Santander to UK: Up to Ille d orleon

On Day 6 we crossed the border into France it was a very hot day we had a massive climb to get to San Sabastian and we were feeling really good on the bikes. The road was really quiet and shady so we got to the top in no time at all. From San Sabastian there was another big climb and the day was hotter and there was no shade. I was drenched in sweat and my hands were slipping all over the bars it was really uncomfortable. When we got to the top my head was about to explode with the heat. A couple came to our rescue and gave us some ice cold water. It was much needed. We ended up in a campsite called Ametza it was lovely and the receptionist was very helpful, but it was not quiet at night, even though they said they had strict quiet times. It was probably the worst I have been on for teenages talking by our tent the whole night.

Day 7 we rode to a campsite called le Pavilion Royal in Bidart. This campsite was really nice and we had a cool pitch under some trees everyone respected the silent times at night it was very peaceful. For food that night we made tea on the beach and saw an amazing sunset. It was a stunning view as we had the mountains as a back drop it was unforgettable. Eva was happing playing in the surf and we were happy chilling with a bottle of wine watching natures wonder unfold before us and what makes it ultra special is knowing that you got yourself there under your own steam and effort.

Day 8 we stopped at some apartments because it was an overcast day we felt we needed to recharge everything easily. We would make up the shortage in mileage the next day. I tried to book them through, but we got ripped off as they were shockingly horrible. None the less the bed was comfy and we had a nice sleep. The ride that day was lovely through pine forests all day long. This is when the route turned to what Rachael and myself imagined in our heads when we were reading about it.

Day 9 we made up the shortage in mileage from the day before and stopped at at a site that had been pre-booked. We got there real early too. Every site as had a pool but Eva was even more happy as this had water slides. The day was again spectacular, it was pine forests all day long and the weather was beautiful, the pine trees providing the shelter we needed. The route is so well organised, sign posted and cycle paths away from traffic I encourage anyone to do the route or parts of the route and have an adventure.

Day 10 we rode with no plan and just thought we will get a campsite on the road. We saw more pine trees and this route took us through woodland as well. We had a bit of a down pour in the morning but the rest of the day was fine. Eva had some more time in the pool and we tried to replicate our other night on the beech by taking our stuff to cook tea. We did make pasta and had wine but it was really windy. It was still nice though. A bit cloudy so we did not see a sun set that night.

The days are starting to blur at this point so I will describe what I remember over the last few days since day 10.

The route has continued to be well away from the noise of any traffic, it is just beautiful tarmac cycle paths weaving through forests, this Velodessy route is just unbelievable, the veiws you have of the coast and forest are truly life enhancing. We are passing family after family with loaded bikes, kids younger than Eva that are riding the route on their own bikes with panniers, there have been many tandems with kids this is a real family friendly route and I know a few of my friends at work will be aching to come and do it with their kids. The only thing I would say is don’t pre book your campsites that is a mistake I made, the sites in most cases have enough space for one pitch for one night. We have decided to go off the plan and play each day as it comes.

We got speaking to a cycle touring family on a site where we popped in for breakfast and he told us to go see Europes largest sand dune by going around the back and avoid the tourist, we took his advice and we near enough had the dune to ourselves. We rode further and realised just how lucky we were to avoid the tourists chomping up this single path like sheep in a traffic jam.

The other night we went to a site I had pre-booked for the previous night. On this instance they were full but the manager let us put up the tent in his garden. He had a beautiful house on the site and a beautiful grey Border Collie called Laya. He let us use the pool and all the facilities it was a truly lovely gesture.

From then we got up early and cycled to a site that had a waterpark!

