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Travelling alone by bike: how to prepare and what to expect?

Published on September 5, 2022

He has a taste for long distances and steep landscapes. Pierre Lejeune has been living his passion for cycling for more than 15 years. Meeting with a cycling enthusiast.

Cesar Rojas Hi Pierre, thank you for giving me some of your time today. To start this interview, I'd like to go back a bit. Can you tell me how it started for you? Why did you start cycling?

Pierre Lejeune My passion for cycling comes from my unquenchable thirst for adventure. For me, the bicycle is a powerful mechanical tool for creating adventure in one's life, whether it's close to home or on the other side of the world.

Tourmalet pass, High Pyrenees

Col du Tourmalet, High Pyrenees

Concretely, it all started with some sporty friends who launched the idea of riding from Paris to Douai (Nord). I borrowed an old Dutch bike and set off on the road with them. I was immediately hooked. Since then, the bike is my main mode of transportation and travel. Berlin - Paris; Hyères-Vercors; Latin America; crossing the Pyrenees; the Spanish Atlantic coast; Cévennes, Lozère, Hérault; ... and so many other places where I have left the imprint of my tires and which have imprinted a feeling of freedom in me.

CR Wow, beautiful list of destinations indeed, it makes you dream ! I think of all those people who would like to do a bit like you but who are still hesitating to take the plunge, what advice would you give them?

PL My main and first advice is: GET STARTED! With the old bike rusting in your garage, with a neighbor's bike, a friend's bike, it doesn't matter as long as the desire is there, you just have to pedal at your own pace. Start with the roads near your home! Of course, you need to have the energy, and that can be enough for a while, but if you have the equipment and the physique, it's much easier.

CR Precisely, as far as equipment is concerned, you must have a lot of advice to give considering the amount of trips you have already done. What do you recommend to start doing longer trips and avoid bad surprises ?

Ardéchoise pass, Ardèche

Col de l'Ardéchoise, Ardèche

PLFor the equipment, my preference is for durability, with for example :

  • Steel frame, heavy but reliable. It is a material that absorbs vibrations well and has the great quality of being easily repaired in case of breakage.
  • Panniers or bikepacking ? After having tested both, for a long trip, I prefer the panniers which allow more flexibility (you can carry a lot, take some pleasures with you [hammock, tents, stoves, books]; not to mention their ease of installation on a daily basis: clip/unclip and it's loaded!)
  • Important development: despite the great trend of the MTB derailleur with single chainring and big cassetteI find that double or triple chainrings are more comfortable when riding loaded. A quality (and mechanical) derailleur is a plus! Example of a versatile assembly: 46-30 crankset, 11-36 cassette.
  • All-purpose tires When I travel, I like to be able to go everywhere but also to ride when I have to. That's why I love Schwalbe marathon racer 40mm tires: rolling, almost unbreakable and still grip on the track. You don't have to think about it, you just have to push the pedals.
  • A tent! Having the freedom to stop wherever you want is, of course, heavy (hence the steel/saddlebags combo), but so precious: it increases tenfold the adventure, the life at the rhythm of the sun, the contemplation that goes with the bike trip.

CR And for the physical form, is there a particular preparation to put in place to take advantage of the adventure?

PL : For the physical condition, there is no miracle recipe, simply cultivate a taste for effort.

On the road, I met families with children on bikes, retired people, ultra-sportsmen, groups of friends, each one pedaling at his own pace and no matter what the performance, the adventure is always present.

CR It sounds simple when you say it like that, but I know that any adventure requires a minimum of planning! Do you have any advice in this regard?

PL : When planning, it helps to know what you are capable of and to study some maps. The most important things to look at are: road surface, positive elevation gain, mileage. To give you an idea of your capabilities, you can use tools like Komoot, and look at the numbers of your daily bike trips. Then it's up to you! Whether it's 50-80-120-200kms per day, you can do it!

CR : I think you've convinced me... I have one last question that many of our readers must be asking themselves as well: to leave all right, but where, where to start?

PL : Spontaneously, we usually associate travel with exoticism. The rhythm of a bicycle trip also allows us to (re)see the exoticism of everyday life, to (re)discover our territory.

In my opinion, the most powerful trip is the one we make within ourselves. For that, leaving from home is the simplest logistically and philosophically.

Europe is full of country roads that are a joy to explore. Take advantage of them!

San Andrés de Teixido, Galicia

San Andrés de Teixido, Galicia

To broaden the scope of possibilities, put your (unmounted) bike on a regional train! Beyond that, you have to keep in mind the logistics (a bit heady) of packing your bike for take the plane or the TGV. Not insurmountable but a bit stressful 😆.

CR : Thank you very much for this interview and your precious advice ! It really made me want to get on my bike and go right away. In any case, don't hesitate to come back whenever you want to tell us about your next adventures!

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