03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)

You are now at post Nr. 03 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


I’m not sure a cycling day could be any more diverse than this third one…

  • from strong rain to blue sky
  • super hot to really cold
  • perfect pavement to heavy gravel
  • long 5-15% gradients to Dutch-type flatness
  • -Thick air to stable headwinds

In general this day was another good preparation for the centralparts of my trip (Massif Central and Pyrennees) because today’s distance was pretty ok, and there was some climbing involved. I mean, in the end I got myself (and 25kg of equipment) over the southern Jura mountains.

After a very sleepless night in a hostel (I had a room’mate’ who remarkably mastered both smelling and snoring on a pro level) and a pretty decent hostel breakfast I started off at blue and cloudy but dry weather in Geneva.

The ride started with this bright encounter: Within the first couple of km I approached two cyclists with a label “Barcelona” on their panniers! We had a brief chat. Turned out that Florian and Johannes were also German (started in Ingolstadt) and we’re following a similar route as I am (generally more South). We briefly exchanged contacts and I’m confident we’ll meet up for a Cerveza later to celebrate our arrivals together.

I went on, and the weather turned. Sadly I was so optimistic about the conditions that my feet were already kind of wet by the time I put on my rain gear. In any case: real rain… wrapped up like a mummy, I arrived at Chancy, a little border bridge, and entered France. And that’s where also the Jura starts. By now it was sunny again. The first road into the Jura turned out to be a super steep, slippery and rough gravel road – This can happen… that I missed some of those spots in my route planning. But more problematic (to me) was that from the first second of that climb I was accompanied by an aggressive little dog that – as far as I interpret it’s behavior – tried to catch me. It almost had me… but I gave all I had and escaped; perfect: that adrenaline got me through the next steep and rough 400m. (Ja, I’m not really a dog kind of guy).

Some impressions from when I entered the Jura (still at lower altitude): here the feeling of exploration and adventure really set in; because I have never seen this kind of area (while I had already ideas about the previous landscapes in Switzerland)


Then paved road again and the real long climb began… Gained about 800m altitude over a rather short distance. 7% gradient on average, I guess. And now it was hot and sunny. Certainly better than climbing in the rain.

Judging by the chalk letters of famous cyclists on the ground I was following a Tour de France road.


At some point I arrived at 1100m where I had a nice chat with a local who like me enjoyed this fantastic view and agreed to take my picture. In the background behind the clouds, usually the Montblanc would be visible.


Up there it was really cold and now there was no mountain between me and the solid west wind anymore. But generally very quiet up there!

From there it went mostly (not exclusively) downhill. But once more I ended up on heavy gravel in the woods. And in terms of rain now shit hit the fan. Felt like a wet winter. Here’s an impression from a rainless moment in the woods:


Luckily no uphill fights anymore. At some point I reached a low altitude where it was warmer and greener again. And then surfed down a valley… unbelievable:


Sadly, at some point my potential energy that I worked for so hard earlier, was gone.. At this point I was really exhausted. Just the perfect moment to get the Bifi Roll into the game that I received from Diana and Micha three days earlier.


At some point I was liberated from the shadows of the Jura and absorbed by the width of the Rhone valley landscape. 60km to go to Lyon. And now strangely I felt really strong. I put on some motivating music.

Soundtrack of that Stage:

  • Tom Misch and
  • Talking heads

Perfect!

I raced down towards Lyon. Apart from another unwanted gravel episode on the last few km along the Rhone, everything went really smoothly and fast. I guess I nailed more than a 30km/h average there.


Arrival in Lyon about 20h. That night (and the next 2 days) I would stay at my friend Bérengère’s and her boyfriend’s place. We went out to have some original Lyonnaise food that night. My Lyon stay is something for some other post, but let me say that these 2,5 days with Bérengère and Geoffrey were very lovely and relaxed and fun! Thanks so much to both of you once more! Bérengère and me had not met in 6 years…


STRAVA: click

02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)

You are now at post Nr. 02 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


A rather easy day here! And a short blog post…

I had the idea to spend a night either in Lausanne or in Geneve anyway. Lausanne would have been too short (60km); Geneve at a relaxed distance (120km).

The ride was divided into two parts: firstly from my campsite through some hilly terrain to Lausanne, and then from Lausanne along the Lake Geneva to Geneva.


Part 1: After getting up I packed my stuff (took a while), had some spare food from the day before for ‘breakfast’ and headed off. Between the Lake Neuchâtel and Lausanne you find already some softer folds of the pre-Alps and Jura. Those had to be crossed. These 60 km were pretty tiresome and I overestimated my completed distance at any given time by sometimes 50%. So, the lesson after 2 days was: climbing means half the speed/double the time.

At some point the climbs turned into descends. Arrival in Lausanne. The air seemed to be notably more Mediterranean (even though we’re still far from it); the city is located on a steep slope.


However, I did not dive too much into the architectural and historical features of Lausanne, but instead put the emphasis on culinary experiences:

Part 2: The trip continued southwestward along the Lake towards Geneve – another 65km – under headwind that turned out less bad than expected; that menu (depicted above) had such reviving effects that all went quite smoothly.

