Sunday, 26 May 2013


Plymouth with its fabulous waterfront and set amongst dramatic scenery just a few miles inland now has the opportunity in my view to make it into UK's leading cycling city. It has a maritime story to be justly proud and now it can have the same for cyclists. It is well connected on the National Cycle Network, has an excellent train service that carries bikes and a cycle friendly ferry company for those who want to travel and cycle in France. There is every potential to jump with joy!

What is needed is the vision and commitment. It is not just me but lots of local people are working hard to make their voices heard. I think that The Council might just be listening. Moreover more money is being made available for cycling to attract visitors, help commutors and give more of us lifestyles to enjoy. Here are a few of my ideas and if you like them why not join the growing team here?

A Bicycle Expressway

We can have our own bicycle expressway with footpaths alongside. The concept is a fast safe two way cycle route uninterrupted by cars. They should also be used by mobility vehicles. It is possible to build these now from Plymstock and Plympton. Here is a plan that I have drawn and has been presented to Tudor Evans, leader of Plymouth City Council by Plymouth Cycling Campaign.

Bicycle expressways are now being pioneered in Europe. Boris Johnson wants to build one in London. Why not Plymouth first?

Bicycle Parking

Pioneered in Germany, the World's first dedicated bike tower has been built. It is the cyclists equivalent of a multistory car park but is fully automated, safe from thieves and under cover. Built for minimum of 75 bikes, it can be used at train stations, city centres and anywhere there is demand. Built by e-bike-mobility, it will save space and money.

Wheelchair and Bicycle Friendly Water Taxis

Crossing the River Tyne,  there is ferry that offers level access for wheelchair users and cyclists. Having spent a vast sum of money of easy access terminals, how practical is to have suitable water taxis in Plymouth? It is provided on buses and some trains. Why not ferries as well?

In Conclusion

I cycled up Devon's C2C yesterday, now part of La Velodyssee. The weather was cool and sunny. I cycle the route between Ivybridge and Barnstaple about three times a year. Yesterday, there were significant numbers of touring cyclists heading south to Plymouth, more than I have ever seen before. For me this tells a story

Monday, 20 May 2013


It was cool and the sun was shining as 85 cyclists arrived to take part in the second Heart of Dartmoor Cycle Challenge for Devon Wildlife Trust. My role was to lead a group on a 50 mile loop starting and finishing in Ivybridge.

I wanted this to be a challenge and a holiday ride all in one. After all, where is better than Dartmoor to test the stamina and find brilliant scenery all in the same ride? Stuart from Plymouth Cycling Campaign was joint leader with me. For the Trust, bluebells and wild garlic were in full bloom and made a wonderful colourful backdrop in the hedgerows. Here are a few pictures to show the day:

Thanks to everyone who took part and I hope that it was a great day

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


Dagmar and I parted company yesterday for our journeys home. We both travelled by train. Dagmar's journey took 12.5 hours while mine was longer taking 16 hours. Every train ran on time. My exciting moment was to cycle through Paris in its rush hour for my first time.

Dagmar, Badger and myself met many different types of bicycles. Here are two being very new and very old.

The very new bike is to carry luggage and is made in Denmark, home for many practical cyclists. The very old bike used to be used as a knife grinder. In the picture the grinding wheel can be seen on the cross bar. The person would set the bike on a stand, connect the chain to the grinding wheel and peddle away while sharpening the knives. This also was very practical.

