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Thread: Mont Ventoux - 'Bike on Bike' action

  1. #1
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    Mont Ventoux - 'Bike on Bike' action

    I had four days approved ‘leave of absence’ from the family and a dilemma on how to use the time given my interest in cycling, motorcycling and camping. The solution: carry my bicycle on my motorcycle and make it a camping trip – crazy or genius?

    It was late September 2016 and I had an itch to cycle Mont Ventoux which is a feature stage each year in the Tour de France (TdF). This French mountain is infamous for claiming the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson in the 1967 TdF and is known to experience mistral winds of up to 200mph at the summit. I decided that this was the year to tackle Ventoux and tick off my bucket list. September is often the best time to hit this southern French region given the milder temperatures and reduced wind.

    I loaded-up the GS with my luggage, bicycle and camping gear before nervously heading for an early 6am Eurotunnel departure. I was unsure whether I would encounter any issues abroad given the bizarre appearance, which could be viewed as illegal in some countries (not in the UK as towing laws apply). The strange bike setup attracted some interest from the UK border guards who amusingly waved me on over to French soil. Given the mid-week early departure, I was the lone biker on this shuttle and transited across the channel without any delay or drama (I had the entire carriage to myself, which was a little eerie). I departed Calais knowing I had another 650 miles to cover today so decided to hunker down and make inroads through the centre of france. I followed the usual boring and costly toll roads knowing this is the quickest route down. I’ve completed this journey a few times before so have perfected my toll booth approach by keeping my credit card in an empty tank bag pocket and wearing light enduro gloves for easy card handling. I would highly recommend you get hold of a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees as the costs can otherwise mount-up (these are often free and can be setup within a few days of travel).

    My previous journey through France was on an R1 and I only have painful memories of ass ache! However, the GS made light work of the miles and always leaves me impressed with how versatile and capable these machines have become (believe the hype!). I’ve taken this very GS to Morocco and Norway so learnt through trial and (painful) error how to setup for comfort. I use a sheepskin rug and rest my feet on crash bars to aid comfort. Failing that, I stand on the pegs for a few minutes every hour to let the blood flow through my backside. I’d also recommend a camel pack so you can stay hydrated throughout the journey – the old mantra of ‘little and often’ works best.

    Seven hundred miles and 10 hours later I rolled-off the motorway and set eyes on the Giant of Provence towering 1912 meters high. I had booked a campsite in Bedoin at the foot of Mont Ventoux so I was within easy reach of the official start of the climb. I arrive at the campsite reception with a warm ‘bonsoir’ and immediately respond in fluent French - ‘ca va, parlez vous anglaise sil vous plait?’. 10 minutes later, I pop-up the tent and start sniffing around the other motorcycles in the campsite before retiring for a night under the bright stars. There is something quite magical about camping near a mountain – it’s a humbling experience as your eyes take in the universe above and you realize how small you appear below the dark silhouette of a large mountain.

    Mont Ventoux has 3 key routes to the summit starting at Bedoin, Maucelene and Sault. Given the popularity with the Tour, cyclists from all over the world flock to follow in the wheels of their heroes. Cycling any one of the routes to the summit is an achievement but completing all 3 routes in one day gives one the honor of entering a special club called ‘Cingles Du Ventoux’ (translated as Mad-Men of Ventoux). I decided that I wanted to be a ‘mad man of ventoux’ and attempt this epic challenge.

    The campsite owner warned me of the tricky descents and advised that I ride the route on my motorcycle first as there had recently been two fatalities coming down the mountain. I therefore decided to spend Day 2 recc’ing the route on my GS so completed all 3 routes on the motorcycle to gauge the savagery of the climbing/descending and to mentally visualize the effort involved. I realized that this was a popular location for motorcyclists and sportscar drivers too given the twisty roads and scenic mountain vistas. The obvious clue is when you find professional photographers hanging around near a summit pointing their cameras at everything and anything that passes by (including French military jets on this occasion). I assume that they were there to sell action shots to cyclists and motorists as I wasn’t aware of any reports of Kim Kardashian being in the neighborhood.

