Thursday, 29 August 2013

Framebuilding - Part 1

My 50th birthday was looming. As any keen cyclist will immediately identify, this presents the perfect opportunity for purchasing another, fantastically expensive bike, under cover of a significant lifetime milestone. I wanted something special and bespoke, so started thinking abut a custom frame and my own choice of components; but then it struck me, I had already built up one bike from scratch so the next logical step was to go the whole hog and make the frame myself. So started the process where, by the end, I hoped to be the proud owner of my own hand-made bicycle . . . made by me!

The first step was to do some research into hand-made frames. Not so long ago practically every town in England had its own bicycle framebuilder; then, with the advent of mass-produced frames made in the far east, the practice all but died out by the turn of the 21st century, except for a handful of well-known makers. However, in the last ten years there has been a resurgence in hand-built bicycles in the UK (Souter and Feather, 2012; Bespoked 2013) ironically led by an upsurge of interest in the USA, where many of the builders originally apprenticed in England and who then took the skills home - so we are now learning from them. The upside of this is that there is a a great deal of information to be found on the internet, and some builders now offer framebuilding courses where you can spend a week building your own steel frame.

The start of my journey

First, I checked out some framebuilding courses. These offer several advantages: an expert shows you what to do; the design of the frame geometry and sourcing of raw materials is taken care of; you benefit from using a well equipped workshop and frame jig for alignment; and you should end up with an acceptable frame at the end. I nearly signed up for one, but on reflection it seemed a bit like cheating . . . plus they are pretty expensive. So I looked into it a bit further and discovered that it might be possible to build a steel frame without resort to expensive equipment. I owned a shed, how difficult could it be . . .

This records my journey on the way to building my own steel, lugged bicycle frame, from gound zero. I do not claim to be an expert; this is just what I have discovered by my own research so I have tried to present it in as factual a way as possible, referenced to the original sources. At the time of writing I have still not built my frame, but hopefully I can keep one step ahead of this blog!

Let's start by outlining the major steps:

  1. Frame geometry - choosing the correct geometry for the purpose to which the bike will be put.
  2. Frame fit - matching the frame size to your body measurements.
  3. Sourcing components - tubesets, lugs and braze-ons are available only from selected outlets, and some tubesets are more difficult to obtain than others.
  4. Design - preparing the design drawing for the frame.
  5. Preparing the tubes - cutting the tubes to the correct length, mitering the ends, ensuring a good fit in the lugs.
  6. Alignment - ensuring that the subassemblies that constitute the frame are aligned correctly; this must be checked at various stages throughout the process.
  7. Brazing - joining the tubes together by capillary brazing them into the lugs; there is more than one way of doing this.
  8. Finishing - inevitably, inexperience results in a frame which requires a considerable amount of sanding and filing to cleanup the brazed joints.
  9. Painting - you can do this yourself but the most durable finish will be achieved by a professional paint job.


There are many resources, in books and on the web, which provide 95 % of the information which you will need. In particular, there are several books which are essential. The Paterek Manual (Paterek, 1985; Paterek, 2004) is widely regarded as the most comprehensive resource, and the author has made the 1st Edition freely available on his website ( The latest edition is obviously more up-to-date and there are also several DVDs on technique by the same author, though beginning framebuildes may find the level of detail in the book off-putting. Other freely available books include those by Talbot (Talbot, 1984) and Proteus (1975); these are quite dated, but because most of the principles of building a lugged steel bicyle have not changed in the last 100 years they contain much useful and relevent information and have the merit of being much shorter. Perhaps the best resource I have come across for the beginner is the guide by Chimonas (2010), who describes a step-by-step approach which does not require expensive tooling or the use of jigs.

Another excellent resource is the internet, where there are a number of web-forums specifically for framebuilding, and where expert framebuilders give their advice freely. Three of these which I have found useful are Velocipede Salon (Velocipede, 2013), Bike Forums (Bike Forums, 2013) and the Framebuilders Collective (Framebuilders, 2013).