So how did we do and what happened to Badger?  Here are our journey facts:

Start: Meckenbeuren, Southern Germany
Finish: Avignon, France
Cities visited: Konstanz, Geneva, Grenoble and for me Paris
Countries: Germany, Switzerland, France
Countryside visited: Swiss Jura, French Alps, Mont Ventoux
Major rivers: Rhine and Rhone
Distance:  650 miles
Climbing of hills: 10,500 metres
Punctures: 0
Breakdowns: 0
Favourite moment: Dagmar's fire extinguisher
Worst moment: Badger and bike had gone back to London.
Badger's favourite moment: Best forests since the North Sea Cycle Route

Finally, what happened to Badger? Well, Badger has an appointment with his creator on Saturday, 18 May for a fund raising bicycle ride and he will be with me for The Heart of Dartmoor Cycle Challenge
After this Badger will return to Dagmar and she will look after him until we next meet

Sunday, 12 May 2013


We left Sault this morning to cross Provence to Avignon, our final destination. The sun was shining but it was cold as the Mistral was blowing. We were expecting an easy 80km ride. Great, it was all downhill at the start but it was cold. We arrived in the valley of the River Nesque to find delightful old farm houses, vineyards and a semi-dry landscape. Then our first hill took up to St Hubert to overlook the Gorges de la Nesque. In the distance we could see the Beast of Provence, Mont Ventoux, now high above us. If the Mistral is blowing hard here, it must be fierce at the Beast's summit.

We now had the first of two new experiences on our final day. A group of enthusiasts were driving some  vintage cars and they stopped in front of us. Dagmar and I could not help but talk to one of the owners.

The French owner told us that his car was a 1932 Standard made in England. Behind it was a Bugatti. We peddled on to find a few cyclists and no motor bikes. A merlin soured overhead to remind us of wildlife here. After lunch our second surprise encounter was with a Swiss family on their bikes. The wife was on a fully loaded touring bike but the husband was most amazing. He had customised his bike into a tandem. His load included their daughter, tent and the dog. The daughter was sitting astride the tent as if she was riding a horse while the dog had its own special basket. Anyhow we peddled more or less side to side with them to Avignon and the last we saw of them was cycling up one of Avignon' main streets. The family reminded me of a modern day Swiss Family Robinson.

Dagmar's skills for organising this trip are amazing. She must be the best cycle guide in Germany. But she is not a guide at all for we are both good friends and I hope one day to show her an amazing cycle route that she does not know. We peddled into Avignon and wandered around its ancient streets. I like the Pont d'Avignon best

Badger has also had a thrilling trip. Has he decided whether to stay with Dagmar or me? That will be in my next blog.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Mont Ventoux is reckoned by many to be the second most famous climb for cyclists in the World, the first being Alpe d'Huez in Austria. Today it was my turn. I admit not to taking the climb from Bedoin opting instead to cycle from Sault. Bedoin is the route taken in the Tour de France. Mine does the same amount of climbing but is shallower until the two combine for the final 6km to the top.

The net climb over 26km on my route is 1,150m and it was expected that wind speeds at the top would be at least 90kph coming from all directions. It is not for nothing that this mountain is nicknamed "The Beast of Provence". Here is a short story best told with pictures.

Our experiences were exactly as expected. Our legs kept us going well and I felt a huge surge of adrenylin kick in with about 200m to take me to the summit. The wind roared at the top and I was nearly blown off the bike as I rounded the final curve. The wind chill was crazy cold but it was only when the body relaxed coming out of the summit cafe was that I felt it. So my winter gear went on for the ride back down to Sault and a beer.

Friday, 10 May 2013


Tonight we arrived in Sault. This little town is in Provence and at the foot of Mont Ventoux. When we arrived, it was heaving with cyclists and motor cyclists. I know why cyclists come here. It is because of Mont Ventoux. I will be joining them tomorrow in my bid to do the Mont Ventoux challenge.

Last night we stayed in a small guest house in La Motte-Chalancon run by a British couple and we had an Ulster breakfast served with welsh cakes and scones. It was a late start because our stomachs were too full to move but we had excellent chats with our hosts. Luckily it was downhill for nearly 15 miles so full stomachs added extra weight and we averaged nearly 14mph, something I have never achieved before.

The scenery now changed as we were in Southern France. Gone were the mountains. Instead was the normally dry semi arid landscape of the south. Little villages appeared on top of hills, crickets chuntered away, lavender was growing in the fields. Somehow we still kept climbing and today despite no mountains we climbed 3,500ft.