We cycled 75km that day and we still arrived in the early afternoon so Eva could make best use of the park. We knew the next day we needed to cover 100km to get to our site that had been pre booked because we are spending 4 days chill time on the island of Ille d Orleon.I have been here before and knew it would be the perfect place to have a bit of non bike time. The 100km was a very hard ride. We had the strongest headwind I have ridden in. EVER! As we were in the coast it was right down our chuffing faces all day long. In the morning we had to contend we the occasional down pour. I gave up putting my coat on and off as after you got soak you were dry about 10 mins later. We got the ferry across the inlet to Royan and that was the halfway point. After the ferry it was blue skies but the wind had got stronger. To get across to the island of Ille d Orleon you need to go on a 2km bridge the wind was still coming straight on and with the trailer and all the baggage it must of been the slowest and hardest 2km of my time on a bike,it went on forever! After the bridge there was still no shelter from the wind but we only had 5km left. We made the site and it has a little lagoon that Eva got straight in after we had made our way via the pool bar for a well earned White Russian. After Eva had finished the the lagoon we set up camp and made our way to the bar for food as we were too tired to cook, the food was smashing and the red wine kept on coming whilst the evening entertainment was on.

I am currently at the side of the lagoon. We are here until the 14th then we get back on bikes for a night in Rochefort.

Beautiful, Gorgeous, Amazing France

Having cycled round France a couple of years ago I thought I had seen the best it had to offer, I was so wrong.  In my head I imagined the south of France to be flat but there are mountains all over the shop.

On Sat 15th of August we drove down to Dover to get the ferry over to Calais.  We did this is a Ford Ka full of camping gear and bicycles hanging off the back.  If you think you need a big flash car think again, you just need good packing skills. Although a big flash car would be lovely 🙂

We set off at midnight and drove solid though the night and all through the next day.  We stopped at a Comfort Suite hotel on the outskirts of Grenoble, it was only £30 for the night and the room was amazing.  A 10 minute tram journey at €1.50 got you in to the centre of the city where we had a quick look around and a meal before heading of back to the room for an early night as we still had a lot of driving the next day.

The evening was a bit over cast but we could still see the mountains from our room.

The next day we drove on through the Alps we took Stella (my car) up Alp d Huez, I had to show her the mountain that I have now cycled about five times 🙂 It was a bit dull but the views were still amazing, the clouds were hiding some peaks, but it made you appreciate how high you were. We had our breakfast at the top of Alp d Huez then it was time to hit the road again.  

The Tom Tom GO! app on my Android phone, which is really cool by the way as the maps are on the device directed us over another mountain I cycled a couple of years ago which brought back many painful memories, fully loaded with panniers up a mountain with racing gears, how the hell I did it I dont know!

As we drove on South the mountains never left us and the weather started to change, it started to get blue and hot, which is why we were driving to the south.

We got to out campsite at about 1900 on the 16th of August and we were stopping until the the 23rd of August.  The campsite was in a little village called Roquebrune – sur – Argens and it was at the base of a mountain.  This is the campsite we stopped at.  

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This is what surprised me the most.  In 2013 I cycled from the Alps to Montpellier and I do not recall after the Alps seeing that many mountains but where we were camping this year they were every where.  The campsite was in-between Cannes and St Tropez, so a lovely location.

On the first full day there we had a day on the beach at Saint Aygilf, although a nice beach it was a bit busy for me but it was a good day dipping in and out of the sea to keep cool.

On the second day we decided to look for another beach that might be a bit more peaceful, we drove around the coast and found the beach we were looking for at Saint Maxime.!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d46435.0731318087!2d6.661136828070734!3d43.33116972290796!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x12ceb99a895298d1%3A0x40819a5fd8fc990!2sSainte-Maxime%2C+France!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1440498860225

It is a very bust port town, but before you get to the town there is a very quiet beach.  We made base and had some fun in the sand turning me into a mermaid.

The next day is when we drove to the Gorges of Verdon, also called the Grand Canyon Des Verdon.  I was gob smacked. I have seen lots of beautiful scene and this place is in my top five.  The gorges are massive at 700 metres deep, the mountains before you get there are huge and the shapes they make are spectacular.  The route from the campsite takes you by surprise.  You get a sense that you are driving up some very big mountains and you start to take pictures these are good, but you have better to come.  

But an hour into the drive you go over the highest bridge in Europe at 182 metres.  The bungee jump from the bridge and when we got there the jumping had stopped but there was an encouraging message in the sand below, if you enlarge the image you will be able to make it out.

On the route there are many cyclist, touring fully loaded, racing bikes, mountain bikes and I had a strong desire to jump on one and test myself up the immense gradients and lengths I have not seen before, even in the Alps I did not recall roads like these, these looked steep, long and straight!