In practice I have decided to use the Chimonas book as a basic guide supplemented by specific techniques picked up from the other books and the various framebuilding forums.

In Part 2, I will discuss what I have learned about frame geometry.


Bespoked Bristol (2013), The UK Handmade Bicycle Show. Available at [accessed 29/08/2013].

Bike Forums (2013), Frame Builders Forum. Available at [Accessed 29/08/2013].

Chimonas, M.R. (2010), Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction, Createspace, USA.

Framebuilders Collective (2013). Available at [Accessed 29/08/2013].

Paterek, T. (1985, 2004), The Paterek Manual for Bicycle Framebuilders, Framebuilders Guild, USA. Available at [accessed 28/08/13].

Proteus, P. (1975), The Proteus Framebuilding Book, Proteus Design Inc., USA.

Souter, M. And Feather, R. (2012), Made in England: the Artisans behind the handbuilt Bicycle, Push Projects, Lewes, UK.

Talbot, R.P. (1984), Designing and Building your own Frameset, The Manet Guild, USA.

Velocipede Salon (2013), VSalon Frame Forum. Available at [ accessed 29/08/2013].


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bike Storage

It is a well known fact that the optimal number of bikes you should own (x) is given by the formuls x = n + 1, where n is the number of bikes you currently own. The logical outcome of this is that evenually a critical point is reached when you simply run out of space to store them. Over the years I have tried numerous storage strategies, from the old standby of leaning them against the wall in the hallway to fashioning a version of one of those racks beloved of sportive events where you suspend the bike from a horizontal pole by the saddle. In between I have scoured the internet for the ideal 'bike storage solution' but have invariably stalled in the face of eye-watering cost for things which are, frankly, not that well designed.

The best solution which I have found I stumbled across on the lfgss forum. I am sure that it is a method widely practised by numerous cycling emporiums and people 'in the know' but I must confess to not having come across it before other than as a related form in trains, and certainly not as a commercial product. Simply, it involves suspending your bike by it's wheel from a hook (with a short piece of rubber tubing over the metal to protect the wheel), which is in turn suspended from a metal ring on a piece of scaffold pole, mich like curtains on a cutain rail.

The scaffold pole is suspended from two metal joist hangers screwed to opposite walls of the shed. This method is the most space effective that I have come across, so that I can fit up to nine bikes in a floorspace of 2.5 x 1.3 m.


Monday, 19 August 2013

2013 Tour - The Routes

500 miles in total, split between Bretagne and the Charente/Limousin regions




Sunday, 18 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 24 et Fin

Partir á Roscoff

The last day. Our journey nearly complete, we set off from Morlaix to Roscoff by an alternative route to normal. The previous evening S had been randomly gathering informational leaflets from the hotel reception and had discovered amongst these that a marked cycle route extended all the way to Roscoff. Against my better judgement we decided to give it a try on the basis that:

1. It could turn out to be a nice flat scenic alternative to our nice flat scenic regular route.

2. If it is crap then at least we would know never to go that way again

Initially it proved complex to get out of Morlaix, requiring that we first climb the big hill to the gare, and then the disappearance of the cycle route signs which necessitated a period of guessing until they appeared again. Not to be deterred we soldiered on, tacking back and forth across our required direction, sometimes going completely the opposite way, over a motorway footbridge, and eventually a relatively smooth but hilly route alongside an estuary. This terminated when the route took us through what was effectively a ploughed field, then over a beach, someone's back garden . . . you get the idea. Eventually we emerged on our regular route amongst the artichoke fields just outside St Pol de Leon, whereafter the cycling signs were firmly ignored. I leave it to you, the reader, to decide which of the two above outcomes I have decided upon.

So, arriving in Roscoff somewhat later than originally planned we made straight for the harbourside restaurant where S got her plateau de fruits der mer and I my moules et frites, and where we could while away most of the aftenoon before departing for the ferry.