Today the sun shone gloriously but it was cold. Tomorrow is the next big climb and on Sunday it is our last full day as we head for Avignon and trains home.

Meanwhile Badger has been very happy. He loves the landscape and has seen many places for good burrows. He made friends with a French long distance cyclist yesterday. Moreover he has added two new countries to his travels and must be the most widely travelled badger ever. On Sunday night he must choose whether to go to Meckenbeuren with Dagmar or to Devon with me.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


The hill out of Grenoble was enormous and the first of several over the next two days. It was a bank holiday and motor cyclists had come out to climb the same hill in droves. At the top my face felt that it was the same colour as Dagmar's fire extinguisher that she had bought the previous day. I had done it. The motor cyclists were remorseless. They were everywhere. Some of the young guns testing their machines made it quite scary for us cyclists. For me, it is easy to rev up a motor bike to do this climb but we were the only two cyclists with fully loaded touring bikes and this was much more a test of skill and stamina. My picture is a hill further on.

Cycling is not just about testing yourself. It is more about immersing yourself in the scenery and with people. In these Alpine meadows, crystal clear rivers flowed. Sometimes they were slow and meandering while at others they tumbled down steep rocky crags and mountain sides. Always the water was beautifully clear just as nature intended it. Wild flower meadows continued to adorn the landscape. This time the yellow was from dandelions but not in early morning for they needed until after breakfast to wake up as the flowers had closed up for the night. Of all these flowers tiny orchids made themselves known very discretely so as not to disturb anyone.

We watched as a farmer brought in his cattle for milking while proud parents nearby took their children out on the quiet lanes away from the main road on their bikes. Back on the passes we watched also as motor bikes gave way to cyclists. At this high altitude we were the only ones dumb enough to be on heavy tourers as all the others were lycra clad guys on fast racing bikes. It was refreshing to see so many older people and girls. We found an out of the way Chambres and Tables d'hotes last night. It had no internet but it had wholesome refreshing good food while heating and hot water came from a log burner using wood from the owners' own resources. As we made a sad farewell this morning the clouds sat in front of the hills so that we could see only the road under and peaks above.

At our highest pass, Col de Rousset, a ski resort greeted us while vultures soured overhead looking out for cyclists who had died on the way up. As we peddled through gorges, great overhangs showered us with water streaming down from the rocks. Then we came to the town called Die. I thought that we had just completed the road to die but the reality was a good lunch in a cafe which we shared with many motor cyclists. Just as we settled down to a feast of duck, a motor cyclist from the table next to us stood up. He had a mohican haircut and was wearing no strides!

And finally, I feel that Dagmar and I are now toughening up like old boots.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


I cycled up my first proper Alpine hill today. It was 5 miles long and approx 800m climb. We reached the little village of St Bernard du Tourvet and could see the snow covered Alps all around us.

Yesterday we left our hotel in drizzle and cycled on quiet undulating roads to Annecy where we stopped for our first coffee break of the day. Obviously a popular holiday town set on the edge of the mountains and beside a lake, our route south then took us along a well built cycle path on a former railway for 20 miles. This was easy riding and offered good scenery. Our lunch was taken in a former train station nicely restored with old engine beside it. The Alps could be seen tantilisingly in the distance.

Despite the weather, we thought that this would be an easy day. Neither of us like to book accommodation ahead and prefer to rely on our instincts. Tonight involved an extra 12 miles ride above what we had planned. Our destination had 3 hotels and rooms but two hotels were closed for repairs and the others fully booked. Hotel George at Montmelian came to our rescue and never have I seen so many staircases in one building. It was up on a twisty stone stair for one floor then one came down again while there was a choice of two to the next floor. Accommodation and beakfast was good.

Today however was the big day for my first col.

I am used to hills in Devon. They are short and often steep. This hill was completely different. It was never ending for 5 miles. The only respite were the hairpin bends where momentarily they were steeper. Anyhow the top was reached with immense relief and spectaculaaaar views. The route down was just the same. I worried about my brakes but I also thought of Stefan. He would have taken this downhill like a rocket and probably arrived at the bottom 20 minutes before me.