So you turn a corner and you are knocked of your feet!! The gorges are incredible, the images do not give you any sense at all of the size!  It was just beautiful

The river that is running at the bottom of the gorge is blue, very blue.  You continue on the road Aiguines, the mountains never get smaller, but you get a sight of the most gorgeous lake called Sainte – Croix – See, again just blue fresh mountain water that tasted of Evian!

From the lake you can hire kayaks, electric boats and pedal boats and if you have the time you can take them right up the lake and into the gorges you have just driven above.  There is a waiting list for the boats and you need to het there and make sure you book your slot.  We could not get a booking and just swam in the lake, the spot where we were went very deep very quick, so if you had kids that could not swim you need to take care.

On the drive back the sun was setting so we took a few more pictures of the lake and gorges.  We stopped at a bar near Trigance for food and I had the best Creme Brûlée I have ever had in my life, it is now my go to pudding!

The next day we went horse riding, I had word with the reception at the campsite and they booked us a place that was only 4km from the site.  It was a red hot day and they took us on a little tour of the woods and vineyards.  It was a beautiful activity and only cost €20 per person for a 1.5 hour trek.  I did feel like John Wayne 🙂

After the horse riding we looked in the booklet that they gave us at the site and we saw that there was an observatory that mentioned you would see the hundreds of Flamingos in one place and a host of other birds, we thought this would be a good place to have lunch.  When we walked to the observatory there was a poster showing the variety of birds we could watch and which months they migrate to this location.  We were one month too early to see Flamingos!  It was a nice circular forest walk though and a nice place to have our packed lunch.

In the afternoon I took out a kayak that were freely available from the campsite and went down the river.  It is a beautiful river and when the light hit the surface you could see fish swimming below.

They also encouraged you to pull up on the side and have a swim if you got too hot.
In the evening we had decided to splash out and go to St Tropez for our evening meal.  We thought that it might be hard to park in St Tropez so we took the ferry from St Maxime.  It cost €12 to park and €15 for adults and €7 for kids on the 15 minute journey on the ferry.  As we left St Maxime I thought I had seen the biggest boats you could buy, I was wrong, so wrong.  When we got into St Tropez all there was were luxury liners that had helipads and numerous staff working on them.  It was crazy, people were partying and having there meals right in front of everyone on the port, it was a bit like a circus and made me feel a bit weird.  When we were eating I did a bit of rsearch on my phone and typed in the names of a couple of the boats.  £82 million pound was the result of one of them owned my a Mexican TV chap.  If you are intersted you can read about the boat here.  But trust me there were loads of them.  We had a nice meal and it was time to get the boat back to St Maxime.  A lovely evening in St Tropez and was an eye opener to another world, one that is a bit seedy and tacky to tell the truth.

The normal sized boats docked at St Maxime as we left

On our final day we chilled around the site, made up are own version of tennis using a volley ball net and took the kayaks out again.  That evening as we had packed most of our camping gear away that day we had a beautiful meal at the lakeside bar just over the road from the campsite.
Then it was one long drive all the way back home and I was amazed that the mountains never seemed to leave us all the way except maybe for the last two hours.  We broke the journey back with a stop at an F1 £40 for the night and had everything you require for a good nights sleep.  The toilets and showers are on the corridors, shared but very clean. The only problem is that the hand towels they supply are too short for a trek to the shower so I had to do that with my bum out and my back against the wall.

France is just beautiful and I will be back again, with a bigger car or alternative rack so we can carry all the bikes and get in them mountains again!

Grand Depart Packing & Prep

I have used a website called to map out the exact route we need to follow to complete the actual stages of the tour.  Now I don’t know if I was doing anything wrong but I could not get Google Maps to do a similar job.  It always wanted to take you on the shortest path between the two points.  I also tried right clicking and adding points at shorter intervals but that was taking forever and Google Maps only lets you do that about 10 times, so I had to find alternative websites.  I have heard of people using Google Earth to plot routes, but I find the distinction between Google Earth and Google Maps a bit confusing. worked well though and you can then ask it to print out directions and it will also show you your ups and downs (elevation) which is a good indication of when you will be smiling and when you will be grinding teeth 🙂

I also have a Garmin 800 and I have never used it to plot a route.  I have just used it to show me where I am, then when I was in France I just used a paper map to plan where to go next.  