And Home


Saturday, 17 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 22 & 23

Jour 22: Exploring the chaos

Having visited Huelgoat several times, I have never properly explored the forest walks and attendant attractions. Yesterday we visited the champignon and roche tremblant, so today we set off from the campsite to investigate the other 'novelty boulders'. There are a number of such scattered along a forest walk, such as the Le Gouffre and Grotte d'Artus. Let us first examine Le Gouffre: on previous occasions I have glimpsed this subterranean waterfall briefly but held off from a full exploration because of the presence on my feet of cycling shoes which do not make the best footwear for scrambling down wet granite. So imagine our surprise when we arrive to see a man lowering his 8-year old daughter over the edge of the railing and then watching as she rappelled down into the raging torrent; then, after lengthy instructions to his offspring below which probably went something like 'make sure you don't release the safety line from the carabiner . . . ' (which my kids would have done in a instant), over went Monsieur X accompanied by his 6-year old son . . . I can only imagine that they must have been related because I could not conceive of a risk assessment sufficient for the purpose of an organised activity.

After exploring the upper reaches we returned to find them still making their way through the subterranean passage.

Various other rocks awaited our inspection, including the Grotte d'Artemus, Grotte Diable, and the jumble of enormous granite boulders forming the Chaos, including a giant granite cleavage which I became jammed between, though S maintains that it is another part of the anatomy . . .

Eventually we emerged into the town centre where, not to spurn tradition, we had lunch in Le Brittany Pub. Immediately after this it started to rain in true Huelgoat fashion and continued to do so as we walked back to the campsite, where it then promptly started to rain even harder; but it is 'warm rain' I cajoled S . . .

Jour 23: Return to Morlaix

After surviving the downpour the sun actually came out. We could have been worse off, two English girls arrived by bike while it was hosing it down and then a French couple a bit older than us who pitched next door for the night. Despite being the first to rise we were the last to leave, '. . . because we had two cups of tea', according to S - well, you can't do anything without first having a cuppa. Once more onto the voie verte for the 25 km or so to Morlaix where we now reside at the Hotel du Port. It is market day today so S will be browsing the tat later on . . .

Later . . . we return from town with our purchases. Pretty good really, one half bottle of Sauternes (S) and a bottle of St Raphaël (H) to go with the cap . . .

One amusing discovery did come to light however, which requires a certain amount of back-story . . . In my planning phase for the trip I was exercised by the task of how to store essential condiments and spices in portable quantities for Le camping. Being a skinflint I didn't want to fork out top dollar for a bespoke 'multi spice and condiment set' from the camping emporium because I viewed these as, essentially, just small bottles. The solution . . . 50 mL polypropylene centrifuge tubes from the lab, the ones with the blue screw-on top. As a result I received much merry banter from S regarding my 'test tubes' and 'specimen bottles', but after a chance visit to a vendor of tourist tat in Morlaix I stand vindicated because, what do we see in front of our very eyes but Les Tubes á Epices . . .

Ca va . . .


Thursday, 15 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 21


Today we set off for Huelgoat, much loved stamping ground of the SBCC. Luckily, Pete and Keith informed us that today was a public holiday in France, Assumption Day, and everything would be ferme, so we made sure that we had supplies for the evening meal and we were furnished with a packed lunch for the journey. After a mostly downhill run to Rostrenen on the canal we joined the voie verte, which is an off road cycle track on a disused railway line, which would take us all the way to Huelgoat. This is ideal when hauling camping gear because it does away with all the hills. En route, I got talking to a young man who was cycling along with a group of friends, doing a round trip circuit of Brittany on the voie verte from St Malo and back. He was living in Paris but was originally from Rennes, and had spent a year at Exeter University doing European Studies and History which he counted as the best time of his life - any time when you are a student is the best time I commented to general agreement. It was great to see a group of young people cycling around in the sunshine from place to place without a care and a map scribbled on the back of an envelope. When they broke off to go in a different direction they all stood by the side of the road and clapped myself and S on our way in Le Tour style - we were wearing our patriotic colours!