It was back to easy riding for our destnation today was Grenoble. Unlike Geneva, this city had built excellent cycle routes into it. When we arrived we found the city to be at comfort with itself. The French architecture and higgledy piggledy roads were full of interesting buildings and shops. People were able to walk or cycle without fear of being run over. We decided to walk the city, have a liesurely meal outside and people watch.

Meanwhile Dagmar bought herself a replacement water bottle for one she had lost. It was bright red and her bike to me now looks like it is carrying a fire extinguisher.

Sunday, 5 May 2013


My younger daughter broke her leg shortly before I left for this trip. Her favourite sport is kite surfing but her second favourite is to ride out on her bike. Her kite surfing takes her all over the World. She is probably very frustrated at her inability to go out with both her kite and the bike. I would be mortified if I could not do this trip because of a broken leg.

Our hotel last night was very old world. The atmosphere was comfortable and unlike nearly every European hotel I have stayed in, breakfast was brought to the table. It was croissants, various bread, jam, honey, speciality cheese, a large slice of ham and coffee. The sun was out and we both felt bright eyed and bushy tailed as we set off.

We left the hotel to a huge downhill that was invigorating. Apple orchards, vineyards, fields of cattle and arable crops appeared in this rolling countryside. The land was well cultivated but there were still plenty of trees for us to hear the birds. We stopped briefly to watch a football match.  The sun now warmed up and it is proper spring weather.

We peddled on and Lake Geneva came into view. Today it was pleasing to see lots of cyclists out and before lunch there were not too many cars. We ate pizzas at Nyon.

Our cycle lanes have been well worked out in Switzerland but even the cycle planners could do nothing about the noise from low flying aircraft, motorway traffic and vast numbers of ralway trains as we approached Geneva. This is one of the most prosperous parts of Europe but prosperity comes with a price. The noise, especially from the aircraft was awful. No matter how wealthy you are, surely a healthy lifestyle is more important.

Geneva's waterfront was well worth stopping for. We parked our bikes and drank coffee as we watched people enjoying themselves walking, cycling, boating, talking and enjoying the sunshine. The waterfront is enjoyable with its historic buildings acting as a backdrop.

Cycling out of Geneva however required steely resolve. The cycle planners could do nothing about the 4 lane highways, one way streets, trams, buses, motor bikes and vast numbers of speeding cars. It was heads down for both of us as we joined the mayhem. Luckily Dagmar and I survived and we sped across the French border to find another world. This time there was a continuous uphill, no cycle lanes and lots of French traffic. We arrived at a fine hotel very reasonably priced at Hotel Rey, Saint Blaise. Dagmar jumped for joy.

For Dagmar's version of today, go to her blog

Saturday, 4 May 2013


This morning it was cold and wet when Dagmar, Stefan and I left our hotel. Normally we would not go out in weather like this but we were heading for France and we were up for the challenge. A market was in full swing in the town centre with an inviting selection of delicious fresh produce. We looked without enthusiasm at a huge hill to take out of this city. When half way up, Dagmar's satnav on a rare occasion failed us by taking into a cul-de-sac that involved another hill to lead us out of it. However it was not long before we were cycling through more of those stunning Alpine meadows that we experienced yesterday. The hills took us above the cloud line. We stopped to add extra layers of clothes and as we warmed up we appreciated how the mist gave added atmospheric to this magnificent countryside.

Peddling on, we met a group on their mountain bikes crossing our road above La Sagne. A huge downhill followed where Stefan showed no fear with his bike and trailer arriving in La Sagne well before us. Easier riding now followed to a cafe in the railway station at Les Porits de Martel. The warmth of this place was welcoming and we thawed out sitting beside a large radiator.

