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Old 11-27-2018, 04:15 PM
velotel velotel is offline
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Location: The French Alps
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Reflections

The 8-Day Alps Groad Tour, bike tours, the future

The tour happened because of my posts about rides in the Alps. I write the posts mostly because when I’m out there on some excellent road/trail/whatever I’m thinking how much my son and his friends would love to do this. Actually that isn’t true. I mostly write ‘em because I enjoy writing. But the rest is true too.

Started toying with the idea of a couple of tours. Figured if cyclists from the other side wanted to ride what I’ve been doing, they’d need some help.

A whole slew of tour companies offer lots of itineraries with pretty much all one could wish for. Some probably even the flights over. The full buffet, long and brutal, flat and easy, whatever, it’s all there, massages, gourmet meals, mechanics, whatever you want and everything you want to ride.

Or almost everything. What they’re not doing are the kind of crazy roads, jeep tracks, and trails I’m doing. Probably because there aren’t enough mentally deranged cyclists out there who love the kind of riding I do.

Naturally how anyone could not want to ride this stuff is beyond me! Then again I’m one of those people who back in the 60s thought pot and acid would lead the world into times of peace and beauty. I also remember receiving this new product to test for Mountain Bike Magazine, a Camelback, and thinking clever idea but definitely no future. My crystal ball’s in another reality.

So despite my vision track record I planned two tours featuring my kind of riding and tossed them out into the ethernet. Then had to cancel everything because my wife had to have heart surgery. That went well and life was good and some guy I didn’t know but who’d been reading my posts asks about riding over here. One thing leads to another and pretty soon I’ve planned a tour for him and three of his friends for late September. Two baled but the trip was on anyway.

Figured this could be interesting, discover if the kinds of rides I do are what anyone else likes and if leading a tour is something I’d like.

We’d move around the Alps bagging rides by basing out of some hotel for a couple of days, ride, move to another hotel for a couple of days, ride. We’d be riding rustic paved roads, dirt/rock roads, maybe even some trails, depending on how things go.

But no epic, no 150 K, 200 K, 250 K days, no 5000, 6000, 7000 vertical meter days! I don’t do epic. Too old for one reason. Actually there are mornings when getting up can feel pretty epic but that’s another story. I ride because I love riding a bike and I love riding in beautiful places and I’m not in a hurry because if I rush it’ll just end sooner and I don’t want to beat myself to death on some massive ride just to prove nothing at all since soon enough I’m going to be dead anyway. So no epic, a word so overused it cringes with embarrassment.

Rides were selected based on where the road’s going - as in somewhere beautiful, somewhere relatively unknown, somewhere without lots of people (usually no one) - and what kind of roads they are - i.e. roads that are small and somewhat primitive with lumps and cracks and deteriorating edges and patches and guard rails as rare as hen’s teeth and gravel/dirt roads that aren’t too steep nor too rough, the ones mountain bikers ignore because they’re not challenging enough and road riders ignore because they’re too challenging.

A ride was planned for each day but nothing was absolutely fixed. Outside of hotels, those were locked. But rides remained semi-fluid. Like doing Colle Blegier on Day 4. a ride I’d never seriously considered proposing. But after Mike and Lee enjoyed themselves so much on Colle della Finestre, I tossed out the idea of riding Blegier, a sublime double-track that climbs up to the Strada dell’Assietta road. They said let’s do it so the original Day 4 ride was moved to Day 5 and Colle Blegier became Day 4.

The Blegier double-track was stunning; they loved it. But I kind of doubt I’ll be suggesting Blegier to all that many riders. A climb like that with a fat-tired road bike is kind of like eating smoking hot salsa, the kind that makes you sweat and gasp for air even while you’re loading another chip with more salsa. You have to have a taste for eating hot salsa just like you need to have a taste for climbing on dirt with a fat-tired road bike.

Technical challenge is one big difference between road tours and groad tours. Technical as in line picking, maneuvering over rocks, keeping traction on steep grades, etc. A challenge for tires and bikes too with increased chances of flats and mechanicals, though our eight-day groad tour was totally clean. On blacktop the only challenges are distance, vertical, and grades. Usually road tour companies plant a support van behind the last rider in case there’s a problem. Not possible on dirt roads and trails like Colle Blegier where cars aren’t even allowed. I’m not a sag wagon kind of person anyway. Dilutes the experience to my thinking. I prefer knowing not getting to the end isn’t an option so the rule becomes ride responsibly, carry tools, ride to the end.