I have shown S the sights of Huelgoat: the champignon and the roche tremblant. I will have you know, witnessed by S, that I made the rock move . . . below you can see a series of pictures respectively of me offering coaching advice to S regarding rock rocking (so to speak) but she had no success despite all the training over the last few weeks - clearly a more stringent regime is in order.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 19 to 20


Departure on day 19 from Lorient towards Lescouet-Gouarec for two nights at the Ancien Presbytere, where we have stayed on two previous occasions. It is a chambre d'hôte in a renovated vicarage owned by Peter and Keith who moved out from England a number of years back; it is a fabulous place run by two really nice people, so that is why we keep going back!

To start the journey I gave S a bit of a change by taking her up the dual carriageway towards Plouay to impress upon her the fact that I do not plot routes up and down gruesome hills on back roads to inflict maximum pain on her legs, but rather to spare her near death experience of four-axled, articulated lorries thundering past within an inch of her panniers.

As usual, on arrival, we were plied with tea and cake, and we also elected to have dinner with our hosts and two other guests, Phillipe and Patricia from Nantes, who were touring on a BMW motorbike. I tried out my best French but largely defaulted to their much better English.

Nantes-Brest canal

Today we cycled down to the Nantes-Brest canal. The sun was shining and the canal path was the busiest I have ever seen it. A stop at the boulangerie in Rostrenen furnished us with a lunch of baguette, quiche and tarte au pommes which we enjoyed canal-side in the sunshine - it doesn't get much better than that.

The more astute of you will have noticed that S has been wearing a pair of white sunglasses in preference to the normal £3.99 Lidl efforts. The sunglasses in question are in fact €15 LeClerc efforts, but that is not the point. I think that she looks suspiciously like Mark Cavendish in these shades, and today she surprised me by launching a sneaky attack of my back wheel as we approached the signpost to Glomel; I beat her hands down of course but clearly will have to watch her in future . . .

Tomorrow we are off to Huelgoat where, now that S has been pampered for two whole days, I have booked two nights camping. We shall see if she can move the rocking stone after all the leg training . . .


Monday, 12 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 18

Retour á Bretagne

After a pleasant stay in sunny southern France, today we return to Brittany; who knows what the weather will hold for us there? Our return strategy consists of the TGV from Angouléme to Bordeaux, then Intercities train from Bordeaux to Lorient. The first leg is straightforward because bike reservations are compulsory on TGV trains, so you have a guaranteed place. On the Intercities there are bike spaces on a first come first served basis, so an unholy scrum will not doubt ensue and I will have to send S into battle with her foot in the door - we shall see.

Carnage of les velos

As suspected, the situation at Bordeaux was less smooth. We arrived and disembarked smoothly enough, then made our way to La Tupina for le dejeuner - OK, I lied, went to Café Tupina, the downmarket version around the corner, once again, not wanting to mark the polished teak floor with our cleats.

A sumptuous four-course lunch was had, the last course being a large portion of something similar to Breton Far flan. Those of you in the know will immediately recognise that we now no longer have to eat for a week because the aforementioned flan is a superheavy element which, when purchased at a patisserie in Brittany, is provided in a lead-lined box. So, having lingered slightly too long in an effort to digest the meal, and imbibed slightly too much, we hastily pushed our bikes back to la gare. Sure enough: the platform had steps up to it (first challenge); there were more people with bikes than bike spaces on the train (second challenge), but I adopted my usual ploy of stuffing them on to the first available carriage without regard to seating reservations; confusion about which carriage the seat reservations were in - probably my fault but this led right in to the third challenge . . .

H: (pushing trolley laden with panniers and camping equipment) excusez-moi (addressing SNCF official and pointing to reservation) quelle voiture est ce

Msr SNCF: (pointing to my luggage) a stream of French which I had no hope of understanding

H: Je ne comprends pas

Msr SNCF: (pointing at luggage) ditto

H: Je ne comprends pas

Msr SNCF: ditto

H: (realising it must be some problem to do with the amount/location of our clobber) Je ne comprends pas

Msr SNCF: ditto

H: (louder) Je ne comprends pas

Throughout this conversation, all around us folks are busily loading bikes, enormous rucksacks, IKEA flatpack furniture, portable nuclear reactors, etc. onto the train like a scene out of Ghandi . . .