Pretty!

Arrival in Geneve:


I arrived around 19h and had plenty of time to stroll around the city and sort out everything in the hostel I had booked.

From here i was just 1 daydistance from Lyon.

Strava: (click)


01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)

You are now at post Nr. 01 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


First of all: Greetings from Lyon/France! I arrived here on Monday, 24th of July, in the evening and was welcomed by my old friend Bérengère and her great boyfriend Joeffrey.

That was after my first three days of travelling. As I had hoped, I think they were a good physical preparation for everything else to come. But one by one…

Day 01: Freiburg(GER) – Lake Neuchâtel (CH) (206km, 1200m)
Very importantly: the Friday evening before the first cycling day I arrived by train in Freiburg/Germany – after a somewhat troublesome train connection – where I was welcomed by my Friend Diana and Micha with a) super kind and nice to talk to company and b) a very rich and delicious pasta-dinner. It was just the perfect start of my vacation! Thanks so much again to both of you!


After some good sleep I started the trip on Saturday, around 08:00h. Weather: some clouds and a bit of wind. Ideal conditions I’d say. I simply followed the peeps of my Garmin that I had previously fed with my routes (see my post 00a for the preparation).


The ride went pretty smoothly, disregarding some unexpected gravel paths and re-routed roads. The landscape around Freiburg, bordering on the Black Forest was beautiful, of course – the Rhine however rather unspectacular. No problem, since the only ‘goal’ was to start the trip in Germany; easy to bridge the gap to the Swiss border.

The urban area of Basel approached at just the right moment when I was longing for some change. Passing the border, I had a break and a refuel at the central station in Basel (proper coffee, refilling my bottles, cheesy pizza-bread. Anything that works)


Until that point it was all known terrain to me, since I’ve cycled that bit on a Essen – Luzern trip years ago. But now my GPS-beeps sent me into the unknown territory of the Jura Mountains south of Basel along the road 18 and the river Birs. In fact, in hindsight the cries of my GPS had something of Odysseus’ Sirens: luring me into misery by sketching out a bright future.

Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Yes, it was almost continuously going uphill for dozens of km, but at a very harmless gradient. I could have picked an alternative flat route south around the Jura, but I figured this would be a good way to get used to some climbing from day 1 on. I think it was a good decision. But then: rain – on and off – weaker and stronger. I got very skillful in putting on and off my rain jacket quickly. Thanks to my overshoes which I was testing now for the first time, my feetremained dry! Who would have thought this exists: actually rainproof “rainproof overshoes”! (Brand: Velotoze. Basically condoms for your feet)



But this was my first day… while I cycled more this year than in past years, I’d consider myself far from a well-trained cyclist. Also, besides myself I had to lift my bike and especially my luggage over those mountains. So I was having my lows… it was getting colder, I was getting weaker, my jersey wetter (from sweat or rain or a delicate mix). At some point (close to “Moutier”) needed another major break. Now I was already in the francophone territory and could test how much of my French skills remained by asking for a sandwich, some water and my beloved Magnum Double icecream.

And the journey went on. I was surprised how little of the distance through the mountains I had made yet. Another phase of gravel paths, where I misjudged the pavement in my planning. Then a more open plateau with cold headwind. And then I came to a sort of bottleneck where I had to go through a longer tunnel at La Heutte. After that, at “Friedliswart” I could have gone straight down to Biel and then along the Bieler lake. Instead I went left though Orvin along the lake on a higher altitude – in the hope that this way I would not have one rapid descent, but instead spread out my release of potential energy over a longer distance  and thus capitalize more on it. I was SO wrong: now started the toughest climb of the day! long, tedious. Really, that was incredibly shitty. The weather still unstable, wet.

At some point I reached the top point st 800m altitude. I agree… not really impressive; but tiring enough. Then I had the super steep descent (-15%) that I wanted to avoid for economic reasons. It was a pleasure though… the width of the view was in line with my feeling of relief of leaving the climb behind.


At this point I had 170km on the counter. Yes, i had planned to keep this years distances at a lower level, but on the other hand: why not suffer a bit more today in the shitty weather and do some km that I don’t have to cycle tmrw anymore..!? So, I decided to continue a bit and approach a campsite on the South side of the Lake Neuchâtel at a place called Delley Portalban – hoping it wouldn’t start raining again. 35km to go. Tough ones though: weak bones, wind, and worst of all, the last 10km turned out to be the bad kind of gravel road. Thunder and lightening in the distance. Darn… quite a fight.

Arrival at the campsite: 21h. So it was a surprisingly long day. Too late to encounter anyone at the reception of this huge campsite. So I pitched my tent next to the other smaller ones while a thunder storm started. Had a ‘Terrine du Maison’ (weird but good meat with bread) in the beach cafe, and went to sleep.

In summary: this first day was a good preparation in terms of distance, climbing and weather. Freiburg – Lyon is ca 460km of which I did 206km already. Arriving – as planned – within 3 days won’t pose a problem.