Again if you were to leave the device to plot a route you would just go the shortest way between the points, so I downloaded the Garmin BaseCamp software and created custom routes and uploaded them to the device.  On the device these get stored as courses.  Like I say it is the first time I have done this so we can see how it will work on the ride. 

When we cycled and walked the National Three Peaks (Ben Nevis, Scarfell, Snowdon) we needed to carry a bit of kit with us.  We were away for six days and we needed clothes to relax in at the end of the day and clothes to walk the mountains in as well.  Jervis and Roger had panniers and the rest of us had some sort of large saddle bag.  I think for this trip I am going to try and travel really light and just use a ruck sack.  We just need a toothbrush one set of cycling gear and one set of clothes to relax in on an eve.  Underpants don’t weight that much so I am sure I will be fine with a bag 🙂

The temperature has taken a little bit of a dive again so I need to ensure I have enough layers and I have my Buff with me.  I am still getting slightly annoyed with this wind when on the bike, it does not seem to be letting up at the moment.  We have had one nice cycling week since Christmas, and thats it.  It better start changing soon!

As I stated in my last blog, my Pacific Coast maps have arrived and I am very impressed.  They are waterproof and tear resistant and have all the information you will need to get to your destination.  They just show the intended route in detail and not the area surrounding the route.  So if you are planning on doing some touring off the Adventure Cycling suggestion you will need to buy standard maps of the area.  The Adventure Cycling maps come with additional information such as the locations of:

  • Digs
  • Food & Drink
  • Services (post office etc)
They also have a section on the conditions you are likely yo encounter such as the amount of traffic on roads and the weather.  There is another section that gives you a history of the area.  This section I will find very useful try to act all informed and intellectual in my on route videos.  Taking of videos I was going to create a video to showcase the maps but our friends at have already done that so there is no point in me doing another.  The video is below.

Today I supervised some students that were practicing their bronze DofE Award.  A really nice day to be outside.  The students were just walking so I cycled alongside, let them navigate, let them make a few mistakes, then see if they could get us back on track and even though it was just walking pace, it was still 20 miles and 3100ft of assent.  So we could of gone up Ben Nevis…… nearly another 1000ft maybe 🙂

I still don’t have a road bike after my crash, so Mark at PedalSport, King Cross, Halifax has kindly lent me his winter bike to do this Grand Depart tour starting tomorrow.  So it is going to be 120 miles, 50 miles, 120 miles and finish with 100 miles.  As it is not my saddle and not shaped to my bum bones I know I am going to be in some discomfort over the next few days!

Meeting at Robbo’s at 0600 for bacon buts and tea (I hope).  Updates to follow!!!!

Pacific Coast maps have arrived!!!!


Starting to get very excited now my Pacific Coast maps have arrived from

The route is spilt into five maps of about 400-500 miles each.  I am just imagining the excitement of riding up into and through a forest of big Redwood trees and then in another scene cruising up to Golden Gate Bridge.  Also wondering what the theme song to the video will be on that day.  I will give a full review of the maps on Friday.  

I have also been into PedalSport at King Cross, Halifax, my friendly and very helpful bike shop to check on Lucile 2.0 progress, things are coming along nicely.  I have been doing a lot of reading about how to pack your bike up for plane travel and there are a lot of conflicting ideas.  Some reputable sites such as the CTC recommend just putting the bike in a big plastic bag (see image below).  

The idea behind this is that people will respect your belongings if they know what they are lifting.  There are a lot of  experiences out there that seem to back up that theory.  I don’t think I can be that trusting so I had originally planned to use a proper hard case that racers use to carry their pride and joys around (examples below).  BUT

This had a few logistical obstacles the main one being as I am going in and out of different airports, how would I get the box waiting for me at the airport in San Diego.  To get around this problem I researched FedEx and UPS and they have depots walking distances from each airport so I could just get those guys to send and store until I got there.   But after having a word with my guys at PedalSport we think a big cardboard box how bikes arrive in shops will be perfect, providing it is packed properly. Then at the end of my trip pop into another bike shop in San Diego for another cardboard box to come home.  As was pointed out to me by Mark at Pedal Sport brand new bikes are shipped all around the world in these boxes so it should be ok.  I am well aware that when the are new they will be on nice pallets neatly packed together in bulk and not getting slung around cargo, but I am going to have some faith.