Did I enjoy leading the tour? Absolutely. Lee and Mike with their willingness and enthusiasm to follow me into places they never would have gone otherwise were gems to hang out with. Watching and hearing them experience those rides was like reliving the first time I’d done ‘em. The tour might even have transformed their perceptions of what riding a bike can be.

Will I do it again? Why not. While I still can, which might not be for all that long. The reality of my age, 74 in the spring! Which kind of blows my mind. Too damn old to lead tours, in theory. But hey, as long as I still can, which seems to be the case, might as well keep going. But only a few, maybe even one that’s all asphalt, the asphalt I like, that rustic stuff that keeps a rider honest. Then again tossing in a wee bit of dirt would be hard to resist, too much fun.

Definitely no classic road tours. Not my thing plus so many others already do that and better than I could. Groad tours are what I like. As in paved roads that never heard the word buff and maybe never felt a drop of paint, or damned little if it did happen. Asphalt where fat road tires rule. And dirt and rock roads that are relatively primitive with little veneer of civilization. In other words great rides. Fun, interesting, challenging, go to wonderful places tours with a lively mix of asphalt and dirt, and totally rock, no pun intended.
I like the term groad, puts the emphasis on road, not gravel. The 8-Day Groad Tour definitely did more asphalt than dirt. Two days of pure blacktop while the others ranged from maybe 85-90% of our time on dirt (note I said time on dirt, not distance on dirt) to maybe 50-55%. And everyday ended with a screamer, paved descent.

I’d never given much thought to the logistical hoops a person from far away has to jump through to do the kinds of rides I love. I just hop in the car, head off, and ride ‘em. Putting together the tour for Lee and Mike made me see the hoops. It’s not so simple. I mean it is but it isn’t. It is if you’ve got tons of free time and resources to figure out what you want to do and how to do it. If you don’t, doing a guided tour rules. No hassles, show up and ride. Tour companies make life easy. Less adventure but adventure requires time.

That’s true for any kind of riding over here but it’s even more complicated for mixed rides like I do. Finding the dirt roads and trails takes time and effort and then you need to separate the good stuff from the chaff and the only way to do that is on the bike. Complicated when you live thousands of miles away. Actually it’s hard to do even living here. For years I’ve been wanting to put together a nice series of roads and trails through vineyards in the hills of the Beaujolais region and over into the Volcano National Park in Auvergne but finding the time to do that hasn’t happened. From thousands of miles away, a real pain.

Et voilà, why I’m working on a few more tours. Figure someone needs to until the regular tour companies discover what they’re missing. Then again maybe they won’t because they might be correct, there aren’t enough lunatics out there wanting to ride these crazy roads and trails. Oh well, guess I’ll find out. Not a hardship since I’ll have plenty of fun working out which roads are the good ones.

A hodgepodge of photos from rides over the years
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  #2  
Old 11-27-2018, 06:17 PM
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weisan weisan is offline
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velo pal, thanks for doing this, I will fly over and join you tomorrow if I can.

are you thinking more or less the same time frame next year (September)?
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Old 11-27-2018, 10:42 PM
Blue Jays Blue Jays is offline
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Whoa...did not yet read the narrative, yet currently swooning over the pictures.
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Old 11-27-2018, 10:46 PM
Blue Jays Blue Jays is offline
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Finished reading the magnificent accompanying story. Fantastic!
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Old 11-27-2018, 11:19 PM
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Vientomas Vientomas is offline
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Velotel...As my dear departed mother used to say "Oh, He's really living it!" I admire your adventurous spirit and your willingness to share your passion with others. You are an inspritation. Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors. I'd love to tag along on a ride with you, but the reality is it will probably never come to fruition. However, I can live vicariously through your posts here. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and images.
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Old 11-28-2018, 12:07 AM
mhespenheide mhespenheide is offline
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Holy {expletive deleted}, would I love to join you on one of these. But my wife, who speaks French infinitely better than me, would want to come over, and we're trying to have a child, so I don't see that happening any time soon...
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Old 11-28-2018, 12:43 PM
BikeNY BikeNY is offline
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If I ever sign up for an organized bike tour, those are exactly the kind of rides I want to do. I would even opt for some more trail and less pavement, but I'm weird like that! I hope you are still doing this when I get the time and means to make it happen. Keep riding and exploring, and please keep posting your reports and pictures.
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Old 11-28-2018, 01:14 PM
tylercheung tylercheung is offline
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you may have posted this already, but what type of bike did you ride? (assume capable of bigger tires?)
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Old 11-28-2018, 02:41 PM
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choke choke is offline
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It's great to see that you're going to do that Hank. I hope that one day I can make it over to ride with you and to share a drink or three.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylercheung View Post
you may have posted this already, but what type of bike did you ride? (assume capable of bigger tires?)
Here's his bike https://forums.thepaceline.net/showthread.php?t=190525
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Old 11-28-2018, 05:43 PM
woolly woolly is offline
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Wow, just wow. I want to be you.

