• Cycle touring Batumi to Tbilisi in Georgia – Cycling East Pt14

    Georgia is markedly different to Turkey in many ways, but one thing it has in common: it’s also a superb place to ride bikes!
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  • Chamonix to Megeve by bike

    Cycling from Chamonix to Megeve is about 90km for the round trip and takes in about 1500m of height gain. Nothing too epic just a nice ride in the mountains. We headed from Chamonix centre at about 10am, riding down the valley towards Les Houches. THe snow on the ski slopes here looks long gone but too our surprise the lifts were still spinning and people were carrying skis. The sun was well up in the sky, but being mid April, the chill from an overnight frost was lingering in the shadows. I quickly layered up with a gillet before hitting the Vaudagne road, this is a small track that is tarmaced in the loosest sense and that’s just between the pot holes, a small steep climb quickly warms up the body. Locals know this road well as it is frustratingly, the only non-motorway exit from Chamonix at this end of the valley. It twists and turns through various hairpins under the cool, dark but vivdly green forest cover. The descending hairpins then spit you out into the bright sunshine streaking down between old traditional chalets, all sitting perfectly to catch every last warming ray.

    Cycling through Vaudagne

    The road continues downhill into Servoz another pretty little village with a small church, then as the last chalets disappear you enter a dense cooling beech forest. Where the canopy thins, this allows glimpses of a spectacular view over white glaciated Mt Blanc massif.
    Looking down from the next village called Passy, the picture shows how you can see the air pollution literally steaming off the snake like motorway as the lorrie’s engines struggle up the winding narrow gorge into Chamonix. The view down shows the two sides of Chamonix, the stunning mountains framed by the concrete infrastructure and ugly industrial buildings that support mass tourism in the valley. A victim of it’s own beauty?

    Apple blossom and the bees
    Down in the valley, in lower Passy the trees are in full blossom and the smell of spring is alive. The shot above is of bees busy at work, observed after we stopped at the first bakery we saw to grab a sneaky pain au raison. This is the food that surely sustained a generation of French road riders before doping arrived.

    The climb up from Le Fayet from the lowest point of the valley is long but not brutal, a steady climb on a small quiet road makes the 700m of vertical quite pleasant. It slowly reveals a spectacular view as we gain height.
    The road twists through decidious forest and between sun baked chalets backed by views to Mt Blanc.

    THen we exit onto the busier road for the last 8km to Megeve. This is flatter and flows between the cow pasture that just a week or so ago was supposed to be pisted ski runs! THe town itself was in full off season shut down, shops packing up, restaurants boarded up and a few souls relaxing in the sunshine with a coffee of slowly smoking a cigerette as tumble weed blows past. Why, when there is a choice of benches does the smoker always sit up wind and then proceed to smoke! I do enjoy a short but exaggerated cough to make my point!
    After a sandwich and one of Megeves finest gateaus, we filled water bottles from the fountain and headed back home!

  • Everything you need in order to cycle to Asia

    As my thoughts turn to summer, when  I will hopefully soon start off on another long distance cycle tour. This year my rough plan is trying to cycle across Asia to the edge of NW China. read more

  • Road cycling in France – Chamonix to Annecy and Back

    It is hard to beat the road riding in the Alps during the spring. The snowy mountains and lush green valleys make the scenery its most spectacular.

    We cycled to Lake Annecy and back from Chamonix, not too far but we detoured to take in a couple of category 2 Tour de France climbs. Around the resort of La Clusaz just past Megeve. We enjoyed col d’Aravis then dropping to La Clusaz before passing through Manigod and Thones on a pleasant small road. It was then just a slog to the lake front.
    What always surprises me is how much I enjoy big climbs in the Alps they are normally long and steady and I find a good rhythm and just keep going. Stopping for me is like defeat and makes it harder to start again. A good view at the top and sense of achievement make it worthwhile.

    We stayed at while in Talloires, dirt cheap on and a spectacular setting.

    These are a few pictures from the trip;
    Waterfall with the spring snow melt towards Servoz
    The above waterfall was full with the spring snow melt, just off the road as we headed towards Servoz
    Views along the valley in bright spring green
    Beautiful views along the valley in the Alps’ bright spring green colours
    Descent into Thones
    Descent into Thones was twisty and super long, we had in our minds that we had to re ascend this tomorrow!
    Resting tired legs in the hotel's lakeside sun loungers
    Resting tired legs in the hotel’s lakeside sun loungers looking across Lac Annecy
    Chapel at the top of col d'aravis
    Chapel at the top of col d’aravis

  • Mountain Biking the South Chilcotins, BC, Canada

    The was defintely one of the best bike packing mountain biking trips ever. The landscape and trails were not only a riders but a photographers dream, welcome to read more

  • Cycle touring New Zealand

    The first trip I wanted to write about on this blog  was our cycle tour the length of New Zealand. This is a very popular trip due to the relatively compact size and vast variation in landscapes that the country holds. There is hardly a single day of dull riding to get to the most spectacular parts, as would be the case in most other counties.