STRAVA (click)

00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go

You are now at post Nr. 00b out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


Everything is sorted out! I am now on the train to Freiburg where I will stay at my friend’s place. Tomorrow morning (Sat. 22nd of July) i’ll mount my horse for a ride towards Lausanne/CH – not knowing exactly where I will end up in the eve.

For whoever may find it interesting, in this post i will simply go into the details of my setup and what I packed.

Packing list

Bildschirmfoto 2017-07-21 um 03.21.38

1. Regular Clothes

  • 2 t-shirts (one for sleeping)
  • 1 long sleeve buttoned shirt
  • 1 fleece pullover (can also used as pillow-stuffing)
  • 1 trousers (zipp-legs)
  • 1 belt
  • 2 shorts socks
  • 1 long socks
  • 3 boxers (one for sleeping)
  • 1 pair of sneakers

Continue reading “00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go”

00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation

You are now at post Nr. 00a out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


Preparation

As usual, preparation took a lot of time and i think i did it thoroughly. It involved mostly proper route planning, changes to my luggage setup (for more comfort) and installing lighter gearing.

The Route

Figuring out the exact route is important to me because I do not want to end up taking only big roads just because it’s the ease-to-navigate option. So I had to really plan, and also check almost every km of the route in StreetView for proper pavement – where possible.

So I used Google MyMaps to lay out some routes. I took into consideration that I wanted to visit a great old old friend in Lyon, pass the Massif Central through exciting areas, exit it in Carcassonne, and then wanted to find a pass over the Pyrenees that is not the easy and crowded option (like through Andorra) but preferred to find something more lonely. remote and adventurous. So I ended up with something roughly like this:

Luggage setup

I was actually very happy with my basic setup. There was one major change: Last fall I bought aero-bars. Last year’s tour was very strenuous for my arms. So I thought aerobars could be a worthwhile idea. Of course I also hoped to feel some aerodynamic effect. At first I felt a bit ridiculous, but after some fine tuning I started to love it!

Sadly that meant I could not use my Ortlieb bag anymore. Instead I would strap a drybag with my sleeping bag and mat under the bars, would add two food pouches and a fuel tank bag. Since I did not store my sleeping gear on the rack anymore I had space left to empty the backpack and put more stuff on the rack which would make the riding even more comfortable.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Gearing

I do not have much mountain experience. And this will be a killer mountain trip. So I had to do something about my gearing. I bought an 11-32 cassette. But to accommodate the large cog I also needed to replace the derrailleur with a larger WiFli-cage. Furthermore I changed the front chainrings from 46/36 (cyclocross gearing) to 46-34. So with a combination of 34/32 I should get up the climbs despite my poor climbing experience and the luggage.

Little things

Furthermore I had to sort out many little things to make everything work. Among them:

  • had to get ahold of spare spokes. I did not want to end up with a broken spoke on the top of a lonely Pyrenees pass. Was wuite a hassle to find the right model for my bike…
  • I lost the clamp of my great Pletscher Orion rack. After some E-Mail exchange with Pletscher and some confused communication I bought a new rack – same modell. I modified it for my needs: sawing off the cage with the accessory compartment, built a little board to fill the gap, sawing off and rounding off the tip of the closing mechanism so it doesn’t rub on my leg.
  • finding the right kinds of bags was a challenge, too. I ended up with two Revelate Designs food pouches (thanks Michael from m-bikes for your help!), a Blackburn fueltank bag and a simple drybag.
  • find a new saddle. This is actually quite a risk: I bought a new saddle 3 weeks ago and didn’t really do a hardcore test (actually I did, but my new Assos pants were so terrible that I couldn’t judge the saddle). I ended up with the Specialized Power.
  • had to find some proper straps to make the mounting of my bags easier. Was also more difficult than expected.

Flashback: Why?

At the beginning of this year I had serious doubts whether to do another tour this year. I’ll be honest A) I remembered how in some moments last year on my Berlin/St.Pete/Helsinki trip on an uphill highway in the rain I thought “next time I’ll do this by car”… and B) I opened the season in March with a 100km ride and noticed: it’s exhausting.

Flashback: Previously I couldn’t help thinking where my next trip should go: Clearly: last year 1) was not really summery, 2) the landscape was very homogenous and flat and 3) I cycled distances that did not really allow me the time to interact with these exciting countries and people or relax. So these were…

the requirements for this years tour:

  • warm
  • mountains
  • a direction I didn’t explore yet (= South Europe)
  • shorter day distances
  • make it more recreational
  • start in Germany (to explore “from home”)
  • but not through all of Germany

The two options for me were: Through the balkan to Greece or to Spain/Portugal. I prefered the “culturally easy” option plus I had never seen Barcelona and had heard great things. So if I were to do a trip, it would be this:

Freiburg to Barcelona. Roughly 1300km and thousands of meters of altitude to climb. Because it will be hot at the Mediterranean Sea and because the coast line can be a bit dull, I decided to go through the Massif Central and the Pyrennees.

Flash forward: When I doubted to ride at all, I did check some random StreetView spots… close to Carcassone, in the Pyrenees, in the Massif Central. SO BEAUTIFUL! So: I had to go.