So even though this trip seems quite a way off just yet (four month) I am getting some good research done.  I do need to think about a list of things I need buy because this is slightly different to my tour around France.  In France I could use my CampinGaz stove, nearly every shop over there would sell the fuel.  

But they will not have that brand in the states so I need a different cooking unit.  So I think I am going to get one that can work of petrol and diesel, As this will be easy to come by.  There are a few options, Coleman and MSR are probably a route I will go down.

I also want to purchase a cool camera to get action bike footage as well.  My options are the GoPro HERO 3 Black or the new Garmin VIRB.  If anybody has experience or advice, please feel free to comment.
On Saturday we set of to do our Grand Depart thing.  400 miles in three days.  Last night I thought I best plot the official route with directions.  It does look quite hilly, but nothing us boys can’t shake off for more of the same the next day and the day after that etc 🙂

Just to finish off this blog can now be accessed through two new domain names. and  Please band them around to interested parties.

1st Official Blog Post!

Hello There!

Well this is my blog where I am going to highlight my adventures.  Some of them will take in a bit of walking or skiing, but most of it will be cycling.  SO hence the blog title iCycle.

I have lots of trips planned (see below) and lots of previous stuff still to collate and document (see right).  But my main project/holiday lined up for this summer (July/August) is cycling from Vancouver, Canada all the way to San Diego and the Mexican border.  I am going to have to dip my toe over the border to say I have done my three countries!  

As you may or may or may not know I have always been a cyclist but my passion for cycle touring started when I did my tour around France and you can see how that went by clicking the mega adventure link on the right.  But my motivation for this Canada, USA, Mexico trip started when I came across the coolest guys and gals in the world who set up Adventure Cycling a non profit organisation.  They have devoted their time producing cycle specific routes and maps across America.  They definitely make me think I was born in the wrong decade.  In 1974 I should of been 18 years old and not 0.1 years old.  Checkout a video of the organisation below, I swear it should stir some emotion in you to give it ago.  The two people that actually created the video are a couple of video journalist and have a site called America ByCycle and if you can get past their ‘enthusiasm’ they have some useful information as well.  But the Adventure Cycling guys, defo cool!

This week has been eventful I got Lucile back from Pedal Sport after spending £500 notes getting my gear ratios sorted out.  She came back like a new beast and when I took her out for a ride I was getting really really giddy.  On the wet decent at about 40mph she slide out on a corner.  She could be going to Ti heaven.  If you are from the same planet as Lucile the locals there call heaven heavtium.  I don’t have too long to wait for the storktium to hatch me a Lucile 2.0.

Below a picture on Lucile the night of her slippery toes.  Or is it heavtium?

She did cry out out in agony  her very limited vocal structure made the weirdest sound.  It was very reminiscent of metal scraping on something solid, something like tarmac, that is the best way of describing it.

Today had to go out on Rocky and you can tell the difference between the too bikes.  Rocky being a boy just wants to throw crap up in my face all the time and makes a lot of the ride hard work.  And Lucile well she is just more civilised.  It was a good ride although the battery did run out so did not log my miles back from Littleborough.


It was nice taking in some off road action away from the noise of the traffic.

So in the pipeline, six days to go!

Myself, Darran Jugroop, Nic Howarth, Paul Jervis and Mark Robinson are taking on the three UK stages of the Grand Depart in near enough consecutive days.  Taking our kit with us in our panniers and backpacks, stopping in B&B’s.  I love this stuff and going with these boys is going to be fun.

  • 12th April:  Halifax to Harrogate 120 miles
  • 13th April:  Steady cycle to York 40 miles approx
  • 14th April:  York to Sheffield 120 miles
  • 15th April:  Van down to Cambridge.  Drop van off at a national hire depot. Cycle Cambridge to London 100 miles. Then the train back up from Kings Cross with celebratory drinks in hand.