabbed the camera from me . . . then I had no excuse to stop.

The disputed record time up d'Huez was set by Pantini in '95 with a time of 36'50". He was also at the time pepped up on EPO and whatever drug he was abusing at the time which made him higher than the mountain he was climbing and faster than cheetah on speed.

I don't think I rode it faster than him. After my little "warm up" ride, I was pretty spent and managed to turn the legs over at an average speed of about 9.5-10 km/hr over the 14.5km climb - that's with a few stops and so on. I probably would have beaten his time if I started it with fresh legs. Keep in mind when he did set his record, and those who subsequently came close to setting those records, had rode all day (and rode climbs like Col du Galibier or Col du la Croix de Fer) and finished on d'Huez. Drugs or no drugs . . . pretty freak'in remarkable.

**Side note: this was my first time to France and the alps, so all I've ever known about riding in the mtns is what I've seen in magazines and on TV. Alpe d'Huez is a classic, famous climb . . . however in saying that, the whole of the alps (including Switzerland and Italy - went there too) is littered with amazing climbing and pristine roads. I think I was a little naive thinking that this would be "THE" toughest ride - I came across many, many others while driving that looked equally as tough or tougher, and as long or longer. I cannot wait to go back!**

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Got lots to share and show about my trip to France . . . . but I'm a wee bit more excited about this bit of fantastic news and had to share.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Avoir Paris & France . . . . . I'm on my way home. None the leaner or meaner (well maybe a little meaner) despite climbing Alpe d'Huez. Got to run, sitting in a smokey French cyber cafe breathing lots of second hand smoke . . . . yummy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ou est moi?

Here's a little 80's montage riddle . . . .

Clicky clicky on the images for an auditory link.

In case you haven't put the clues together . . . I'll be away from the blog (on a regular basis) over the next two weeks to the land of . . . .

I'm not sure if this is from the 80's or not,
but it's too good not to add here (for no apparent reason).

Saturday, August 9, 2008


View from Champlain after we got soaked.

Lenny chaaawing on an energy bar. Someone, please tell him when he's riding on the road that he's not supposed wear a visor on his helmet. Talk about embarrassing.

This is a picture of Curvy Butt . . . . . or rather where Curvy Butt may have been if he had come today. I haven't seen him since the airport after the BC Bike Race. He's fallen off the radar. Maybe it's deliberate.
Is he sick of me? Does he want to never see or ride with me again? Was I that bad of a partner?
All this self-doubt has left me in a constant state of shoulder shrugging and hand-wringing.
Curvy Buttttttttttt wherrrrrrrre arrrrrrre yoooooooooou?

Weather forecasters called for only a 20% chance of rain today. It was a beautiful morning and I was able to get the rest of my house painting done, to the chagrin of Lenny, who wanted to ride in the morning. I was able to persuade him to ride in the afternoon once I got my painting done. We were on the bikes around three o'clock, under sunny skies.

Only 20% chance of rain my ass! We got only a quarter of the way through our Gat loop when we got pissed on. Buckets of rain and descents made for cool temperatures.

Here's Lenny on the descent of Black's on the Champlain Parkway. Thought I'd give him the chance to redeem himself after riding off the trail in this video.

Friday, August 8, 2008


New Vassago Bandersnatch, in blood red, right out of the box.