Thank you for sharing.
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  #11  
Old 11-28-2018, 06:20 PM
XXtwindad XXtwindad is offline
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Write a book!

Hey VeloT

First of all, you're doing at 74 what a lot of people in their twenties wouldn't be physically capable of doing. So kudos.

I have almost every book imaginable on Alps/Pyrenees bike rides, but almost none of them mention gravel. So you've got a real niche there.

Any thoughts on Colle Fauniera or Monte Saccarello? Two at the top of my list ...

XX
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Old 11-28-2018, 06:22 PM
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weisan weisan is offline
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he did!

https://forums.thepaceline.net/showthread.php?t=170477



https://www.pezcyclingnews.com/featu...%C8%8Fne-alps/
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Old 11-28-2018, 06:34 PM
Johnnysmooth Johnnysmooth is offline
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Oh Man, am I ever in for one of these voyages by bike - just the kind of ride for me - from pace, to philosophy to the beauty of it all.

Now to just figure out how...
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Old 11-28-2018, 09:43 PM
XXtwindad XXtwindad is offline
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Thanks for the tip! Really cool stuff. Hank is really suffering for his art
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:00 AM
velotel velotel is offline
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Thanks for the comments, always appreciated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by weisan View Post
velo pal, thanks for doing this, I will fly over and join you tomorrow if I can.

are you thinking more or less the same time frame next year (September)?
More or less, I rather like September myself because it's after the summer season and the crowds, temps are warm to hot, weather as a rule gorgeous, prices lower, flights over less expensive also, thus for sure something planned for September. But with the realization that due to considerations like family and work obligations July and August work better for many, I'll probably plan something for August. I'd also like to do one in June when the flowers are out and the greens are intense but on the other hand can still be snow up high so something planned accordingly. June is also still off-season so flights and prices in general are lower.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mhespenheide View Post
Holy {expletive deleted}, would I love to join you on one of these. But my wife, who speaks French infinitely better than me, would want to come over, and we're trying to have a child, so I don't see that happening any time soon...
Actually (even though this won't change what's happening in your life) the tours I have in mind actually work for someone with a, what word shall I use, partner, yea, that works, with a partner who doesn't ride but loves to hike. Hiking options are enormous.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylercheung View Post
you may have posted this already, but what type of bike did you ride? (assume capable of bigger tires?)
Even though Choke already very nicely replied to your question, here are some more recent shots of my StonerBike. And definitely fatter tires, currently running 700x37 Schwalbe G One Allrounds. In order of appearance the shots are on : climb to Signal de Bissane, road to Plateau d'Emparis, Colle delle Finestre, trail near my house, summit of Ventoux, in the climb up Ventoux (by the gravel road).

Quote:
Originally Posted by XXtwindad View Post
Hey VeloT
Any thoughts on Colle Fauniera or Monte Saccarello? Two at the top of my list ...
They're both in a region I've been wanting to explore for a long time. Doing so requires a good bit of time as there are a whole slew of wonderful roads. So far haven't had the time but that may change next year.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg StonerBike 1.jpg (155.3 KB, 91 views)
File Type: jpg StonerBike 2.jpg (143.1 KB, 91 views)
File Type: jpg StonerBike 3.jpg (149.3 KB, 91 views)
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File Type: jpg StonerBike 5.jpg (147.2 KB, 90 views)
File Type: jpg StonerBike 6.jpg (153.4 KB, 90 views)
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