    The next morning I packed away my motorcycle gear and donned the lycra ready for my cycling challenge. I was carrying a portable stove so heated up some porridge and instant coffee to fuel myself ready for the start line. I set-off quietly at dusk from the campsite leaving the GS to ‘sleep in’ after the long journey of the past few days. It was a 2 mile journey to the official start point and it offered quite an amazing view of the mountain and journey ahead; a red flashing beacon stood proud on the summit and the hint of daylight uncovered the twisty path that I would shortly tackle.

    Given this is a motorcycle forum, I won’t bore you with the cycling detail other than to say that the 100 miles / 14400 foot climbing was completed within 7.5 hours. Many of the descents are ridiculously fast with cyclists reaching scary speeds in excess of 60 mph. I took various photos at the summit and had a card stamped as proof before preparing for my fast descent back down to terra-forma. I met a group of Belgium tennis athletes at the summit who mistakenly thought I was Nairo Quintana (a Columbian cycling champ) . Back at the campsite, I enjoyed a hearty meal of pizza and chips (local specialty) as reward for my days’ effort.

    That was it – cycling done! The next morning, I left the campsite early for the 700 mile return journey home. I recall a great sense of satisfaction that I had completed an epic cycling challenge while enjoying the freedom of riding my motorcycle as well. The journey back through mid-France was uneventful other than the usual bizarre looks as my bicycle sped past cars at 90 mph in the fast lane! There was a near incident when an undercover French police car sped past me only to slam on his brakes and give me the once over before driving away and stopping another poor British soul in an old Ford Puma. I had seen the unmarked car a few miles earlier hiding in the lay bay (as the French police do) so had been on best behavior!

    At Calais, I managed to sneak onto an earlier shuttle and reached home well ahead of schedule to the delight of my family. I was relieved to have covered 1500 uneventful miles without encountering any issues carrying the bicycle over the journey. This experience has given me the confidence to go further into Europe now perhaps entering some races or classic sportives. I believe the science behind two wheels is transferable so most motorcyclists should naturally have the machine handling skills to ride a road bicycle over technical terrain (or at least understand the concepts of riding fast). Many cyclists in my local club were once motorcyclists but found they only had the time to pick one hobby and the cycling triumphed given the well documented health benefits. Like motorcycling, cycling offers the same feeling of being able to enjoy your own company while at the same time the ability to share the experience as part of a group as well. I hope this write-up encourages others in the same position to think ‘outside the box’ and explore the possibility of combining their hobbies, whatever they may be…

    Viva La velo, viva la moto!
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  2. #2
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    Some more pics:
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    Wow! Fair play to you. That is something I would love to do. I'm very impressed by the whole thing. Well done Sir.

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    Fantastic.
    It looks like an amazing trip.
    A girl can never have too many bikes

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    As I read through this I couldn't picture how you would carry your bike. Congratulations on such an achievement.

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    Excellent well done, awesome !!

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    Yep, I too was intrigued to see how you would carry your bike - well played!

    I will be doing a similar trip next June, but taking the easier option of hiring a bike in France (French bike shops hire proper, high quality carbon bikes, just take your own preferred pedals). I feel a bit inadequate now!

    I'd like to see a close up of the bracketry you made, if you get the chance to take further pics??

    Pauk

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    Hugely impressed. Massive achievement. I went in May with a mate with the intention of doing the 3 in a day but a heart issue put paid to me even doing 1, mate did all 3 on 3 separate days and that was hard enough.
    Chapeau

  9. #9
    Reggie P
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    Fantastic write-up and pics! So much better than carrying the bike on a car ( sitting in horrendous traffic jams) . Just excellent ! 10/10

    Like Paul G , I'm curious about the brackets/rack !


    PS 14,400ft in 7.5 hrs .... jesus ! phenomenal!

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    Fair play to you sir!
    I've gone orange 1290 SA

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    Respect !!!

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    Just brilliant...Now how would I fit my Colnago on the gsa...

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    I feel knackered just reading about it.. Well done!
    2001 Silver R1150GS,
    (Owned by me since new. Before Ewan got his.)

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    Nutter!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by stuartw View Post



    PS 14,400ft in 7.5 hrs .... jesus ! phenomenal!

    Agreed, are you sure your name's not Nairo....?

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    Click here to find out how to remove these ads

    Well done Jallani!

    BUT .... That's not the first bike I've seen on a GS or a motorcycle. But seriously yours is the most terrible dangerous looking set up by a country mile

    Watch out for the b'stards they're out to get you

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