Eventually SNCF gives up in frustration and I direct S to chuck the stuff on the train tout suite before he comes back. This done I then evict two nice young ladies from our seats based on my firm belief in gender equality and the prospect of a 6 hour train journey. Shortly thereafter, I see SNCF moving down the carriage in our direction, so I fain sleep. But I needn't have worried because his official ire has been redirected to the 27 bikes squashed into a place for 2 at the end of the carriage. At the next station there is a delay while some disembarkation (forced or otherwise I will never know) takes place; during this whole episode I fain sleep (S has already managed to fall into a deep slumber moments after sitting down).

The merits of the Dessert at lunch soon become apparent because the train does not have a buffet car - people are starving, small children are crying and having their sweets stolen, but we have our bidons and some choccy bicuits in the back pocket. Eventually we arrive at Lorient at 9.30 pm and are currently ensconced in the Ibis Gare which seems like a 5-star hotel, except that our clothes are soaking in the sink.

Bon soir

Sunday, 11 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 15 to 17


The last few days have been characterised by problems with technology and biological functions. To start with, my phone decided to stop 'roaming', thereby preventing me from not only uploading to the internet but also . . . well, using it as a phone. Calls to Virgin at £10,0000,0000 per millisecond have not resolved the issue as yet, and I shall look forward to chatting with Branstons [sic] minions to demand a refund for same, plus unused internet pass on my return if the situation remains unchanged.

Jour 16

Yesterday I came down with a touch of Delhi tummy which I put down to a dodgy moule prepared by S, though she tries to blame the duck paté - the remains of which were fed to the gîte cat as we departed today, but we are no longer there to see if it proved fatal. At any rate, under normal circumstances this would circumscribe one's holiday to a limited radius around 'facilities', so it is clear that the combination with cycling and camping is pure torture but I will not go into detail. We were on the road today, so I limited my nutrition to powerade, coca-cola and bits of bread. Ce soir I treated S to bangers, peas and mash, cooked up on the camp stove; I await developments. We are ensconced once more in the camping municipal in Chasseneuil as I write, but still without access to the aether, so who knows whether anyone will see this (or whether they do anyhow).

Jour 17 - Angoulême

It seems that I survived a night in the tent aprés the bangers and mash. Just to make a stern test I also washed it down with two beers and some red wine, without apparent ill effect, though I did manage to catch S's hair in the tent door zipper at 3 am in the morning on my way back from the facilities - 'the joys of a life under canvas' as I said later that morning at a more civilised hour. We broke camp as usual on a gloriously sunny morning and made for Angoulême, cycling through stereotypical French countryside.

We arrived in good time so I took myself off to find our lovely chambre d'hôte situated right in the middle of the town (booked randomly over the internet just prior to it going t*** up) while I left S in the park to attend to matters domestique.

Having roundly panned the delights of Limoges in a previous post, I can now report that Angoulême is well worth a visit, a bit like stepping back in time to an 18th century city on a hill, complete ramparts, cathedral and etc. It even offers floral arrangements to match your clothing, as modelled by S . . .

And opportunities for the 'Man at C& A' . . .

. . . and the guesthouse has WiFi, so here you are . . .