Stefan set off on a massive downhill at a speed that would frighten me and when I caught him up at the bottom, he looked at me as if to say "Why are you taking so long?". However I have the legs on uphills and one shortly followed. I had a casual break while waiting at the top. The Gorge de l'Arens followed. We were on a tiny road that twisted and turned its way round the rocks and trees and gave awesome views of the white water river below. There was no time to stop especially as Stefan was throwing his bike around the downhill curves in impressive style. It was time for a break at the bottom.

At the end of the gorge, Stefan had to say goodbye and head for the nearest train station home. His journey was now over. For Dagmar and I, it was overdue for lunch so we stopped in a cafe close to Lac de Neuchatel.

When we left the cafe, it was 3pm. The weather was warmer and the rain had stopped. We cycled along easier roads beside the lake passing through a mixture of woods, camp sites, housing estates and into the town of Yverdon. The sun came out and we stripped down to summer wear. It was now an easy ride and we sped off cycling south in the direction of Lausanne. We decided to stop in a sleepy village if we could find one that had accommodation. Here we are in La Sarraz in the town's hotel. Amazingly the only restaurant open was at the town's swimming pool and it was very good but very expensive. But then everything in Switzerland is very expensive.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Cowslips were everywhere as we left the Rhine and cycled into the Jura region. These beautiful little yellow flowers are an excellent sign of healthy soils. They were beside our road as we climbed through Gorge du Pichoux. The gorge, small by Swiss standards, towered above us and a little river flowed swiftly the opposite way.  My lights were needed to pass through a couple of tunnels.

Reaching the top we discovered a vast area of open grassland with giant Alpine firs spread haphazardly everywhere. This is cattle and horse country. The cows are Friesian Hosteins producing copious amounts of milk while the horses await their summer holiday visitors still to arrive. The remains of snow drifts could still be seen as we climbed.

At higher levels marsh buttercups, wild daffodils, crocus and other wild flowers carpetted the meadows. My first cuckoo was heard. We stopped for lunch at Bellelay, a town that makes cheese the old way, in Hotel de l'Ours. This translates as Hotel of the Bear. At the farms the cows were still indoors as the grass had not grown enough to let them out. Later two excited children welcomed us as we stopped at a wayside cafe. There are few people here and I suspect the children regarded as novelties. Anyhow they very nervously came up to talk to us gently encouraged by their mother.

The farm houses have the barns attached to the house so cattle, horses and people share the same building. Yet despite their obvious ages, many farms had modern John Deere tractors working in their fields. Our overnight stop is at La Chaux de Fonds.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


Last night my bike and Badger arrived by courier exactly when promised. I was very impressed but it was all in bits.

No problem assembling it. Today is May Day here. It is a bank holiday. Many go off on their bikes and walking. It seems many people play practical jokes on one another as well. Dagmar, her partner, Stefan and I meet Stephanie, a keen cyclist and ADFC supporter at the ferry terminal in Friedrichshaven where we catch a ferry to Konstanz and have a day ride cycling west. All is quiet with no practical jokes yet. It is time for coffee in Konstanz and then we peddle off. Dagmar, with Stefan both ADFC supporters, is our guide.

ADFC is the German cycling federation and similar to Sustrans in GB.  The weather starts grey but blissfully the sun comes out. We peddle beside the Rhine and admire picturesque towns, various islands and the landscape. Stephanie and I discuss the differencies and similarities between our countries. We reach the magnificent Rheinfall and are astonished at its grandeur.

Never have I switched between two countries as frequently as Switzerland and Germany. The person who worked out the boundary must have been drunk. One moment we were cycling in Germany, then in Switzerland, then back to Germany and back again. Stephanie leaves us. On a woodland trail shortly afterwards we found a wooden post marking the two countries and the road had become very muddy. Badger was now very happy as he had not been a woodland for months.

We decided to follow the trail into Switzerland partly because a mountain biker said to go this way and partly as it was less muddy. Our day was 105km (67 miles) and we finished to stay in a sports complex that had motel accommodation in Waldshut.