So I’ve had a little 2 week holiday at the start of my year long holiday. And like all great holidays it was filled with boredom, stress and admin. A visit to the local plod shop in google translate French was followed up by trips to embassies and lots of internet shopping. Insurance claims have been submitted (and no doubt their lawyers are currently poring over the small print looking for a get out clause). The passport, driving license and banks cards have been replaced. All stolen items have been repurchased. And finally, Davidoff is ready to peel back on the Lycra, slip on the prescription sunglasses and liberally apply ‘ass cream’ to my undercarriage (aka ‘chamois cream’, a cyclist’s favourite to help avoid unnecessary chaffing in all the wrong places). My only remaining conundrum was how to remove the bike lock that was attached to my bike. I had lost both keys during the theft, and obviously I’d not registered the lock online which would allow me free replacement keys. My bike’s base weight will have increased by 1.5kg unless I can find a way to take it off…
Heading out of Reims, I don’t know if it was the adrenaline of being back on the road or whether my brain’s coping mechanism had forgotten the inevitable pain of spending too long in the saddle – but I set myself a day that was too long. Finally crawling into Bar-le-Duc 8 hours later I once again had to make a pact with myself to cut the distances of these days.
The next day to Nancy, I had a big ‘first’ of the trip. Namely, it was time for my first outdoor ‘number two’. Big moment right? I’d struggled to find much in the way of research or advice in advance of the trip on how to deal with this inevitability – however I did find a little titbit that I figured I should give a go – namely “light the paper on fire once you’re done”. So off I wondered into some quiet hedgerows of an unsuspecting farmer’s field. Unattended bike by the side of the road. My most valuable possessions with me in a backpack so that should I have my bike nicked halfway through nature’s call, I won’t be left, quite literally, up shits creek without a paddle… My knees have never been the strongest so I quickly ruled out a pure squat for fear of me falling down into my own mess. I tried to grab a tree trunk but i didn’t feel suitably relaxed. Finally I spotted a branch that looked the spitting replica of the front half of Mr Crapper’s proudest achievement. I promptly curled one out, wiped, and then set fire to the toilet paper. Dropping the paper on the ground, I suddenly became fearful of being branded some twisted, deeply depraved arsonist who likes to start forest fires with used toilet paper – so I quickly stamped out the blaze. I immediately regretted this since I was now stamping on the paper in my only proper pair of shoes… we can only hope my technique improves over the coming months. Fear not, I’ll keep you well informed of my progress.
The following two days were spent cycling from Nancy to Strasbourg, and the riding has been absolutely stunning, gliding down private cycle paths set into the cliffs that run alongside the Rhine river. Both days were a far more manageable 50 miles so I think this is my new formula for success. I did encounter two problems coming out of Nancy however.
1 – while taking my bike out of the hotel, my bag didn’t pin the door back suitably, so hearing a click I realise that two of my bags are locked inside, reception is closed and I’ve forgotten the code to re-enter the premises. This being France on the Easter bank holiday my hopes for a response from the provided phone number were not high. However shockingly on only the third attempt someone picked up, understood my dodgy French and told me the passcode.
2 – still high from retrieving my bags, I promptly smashed into a rock as Google Maps tried to lead me down some impassable mud trap. I quickly realised that two of my three big gears would no longer engage. Basically meaning I no longer had access to my easiest hill gears or fastest gears used on flat roads. However I still had 80% of the usual range, so I decided rather than tinker and make things worse, just to make do until I made it to Strasbourg and a friendly bike shop.
However Strasbourg has been an absolute result. Gorgeous town. Friendly international population. And a legendary bike shop who sorted out all my teething niggles and found a (slightly primitive) way to remove that blasted lock from the bike. No evidence of purchase required, so should this post reach any Strasbourg-based petty vandals, you know where to go to finally make that bike your own.