Bon soir


Thursday, 8 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 14


The forecast was for light cloud and sunny intervals and mid-twenties centigrade, perfect cycling weather for a day trip to Limoges, site of a splendid gothic cathedral St Etienne where Richard the Lionheart was invested as Duke of Aquitaine in 1169. Well, it only rained a bit on the way out, nothing to trouble hardened Devonian randonneurs. However, it transpired that Limoges is protected by the 21st century equivalent of curtain wall defences, a.k.a a motorway and various ring-roads. Travelling the 10 km from the outskirts to the centre took as long as the previous 30 km along the Vienne river. Luckily, we intersected a cycle path - actually some pictures of bikes with arrows painted on the road at 30 m intervals - which the municipal authorities had clearly deemed necessary in order to guide non-motorised traffic into the city centre. Eventually we got to the centre ville which, alas, turned out to be rather underwhelming. The expected medieval city centre around the cathedral turned out to be no larger than the Barbican in Plymouth, and the city planners had clearly had it in for the place judging by the blocks of concrete flats dotted around the old quarter and practically next door to the cathedral. Oh well, it's not the first and only place to have been so treated. . .

So we visited the cathedral: flying buttresses - tick; vaulted ceiling - tick; stained glass windows - tick; side chapels for the various saints - tick; a magnificent organ - tick . . . you may have guessed by now that it was similar to other cathedrals. I noted that the votive candles were €1 for a small and €2 for a large - I presume the large carried 'extra blessing' mixed in with the wax, otherwise Trading Standards should be informed . . .

On the plus side, we did have an excellent lunch of steak and chips.

We returned along the same marked cycleway, all the time eyeing the evil storm-clouds gathering in the south, and congratulated ourselves on having reached the river then turning away from the evident downpour on the horizon - tweaking the weather's nose if you will. I should have known better because, just as we hit the outskirts of St Junien, the weather decided to divest it's nose of a barrel-full of snot . . .

So, the scorching heat of the previous days has given way to a typical British Summer.

Bon soir


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 12

St Junien

Today we explored the quaint town of St Junien. The tourist office literature proclaimed that it is:

'. . . the French capital of leather glove making . . . '

However, these days, only top quality gloves are made for haute couture such as Gucci etc. because of the inevitable competition from child labour exploiting and tax evading brands such as *******. So clearly, a visit was required to sate S's appetite for luxury goods, as a counterweight for being forced to drag a tent and other accoutrements to southern France. The nice lady in the tourist office provided a map and directions, so off we set off, via the inevitable café au lait, to the gant manufacturer in question, only to find that it was ferme août . . . as was the next . . . and the next . . . and in fact all of them. Clearly, the month of august is 'glove maker's month', much as it was 'miner's fortnight' when I was a lad and everyone decamped to Trecco Bay for a couple of weeks of CPA and and fish & chips. Not to be deterred by such minor inconveniences I took myself off to find an alternative source of hand-wear for S, which you can see here modelled ce soir aprés le diner . . .

That sorted, we explored the rest of the town. Similarly to other manufacturing towns in Britain the indigenous industries have wilted in the face of Asian competition, so along the banks of the Vienne there are numerous disused tanneries, paper mills etc. Probably to be had for €2 or so, and thus ripe for re-development as bijou riverside apartments where we can all:

Unscrew a new bottle of chardonnay

and fill to the brim the long-stemmed glasses;

apéritif to Hello and OK,

aspirational lifestyle of the masses.

Holiday reading

So, at last, we come to the contentious topic of holiday reading. This year, in a spate of self-improvement, I have downloaded numerous 'classics' from t'internet on the trusty old iPad. 'Oi, you crusty old skinflint . . . ' I hear you say, ' . . . you've only done it because they are free', and yes, you have a point, but I will add that there are also a sprinkling of paid-for tomes, e.g. John Grisham, Phillipa Gregory, Dawn French, which S had instructed me to purchase on pain of death (or something worse). Returning to the main thrust of the story, I have been regaling myself with 'Don Quixote' which, as it turns out, has curiously similarities with our current situation:

1. Deluded middle-aged 'Don' who goes off on adventures

2. Same 'Don' who thusly gets himself into all sorts of injurious situations

3. Same 'Don' who drags along his faithful squire (Sancho Panza, aka 'S')

4. Same 'S' who gets into all the same scrapes by association

Here is a picture of us after we have raided the alforjas . . .

Bon soir


Monday, 5 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 11

Some observations

Here went the conversation at dinner:

H: You don't seem to hear crickets these days like you used to, do you?