    We spent 3 months cycling from the northern most point to the far south. It is a deceptively long way and took the full 3 months to complete, saying that we didn’t take the most direct but rather the most scenic route.IMG_4300

    North Island

    We started by heading north west towards the originally named Northlands. The first stop was the west coast with its black volcanic sand beaches providing a dramatic backdrop to the stormy weather that was rolling in.

    Further north, we camped in various places, enjoying the beaches and being awoken by loud and varied bird song. One night I was opening the inner tent to be startled by a high pitch screech that shook me to the bone, next to my face was some freaky animal that was impossibly loud and had huge green eyes glaring at me. That was my first possum encounter, most of the future encounters involved the possum being road kill as we cycled past! A particular favourite campspot as we headed north was in the remote and beautiful MimiWhangata bay which is down a one way road shortly before the Bay of Islands ‘urban’ sprawl began. On a bike tour one way roads heading downhill have to have something pretty amazing at the end and this one didn’t disappoint, we had the stunning beach and park to our selves. 

    We then headed north to the famous bay of islands area. We camped next to a bay on an island with a name that is pretty hard to beat – Uruphukphuka, translates as yourcoolcool I think. 

    We next approached 60 mile beach which is a beach but isn’t 60 miles we did a bit of beach riding before reaching the Northern end of new Zealand, technically this was now our start point! The weather was a bit dire so no symbolic photo was taken, just sheltering from the rain!

    Next we made a bee line back down to Auckland. A short ferry ride took us to the quiet and rustic Coromandel Peninsula. We did a complete loop by taking the off-road section at the very top. The track at the top has a super steep hill and is hard work but worth the effort if just to prevent you retracing your steps.

     The route then took as down towards the Volcanoes and Lake Taupo. A scenic ride with loads of hot springs and flumes of steam in the fields all around. The roads in the centre were noticeably busier and we would probably stick further east next time. We cycled to National Park the town next to Tongariro Park, the Tongariro crossing is the famous trek which we did despite less than ideal weather. We climbed the peak Ngauguhoe (Mt Doom in lord of the rings!) after much sliding on loose volcanic rock we reached the top in time for the clouds to clear allowing a perfect inversion. We could see all the way across to Taranaki in the South West.

    After leaving the parks we rode over to the Wanganui River which we followed all the way to the coast. A quiet and scenic ride, a bit further out of the way.

    Next was a quick detour to Palmerston North to visit friends, the place is a bit of a hole and not a scenic hotspot. Unfortunately we we had car crash near Palmerston North enroute to some hiking (in a car not on a bike, there’s a lesson to be learnt there!) which delayed our journey by a few weeks. We stayed in Picton on the South Island while we recovered.

    South Island

    A far more wild and remote part of the country. We set off along the Queen Charlotte track which weaves in and out of the stunning bays and inlets that line the top of South Island. Then we carried on to Takkaka Hill a fearsomely steep and high prospect for any cycle tourer. However the other side rewarded us with a long downhill and the remote and funky town of Nelson. From here we cycled up to the most northern point via a few beaches and Takaka Bay, all of which were spectacular and totally deserted. We tried to make it to a remote light house on the west coast. This section was probably my favourite of the entire tour, check out some of the pictures below. It was on hard sand and involved a few river crossings that meant bikes unloaded and bag by bag walked across the water! The tides had to be timed correctly so the depth was manageable too!

    From the West coast, we rode almost all the way across to the east. The next section was probably my favourite route, we cycled the Rainbow road all the way down into Hamner Springs. This off road route passes some amazing view points. Best of all no smelly cars and camper vans. Well the odd ambitious camper van that was getting in trouble but that’s another story!
    From the Rainbow road we headed West again passing Lewis Pass. We called into some wild hot springs near the pass. First we were bombarded by sand flies then a group of sweaty smelly work men jumped in to join us. Kinda took the shine off them! Still worth a stop! One of the most eccentric stops was the visit to Black Ball and its ‘Hilton’ and the Croeseus track. In Black Ball we camped next to the most huanted house in NZ, it creaked all night and admittedly it’s remote setting made it feeling a little uncomfortable. Black Ball is a remote ghost town from an earlier mining era and pretty unusual place.

    We were now on the west coast proper, and true to form it started raining.  Strangely I didn’t mind, the scenery is more dramatic with the damp, green temperate rainforest obscured by wisps of mist and cloud.

    After a week or so it was time to head East and away from the spectacularly wild west coast. We climbed Haast pass, struggled to the top only to be met by a chap in victorian clothing who doth-ed his cap at us and rode on astride his penny farthing. Yes a fixed wheel penny farthing up and down possible the steepest pass on south island! The only indication this was the 21st century was his multiple plastic bottle mounts on the handle bars so he didn’t have to dismount at all! 

    Next stop Wanaka, then Queenstown and the far south. We stopped in Wanaka and lived in the town for the next 9 months, I worked at a cool bike shop called Good Sports and Marion in a cafe. It is such a cool town.