S: What do you mean

H: You know, like when we had really hot summers before, and if you went camping or something where there was lots of long grass you would hear all the crickets really loud in the evening.

S: But they are really loud now, can't you hear them?

H: (incredulous) What do you mean, like now as we sit here?

S: (patiently) Yes now, they are really, really loud

H: (realisation dawning that he has lost his higher frequency hearing capability) S*** . . . .

So there you have it, a portion of my youth never to return, listening to the sound of crickets on a warm Summer's evening . . .

Despite not being able to hear the crickets, apparently we must be beneath the european airspace equivalent of spaghetti junction. There is a continuous background hum of high altitude jet engine noise (clearly at a lower frequency) and the picture of vapour trails (no, they aren't clouds) below shows just how much effect it must have on the upper atmospheric layer.


Cultural excursions

Today we went to visit an archaeological site. Not resting our laurels as far as matters cultural are concerned we rose rather late and made for Rochechouart, where there is a significant Chateau. Here, we stopped for lunch after only 8 miles and were informed by a fellow diner that the Chateau did not admit visitors except the the modern art exhibition currently ongoing - so we gave that a miss. Having dallied over lunch for over two hours we manage to stir ourselves and set off for the remains of the Roman thermal baths at Cassinomagus, which are 'one of the most significant such sites in Europe'.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 10

The gîte is very nice, very rural, with stone walls and a tiled roof, and a mezzanine area for the bedroom (see photo below with clever camera trick of putting two photos together which I discovered in the idle moments that you get on holiday, given that I never read the instruction booklet, and which I am deploying to irritating effect). I think the gîte must be converted from an old barn. Out back there is a kitchen garden with peaches,damsons and greengages, and various other produce - I have already had to prevent S from going into 'Peter Rabbit' mode for fear of the gendarmerie. We also have a gîte cat which S has befriended


Today was a rest day of laundering our camping-tainted gear and drying the tent. Exploration of Chaillac was completed in two hours after lunch - it's small, and two roads extend in the general direction of the river but both to dead ends, one ending under a railway bridge and the other at a railway crossing before reaching the river. However, I will mention one thing in passing: SNCF, in a zeal of health and safety (unusually for France) had unaccountably placed warning signs for the railway crossing on both sides, the curious thing being that one of the signs pointed toward a dead end from whence no traffic was ever destined to emerge as evidenced below which shows both ends of the road (top and bottom).

S is preparing the evening meal of boeuf bourguignon while I sip an ice cold beer on the terrace, working hard on this missive. The only faint tinge of gloom on the horizon are the mozzie attacks, but I guess you can't have it all . . .

Bon soir


Saturday, 3 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 9

Nous arrivons

At last, after a long and arduous journey, we arrive at Chaillac-sur-Vienne, near St Junien on the Vienne river. Last night the thunderstorm broke as predicted, but our tent held out against the worst the tempest could throw at us, and I actually had the least disturbed night's sleep so far. A relatively early start and cool day made for an ideal 'short' cycle of 40 km or so. However, the route that I had chosen (to avoid the dual carriageway and motorway) seemed to transpose us into Devon and Cornwall, so that it felt like an Audax around Gwithian rather than a meander along the rivers of the Charente. The plan was to ride straight to St Junien where we would have a leisurely dejeuner and call the gîte owner to arrange a convenient meeting time, but at 30 km the single banana and pastry from the patisserie had worn off and we were reduced to scoffing the last of the Jordan's cereal bars, a peach and some old baguette which S had luckily stuffed under a bungee on her rear rack. Suitably fortified we continued onwards and made it to a kebab shop just as the gas ran out - so lunch was burger and chips. After that kicked in I called the gîte owner - now I don't know about you, but my French is pretty basic though passable, and I can construct a GCSE O-level sentence and guess the reply from recognising the odd word and contextualising; but this guy must have had the French equivalent of a Glaswegian accent because I didn't have a clue what he was saying. For example, 'gîte' was one word which I was pretty confident of pronouncing correctly and which, as you can imagine, figured fairly largely in my conversation. But he pronounced it 'jeez'. No doubt, someone will write in with the correct explanation or berate me for my linguistic ineptitude, but regardless, by a curious form of telephonic semaphore I managed to arrange a meeting for 3 pm. Amazingly this worked and were met at the appointed time by our host in his Renault van (he had clearly been driving around looking for us because, as it transpired, his own gaff was only 50 m down the road).

I won't bore you with the details of our trip to LeClerc supermarché - we are here, and S is cooking les moules as I write this entry . . .


Friday, 2 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 8

Here is another case of the unexpected. we had no particular reason to stay at Chasseneuil other than it happened to have a municipal campsite a a convenient distance on the way from Cognac to St Junien, however, it also happens to be the site of the memorial to the French Resistance, which is situated just a few hundred metres from the campsite, so we went up to have a look. The monument serves as a crypt for the regional leaders of the Resistance and is sculpted with frescos depicting the struggle and eventual triumph of the heroes of the Resistance, with a large war cemetery of over 2000 graves adjacent to it.

Today was a rest day to allow us to re-hydrate after the rigors of yesterday, though S did forego the ice bath which I assured her would speed her recovery. Instead she would have opted for the iced wine but all that was to be had was warm red - the rigors of the elite athlete know no bounds. We will be at the gite tomorrow so I was forced to use all the bits of food in various bags - cue another veggie curry, some of which the campsite cat also enjoyed. As I was preparing said meal the camp commandant came over and cheerfully informed us that we could shelter in the school down the road if necessary because a thunderstorm w forecast to possibly hit later this evening. This wouldn't normally be a concern except that at the last campsite a storm had hit the day before we arrived with such ferocity that tree branches had fallen all over the site, hence the visit if the tree surgeon as recored in an earlier post. Indeed, as I sit here, the storm clouds do seem to be gathering and looking somewhat ominous . . . and we have a tree next to our tent . . . oh dear.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

2013 Tour - Jour 7


We continued our journey eastwards from Cognac to our new destination of Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure. We elected for an early start to beat the heat, however, such a thing does not exist when camping because it takes an hour and half to take the tent down and get all the clobber loaded, so it was 9.15 by the time we left, though I did note that a couple who had arrived on a tandem the previous evening (clocked them as Brits, you can always tell) had long gone - clearly professionals. On reflection, perhaps the extra two beers on top of the bottle of Cotes du Rhone had contributed to the not-so-early start c'est la vie.

Today was bloody hot (high 30s); not if you were sitting on your a*** in a all inclusive enclosure in the Caribbean perhaps, but it is when cycling 45 miles along the sun-scorched tarmac of southern France with a ton of gear on your bike, made heavier by the necessity to take litres of extra water. Despite this, and as usual ignoring any 'Route Baree' signs, we managed to stop for our usual dejeuner at Vars. It did get much tougher after this, exacerbated by the lack of shade, such that I measured my progress from one shady tree to the next where I would stop to let S catch up and then instantly spur her on before she could catch her breath. Eventually I had to feed her 'Dragibus' at every stop (footnote: for un-initiated they are a form of Haribo sweets which your can only buy in France).

Eventually we arrived at Les Charmilles municipal campsite, and very nice it is. Somewhat irritatingly, however, as I was battling to erect the tent in scorching heat, still fermenting in my cycling shorts with the sweat running in rivulets down into them, a German couple pulled up in their car, the bloke got out, pulled an enormous pop-up tent out of the boot and had it up in two seconds flat - maybe we will have a storm and then we will see if my 'DoE recommended' shelter is the dogs after all? (Footnote: to rub it in he has now inflated an enormous airbed with an electric pump).

On the menu tonight is lentil bolognaise with penne - we have become vegetarian for the duration because it doesn't go off. I include a POV of me writing this blog for that edgy 'I can almost believe I'm there' feeling.

Bon soir